Phil's Arctic trip 2009

Training for the Arctic

People often ask me how I train for the Arctic. So here it is.

Having spent 2 years studying sports science in Cornwall I have a reasonable knowledge about effective training and have written numerous training programmes for various sports so here is how to train for the Arctic

A lot of people (like me) believe that it is important to fatten yourself up since you will loose weight in the Arctic and that you need the extra insulation that it provides. This isn't entirely true, it is true that it is more efficient to carry food as fat but in reality the Homer Simpson's of this world aren't going to do too well in the polar regions. Your much better off building muscle and being in great physical shape if you can do this and still have a bit of chub ideal. Down insulation is a much lighter way of keeping warm than fat so my argument about insulation fails here. Although on this topic I did seek a second opinion and found a veteran of five Antarctica expeditions who after much begging advised me to pig out so bring on the pies.

There is little point just going to the gym and playing on everything because much of your hard work will be wasted. You need to look at the particular demands of the Activity your training for and concentrate on that. The best way too do this is simulate as closely as possible the activity your doing and make it as hard as possible e.g. even harder than the expedition its self. Since I can afford to fail here but not hundreds of miles from help in an Arctic storm. I simulate the Arctic by pulling tyres I also use ski poles to simulate ski poles (lo and behold) and thus train my arm. My tyre sledge is much harder too pull than a pulk on ice (things move easily on ice). Another place I train is on the hills and you will often find me training on hills this enables me too look at endurance as well as improving on my camp craft. I don't have enough spare time to simulate the hours I'll be putting in in the Arctic so I train harder over shorter periods. I can train my legs by pulling tyres up steep hills. I can also train my lungs effectively thought a system called fartlek.

The little things although often overlooked are more important than training physically. I need to polish basic skills such as camp craft for example you don't want to be standing around when it's minus 40 degrees, instead either you or your tent buddy wants to be making a brew whilst the other is erecting the tent. Simple things like this makes life much more bearable in the Arctic. Team work is really important so I spend a lot of time training with my team mates. This makes it easier for us to quickly spot when one of us is unwell (probably hypothermic or hypoglycaemic) early and make amends before things get too bad my favourite solution for most things being chocolate.

Bear drills and other emergency procedures are important but also make you look very silly so I train for them with my team out on the hill when nobody is looking.

Head Game
Finally probably the most important aspect of training is mental preparation this is very simple especially with the unpredictability of British weather and is achieved by training whatever the weather (I usually train at night in the cold partly to get me used to sub zero temperatures but also because I look like a loony dragging my tyres).


The website has become outdated so I'm working on adding new content from my recent expedition/the last 3 years and am having the site redesigned so check it out on a few weeks time.