HMCS Whitehorse crew stays fit on Operation CARIBBE

Two men using weights inside a ship.
Two members of the Royal Canadian Navy work out in the after bridge of HMCS Whitehorse on March 21, 2018. HMCS Whitehorse is deployed to the Eastern Pacific Ocean for Operation CARIBBE, an international operation to facilitate the interdiction of illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people. OPCARIBBE18 Photo: Lt (N) Paul Pendergast, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs Officer XC052-2018-0001-095

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By Lt (N) Paul Pendergast, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs Officer

A ship at sea on a two-month deployment is not the easiest place to stay fit. With the ship pitching and rolling in rough seas, and a busy watch schedule, the temptation is always there to enjoy an extra helping of good navy food and retire to your bunk for an hour of extra sleep during your off-watch time.

The fitness coordinator in HMCS Whitehorse, who cannot be identified for security reasons, has made it his goal to improve the overall fitness level of the crew over its deployment on Operation CARIBBE, Canada’s contribution to the multinational effort to counter illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

“My main job is standing watch as a Marine Technician, ensuring all the mechanical systems on board are working properly,” said the Fitness Coordinator. “When they called for a volunteer for the secondary duty of Fitness Coordinator, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Some crewmembers take advantage of port visits to go running or jogging, but at sea the limited space available requires the use of machines such as a treadmill to maintain cardio fitness.

Just prior to sailing on this deployment, Whitehorse received a full suite of all-new fitness equipment, including a treadmill, elliptical machine, rowing machine, as well as weights and TRX bands for resistance exercises.

With all the new gear, it is no surprise that Whitehorse is one of the fittest ships in the fleet. “I would place this crew at the top of the list for fitness levels, of any ship I have sailed in over the past 9 years,” said the Fitness Coordinator.

Typically, fitness levels of crew members tend to decline during a deployment. Sailors are away from their organized team sports such as hockey or soccer, and the long days and nights at sea lend themselves to a good book, or perhaps watching a movie on the big screen TV in the mess.

“I provide advice to people on setting goals, or designing a workout routine appropriate for them, but I see my real role as a motivator,” said the Fitness Coordinator. “It is very easy to skip your workout for one day, then it becomes two days, then a week, a month, and before you know it, a year has passed since your last workout.”

The Watch on Deck is made up of two watches, Port and Starboard, whose members compete in a highly competitive push-up contest that begins the first day at sea after a port visit, and continues until the next port visit. Cumulative totals can exceed 10 thousand per week for each watch. The running total is marked on the bridge window with a grease pencil, and the current score is a constant topic of discussion among the crew.

“The push-up contest is a great way for the watches to stay fit, but it is also a good way to keep people thinking about fitness, and to tap into their sense of pride and competitiveness as a source of motivation,” said the Fitness Coordinator. “Ultimately, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and enables the crew to focus more effectively on the mission of disrupting the drug cartels and intercepting their drug shipments before they reach North America.”

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