AviationSportsTravel

Train Like A Cosmonaut, Part 1

By 2019-01-01January 20th, 20202 Comments

As an airline pilot, staying fit is a necessity that’s hard to achieve. Even my work as a photographer – full days of shooting weddings or walking 30 km through cities and wilderness looking for great shots – doesn’t fully compensate my otherwise sedentary lifestyle. So I’m always glad when I get motivation for a new way to achieve better fitness, something that will also help me with my dream of becoming an astronaut. In December, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, who has spent over 304 days in space, started a fitness marathon on social media. For nine weeks, participants follow an increasingly challenging regimen of calisthenics, strength and endurance training. At the end, one lucky person will get to join Sergey on a tour to the peak of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Visual motivation: composite photo of myself and Mt. Kilimanjaro (original photo by Sergey Pesterev / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sergey has launched to the International Space Station ISS twice on a Soyuz spacecraft where he performed four spacewalks, a feat for which you need the ultimate fitness. Space suits are notoriously hard to move in and spacewalks can last upwards of six hours. Flexibility, strength and endurance are all vital for performing EVA (extra-vehicular activity). So who would be better to teach us down-to-earth humans how become and stay fit?

The program has a common sequence of exercises that are to be performed every day. Each of these is repeated ten times (watch my Youtube video):

  • Bending the head slowly forward and back, left and right, then performing slow circular rotations in both directions;
  • rotating the fists to stretch the wrist joints;
  • alternately describing circles with one, then with the other shoulder, then rotating both shoulders together;
  • swinging the arms in big circles forward, then backward;
  • flexing and extending the arms;
  • slightly spreading the legs and learning forward, trying to touch the floor while keeping the back straight;
  • with the arms on the hips, rotating the pelvis;
  • leaving the left hand on the hip, raising the right hand and leaning to the left, then switching sides;
  • with hands on the back of the head alternately turning the upper body left and right – feet stay on the floor;
  • mobilizing the legs by swinging them forward or at the sides;
  • standing on a step on the front part of your feet and lifting your body up and down, three sets of 15;
  • push-ups;
  • sit-ups;
  • squats, hold the squat position if you can.

The following exercises improve coordination and balance:

  • balancing on one leg for one minute, then switching sides, finally repeating the exercise with eyes closed (if you’re good, you can do this for 30 seconds);
  • standing on one leg and describing figure-eights with the other foot, then switching sides, repeat 4-6 times;
  • throwing a tennis ball in the air and catching it by quickly twisting the wrist, repeat 5-10 times, not throwing the ball too high;
  • holding a stick vertically in the outstretched hand and passing it to the other hand, keeping the stick in the exact same place;
  • on a straight line or balance beam, placing the heel of one foot before the toe of the other, trying to maintain balance with outstretched arms, repeat with hands at hips or further complicate by walking backwards or with eyes closed (be careful in choosing a place to exercise!).

Finally, stretch! Sit on the floor and try to reach your feet with your fingertips, but keep your back straight, bending primarily at the waist. Stand up straight, feet shoulder-width apart, palms on your hips. Rotated your upper body left and right as deeply as possible, but keeping your feet flat on the floor.

In addition to this daily regimen, weekly workouts increase strength and endurance. The difficulty of these workouts increases from one week to the next and requires a decent level of fitness to begin with. Don’t overdo it! If you experience pain, don’t continue. Rest, give your body time to heal and then gradually increase the level of your training.

Week 1

Strength Training (2x per week)

10 pull-ups: try to do these in a maximum of 2 sets (grab the bar however works best for you)
sit-ups: 30 reps
push ups: 30 reps
plank: 5 minutes total, standing up during rest
one-legged squats: 5 reps per leg

Endurance Training (2x per week)

Option 1 (if you like to run)
1st workout: running 1 km for time
2nd workout: running for 30 minutes + 5 pull-ups (for men)

Option 2 (if you like to swim)
Workouts 1 & 2: 500 m freestyle swimming and 5 pull-ups

Week 2

Strength Training (3x per week)

10 pull-ups: try to do these in a maximum of 2 sets (grab the bar however works best for you)
sit-ups: 30 reps
push ups: 30 reps
plank: 7 minutes total, standing up during rest
one-legged squats: 5 reps per leg

Endurance Training (2x per week)

Option 1 (if you like to run)
1st workout: running 1 km for time
2nd workout: running for 40 minutes + 5 pull-ups (for men)

Option 2 (if you like to swim)
Workouts 1 & 2: 500 m freestyle swimming and 5 pull-ups

Week 3

Strength Training (3x per week)

10 pull-ups: try to do these in a maximum of 2 sets (grab the bar however works best for you)
sit-ups: 30 reps
push ups: 30 reps
plank: 7 minutes total, standing up during rest
one-legged squats: 5 reps per leg

Endurance Training (2x per week)

Option 1 (if you like to run)
1st workout: running 3 km for time
2nd workout: running for 60 minutes, then three sets of 5 pull-ups, 2 minutes of skipping rope with a one-minute break

Option 2 (if you like to swim)
1st workout: 350 m freestyle swimming
2nd workout: 350 m freestyle swimming, then 5 pull-ups and skipping rope as above

While I consider myself to have a good level of general fitness, these workouts are challenging, as they should be. The whole point is to push further and get better. I will admit I missed workouts because my constantly changing schedule and jet lag from flying halfway around the world leave me feeling like a mushy vegetable on some days. I also put in some rest because I was hurting. Nevertheless, the exercises are helping and that’s the whole idea. I am lucky that my job gives me the chance to plank in the sun in Miami and run in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Let’s see what the next three weeks bring!

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