Ashley Wilson has been epileptic since he was seven and is successfully battling cancer – so the daunting prospect of navigating 3,600 miles across the Indian Ocean doesn’t faze him like it would most people.
The Indian Ocean is one of the least rowed on Earth, with just 41 recorded attempts, only 19 of which have been successful, with only four achieved by a pair.
Before he undertook the training and weight gain necessary to think about tackling the route from Geraldton, Western Australia, to Port Louis, Mauritius, Wilson weighed just 40 kilos.
Add on his epilepsy and the fact he’s in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and you begin to get a picture of just how gargantuan the challenge facing him is.
It seems impossible, but as Wilson’s website – www.nothings-impossible.co.uk – states, he’s aiming to prove that that’s not the case.
“I was told when I was younger that ‘you can’t do this and you can’t do that’, so by doing this challenge I want to prove to youngsters that despite any condition you may have, your life doesn’t have to be restricted and you can do things,” said Wilson, resting up in Dubai before beginning his quest on May 8.
— Joey (@joeychapman27) April 29, 2015
One reason why the challenge will be less daunting is Wilson’s rowing partner, James Ketchell, a serial adventurer.
Ketchell rowed single-handedly across the Atlantic in 2010, the following year he climbed Mount Everest and in 2013 he embarked on an 18,000-mile unsupported cycle trip around the globe – the only man to ever do all three.
Although Wilson and Ketchell’s main aim is to complete the challenge safely, they are also hoping to break the record for the crossing by two people, which currently stands at 85 days, two hours and five minutes.
To put this in perspective, more people have been into space than have rowed across the Indian Ocean.
In order to withstand the extremes in weather, weight loss and fatigue he will face, not to mention the possibility of seizures, Wilson has already had to resort to extremes.
Around 18 months ago, he realised that to make any serious headway bulking up, he was going to have to get serious.
He enlisted the help of Exeter-based nutritionist Ben Crook, who runs his own company Blueberry Nutrition, tailoring diet plans for everyone from pop stars to elite MMA competitors.
“Ashley weighed 40kg when I met him,” said Crook. “The biggest challenge he faced was to increase his body mass. Because he’s so small, saying ‘eat this’ and ‘eat that’ wasn’t going to work because Ashley’s simply not used to it.”
The row will be very taxing on Wilson’ s muscles as they will be in almost constant use – rowing two hours on and two hours off almost constantly for over three months.
Crook looked to increase Wilson’s muscle mass over a period of time.
Doing so in general was a slower process than for a person of regular constitution due to Wilson’s added health complications.
Wilson now weighs 60kg, although Crook still hopes he can add more.
“Ashley needs to eat around 6,000 calories a day. He also has to eat more to increase his body mass so he can train.”
Although both will aim to consume enough to fuel themselves each day, undoubtedly they are almost guaranteed to lose weight as not enough calories will be taken in.
In which case, it is vital to have an excess amount of body mass to combat this as much as possible.
That doesn’t just mean carrying an extra couple of pounds in body fat and hoping your body can use the energy when needed.
As body mass decreases, it will be a combination of fluids, muscle mass and body fat (as well as other tissues) that are lost.
Crook described the duo as “impressive men” and said: “I’m very proud to be involved in this. It’s a massive challenge, but when you consider the hours of training, the sacrifices, the dietary regime Ashley’s going through, it’s extremely commendable.
“It’s a superhuman task and Ashley is a shining example to people. And don’t underestimate them. I’ve got every faith in them and I think they will do it.”
A week or so ahead of the departure date, Wilson says his overriding emotion is “pure excitement”.
— Ash Wilson (@ashandlouuk) April 28, 2015
He freely admits, however, he’s had some low moments during the course of the last two-and-a-half years, when his dietary duties have weighed him down or he hasn’t felt like hitting the gym.
“It’s obviously been difficult not having the motivation some days, but you have to be disciplined when you don’t want to be,” he said.
His routine over the last 32 months has been a few hours in the gym most days and doubling his daily intake of food. He’ll need to take on 6,000 calories per day, even so he’ll still be burning even more.
“My diet’s doubled but I still feel slight. Now we’re here though it’s been well worth it,” he said. “The goal is to get across safely but it would be the icing on the cake to break the record.”
With the experienced Ketchell by his side, Wilson believes failure is impossible.
“James has been an incredible support and he didn’t once try to talk me out of it, in fact he’s been exactly the opposite,” he added.
To add to the endless list of obstacles in their way, the route they are taking will cut through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The boat the two will use is the custom-built carbon fibre, The James Lewis, an incredibly advanced vessel which will have an AIS radar system on board, as well as 200 watt solar panels, a satellite phone, a radio and a methanol fuel cell for the days without much sun.
— Euan Blake (@EB_Innesco) April 25, 2015
“I’m really excited to get out there, and with the boat we have, we feel we have a real chance to break the record,” said Ketchell.
“Overall, the goal is to raise awareness and show that you can do anything you put your mind to if you just take that first step.”
He has been on specialist training provided by one of the duo’s charities, Young Epilepsy, to help if Wilson goes into seizure, expected to be at least once a week, and he will know exactly what do when that happens.
Young Epilepsy, the Scout Association and Elifar Foundation are the three charities the duo are hoping to raise £100,000 (Dh564,000) for.
As a fitness instructor of over 30 years, a keen runner since my teens and these days, a golfer, it seems that most athletes or weekend warriors are nursing
injuries of some kind.
Mostly, they are not serious, just a niggle. Most fitness and sports enthusiasts are reluctant to take time out to allow their body to heal.
This will almost certainly affect performance and in the long run lay the foundation for something more serious.
2. Shinsplints: These were the most common injuries in aerobics classes in the early days. A hot pain down the front of the shin caused by small tears in the muscles around the tibia.
3. Plantar Fasciitis: When you consider your feet absorb many times your body weight, it’s hardly surprising that this is common. It feels like a pain in the bottom of your heel or a dull, bruise-like ache along the arch of the foot from small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments running from your toes to your heels.
4. Achilles Tendonitis: The two main calf muscles are connected by the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel and if strained, the tendon will tighten, causing pain down the back of the ankle to the heel.
5. Hamstring problems: Pain or tightness in the backs of the thighs.
6. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: You may experience pain from the hip down the side of your thigh, the location of the IT band.
Shoes: The correct footwear is essential. Many injuries are caused by over-pronation/supination where your feet are too flat/arched. You must wear shoes that compensate for this. You also need adequate support and to change your trainers regularly, perhaps every 500 miles as a rough guide.
Preparation: Warming up and cooling down is essential. Smart training: Increase/change your frequency, pace, terrain type and distance gradually, whether you are new to running or returning from a break.
Stride length: Reducing the length of your stride can help with hip motion control.
Functional training: This is a fairly modern concept. Many injuries are caused by muscle imbalances, so other than running, you should be doing some form of exercise to correct this.
For example, weak hamstrings (back of thigh) and strong quads (front of thigh) can result in hamstring injuries; short, tight calf muscles could lead to plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis; an imbalance in the abductor/adductor muscles can cause knee or groin problems.
Pilates is excellent as it will strengthen all your muscles in a balanced way, including the core and stretch you through a normal, functional range of motion.
It also works the all-important feet. It is for this reason that Pilates is used more and more by professional sports people.
CrossFit Abu Dhabi is the fourth and newest ‘box’ to open in the capital, proving that ‘the sport of fitness’ is still the ever-growing trend.
Located next to the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu Jitsu Federation in Mushrif, it caters to not just those new and wannabe CrossFitters living closer to the city centre, but even some off island who the club have managed to impress within less than two months of being open.
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Sport360° had to take a closer look and see what sets them apart.
It’s true, CrossFit Abu Dhabi (CFAD) looks like your average box – sparse with dark walls, including one dedicated to a massive piece of custom graffiti, intimidating equipment and hip-hop banging away in the background.
But its managing partners Hisham Awad and Khalifa Alquabisi – both big into fitness and on the hunt for a CrossFit scene of their own here since 2013 – have actually done a lot of ground work, researching and travelling to the US and Europe, to ensure that all equipment is safe and CrossFit approved; from the custom rigs and racks, the rowers and banks of kettle bells, plates and other strength and conditioning equipment provided by Rogue, the leading provider in America, down to the special soft but sturdy flooring that’s easier on the joints when you’re smashing through your burpees.
— CrossFit (@CrossFit) March 22, 2015
The whole gym and its members are tuned in via a CrossFit app called Wodify that allows coaches to directly interact with clients by posting the workout of the day ahead of time, by allowing members to register and sign in for classes, record their results via a live leaderboard while in the box, and compare results with past and future workouts.
You can view your history and progress across various aspects of CrossFit too, from skills in gymnastics, weightlifting and metabolic conditioning, even track personal nutrition. And naturally – CrossFitters do love a bit of healthy rivalry – all this is shareable via social media.
It’s easy to see why CrossFit is one of those disciplines that the new and curious feel they first need to train up for in a standard gym just to make sure they don’t embarrass themselves fresh into the box, but at CFAD we saw completely new converts mixed in with advanced members and this is because, while they have fundamentals courses for beginners all the way up to ones suited to only the elites, the Wodify app can also take a workout of the day and provide modifications and variations where needed for the less advanced; that way everyone is technically doing the same exercise but scaled to their fitness level.
What was surprising too was the huge Emirati following at CFAD – over 50 per cent of members are local. Many are new to the sport yet have found themselves addicted to climbing its seemingly never-ending skill goal ladder.
“Initially the first priority a lot of UAE nationals were coming in with was that they wanted to lose weight and get a six pack,” says Awad.
“But now, after giving the classes some time you see that they’re actually enjoying their time and just coming more often for a fun challenge. They’ve forgotten to notice whether or not they’ve lost weight and got fitter.
“The ladies love it too. Really, the community we’re building is unique, everybody is supportive and willing to help whether they know the person next to them or not. We’re proud of the name CFAD has been getting so far.
— CrossFit (@CrossFit) March 18, 2015
“Another important strength we have is that our coaches are coaches; they’re not big regional athletes, they’re here for the people, with a vision of being some of the leading coaches in the industry, and that’s why we chose them.
“This is important because it means their approach to teaching new people is more understanding. They really guide and support you through new movements to make sure the environment stays safe.”
With a Liquid Nutrition – a Canaidan brand that centres around a healthy organic, plant-based diet – juice and smoothie bar on site, the owners hope to also teach members about proper nutrition and safe use of protein supplements.
Travis Jewett, a chiropractor from the US who works for CrossFit and CrossFit Mobility staff, was in town and admitted to being impressed with CFAD.
“What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals.”– @CrossFitCEO
— CrossFit (@CrossFit) March 21, 2015
He said: “I’ve been speaking to Awad a lot just trying to get his take on what they’re trying to do here. Based on that, and on seeing the coaches in action, they are putting the right things in place to make sure that the people in the Abu Dhabi community get the right coaching they really need out of CrossFit; they’re doing really well.”
CFAD offer various courses and memberships for beginners all the way up to advanced, as well as welcoming drop-ins and open gym time all at attractive rates.
What: CrossFit Abu Dhabi, Al Mushrif
Where: 19th Street, Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi (Adjacent to UAE Wrestling, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu Federation)
Open: Sunday-Thursday: 10:00-20:00 / Saturday: 12:00-20:00
Prices: Enquire within
Contact: www.crossfitabudhabi.com / 050 646 8995