Southern Ocean GasEx Blog

Dispatches from the Southern Ocean Gas Exchange Experiment

The House of Pain

Posted by sogasex on March 10, 2008

By Christopher Sabine, NOAA/PMEL

So you are stuck on a 300 foot boat in the middle of the ocean for a week (so far). It’s cold outside, you have seen as many gory movies as you can take and you feel totally bloated from the delicious fresh cookies that magically appear in the galley at 10am each morning. What do you do? It’s time to visit the “house of pain”. The Ron Brown has a full array of torture devices including a treadmill, weight benches, a rowing machine, a spinning bike, and even an elliptical low impact orbital cross training device. To the average person the pictures below may look like a well stocked home gym, but for those of us on the Ron Brown it is the “house of pain”.

A way to get a little exercise and vent your frustrations about an uncooperative instrument seems like a good idea. What they don’t tell you, however, is that when the ship begins to pitch and roll in the swells your average run on the treadmill turns into a test of quick reflexes and exquisite balance. Imagine yourself running along and all of a sudden the world tilts 20 degrees. I now understand why those hand rails run along both sides of the belt. The trainers on the Biggest Loser yell at their people for holding the handrail, but on the Ron Brown it can be a matter of life or death. Rowing can alternate between easy and difficult if you are going the same direction as the ship rolls, but get crossways to the ship’s movement and you will suddenly find yourself eating the floor.

I have enjoyed studying the variety of approaches people take to exercising on the cruise so far. I have yet to see anyone early in the morning when I get up and head down for a little wake up exercise. A few find random times during the day to sneak down, but by far the most popular time is just before dinner. I guess that’s a way of justifying that extra dollop of whip cream topping on your apple cobbler.


Steve Archer holding on for dear life while training for the marathon


Bertrand Lubac powers the ship while Desmond (the engineer) contemplates the leg press


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