We meet a lot of interesting people training for epic events in odd circumstances doing what we do, but if we had to rank them, Gary Ashton would likely get into the Top 5!
Gary is a commercial saturation diver who helps maintain the oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea off the coast of the UK. We met Gary at the Marathon des Sables Expo in London late last year where we Sweat Tested him to help him nail his hydration strategy for 7 days of running through the Sahara.
When chatting to him during his test, we were fascinated to hear about the extreme conditions he works, lives and trains under for big chunks of the year and we thought you would be too, so Brad sat down with him to learn more...
So, Gary, can you tell us a bit about your work and the extreme conditions you're under?
Well, I generally work on the seabed at depths of 100/150m. For me to do this I have to be compressed in a decompression chamber for up to 28 days at a time. The chamber is actually on the boat and then the diving bell takes us from the chamber to the seabed.
Sounds brutal! And so what does your training plan look like when you're on the job?
Whilst I'm in my diving chamber my training consists of yoga, callisthenics workouts and step ups with a 10 kg kettle bell in my backpack. I don't work out every day as it'll depend on the work I'm doing on the seabed.
I've been doing callisthenics/primal movement for a couple of years now and this has really helped to get me strong in my core. I've done different types of training for years, but callisthenics is amazing. It strengths all those little fibres in your body instead of just trying to pump up the main muscle groups biceps/triceps etc.
Last of all is step ups! I had to try and think of something to up my heart rate and get the legs working. It's not like I can run for miles, so this is the best I could come up with. I feel like a hamster on a wheel sometimes, but I just switch off and step away. I've did about 2-3 hours of stepping a day as the MdS got closer but mixing it with callisthenics.
Rather than doing step ups, could you simply walk back and forth on the submarine?
I haven't really got the space to walk as the chamber is only about 6-7 meters in length, so step ups it is! I'd get dizzy walking around in circles with such a short distance. I try to count steps but I always lose count after the first couple of rounds. (I am a man - I can't do two things at once!)
Gotcha. And what's the longest duration/amount of steps you have covered in one session?
Oh, I'll do up to 3 hours somedays if I've got the day off due to bad weather or operational reasons, but generally I'll get a 1-2 hour session in with some good stretching or yoga moves.
What were your goals for the Marathon des Sables heading into the event then Gary?
Well, as my training regime isn't what you call 'normal', I was hoping to be in the middle of the pack. I went in with an open mind and was really looking at the event as a spiritual experience where I go and just enjoy my surroundings and be around like-minded, crazy folk!