Last month, Akshay Nanavati successfully completed a 550km ski crossing, with a team of six fellow-adventurers. They skied from the West to the East coast of Greenland, dragging a basic survival kit on a sled, weighing about 80-90 kilos. It is considered as one of the three major polar expeditions and Nanavati is glad to take it off his list (previous exploits include Bolivia, Kilimanjaro, Mera Peak etc). The explorer, who is of Indian-origin, takes us back to his gruesome training and challenges.
“Preparing for this trip presented a unique set of challenges. Skiing for eight to 12 hours a day burns about 5,000 calories, so generally people tend to lose a lot of weight on polar expeditions. I put on eight kilos of fat so that I had enough weight to lose while on the ice cap. The problem with this was that as I put on more fat, it made the physical training tougher.” But that was not a deterrent. “I began by running about 30-40 miles a week, but after getting shin splints two months before the expedition, I cut that down to about 20 miles a week.” If that sounds tough, there’s more. “I spent three to four days a week roller skiing (one hour a day and more on weekends). Once or twice a week, I spent close to four hours dragging tires with a backpack, because that directly replicates what we did in Greenland,” he grins. “Additionally, I would work out with weights - either intense interval sessions using an Airdyne exercise bike or slower strength training to flex the muscles.”
Of ups and downs
Evidently, all this paid off at the event. “We skied for one hour sessions and then took 10-minute breaks. These breaks were vital to sustain my strength, because that’s when we would eat and drink water to recover. We would ski anywhere from six to 10 or 11 of these shifts each day.” Sustaining his mental strength was the toughest part, he says.
“On some days, I just wanted to be done with the trip, and on other days, I enjoyed myself. It was peaceful and spiritual, so I just had to ride the emotional roller coaster.”