Sunday, April 1, 2018

Freezer Training

Inside a freezer sharing layering principles and techniques; temp at around -25C with Louie (FWD North Pole marathoner), pic c/o FWD Insurance
I must admit that this recent 'freezer session' supporting FWD North Pole Marathon candidate’s training was my first.
At first, I thought that it was a joke, and that if ever - the freezer would be some sort of active cold storage facility complete with dead pigs and huge tunas!  Not that it was very surprising as I also heard of the same idea from GMA 7 - when they were still on their planning stage on how to go about training their crew in a winterish environment (to document part of my Everest expedition).
Hearing that the FWD representative has no previous snow/ ice/ winter experience – I thought that it was the logical (if not the only available) approach.

But just to share my own thoughts and opinion for those who are planning to short cut the process and really consider doing a ‘freezer training’, here are some things to consider:

1.       The good news is that – industrial freezer can really simulate a very cold environment.  Colder than -30C is possible (and I don't think anything colder will greatly matter).  This at least will offer a good experience to newbies to 'get a feel' (literally), test their garments or gears - like how and what to use for layering, test their ‘head/ foot/ hand layering systems’, and experience first-hand what it’s like to be in a really COLD place.  A good add of electric fan, crushed ice and add-on sprinklers may be overkill but may be good approach to simulate a bad weather scenario.

2.       To make it more effective, I believe that one must stay inside the box for a long period of time.  Three (3) hours? 5 hours? Longer is even better which should include ALL routines such as cooking, eating, tent pitching and even doing toilet errands.  Going in and out of the freezer to pee, eat or ‘rest’ – will not simulate one’s adaptive capability (there’s a time factor here); frequent in-out can also cause headache or whatever sickness due to sudden and frequent temperature fluctuation.   It’s also a good way to test your battery-powered gears (will they last?), and how to operate them with gloves on.  Little tasks matter such as learning the proper way of fixing one's shoe lace, crampons or gaiters - WITH gloves on (and where / how to secure one's outer mitts or gloves). 

3.       I've observed that installing exercise machines helped simulate movement specially to test one’s garments, or his/her mobility or fluidity of movement (given thick layers or nuisance gears).  Merely staying inside will not be enough and will be seriously boring!  Unless boredom is part of the training i.e.- on patience.

4.       If you’re aiming for a high-altitude objective say a mountain summit, this freezer plan will not help in simulating thin air.  Pressure chamber is a different thing – and for me, not very effective anyway in pre-acclimatizing someone (unless one is willing to stay there for days, or at least an overnight).

5.       Renting could be expensive for individuals, so I guess this approach will only work for sponsored teams or individuals – unless one has a good connection with an active cold storage facility operator. But be ready to mingle with frozen dead fish and animal cadavers!

6.       Safety first.  Although this is a controlled environment, expect ice to form on any surface including the floor.  Without crampons – one may slip or slide, be injured and abruptly end his/her ‘grand plan’ in life.  Installing a mat of some sort may help although this will obviously not simulate a glacier or an icy terrain.

Make it fun.  If one is to stay inside the box for a considerable amount of time (5+ hours), a set of non-exercise activity may be added.   Simulate what people usually do in a boring campsite during those cold, rest days – reading a book, playing cards or board games, long chit-chat over hot tea or coffee, or playing with gadgets.  Building a snow man may be difficult but not impossible if one has access to a snow-making machine; Or how about learning ice sculpting?

This article was written in support of FWD's North Pole Marathon #BlazeATrailInTheArctic Campaign.  Content and opinions are all my own. 

No comments: