Day 41 – Let’s get physical

Natalia Cohen By

Day 41 – Let’s get physical


  • We believe we have passed our half way mark! Woohhhoooooo!! We haven’t seen our miles made good table but by careful scrutiny of our chart plotter it certainly appears that way.
  • I officially went the longest I have ever gone without washing my hair! 40 days and 40 nights. It was washed yesterday whilst we had our second group shower on deck. Amazing!
  • It was a spectacular sunset, clear starry night and a sunrise that led to a day of prevailing wind and clear blue sky. LP and I woke from our rest shift at 10.15am dripping with sweat! The aft cabin was roasting. If it’s not too cold it’s too hot! Are we ever satisfied??! This is a taste of things to come, as from now on it’s just going to get hotter and hotter.
  • We had a great social hour today, where we all got out on deck and did some stretching led by LP.

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We would say that this journey is 90% mental but…

Maybe you’re interested in what is happening to us physically.
LP has collaborated with GSK to do research on what could possibly happen to us out here during an expedition of this type and length (more detailed, scientific info regarding the research pre, mid and post row to come on a later blog by LP).

In the meantime I thought I’d do a simple run down in layman’s terms on what the last 41 days has brought.

In order to have the necessary extra reserves, we all had to put on between 7-12kg, increase our fat percentage and gain substantial muscle mass before beginning the row. This programme was drawn up by the amazing Alex Wolf (Strength & Conditioning Coach) in conjunction with LP.

Whether from the cramped conditions during the rest periods or the 12 hours of rowing that we do daily, here is some of the physical symptoms we have been experiencing:

Muscle soreness
– Tired/aching legs
– Stiff neck, back and shoulders – general stiffness in the body as we are mainly hunching, crouching or crawling around the aft cabin when we are not rowing.

Joint pain
– Claw Hand is probably the worst ailment for some of us. Every time we wake from a 2 hour rest shift, our hands have seized up. LP says that this is tendon related as well and has given us tendon gliding exercises to do (she can explain more about this). Getting dressed can be a little bit of a challenge as well as the first 10 or so strokes on the oars before we get warmed up.

– Seat bone pain is an issue for some. We are spending an usually large time sitting and for some with more pronounced seat bones or less ‘padding’, this has started to cause discomfort. We have a variety of different seat options to try and help with this problem but for some, getting out on the oars for a 2 hour row shift is just a pain in the arse!

Muscle wasting – Most of the amazing muscles that we had when we launched…have sadly disappeared.
This was expected but personally I never knew how quickly it would happen.
If you don’t use it, you lose it, so as we are only using a very select group of muscles out here, the others are wasting. Again, LP will go into more detail regarding this and all the varying exercises we need to do to ensure that we stay as conditioned as we can given the unique environment we are living in.

Other – The strangest things are happening to our nails! They have white marks beginning to run down from the nail toward the cuticle. Possible calcium deficiency but they seem to be improving somewhat the drier we remain. –

Hands – we’re not doing too badly here. We all have nice calluses developing on both hands at the base of our index, middle and ring fingers. These are rock solid and make putting suncream on our own faces and bodies an interesting process as it feels terrible!

– Skin This has been constantly peeling/flaking away on our hands and on some people’s feet. This makes clothes washing interesting as all our relatively clean clothes are covered in our dead skin from our hands as we wring them out before drying!
We need to be careful to maintain good hygiene routines to help prevent fungal and bacterial infections which are a constant risk with the wet conditions. I fear that this may increase the further west we travel and the hotter and more humid the weather becomes.

– Bums – Angry bum has already been mentioned and we’re happy to report that since we have been drier this has improved dramatically. There can still be issues with chaffing and we need to be aware that the situation with angry bum can revert quickly as soon we are getting splashed again and have to move back into our wet weather gear all the time!

– Sleep deprivation

– Sun damage

Once again…it’s fascinating to see what we usually take for granted…
Standing straight on solid ground
Being still
Having the space and capacity to exercise, stretch, and work all areas of the body and have a variety of movement…

Regardless of the adverse conditions we find ourselves in here on Doris, in the middle of the almighty Pacific, it is truly amazing to witness first hand how adaptable the body actually is.
I have no doubt there will be more physical challenges ahead…but together, as a team, we will share, face and overcome them x



  1. Mandy says:

    You are doing so well ladies. Don’t stop, keep going! You’re an inspiration to anyone sitting on the sofa, or at the desk and reading about your lives and what you up to is just truly amazing. Godspeed

  2. youi sound great keep rowing englands women football team through to quarter final in Canada

  3. Jim Andrews says:

    Great report Natalia. You girls are certainly putting yourselves through the mill. As casual observers, I think we look at your situation through rose tinted glasses, and imagine (as we can’t see you) the scene, two girls rowing while the other two snooze, then switch. The devil is in the detail! Stay safe. XX

  4. Kevan Lambe says:

    You really are a hardy bunch! I can only imagine what goes through your mind as you prepare for another 2 hour stint on the oars.

    All of you have amazing strength and stamina.

    Best wishes for the remainder of your adventure.

  5. Eleanor says:

    Nat – I always look forward to your blog updates and love your honesty. Glad to hear angry bum has quietened down – and claw hand sounds painful/ amusing. Sending love, Dolphins and rainbows your way and seriously proud of your progress. Go Girls! X x x (ps how are your poos???)

  6. JG says:

    You’re all looking pretty good! Yes halfway zone from Santa B reached by my calculations which are fairly approximate. Clearly in control of all aspects of your situation and obviously going to succeed. Sleep deprivation – any thoughts on changing the shift pattern?Great stuff.

  7. mike says:

    What great info you have given us. Keep up these blogs girls. Better soap than coronation street LOL. A lot of people who whale watch get very emotional, do you get anything similar when they get close.

  8. Juan says:

    Natalia!!! Hermosa!!!! You are doing so well!!!! And the team is performing amazing!!! Well done!!!! Linda… Cada vez que veo el mar me acuerdo de vos…. Y cada vez que hace mucho frío acá en cape Town me acuerdo de vos… Y si hay tormenta… Le digo a Claire…. Imagínate ahora en Doris como estaría Natalia?? Una loca de muerda… Hehehe grande besos linda!!! Xxxxx

  9. Jan R says:

    Amazing progress – the most miles in a single day so far! Do you clearly notice the difference between say 20nm and 35nm? Today must have felt like flying!

    I love your update, Natalia – and am always looking forward to the next one.

    Yes, you are basically half-way now, and this must be very encouraging given that the speed has increased, meaning that you might be in Hawaii in less than 40 days!

    All the best to all of you, keep the spirits high! xxx

  10. Hi Natalia!
    No chance of you Publishing, in the name of research of course, any pics of the group shower on deck?!!
    All the very best

  11. Jennifer H says:

    Great update, keep rowing – we are all so proud of you!

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