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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why You Need Endurance AND Strength

No sh*&, there I was, 1994, about a mile off the coast of Waikiki, Oahu, finishing the PADI Rescue Diver Course. We were on a large boat, finishing our open water rescues. I was the last one to go. The dive instructor told me to do a headcount, so I did and I came up one person short. Oh geez, I thought, here we go.

The seas were getting rough and choppy and the wind was picking up as the clouds grew dark. We had one person missing. I knew I was screwed. The instructor said "ok rescue diver, where is the missing person?" I took the binoculars out and scanned the seas around the boat, gradually looking further out in a circular pattern around the boat. About 500m out from the stern of the boat, I saw something in the swells. Yup sure as shi*, there he was! I thought surely they are gonna drive the boat closer to him so I can get him. Nope! Ok big sarge, in you go. Damn!

I had to strip down to wet suit, fins, mask & snorkel and my weight belt - thanks. I jumped in and began finning my way to the body which was face down and lifeless bobbing in the growing swells. It was a helluva swim as the waves were getting big and I was getting nervous and smoked in the current. I made it to the diver and went through the drill. Fortunately, the scripted act for the diver was for him to be unconscious with no assistance. Thanks again. I flipped him over and began rescue breathing while towing him back to the boat while shedding his equipment. This was far more difficult than the swim out to him obviously. This guy was about 6'4 and must have weighed 250lbs plus.

After great effort, we made it to the diver platform on the boat. Ah another dilemma! The waves were lifting the tailend of the boat out of the water and smashing the boat back down. So there was a real possibility of me and him getting squashed by this huge boat. Never mind the big propellers whizzing past my head with each rise and fall of the boat. So timing was everything! When the boat smashed down in the water, I rolled old boy onto the platform and jumped back avoiding the next smash of the stern. Then I quickly climbed up onto the boat and continued rescue breathing while moving the diver to the rear deck.

I finally got the ok signal from the instructor that the drill was over. He said he was pleased with my performance and that I did very good under the harsh circumstances - which I wasn't pleased about, seeing everyone else did their drill 20 feet off the stern, in sunny, calm seas. So needless to say - I was smoked and exhausted. But I was happy that I did the hardest rescue drill with the biggest dude and made it. We returned to the dive shop and I was awarded my rescue diver card and certificate. I was glad that was over. But I started the Divemaster course the next day, so it was only temporary relief.

That was one of the most physically tasking events of my life and I have been a couple places and done a couple things in my time. The only way I was able to do it at all was because of my fitness program. I was on a vigorous 2 part endurance and strength & conditioning program. My endurance training allowed me to go the distance and complete the swim, the strength & conditioning training allowed me to manhandle the body and move him up onto the boat, while dealing with his scuba gear. Had I been lacking in either area, I would have failed the drill. Aside from the swim itself and towing the man back to the boat, I executed swim sprints and about a dozen exercises while getting him up onto the boat. Deadlift, squat, row, curl are a few examples.

So while it's popular to do the endurance stuff, it's only part of a complete program. That's why I am a supporter of having total body power, strength and endurance as part of any program. It's the only way to truly achieve operational readiness for any physical encounter, in a functional environment, based upon daily life / real world activities. Lift heavy and run fast and you'll always be successful.

Dempsey's Resolution Fitness
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