News, Sports

Staying in shape while deployed

Members of HMCS Montréal participate in a fitness class on the flight deck during the NEPTUNE TRIDENT 17-02 deployment.

PSP fitness instructor sees the world while supporting RCN sailors

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

Staying physically fit is an important part of being a CAF member, and that responsibility doesn’t change when deployed for long stints at sea. Even when living on a warship, sailors need to find the time and space to stay active and get their regular workouts in.

For the better part of the last year, PSP Halifax’s Briana Plante has been helping to make that happen, deploying aboard RCN ships on multiple occasions as a Fitness, Sports and Recreation Coordinator at sea. She sailed with a Navy crew for the first time in October of 2016, and has since completed five deployments, most recently accompanying the crew of HMCS Montréal for a three-month sail to Europe that saw the ship participate in exercises FORMIDABLE SHIELD 2017 and JOINT WARRIOR 172 as part of the overarching NEPTUNE TRIDENT 17-02 deployment.

“The biggest challenge at sea is probably the fact that I’m teaching classes on a ship that has no actual gym space and is constantly affected by the ever-changing weather,” said Plante, who joined the PSP team in 2015 as a Fitness and Sports Instructor. On a regular day on board, she leads three group sessions per day, alternating between strength training, upper and lower body work, mobility classes and other exercises, and with the unpredictable nature of shipboard life, she steers away from heavy weights or complex exercises.

“If the sea state isn’t optimal, I’m always ready to adjust my class so that members can safely work out at sea,” she said.

Her days at sea are rounded out by planning new classes or recreation activities for upcoming port visits, as well as working individually with crewmembers who have more specific physical goals or limitations caused by injury. The amount of time spent with the crew is an advantage in this case, as an increased level of trust and familiarity allows for more specialized instruction. Plante has also conducted a clinic focused on back-pain for a number of members, as well as a FORCE prep class to help those who were unsuccessful in their latest FORCE test to prepare for their next try.

“This has been my longest deployment to date, and this timeframe has allowed me to train certain groups of people and clearly see the benefits and changes that brought them,” she said, adding that she’s formed great professional relationships and also made some new friends over the last few months with Montréal.

The highlight of her sea time, however, has been the opportunity to sail to so many different locations with the Navy and have experiences that aren’t generally available to civilians. On top of racking up visits to 20 different port cities in the last year, Plante recalled moments like sailing through Greenland in August on Op NANOOK, riding in the RHIB with Montréal’s Bosns.

“It was breathtaking to see the ship from afar, sailing through the fjords, surrounded by icebergs and fresh northern water. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Plante is currently back in Halifax and running classes at the STADPLEX gym, but said she won’t hesitate to head back to sea if the opportunity presents itself.