TRAINING FOR THE EXPEDITION PART 1: BUILDING YOUR TIRE SLED
January 13, 2019
To guarantee the success of our expedition, there’s no secret to it, we need to train! We’ll need to keep a certain level of fitness all year round, and most importantly make sure we don’t get injured. We need to train for quite a specific task, that is: pulling a pulka. This is the sled that we’ll drag behind us for a month, loaded with all our equipment.
I’ve been following quite a few of the expeditions doing the Spitsbergen pa langs, that is crossing the entire island from North to South. And many of those who have dared to embark on this journey have trained by pulling car tires.
It seems silly, but it is actually so efficient.
Here’s a little tutorial on how do build your tire-sled and how to walk with it without being too ashamed:
BUILDING YOUR TIRE SLED
First, you need to find some car tires. You can either go for normal car tires, or immediately destroy yourself with tractor tires https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVJpcDuoezQ Doesn’t look very easy, does it?
I went in the first car garage I could find, and asked for three car tires they wanted to get rid of. A few eyebrows were raised, so I explained that I was not going to burn them (pretty trendy to do that in France ATM) but instead was going to use them to train for an expedition in the Arctic. Not sure they really understood what I meant.
Once the tires found, I visited my favorite hardware shop, and bought a few nuts and bolts, as recommended on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYv6V761cuQ
NUTS AND BOLTS
For three tires you’ll need:
At least 10 washers of different sizes (I bought 10 large ones, 10 medium and 10 small)
20 nuts (to lock everything in place)
3 carabiners (plus two for the harness)
A rope (at least 6 m long)
Harness (best is to buy the harness you’ll use with your pulka, I got this one: https://www.fjellpulken.no/en/products/fjellpulken-xpedition-pro-reinforced-skier-harness-white in black. You can also try with a climbing harness.
The assembly isn’t too difficult but you do need a good drill to make proper holes in the tires (not as easy at it seems).
PULLING YOUR TIRE SLED
For my first workout I aimed for an easy mountain close to home called “Le Parmelan”. I proudly started with 3 tires, died after 50 m of pulling (which probably took me a good 20 minutes to cover) and gave up tire number 3. So best to start with either one, or two tires. Definitely NOT three.
Pulling tires takes a bit of getting used to. The tires go everywhere except where you want them to go. That rock? They’ll hit it. That tree root? They’ll get stuck behind it. That slope? They’ll pull you right into it. So beware, these are cheeky little monsters.
The way this workout works, is by having a lot of friction between the tires and the ground. Depending on what surface you’re walking on, pulling tires might feel “easy” or horrible. Hard snow is great, tree roots, wet leaves or grass is not the best. But you do want to train on all surfaces to get used to the pain.
This workout makes you use muscles you had no idea existed. My legs were properly shaking during my first 3 outings, now they’re simply burning a lot. Progress!
ONE STEP AT A TIME
I’ve also accepted to be a little bit less ambitious with how many kilometres I could cover right away, and how steep the slopes I could climb. I’m now trying to walk over much “flatter” terrain, that isn’t peppered with rocks or tree roots.
Last time I trained, I only covered about 7 km. This is not great, but I want to slowly build up to the distances we’ll have to cover in 14 months, instead of hating the process right away.
It is quite a meditative workout, I don’t listen to any music while doing it, I prefer to listen to the tires and identify any trouble behind me. My goal is to cover as much distance as I can without stopping, so your pace might have to be pretty slow to begin with. As I get used to this exercise, I will try to squeeze in some “intensity” workout with the tires; for example pulling them over 200 m as quickly as I can, 5 to 10 times in a row.
A word of warning: pulling tires on public paths will make you quite susceptible to strange reactions and funny-not-so-funny jokes.
Let us know if you want to try this workout !