Fitness instructor keeps HMCS Winnipeg crew fit at sea


Personnel Support Programs Fitness Instructors normally spend their days keeping military members fit on dry land, but CFB Esquimalt’s Sylvan Verrier is spending six months keeping sailors fit at sea.

Verrier has joined the crew of HMCS Winnipeg on Operation Reassurance, Canada’s contribution to NATO assurance measures in Europe.

He was posted to Winnipeg in mid-July as the Fitness Sports and Recreation Coordinator with the task of helping the ship’s crew stay in top physical form until they return home in early 2016.

“Improving the health and wellness of the crew is my goal,” says Verrier.

“The majority of the crew wants to improve their overall fitness and some want more specific training to reach their goals.”

Through personal fitness programs, group fitness classes, sports and recreational activities, and dissemination of health promotion material, Verrier is keeping the sailors active in their down time.

“It’s easy to run a sedentary lifestyle on a ship, so I’m trying to keep people active and moving throughout their time at sea,” he says.

He offers activities for all crew members and aims to provide a wide variety of activities.

Currently, Verrier offers circuit training at varying intensity levels, boot camp, cardio and core classes, and yoga.

“The ship’s company is constantly operational and active though,” says Verrier.

“So finding time and space for physical fitness can be difficult at times. But with the motivation of the crew to stay healthy and active, my job is so enjoyable.”

Due to limited open space on the ship, Verrier has had to be creative in the planning of his classes and activities.

“Before boarding, I researched lots of fitness ideas and varieties of class styles,” he says.

When the ship is at sea, he makes use of space-efficient kettlebells, dumbbells, boxing gear, and skipping ropes in his classes, depending on when members are available and what the weather is like.

“Days at sea are ever changing,” says Verrier.

“It is quite rare to have a day go exactly as planned.”

When the ship pulls alongside in foreign ports, Verrier organizes extra running time, fitness classes and sports with the additional space.

He’s organized five kilometre fleet runs at several ports, and when the ship docked in Turkey he helped facilitate soccer games with local military teams.

During a typical day, Verrier rises at 5:30 a.m. to teach his first hour-long class of the day at 6:00, followed by another class at 8:00. 

He teaches upwards of four classes a day and spends at least one hour doing personal training for individual members.

In the afternoon he plans upcoming classes and researches health and sports activities for future port visits. He also has to make sure his own physical fitness stays up to par and squeezes in a workout for himself when he can.

With the high number of calories he burns, Verrier tries to eat between three and six square meals a day, fitting meal times in between classes.

One of the perks of being deployed with the ship has been exploring the different European ports the ship has visited.

“The port visits are amazing and viewing all of the variety in culture and history is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says.

So far, he has visited Palma de Mallorca and Ferrol in Spain, Aksaz in Turkey, London in the United Kingdom and Porto in Portugal.

In his down time at sea, Verrier helps members with their tasks or walks around the ship, learning about what members must do for their individual positions.

“At the base, I get to see how hard so many members of the CAF work every day. But the appreciation I have for those same members has only increased based on my experience on board so far. They have to spend so much time away from home, work extremely long hours and deal with stressful situations.”

Verrier says his experience seeing firsthand what each trade must do physically on board a ship – and even having a hand at it himself – has provided him with useful knowledge for creating programming for the CAF population.  

“Even after having completed only a third of my six month deployment, I still find myself learning new things every day,” he says.

“With the constant support of the crew, the command team, and family and friends back home, I’m looking forward to the continued adventure, and of course, maintaining the health and wellness of our Forces!”

Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

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