Karen Sharwood - February 09, 2002: Gym babe - On Friday, I accompanied Mark to his exercise session at the gym in the training centre. There are two physical training sessions a week scheduled into Mark’s cosmonaut training programme which are instructed by Yuri Tsukanov (the “guinea pig” that I made cycle for me for three hours while we tried to collect some heart rate data – see previous logs…).
The gym is very interesting, and has both standard equipment as well as interesting pieces that are used to train the cosmonauts for their time on the ISS. For example, there is a stationary bicycle placed on top of a spinning wheel. The cycle pedals are connected to the spinning wheel underneath, so the faster you cycle, the faster the wheel spins and you land up flying around in circles and becoming progressively sicker (a common thread, it seems, in cosmonaut training).
The gym also houses an arm cycling machine, or an arm ergometer, which was previously used on Mir (see attached picture). Yuri really seems to enjoy this exercise a whole lot more than Mark, which I thought was quite funny until Yuri made me try it. My laughter quickly subsided - he obviously has not forgiven me for my slave-driving tendencies when he was on the bike. There is also a 25m heated indoor swimming pool with three diving boards of different heights and a sauna (possibly used more often than any of the training equipment!).
Mark’s session started off with a two-stage cycle ergometer test in which blood pressure and heart rate were measured during exercise and during the recovery session before and after the second load (see attached picture). This is a standard test that is performed regularly to monitor the effects of exercise training as well as general cardiovascular health and fitness. Mark showed a perfect response to the test – an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure corresponding to the increase in workload.
Smells like team spirit
After this test, we headed into the gym for some upper body-strength training and some abdominal work, not to mention the arm ergo! At the end of the session, Yuri asked Mark to lie on his back with his legs raised for five minutes (see attached picture). When gravity is taken away, one of the physiological changes that occurs is an upward shift of blood and fluid in the body, increasing the volume of fluid in the head and chest. The same happens when we lie with our heads down and legs up on Earth, so this exercise was aimed at preparing the body for that change.
After the hard work in the gym, Yuri and Mark then went off to the pool where they spent time jumping off the boards – the higher the better. And of course, in true Russian style, all was ended with a relaxing sauna.
Lara finally arrived after having had some problems with transport at the airport, so once we had gotten her settled in we spent the rest of the evening saying farewell to Ravi and Barak, who fly back to South Africa on Saturday.
It was really great to have had both Ravi and Barak over here for a while and to have been able to do some First African in Space team bonding. We all started off at Shep’s Bar, the local NASA spot, and then headed on out along the Star City path-of-death (ie any road in Star City at the moment – a mini deathtrap out there!) to the local sauna.
All would have been fine, had we (a) not had that (final) margarita and (b) had I not been walking in such close proximity to Ravi, who very graciously chose to slip on the path-of-death and time take me out with him. Needless to say, bruises from head to toe today, but by now have realised this is quite normal for me and am getting used to the odd blue mark here and there.