October 12, 2018
(2:05 p.m. EDT) -- We all know the old adage that cruises are for the overfed, newly wed and nearly dead. But when you take a group of fitness enthusiasts and put them on a ship for four days with healthier dining options and scheduled workouts led by some of the "fittest on Earth" -- the title CrossFit bestows on its most elite competitive athletes -- those stereotypes are swept out to sea.
Cruise Critic caught up with athletes Spencer Hendel and Chyna Cho, both of whom have competed in the annual CrossFit Games several times, to ask for their thoughts about cruising, fitness and squeezing in workouts while on the go. They will be two of several CrossFit icons hosting the first-ever WOD on the Waves cruise in January 2019 (more on that below).
So what, exactly, is CrossFit?
Despite what you might have heard, read or seen on TV, CrossFit is an exercise program that can be modified for all ages and ability levels, combining cardio, gymnastics, weightlifting and bodyweight movements. Usually lasting 30 minutes or less, the "workout of the day" (WOD) -- which changes daily to keep things interesting while focusing on the development of different skills and muscle groups -- is often followed by stretching, mobility and yoga elements to help with recovery.
Nutrition is also a key tenant of CrossFit, largely involving the elimination of processed foods and/or the measuring of macros (carbs, fats and protein in ratios specific to each individual).
"I started using CrossFit as a means of rehab before trying to come back [from a high school baseball injury]," said Hendel, an eight-time Games competitor who now owns his own CrossFit gym in Massachusetts.
To those who say "I could never do that," Hendel has some advice: "Go into it with the mindset that you take it slow and learn the mechanics first. Be willing to be humble and check your ego at the door. People have to realize what they see on TV isn't real life; 99 percent of CrossFitters are [average people] just trying to stay in shape."
Cho, a six-time Games competitor and California gym owner, agrees.
"You can do it as long as you're willing to be uncomfortable," said the former collegiate swimmer, who was introduced to CrossFit by a friend. "People have to be willing to do things they wouldn't do on their own."
What can passengers expect from the WOD on the Waves cruise?
The four-night Bahamas sailing on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas departs January 21, 2019, calling on Nassau and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island.
In addition to more than 100 classes led by renowned trainers, athletes and coaches, passengers will have the chance to meet and mingle with the likes of Hendel, Cho and other well-known names, including Rich Froning, Brooke Wells and Conor Murphy, who is in charge of programming for the sailing.
Cruisers will also have a chance to sign up for the Joggin' for Frogmen 5k, which honors members of the U.S. Navy -- a nod to CrossFit's strong military ties.
Although Hendel has cruised several times with his family, Cho says this will be her first-ever sailing.
"I'm really excited this is going to be my first cruise," Cho said. "I'm going to work hard so I can enjoy myself."
But wait. How can cruising and staying fit possibly go hand-in-hand?
Cruising is often synonymous with alcohol, late nights and 24-hour food -- elements that don't exactly gel with a CrossFit lifestyle.
So how do Cho and Hendel recommend fighting through the constant temptation of bottomless desserts and the Drink of the Day? The key, they said, is a balance of dedication and fun.
"I love to eat and drink but also make working out a priority, so I'm excited I'll feel less guilty indulging [on the cruise]," Cho explained. "CrossFit can be a big part of your life, but it isn't your life. If you want to stay out late, stay out late on a special occasion. I plan on rolling with it. This is my life, and I'm going to enjoy it. I'll still work hard when the time comes."
"I don't think any one choice makes an individual who they are," Hendel said. "If you're making an effort to do active things and you want to indulge in a beer or a slice of cake, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it depends on what your goals are."
To help herself transition into eating well during her travels, Cho likes to pack a couple of pre-prepared meals and snacks to take along for her first day on the road (or ocean). She also advises doing some research ahead of time, which can make it easier to avoid less healthy convenience options.
What about workouts away from home?
It's no secret that it's difficult to train and stay motivated when you're away from home and out of your normal routine, which is why Hendel recommends getting back into a routine as soon as possible. He says, for him, it's also a great way to beat jet lag.
He also suggests using whatever is available to you in order to get in a workout.
"You don't need fancy equipment," he said, noting that he's used his suitcase as a weight in a pinch. "If you really want to work out, you can make it work."
Meanwhile, Cho suggests setting motivational guidelines that ensure you'll make room for exercise. As an example, she doesn't allow herself to eat breakfast until she works out, which forces her to get it done and out of the way first thing in the morning.
Regardless of the ratio of burpees done to beers consumed during the sailing, there's one thing we're sure of: the WOD on the Waves cruise is sure to be a PR.
--By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor