by Anne Beaudreau
A few years ago, I learned about a too-good-to-be-true workout plan that is scientifically proven to do as much for your body in 7 minutes as several hours of running or biking. The so-called 7-Minute Workout is high-intensity interval training, involving 12 exercises that are done for 30 seconds each with 10 second breaks in between. According to the experts, you need to “hover at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10”1 to make it really effective.
That sounds pretty good, but don’t you think there’s a more enjoyable way to get a full-body workout? I’m here to tell you that there is, and it’s called beach seining in the intertidal. On 4-8 days each month during spring and summer, Master’s student Doug Duncan and his crew (sometimes including me) get up at the crack of dawn, load up the truck, launch the skiff, and venture out to estuary sites along the Juneau road system to catch fish. We didn’t want to keep our great workout plan a secret, so here’s the scoop. There are only 8 exercises, because that is all you need to hit 8 on the discomfort scale!
Exercise 1. Wader donning (really, doing anything in waders)
Once we arrive at the boat launch, the workout begins with a careful balancing act: donning the waders. This doesn’t necessarily take exertion, but it does require some balance and coordination, which may be hard to come by at 4 in the morning. The waders add a nice resistance to the rest of the day’s activities.
Exercise 2. Bucket wrangling
Beach seining involves a lot of bucket maneuvering: hauling heavy buckets of water to the beach, returning buckets of water and fish to the boat. On a bad weather day, when it’s too windy to use the skiff and we need to carry full buckets down long stretches of beach, bucket wrangling takes on a whole new level of intensity. You will discover muscles in your wrists and forearms you never knew you had.
Exercise 3. Zombie walk
This is the bread and butter of the beach seining workout. First, loop the end of the leadline around your wader boot. Next, start walking the net through the water, keeping a nice steady rhythm. As you walk, drag your foot along the bottom to keep the leadline down and the fish in the net. This gives you both the appearance of a zombie and a wicked inner thigh workout. Can you feel the burn? Be sure to alternate your seining leg to work both sides.
Exercise 4. Algae resistance
This is full body resistance training, algae-style. When conditions are right, the intertidal is green with ulva. The thin, green sheets of “sea lettuce” clump together and aggregate in the center of the net, making it heavier and heavier as you drag it to shore. Target muscle groups include: everything from your neck down.
Remember, you are doing all of this in stiff, completely non-breathable waders (see Exercise 1). On a rare sunny day, this makes for a somewhat stifling endeavor. If you want to increase the intensity of any exercise, add in a quick jog up the beach to scare ravens away from the buckets of fish.
Exercise 5. Bucket lift
Have you ever tried lifting a 5-gallon bucket full of seawater and fish above your chest and up over the side of a skiff without spilling? It’s harder than you think. This is best done as a group: one, two, three, buckets up!
Exercise 6: Bucket pull
This exercise creeps up on you suddenly. Let me set the scene for you. Two people are pulling the net onto the beach and you can see that it’s a big haul of fish. You’re going to need a lot more buckets. Quick, let’s pull these two apart and fill them with water! But the already-wet buckets have decided to adhere to each other like superglue. Hence, a vigorous attempt at bucket separation ensues, as shown below. This is one challenge you can’t face alone!
Exercise 6. Bug swat
You didn’t think we were going to enjoy this beautiful day without a slew of no-see-ums to keep us company, did you? Better start swatting! The more vigorously you do it, the closer you’ll get to your VO2 max.
Exercise 7. Boat pull
The boat pull is a rather elegant exercise, involving – you guessed it – manually towing a boat full of muddy sampling gear, soggy nets, and buckets brimming with water and sea life. The goal is to keep within throwing distance of the seiners, so that you can quickly anchor up and bring them buckets and measuring boards as they begin to haul in the fish. It gets tough when the wind and currents try to fight your progress.
Exercise 8. Quicksand hop
We have learned the hard way that the only way to traverse river delta quicksand is quickly and decisively. So, pick up those hefty wader boots and hop, hop, hop back to the safety of the water! Incentive for not stopping is that you won’t lose your boots to the mud of the Mendenhall River estuary. Simple as that.
Congratulations! You have completed the beach seining workout in a mere 3 hours. Wasn’t it fun to huff and puff among beautiful glacier views, nets teeming with the next generation of salmon, and the company of good fisher folk?
If you’d like to learn more about the science itself, please visit our current research page and scroll down to the projects titled “Navigating the predator gauntlet: Impacts of nearshore marine fishes on hatchery and wild juvenile salmon in Southeast Alaska” and “Tracking energy flow to fishes in glacially-influenced estuaries of Southeast Alaska.”
1Reynolds, Gretchen. 9 May 2013. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. NY Times. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/