Story first published in the Western Morning News, January 2018
Super-fit adventure athlete Ross Edgley has enlisted the expertise of Britain’s elite fighting force to kick-start training for his longest ocean swim world record attempt.
The “strongman swimming” pioneer is on a ceaseless pursuit to push the boundaries of the human body and find novel ways to do so. Recent Superman-esque stunts include a 102km swim between Martinique and St Lucia in the Caribbean in November – pulling a 100lb log attached to his trunks – and running a marathon pulling a 1.4-tonne Mini Cooper.
The 32-year-old former Team GB water polo player has begun 2018 with a non-stop 48-hour 100km swim at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon, having sought tips from the Commandos on mental fortitude for his Caribbean outing. A Royal Marines PTI was on hand throughout Edgley’s swim which started on Friday, January 12th.
“When you’re pulling a log behind you for 100km, you’ll only get so far with nutrition, training and technique,” he says. “It becomes about mental fortitude not body mechanics. And the only people you can really learn about that stuff from are the Royal Marines.
“The training camp is a melting pot of ideas when it comes to how best to deal with physical challenges. I needed to know what it really meant to be mentally prepared and their ethos proved invaluable in five and six feet waves and a current trying to take me to Bermuda.
“I’ve learnt about the importance of adaptability in the face of unexpected challenges, and about being comfortable with being uncomfortable!”
He adds: “I’m motivated by stories of human endurance, outside of the parameters of sporting events and races. You only have to sit in the Mess to hear countless stories of endurance, often sleep deprived and under enemy fire.”
Although Martinique and St Lucia are only 35km apart, Edgley’s swim ended up being far longer due to a succession of fierce currents. Edgley’s fitness regime includes swimming 100km a week fuelled by the consumption of over 8,000 calories a day on a specially designed diet. His Caribbean odyssey was filmed by Red Bull TV and is due to air on January 17th.
“I’d swallow these big tubes of curry and rice or rice pudding down in five seconds while I was swimming,” he recalls. “And this fits with the Royal Marines’ way of thinking nutritionally as well; treating food as fuel. You should see what they put away in there!” he laughs, gesticulating towards their dining hall.
Everything Edgley does is about testing the limits of the human body and his attempt for the world record attempt, which currently stands at 225km held by Croatian Veljko Rogosic, has this notion at its core. His journey is being documented by Be Fit Motivation.
“I was pleased with my time in the Caribbean and thought it’d be good to drop the tree and see what was possible without it,” says Edgley, a sports scientist who co-founded sports nutrition company, The Protein Works. “The idea of swimming further than any human has done before interests me.”
He adds: “I’m built like a hobbit! So I don’t have the body of a professional swimmer and was never going to make it professionally, but what’s nice about strongman swimming is that there are no preconceived ideas about what the right physique should be.
“And actually, what’s nice about swimming is that you’re not bound by gravity so it doesn’t matter what body shape you have.
“I love seeing on social media how people are inspired and motivated to get out there and be active; my message to people is to find what you like, and own it.”
Over the years Edgley’s endurance feats have raised thousands of pounds for charity including the Royal Marines Charity, the British Heart Foundation and Teenage Cancer Trust.
The model and fitness guru manages to have time for a girlfriend – just. “She’s very patient,” Edgley smiles. “She’s actually one of the best people to have on the crew because she knows exactly what I want to eat, when, more than anyone!”
Ross Edgley’s debut fitness bible, The World’s Fittest Book is due to be published in May.