Training like an astronaut

For those who have always dreamed of travelling in space, there is not a day that matches the excitement when you are finally selected to become an astronaut. That is the moment when the dream becomes reality, and also the moment when the most intense work begins. Up to two years of training may be required to become a qualified astronaut. You need to learn to live in extreme conditions, to manage emergency situations and prepare psychologically to spend 4 to 6 months in very small spaces. In all of this, astronauts are also compelled to stay physically healthy and trained.
Our body has evolved to live on Earth, where gravity plays a fundamental role and where we have ample space to move. For this reason, as we have reached zero gravity after a journey in which the body is subjected to great stimuli, it is very important that vital functions are at their maximum efficiency. Just think about our heart, and the difference in effort that occurs when gravity is cancelled or when, as in the case of the launch phase, it becomes extremely intense. How can any heart continue to circulate blood when the gravitational pressure becomes 8 times greater than Earth's? And how does it manage to work properly once it returns to Earth, after spending 4 months pulsating with no atmosphere?

The European Astronaut Centre

The European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, is where astronauts are trained before their missions on the International Space Station. Here, future space travelers train to prepare for microgravity and to ready their bodies for an endless variety of operations, tasks and experiments to be performed once they reach orbit. But what kind of training can prepare their bodies for such an experience?
To answer this question, a team of scientists was set up to identify the physical skills needed for a space voyage and design a series of simple exercises that astronaut candidates can reproduce during their pre-mission training, which generally lasts 18 months, anytime and anywhere.

In some cases, these exercises are intuitive: for example, running and cycling are useful to strengthen cardiovascular abilities. Once the mission has started however, the physical strain can vary extremely from astronaut to astronaut, which is why it is important that the astronauts are ready for any eventuality.

Capacities to be supplied

The most important skills to develop and maintain are balance and coordination, which are fundamental for space walks when astronauts leave the Space Station to conduct research or fit out machinery. A pre-mission exercise, to be done in pairs, consists in sitting on a balancing ball in front of each other, without touching the ground with your feet, and throwing different balls of different shapes, volumes and weights. This simple exercise, which can be easily replicated both at home and in a gym, is useful for training several elements at the same time: physical structure, abdominals, core stability and coordination under strain. The same exercise can also be practiced by simply remaining in balance on one leg for at least 2 minutes, before changing legs and repeating. The combination of complex movements develops spatial awareness, agility and coordination. Another very popular activity is rock or wall climbing, an indispensable exercise to prepare for space walks. This training develops coordination of the trunk, back, arms and fingers.

Space training

When the astronauts finally arrive in orbit, training becomes another matter. Due to the absence of microgravity, all weight and free-body exercises become useless. To overcome this problem, various space agencies have designed equipment that can operate at zero gravity. The simplest of all is the bicycle, whose saddle, as it is easy to imagine, the astronaut needs to be tied to. Another specific machine is a treadmill with elastic cables that simulate a gravitational traction, so that the astronaut has his feet on the ground and can run using the same pressure that he would receive on Earth.
The hardest part was to create a machine that could train strength. The solution was ARED (Advanced Resistive Exercise Device), a machine that uses piston-operated cylinders to simulate weight training, so that all space travelers can train their muscular strength even where weight is a non-existent concept. This technology has been adopted and reinterpreted by Technogym for the creation of BIOCIRCUIT, enabling its users to train in a completely customized way and achieve their objectives in shortest time possible.

In the gym, just like an astronaut

Since we are talking about space training, how about trying the sensation of training like an astronaut? Then you should try Pilates Full Teaser, a useful exercise to strengthen your upper body: lying on your stomach up on a mat, holding your legs up at an angle of 45 degrees, you have to try to touch the tips of your feet with your hands with extremely slow and controlled repetitions. Obviously, all the exercises to strengthen the abdominals, from crunches to more complex ones, and all the various types of pushups are part of the training.
The most surprising thing, however, is the role kettlebell has, a tool widely used in space training. The most frequent exercise is to swing a kettlebell between the legs until it is raised to the height of the chest, holding it with both hands.  According to experts this would be the most comprehensive exercise if you want to strengthen bone density, balance, strength and your body as a whole.

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