by James Buchanan of Viking Training System
At Viking Training System we try to develop the physical and mental tenacity that was inherent in the Vikings.
In this modern, sedentary era, how do we replicate the training of these warriors and what skills were admired by the Vikings?
Skills such as rowing, skiing, swimming and dexterity of arms are cited in many sources as admirable qualities. The development of the mind through music, reciting poetry and board games are also mentioned.
Training for warfare must have been a daily obligation in order to have the strength of arms and skill set required to take on other contemporary warrior cultures like the Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Picts and Franks. Not only that but fighting wearing chainmail, as Vikings are often mentioned as using a lot of protective clothing compared to the Irish, for example. The use of protective clothing adds the encumberance of at least an extra 10 to 20kgs. Many Viking burial skeletons are described as extremely strong and powerfully built when alive and indeed Icelandic fishing crews had to lift heavy stones to earn their right to join a fleet, perhaps a tradition dating back to longship fleets? Yet agility is an often stated as being the most admirable quality in battle. Endurance was definitely a major area of physical importance. Rowing up an estuary then fighting for over an hour followed by swiftly carrying off some booty in a strandhogg definitely required staying power!
So, if we cannot access the mediums to get outside and practice the skills such as rowing, skiing, open water swimming and Glima practice with and without weapons, how can we simulate the activities that Vikings pursued to be fighting fit?
Equipment is vital if you wish to simulate a Viking style of training. Rowing is essential, try using the legs less and hinging at the hips.Vikings used fixed seats, so the legs came into play less. A weighted vest simulates wearing chainmail. It inhibits your breathing and makes every task harder. You can jump, crawl, climb, move up and down, flat on your back then up and down to your front. Get creative and move! Get comfortable being uncomfortable! Sledgehammers, Macebells and Indian Clubs can be swung around like a weapon but heavier. Smashing them against tyres is a great stress relief! Battle Ropes can be used to simulate throws and lateral movement patterns. Rope climbing and pull ups simulate climbing involved in a cliff assault. Finally, lift heavy objects, off the ground, overhead, static holds. Keep it simple and varied. Vary the loads, vary the volume and vary the time frames. Rest as little as possible, keep it intense. The best way forwards is to combine movements and keep the intensity up.
With these ideas in mind, at Viking Training System we have created some challenges based around the exploits of famous Vikings.. Enjoy!