5 Exercises to Keep You Sailing

It’s been said that “old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.”
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 The Flamingo: start with 15 seconds per leg to improve balance

The Flamingo: start with 15 seconds per leg to improve balance

It’s been said that “old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” I got a little dinghy long ago, and I’m darn proud of it. But as I approach my 70s, I’ve begun to wonder if I’ll maintain the physical attributes necessary to sail: the upper body strength to haul on the lines, and the agility to move around the foredeck without falling overboard. Rather than worry, I found five simple exercises to strengthen the areas of my body most crucial to safe sailing. Performing these daily has made all the difference.

1) The Flamingo
Balance is everything on a sailboat, and seniors often lose theirs. Improve yours by making like a flamingo and standing on one leg. Start with 15 seconds on each leg and then increase the time. If you reach two minutes, try standing on an unstable surface, like a pillow.

2) The Dinghy
You’ll be amazed at how rowing can increase your upper back and arm strength. Few exercises are better for upper body fitness. Put away the outboard and pull out the oars, even if you’ve got an inflatable. Before long you’ll be selling that 2hp motor.

3) The Push
No, I don’t mean away from the dinner table, though that might help. I’m talking about good old-fashioned “drop and give me 20” push-ups. Full-body push-ups are the ultimate goal, but kneeling or standing push-ups will also reap benefits.

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4) The Musical Chair
While music isn’t a requirement, it will make this more entertaining. Using a kitchen chair without arms, sit on the front half of the seat with your heels on the floor in front of the chair legs. Hold your arms straight out as ballast, keep your core tight, stand up and sit back down. Repeat as many times as you comfortably can, being careful not to miss the chair on the way down.

5) The Amphibian
After dropping anchor and before the first Painkiller, dive in for a swim. Swimming may be the best exercise of all for seniors, since it works virtually every muscle group without putting any impact on arthritic joints. If you can’t swim, put on a PFD, jump in and splash around.

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These five exercises, along with good genes, should keep us all sailing for at least another decade or two. And if they don’t, don’t blame me. I got a little dinghy a long time ago.

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