The old axiom that “War is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror” might as easily be applied to sailing. You may spend hours lounging in a sun-baked cockpit, but you must always be ready to jump into action, to grind a winch, raise a sail or simply brace yourself against 20 degrees of heel as wind and waves threaten to throw you overboard.
These explosive maneuvers are the sprints of an otherwise low-key sport, and just like sprinters, cruisers have to build and maintain the muscles necessary to be able to perform these movements without hurting their boats or their bodies. "A sailor's fitness routine differs from other athletes, because sailors perform unique movements repeatedly, such as hoisting, trimming, grinding and hiking," explains Harry Legum, founder and president of Annapolis Sailing Fitness, the country's first sailor-specific fitness studio. Legum has worked with a broad range of sailors, from 2008 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year, Terry Hutchinson and Anna Tunnicliffe, to U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen, to casual cruisers. He believes that staying fit for sailing is not only important, but can be fun, too.
Though physical demands vary from boat to boat, every sailor needs a strong core to stay agile enough to scurry around on a tilted surface and flexible enough to shimmy under the boom. As Legum says, "The core is the foundation of all of a sailor's movements." Sailors also need strong backs and arms for grinding and hoisting, and strong necks for craning to keep and eye on the sails.
Unfortunately, most boats aren’t stocked with fitness equipment and personal trainers. However, you can always improvise. Transform the foredeck into a yoga studio, the dinghy into an erg machine, the mast into a multi-function exercise station and, voila! you are ready to stay fit while at sea. It’s a good thing too, considering how many dark-and-stormies some of us have to work off.
SAIL recently collaborated with a number of sailors, personal trainers and yoga instructors to create the following series of on-board fitness routines. You can perform them on any boat, regardless of your age or physical condition. On your next cruise, try doing one of these 20-minute workouts each day, and then watch as the grinding gets easier.
Workout #1: Yoga for Sailors
Workout #2: Stretch and Strengthen