Getting Into Sailing Shape


Getting Into Sailing Shape

Getting into sailing shape is essential if you want to compete at the front of your fleet. This is just as true for the young sailor trying to master an ILCA dinghy through to the round the cans keelboat sailor or long-distance ocean racer.

Getting Into Shape

The type of physical training needed depends on the boat you sail, your position on the boat and your age.

Sailing relies a lot on upper body and core strength for most repetitive moves. If you are racing, you need a far higher level of power and endurance than leisure sailors.

In a perfect world, we would sail ourselves into shape but because of the pressures of modern life, this is rarely possible. If you have the luxury of sailing yourself into shape, you exercise and build the exact muscles that you need to do your job.

In small boat sailing, body control, posture, stamina and balance are very important skills to have. Crewing on a keelboat, upper body strength and balance are two of the many required skills needed.

As a skipper, it’s important that your backbone is straight and perpendicular to the water. This keeps your head level with the horizon as you look straight ahead, from side to side or up at the sails.

Many sailors develop back problems because their stomach and back muscles are not sufficiently toned so they compensate by slumping.

Exercises for Sailors – Getting Into Sailing Shape

Engage a health professional who understands sailing or better still is a sailor themselves. Have them design a program for you based on the needs of your position on the boat that you sail.

An exercise that you can do ashore is bent knee situps as they can do wonders for your back and stomach muscles.  I cannot stress enough though that an exercise professional should design your routines for you.

There is no need for gym memberships if that is not your bag and many exercises can be carried out at home with a minimum amount of equipment. Barbells, dumbells, a swiss ball and perhaps some resistance bands that can be purchased cheaply online.

How extensive the conditioning program you undertake is up to you. 

Some types of Programs. Getting Into Sailing Shape

Do some running if your knees are up to it. Do arm exercises but always warm up first. Other programs might include swimming, and ball games such as squash, tennis or basketball.

The advantage of ball games is that they assist in developing reflexes, hand-eye coordination and body flexibility.

Stretching exercises are particularly beneficial and swimming is a great way to work on muscle extension. If you sail a dinghy, work on your neck muscles by turning your head from side to side to limber them up.

Cardio workouts are crucial for building your stamina and strengthening your heart and lungs. The better your aerobic fitness, the better your results will be on the water.

Effects of Sailing Fitness – Getting Into Sailing Shape

On the first windward leg, everyone is more or less equal and competitive. Where the champions streak ahead is the last time upwind where their fitness is the difference. They are working their boat as hard at the finish as they were when the start gun went.