Sailing Fitness

Hi everyone! The spring 2018 sailing season is quickly approaching. More information on the upcoming season will be available closer to the end of February. In the meantime, please check out this article written by Chris Kuehn regarding fitness and its role in the sport of sailing. Enjoy! 


High School Sailors Take Note -
If You Think You Are Fit For College Sailing, Think Again -
And Then Hit The Gym!

"No one told me how physically demanding college sailing would be" writes Erika Reineke, a member of the US Sailing Team and 2017 Quantum Women’s Sailor of the Year, in Sailing World. "As a Laser Radial sailor and member of the US Sailing team during high school there were fitness expectations that we were held to. Looking back at the summer before my freshman year, I had thought that because I had a gym-training background and that I was an active radial sailor, I would be just fine. I was wrong".

As high school sailors you already are familiar with the regatta concept of many short course races, college racing is almost every weekend with as many as 18 races over two days. In addition to weekend racing, there’s practicing almost every day of the week. This can become a huge drain with out proper fitness training  and don’t forget that there is also an academic schedule to maintain.

Two muscle groups stand out. Quadriceps strength is everything in a boat with a hiking strap. As Erika Reineke writes in Sailing World : "I remember team racing during my freshman year and having to hold a pin on someone in windy conditions. I bent my knees and rested for five seconds, and in that time, I lost my grip on my pair, and my team lost the race. That disappointment of letting the team down is something I still cannot erase from my mind, and it drives me to push myself at every workout today." The second area of focus is core strength. Core strength allows you to extend your body far away from the boat.

So the fall high school sailing season has ended, Winter is Coming, and for the High School Seniors among you, the college applications are out. Yes, it’s winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in "sailing shape" during the off-season and prepare for college sailing ...and it might be easier than you think!

The following is based on recommendations developed by Sarah Mergenthaler-Chin while she was the Fitness Coach for the LISOT Laser Team. Sarah Mergentaler was ranked No. 1 on the US Sailing Team - 470 Women (2005-2008), she competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the women's 470 with Amanda Clark finishing in 12th position. Before that Sarah was the first high school athlete in her district to earn varsity letters in five different sports, the first high school female in New Jersey to convert a field goal in a varsity football game, a record-breaker in the javelin throw in college, a varsity soccer player all four years of college who also played semi-pro, and recipient of numerous athlete-of-the-year awards from organizations such as ESPN and the Women's Sports Foundation.

Sarah suggests purchasing a few simple, inexpensive pieces of equipment for your new home gym: a jump rope, an exercise/ abs ball (55 centimeters if you are 4’11"-5’3" or 56cm if you’re 5’4"-5’11"), 5, 10 and 15 lb. dumbbell sets and a foam mat for floor exercises. Using this basic gear, this program will take you through a 30-45 minute workout that will target the same muscle groups you use on the boat: abs, back, biceps, triceps, forearms, quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, calves and ankles.

First and foremost is the cardio warm-up. If you happen to have a treadmill, run 5 minutes at a comfortable "conversation" pace. If no treadmill is available, use the jump rope for 5 minutes. Don’t worry if you get tripped up - just get going again as quickly as possible. You’ll get better with practice and muscle memory. The goal of the warm-up is to prepare the body for the workout by raising your heart rate a little and breaking a light sweat. The warm-up should not fatigue you. After the cardio warm-up, spend 10 minutes stretching all of your major muscle groups, especially quads, hamstrings, groin, calves, back, arms, and neck rolls. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 20-30 seconds. Remember to grab a quick drink of water during stretching before the bulk of the workout begins.

With your hands behind your back, hold the exercise ball at the base of your tailbone. Keeping the ball in this position, lean back onto a wall so you’re leaning on the ball and the ball is leaning on the wall. Place your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward. Using the ball as support, squat down until your knees bend to 90 degrees. As you squat down, keep your back straight and the ball will roll up your back. Hold the max down position for 1 second then push back upward to the standing position. As you squat down, keep your back straight and the ball will roll up your back. If you bend over too much, the ball will fall. 10 squat repetitions forms one set and you should complete three sets (10 reps X 3 sets = 30 total reps). Take breaks between each set and remember to sip water. If you want to make this exercise more challenging, perform the squats holding a 5 lb. dumbbell in each hand. This will give you more resistance.

Lie facing upwards on your exercise ball with the ball positioned under your lower back. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead. Allow your back to extend over the curve of the ball. Cross your arms over your chest and slowly crunch your upper body forward. Concentrate on doing this slowly, first raising your shoulder blades off the ball. Once you reach the full upright position, slowly lower your upper body back down over the ball. These crunches should not be performed for speed, but rather for form. Complete 3 sets consisting of 20 reps each for a total of 60 crunches.

Lie on your foam mat, face down on the floor with your feet together and forearms on the ground. Lift your entire body off the ground using only your toes and forearms to balance yourself. Your body should be a straight line (like a board) from head to toe. Hold this position as long as you can without breaking form. Repeat 2 times. Over the course of a few weeks, you should be able to increase the amount of time you can hold this position. A great way to check your progress is to keep a weekly workout journal documenting each exercise.

Lie facing upward on your exercise ball, with the ball placed between your shoulder blades. Place your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing straight forward. Hold a 10 or 15 lb. dumbbell in each hand at chest level with your elbows flexed (bent). Press both dumbbells straight up and together above your head. Hold for 1 second then slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position. Complete 3 sets consisting of 8 reps in each for a total of 24 reps. If a 10 or 15 lb. dumbbell is too heavy, start with 5 lb. and work your way up to more weight.

Almost everyone knows what a push-up is. However, few know correct form and this is the key to maximizing this exercise. Your feet should always be together, only using your tiptoes for support over the ground. Keep hands flat and shoulder width apart. Your back should always remain as straight as a board with your head looking straight down at the space between your hands on the ground. Do not arch your back or bend your knees. Complete 1 set of 10 pushups. If you cannot complete 10 full reps, do as many as you can, working your way up to 10. If you can’t complete one push-up with correct form, a simple regression is to go off your knees instead of toes.

Starting with a 5 or 10 lb. dumbbell, stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbbells at you side with the palm of your hand facing forward. Curl both dumbbells up to your chest, hold for 1 second then slowly return to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps for a total of 24 total reps.

Lie facing upward on your exercise ball with the ball placed between your shoulder blades. Place your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing straight forward. Hold 5 lb. dumbbells in each hand with the elbows in line with the shoulders arms straight over your chest. Flex (bend) your elbows to a 90- degree angle, hold for 1 second, then return to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps for a total of 24 total reps.

Lie face down on your exercise ball with the ball placed under your abdomen. Keep your feet pointed down and legs completely straight. Hold a 5 lb. dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms in front of you (you should be looking down at your dumbbells). Flex (bend) your elbows, bringing the dumbbells towards your armpits until your thumbs are level with your shoulders. You should feel your shoulder blades retracting or pressing down. Return to the starting position. Complete 2 sets of 8–10 reps for a total of 16-20 reps.

Start in a low squat position with your arms tucked in at your sides. In one explosive, quick movement, jump as high as you can, extending your arms above your head. Return to the starting position. You should be putting everything you have left into each jump- this will be very tiring! Complete 10 full star jumps.

Never end your workout on the last exercise. Always take the time to do a proper cool down and stretch routine. This will help your body recover and prevent injury. For cool down, you can walk on a treadmill or simply walk around the room. The object is to get your heart rate to return to a pre-workout rate and your breathing back to normal, especially after those Star Jumps! Use the same stretching routine from your warm-up and remember to be thorough. Hold every stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds. 

"Being fit will help you sail faster, sail smarter, and be safer around the water. In all but the lightest winds, better fitness .... will get you around the course faster" . Michael Blackburn – from "Sailing Fitness and Training". " A fitter person who isn’t breathing as heavily will always make a better decision than the unfit bloke who’s puffing" . Tom Slingsby – 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Laser Class. Fitness will make for Better Decisions: you’re on the last beat of a windy race and in a good position, but some difficult situation arises, and your brain has turned to mush. So you blow the decision and all of a sudden you’ve lost three boats. Lastly, "Safety is frequently a matter of being capable of handling the unexpected. Experienced sailors know that, in extreme situations, the difference between safety and tragedy can be a matter of physical strength and endurance." Harry Legum, Annapolis Sailing Fitness

Moving away from sailing, eEmerging research suggests that exercise, when performed strategically, can enhance memory and learning – whether you need it to pass a test, nail a work presentation or simply learn lyrics to a new song. One study's initial findings showed, for instance, that a single bout of aerobic exercise before memorizing a list of words can help people better retain that information over several days. More recent findings show that a single bout of aerobic exercise – for instance, a 20-minute session of high-intensity interval cycling – before learning a new motor task may promote certain changes that help us learn and remember that task better than if we didn't exercise before learning it.

These findings support what we already know, which is that neural connections are formed when we learn new information. That is, our brain's wiring physically changes with exposure to new stuff, be it new school material, a new athletic technique or a new dance move. But this research illustrates something newer: Exercise, either before or after a learning episode, seems to actually make us smarter. That may be due in part to the fact that exercise boosts your levels of epinephrine, a hormone helpful in forming neural connections.

Indeed, this type of "brain training" is more effective than brain-training games that promise to improve cognition and help prevent age-related brain decline without moving a muscle, according to a recent study out of Florida State University. As lead author Neil Charness put it in a press release, "If your real goal is to improve cognitive function and brain games are not helping, then maybe you are better off getting aerobic exercise rather than sitting in front of the computer playing these games."