Time to Level Up

Fitness in Sailing with Caroline Atwood @catwoodsails

CatwoodThere is a point most high performance sailors get to where sailing transitions from being an activity to being a sport. Some may argue that this happens around green fleet, when kids first learn to race. I would argue that it happens when the sailor realizes that the way they use their body impacts their performance in the boat and when the sailor takes steps to control their performance potential by augmenting their physical ability.

Simply put, you become and athlete and sailing becomes a sport when you treat your body in a way that will give you a better result. This means proper hydration, proper nutrition and incorporating some level of fitness training in to your sailing training.

Why fitness training?

“Things are just easier when you’re fitter.”

-Race harder longer

The most obvious answer to “why fitness training for sailors?” is that unless you are able

newberry gym
US Nacra 17 helm @sarahlaurennewberry

to race the last race of a regatta with as much intensity, power and focus as the first race you are giving up potential points on the race course. Going to the gym will help you keep those points. I have never coached a 29er practice, clinic, or regatta where the athletes’ performance potential did not change from the beginning to the end based on how physically tired they were. Things are just easier when you’re fitter and the easiest way to be fitter for sailing is to put in a bit of time working on your fitness off the water.

-Recovery from injury and down time more successfully

Think about this: If sailing the boat is the main thing you are doing to maintain your sailing fitness any time spent away from sailing is damaging. Injuries are harder to come back from, off seasons are followed by “getting back in to it” sessions instead of productive training sessions and even just a few days off comes back to bite you when you are more tired than you were last time you sailed. If you are able to compliment your on the water training with off the water training not only will your sailing be easier, but if you have to stop sailing for any reason (injury, school, family, winter, a global pandemic etc.) it will be easier to get going again.

– Plan for your future in the sport

“There’s no time like the present to start a fitness habit.”

No matter where you are now if you have your eyes on reaching the next level in the sport laying the groundwork for your fitness now will help you level up and aid in your success on that new level. Once you are in the habit of intentionally augmenting your on-the-water training with fitness training it is easy to adapt that fitness training to match your age, ability, and goals. The hardest and most important part right now is getting started. If you have dreams of a future in this sport there’s no time like the present to start a fitness habit. It will only help you make those dreams a reality.

How to Train?

  1. Make The Time

Training isn’t going to happen unless you make the time and space for it. It doesn’t have to be hours and hours of time, and it doesn’t need to take place in an ultra sophisticated training facility. It does need to be enough time to get to your workout location (even if that’s just a yoga mat on your living room floor) and execute your fitness plan (usually at least 45 minutes), and you need to find that time consistently throughout the week.

       2. Have a plan

You’ve set the time time and place. Now you need to know what to do. Your plan should consider what your training goals are (i.e. “I am going to train so that I can hike harder for longer upwind” or “I am going to train so that I have better balance in the boat”).

weis gym
US Nacra 17 crew @weisanna

This is your fitness starting point: the amount of time you have and what equipment you have access to. The human body, sailing, and our lives are really complex and that can make finding the right training plan for you hard. Chances are any of those online workout plans that promise you “six pack abs in ten days if just follow every single step in this program” will fail to incorporate your unique goals, starting point, and life constraints. Best case, those programs and plans use your time and leave you a little bit fitter on the water. More likely they will waste your time and deliver results that do not further your sailing. Worst case they will lead to you getting hurt by pushing your body to do things it’s not ready to do yet.

        3. Ask an Expert

By far the best route to take if you are searching for a plan is to consult a professional. A professional trainer will help you build and plan that is efficient, safe, and will help you reach your goals. Finding a trainer who understands sailing and your sailing goals is also important. One of the best resources out there is Sailing Performance Training. SPT is a training company run by sailors, for sailors that provides personal training programs to sailing athletes at all levels and across all disciplines and positions. They do the fitness programming for the US Sailing Team athletes and they’re running a free trial program right now to help you get back on the water successfully post covid19 shutdown. Check out SPT here.

The Bottom Line:

Support your sailing with some sort of non-sailing fitness training will help you sail better now, make comebacks easier, and let you level up more successfully. To get started you need time, a place, and a plan. Work with a trainer to help build that plan. There is no time like the present to start your fitness habit. What are you waiting for?

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