Six Exercise Tips for Sailors

Are You Ready for Spring? 

We talk so much about “fitting out” our boats for spring, but why not discuss prepping our bodies? Think about that first windy day: taking that wide step from the finger pier onto the boat, rigging her, raising and trimming sails, grinding winches, tacking, making your way around the boat while heeling, in chop. If you’re not fit and ready for that day, you could lose your balance, strain your lower back, or hurt yourself. Team SpinSheet trains at Annapolis Athletic Club along with many local sailors, so we turned to Robin Arnesen, director of programming, and Eric Young, a certified master trainer for some tips. Here are six areas they suggest sailors work on between now and that first April sailing day:

Photo by Al Shreitmueller

1. Use your weight—you don’t need to join a gym to do many exercises that rely on your own body weight: squats, pushups, lunges, or planks. Try a few of each every day, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

2. Stretch—if you’re beyond your college athlete years, you might be more prone to injury each year. Stretching before and after you work out (when you’re warm, not cold) is key.

3. Focus on the core—we can all use a few crunches in preparation for bikini season, right? Robin teaches Pilates mat classes and recommends the “teaser” (a sort of boat pose as in yoga, shown in photo) and a series of five core exercises that you learn in a classroom setting. Planking (for abdominal muscles) and side planks (for oblique muscles) are also effective as are many machines in a gym setting.

Robin from Annapolis Athletic Club demonstrates the teaser for abs

4. Get stronger—if you’re looking to become faster, fitter, and stronger, and to prevent injuries, few things work as well as weight training. Eric notes “You need strength for pulling on lines, cranking winches, moving back and forth on the boat, for your leg muscles and balance. If you have more of a solid foundation, it’s going to be harder to injure.” If you have no idea where to start, a personal trainer can help.

5. Work on endurance—when you’re sailing, especially on sportier days, you’re not going to rest until the boat docks, so endurance is important. Our friends at Annapolis Athletic recommend spin classes, machines such as the “arm bike,” and doing a lot of reps with weights. The upper body is good to target especially for jib and main trimmers.

6. Improve your balance—taking yoga classes will improve your balance, and our trainers noted how anything done on two legs could also be done on just one (reminding me of a magazine article that suggested brushing your teeth while standing on your left leg in the morning, your right leg at night). Our trainer friends recommend the BOSU ball (looks like one of those ball-chairs some sit on at work, but cut in half) for standing, squatting, and lunging.

Robin Arnesen director of programming at Annapolis Athletic Club

If you’re not a gym person, some of this might sound intimidating. Robin says, “Some people say, ‘I’m just going to work out a little. I’m not ready for a trainer yet.’ You really should come to a trainer first; then you’ll be more comfortable in the workout room and with the machines.” When I noted how scary spin classes seemed to me, she said that they offer a Les Mills Sprint class for interval training, which is only a half-hour commitment and good introduction to spinning. They also offer a women’s weight training class.

Thanks, Robin and Eric, for your tips and inspiration to get fit this spring. Find a trainer who understands sailing challenges and a class schedule at See you on the water!

Molly Winans Editor of SpinSheet Magazine


Editor's Note
By Molly Winans 
SpinSheet March 2019