Article by Ben Flower, Sailing Chandlery sponsored sailor.
It looks unfortunately inevitable that we are not going to be able to sail for several months. This is disappointing for us all, but with time at home and an opportunity to still improve in this time out of the boat here are a few ideas that I am going to put into practice and hopefully might inspire some of you.
Having spent several times in my life recovering from big injuries, I have had similar opportunities to what this coronavirus is dishing us up. I have felt when coming back from an injury I have been better prepared and more focused on my sport when re-entering that environment. I believe the key to coming back better prepared and focussed is down to your own motivation and determination, other people can motivate you to a certain point but at the end of the day it is down to how much YOU want to achieve your goals.
I have also been privileged to have had the opportunity to work closely with Exeter City football club a few years ago and seen how their players kept themselves in the game as much as they can whilst being on the side-lines injured. I used some of these techniques the following year when recovering from a recurring elbow injury which thankfully after many surgeries has not flared up again since.
Something everyone reading this article can do is by browsing the internet and YouTube for videos or articles to improve their sailing. For instance, have you always been struggling with windy upwind speed? By browsing the internet and YouTube you will be able to find informative articles and videos of where you might be going wrong and how you could improve. There are also many previous races online including medal races on the World Sailing YouTube channel which have the best sailors in the world at each discipline displaying their sailing to you for free. Maybe you have footage of yourself sailing in the same condition and can compare what you are doing compared with one of these sailors in the medal races.
Following on from browsing the internet. Who else has books on sailing lying around the house, maybe given to you as a Christmas present and yet to turn a page, always have no time to read with busy day to day schedules to read. Well now is the time to read these books. I know from being forced to spend time out of the boat how much books can offer you. The beauty of reading informative sailing books from cover to cover is you will discover and educate yourself about areas that maybe personally you might never have thought of searching on the internet. I know from personal experience there have been several occasions when reading through a book and I’ve picked up on something that I have never even considered could be beneficial. I have then put that idea into my repertoire and the next opportunity to get back onto the water I’ve been perplexed as to why I have never thought of doing it before.
Now the big difficulty everybody is going to face is fitness and most important sailing fitness. Even when injured you still have the opportunity to get to a gym which currently is unfortunately not an option. But instead of seeing this as an obstacle, see it as an opportunity. There are going to be many people who in this time will become unfit or put on weight by eating more than they are burning off. Time to stay focussed, time to put a daily routine into place, time maybe to download an app like My Fitness Pal to track your daily intake to make sure you are not comfort eating which is going to be a hard temptation not to do.
As a qualified Personal Trainer I know the importance of daily exercise, not only will it improve your fitness but also has several other benefits. Firstly if you exercise at the start of the day you will actually feel more energised than normal, there have even been studies that prove by exercising first thing in the morning your body is more energised for the day than having a daily dose of caffeine. Secondly you will be in a better mood and feel less stressed during the day this is down to you achieving mentally by exercising and your body releases natural endorphins which make you naturally feel better in yourself mentally and physically. My last point about exercising in the morning is your sleep will benefit more than exercising at midday or afternoon. However the most important time to exercise daily is a time that works best for you.
Now I understand not everybody has the facilities or space but the equipment that will benefit the most for your sailing fitness is a hiking bench. I started off by making my own out of wood and after leaving it outside exposed to the elements for several months the wood went rotten and was put on the log burner. However if I had stored it in a dry place like a garage, basement or even in the car now many people are not using their vehicles, it would still be beneficial to use to this day. What I personally find the biggest problem using a hiking bench is by just hiking off from it you can get bored very quickly so here are a few techniques I use to keep the hiking bench sessions exciting.
Firstly if you have somebody to pass you a ball whilst sat upon the hiking bench this can keep it exciting and simulate more what happens on a boat on the water. How often are you in a stationary hike on a beat? Very rare, often you are shifting slightly to the left or right to help get over waves, moving in and out depending on lulls and gusts. So by a friend passing you a ball you always have to react whilst hiking.
Now one disadvantage to only hiking off a bench is that you are not able to use your arms in the same way as you would when sailing, I have seen some people have rigged up a pulley system with weights on to simulate sheeting whilst sailing. I personally use weights to simulate that upper body workload, whether it’s pressing above your chest or rotating from side to side, there are many combinations you can use to combine hiking with an upper body workload. Now you might not have weights to use, but I’m sure there are many other items you could use around the house that could do the same purpose. Remember in this time when facilities are not open like they normally would be it’s the people that will improvise that will succeed over the people who make excuses.
I understand that not everyone has a hiking bench or has the facilities to even make one; maybe you have one but currently in a location that you cannot access. Well another exercise I like to do when I don’t have access to a hiking bench is by simulating a hiking as best as you can without any equipment. By elevating your feet and upper back off the ground this engages your core muscles and simulates static tension in the legs, you can do the same exercises as above using this technique. Always remember not to use a weight that is too heavy and aim for a weight where you can do 20-30 reps without straining.
Following on from the latter exercise, another core exercise I do on a regular basis and is very effective for warming up the whole body is by slamming a ball against a wall and catching in the same position as above. I am using a football here, what is effective is by doing this you will simulate similar workload and use similar muscles to when using kinetics over waves. The harder you want to make it the further you sit away from the wall.
The final exercise which a lot of people will be able to do around their home is by jumping over a large object. Below I am using a water tank, by power jumping you use again similar muscles as to hiking, using that explosive power will help enhance your power to put watts through the deck whilst hiking when you get an opportunity to get back in the boat.
I hope this article has given you all some ideas as to how you can fill your time stuck at home whilst this lockdown takes place. It is disappointing for us all that we cannot get out on the water but the more complying we all are the sooner we can all be racing each other on the water again.
If you have any questions don’t feel afraid to drop me a message on Instagram (@flozz_).
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