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Trying to keep fit? What are the best non-sailing activities for you?

15 December 2013 Andrew Verdon

Paddling keeps you fit.

"Paddling keeps you fit."

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

So what are the best exercise activities for sailors to both achieve fitness and avoid injury? Equally, what results in a better all-round workout?

This month we are going to dig deeper into these common questions and consider the most popular and common options: Running, cycling, swimming, gym sessions, Pilates and Yoga.

I think the best way forward is with a balanced approach and include several options, rather seek to narrow it down to one sole item. Now this often frustrates people when they ask me the one thing they should do or the best option, but I honestly believe that balance is the most important part of an exercise program or even a single session.

Many columns ago, we spoke about the three S's of fitness; Strength, Stamina, Suppleness; and that each of these factors (strength, cardio and flexibility in other words) should be your goal to include in every week.

Most people find this quite daunting, as they expect this to take a lot of time. It doesn't, but it does take some consideration or some planning into what exactly you will do (and see below for a quick recap of this item).

A good tip is to always start the week with a plan and start your session of any exercise knowing exactly which exercises you're going to do. It is estimated that most people are only about 60 percent efficient in their workouts habits, which intern means we waste of about 40% or nearly half the time we put into exercise!

When planning a program or designing a single session, I assess an exercise or option by two concepts from high school economics. In essence, what is the Risk/Return and Cost /Benefit that will allow me to achieve the Maximum Return on Investment?

Returns or benefits are things like enjoyment, adherence, motivation, increased fitness, strength, injury prevention, flexibility, well-being, stress reduction, improved'headspace' etc. The costs are things like time, effort or money and the risks are items like deleterious effects on your overall health, high impact, possible or potential injury potential, etc.

Simply running any potential exercise option through this filter will make all your options very clear, but this is often rarely, if ever, considered. By way of example, people run, as it is easy and don't have to think about it, or swim, as they have just always swum for fitness or use the cross trainer at the gym, as it is normally free in busy times etc.

OptionBenefit/ReturnRisk Or Cost
RunningCardio Fitness
Variety of routes
No equipment required (footwear only)
Do anywhere/anytime
Challenge and race through the many fun run options around over 5km and on to 42km
Impact/stress on joints is high
Monotony if the only exercise in your regime
Staleness/boredom is a potential risk
Only provides for moderate to high intensity - you cannot run at low intensity - walking only
Mainly lower body
CyclingCardio Fitness
Variety of routes
Easy to change intensity - gears/speed/hills
Social - two or more people
Low impact - less risk of overuse injury
Risk from traffic
Skills needed - falls/wet/balance
Mainly lower body
SwimmingCardio Fitness
Total body activity
Easily changed intensity
Variety - strokes/distances/flippers/kickboard/pull buoys/boards
Facility - needs pool over 25m.
Year round access
Technical - learn stroke
Monotony if only exercise
Staleness/boredom is a potential risk
Solo only - no social element
Shoulders can be at risk of injury
Gym sessionsComplete workout possible
Strength benefits
Cardio Fitness
Flexibility included/promoted
Trainer/instructor to safely guide you through activity
Supervision available
Social aspects
Variety of classes/styles on offer
Facility needed
Membership costs
Uncomfortable environment for some people
PilatesCore stability benefits
Injury prevention benefits
Posture benefits
Good mind/body connection
Low stress/impact
Good for all ages
Can do at home/gym/park/hotel
Technical based exercise
Good instruction is vital to start with initially
YogaFlexibility benefits
Low impact
Mind/body link
Which type of class?
Good instructor is beneficial
Good technique required
Can be unsafe if done poorly
Missed benefits if only exercise style

Brief review of the Fitness Triangle: The three S's Of Fitness

Stamina (also known as cardio fitness)
This is the capacity of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles (the cardio vascular system) to function at the required levels. Basically any exercise that raises the heart rate for a prolonged period of time (greater than 15 minutes) will achieve this.

I also like to add another'S' at this point - Stability. You must have stability at each joint before you start to develop strength. Strength, in its most basic form is the ability of a muscle to exert force. This is generally done by pushing or pulling an object and normally trained by resistance training, using either weights or body weight exercises. A strong joint is less likely to be injured and helps to improves body awareness, balance and agility

Suppleness (flexibility)
Stretching is included for two reasons in a fitness program. Firstly to prepare the body for the work it is about to perform. Generally this is done as part of a warm up. Secondly, to improve the range of movement a joint, which helps to prevent injury. Regular stretching and good flexibility may help to keep muscles supple and moving well. Suppleness also helps create good posture in everyday life.

Mountain biking keeps you fit.

"Mountain biking keeps you fit."

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,


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