By Airwaves writer Lydia Whiteford
With all of the regattas over and Thanksgiving break behind us, college sailors all across America are officially done with their fall seasons. For the moment, all we have to worry about is preparing for our final exams and picking out Christmas gifts. However, time moves quickly and the frigid spring season is just around the corner. For most of us the winter months are considered cherished time off, but it is important to remember that this is also prime time to get into tip top shape so we can be as prepared as possible for the kick-off in the spring.
For most schools, the first regatta of the season is the first weekend in March, but many schools start practicing as early as January or February. The spring season is often cold, and full of fronts that make it windier than the milder fall. If you’re not careful or prepared, it is easy to pull or otherwise damage rusty hiking muscles, and that could result in an injury that could ruin your whole season. Spring is also the time for team racing, which is fast-paced and labor intensive, so being in the best shape possible only adds an advantage for you over your opponents. These are my best tips for keeping active and preparing for the amped up season to come.
- Come up with a Regimen– The schedule in the winter is much more stable for many college sailors than it is when we are in season. During winter break, many people have up to a month off with no school to worry about, and in the interim between seasons the 3-4 hours a day that were previously occupied by practice are opened up. What this really means is we no longer have an excuse to neglect our gym memberships. I find it helpful to incorporate those now empty hours into a new routine, and keep a regimen that is easy to follow but variable enough that it won’t get too boring. I’ve found its really important to mix in as much cardio as possible, because lifting weights all winter will likely lead to weight gain that you might not want to have in your boat when the season actually starts. Here are some things that I like to do, which are slightly more crew specific because that’s what I know best.
Running (20–40 minute intervals)-I find this to be one of the best ways to get into shape because you can go at any pace you want, and nothing’s better for keeping all of your leg muscles conditioned.
Biking: (45-1 hour intervals)- This is my favorite alternative for running, because it focuses a lot of time on your quads and can strengthen them without weights.
Swimming: (30-45 minute intervals) – This is another excellent cardio option, because it gives every muscle an intense workout while being easy on your joints. This is especially good for crews, who often develop knee or back problems just from the way they handle the boat. Also, when you are swimming you can pretend that you are in the ocean and that it’s not the middle of winter.
Abs: (varying intervals) – The one thing I consider the most important in my ab workouts is remembering to alternate exercises. This is best achieved by creating a mini-regimen for yourself depending on the days. For example, one day maybe you do a plank, sit-up, side crunch circuit one day and then a totally different set of exercises the next day. The goal is to get in as many reps as you can, while also targeting as many different areas of your abdominals as you can.
- Find a Workout Partner: Everyone has experienced the struggle of knowing you need to go to the gym, but also knowing there’s a “Friends” marathon on TBS that you really can’t miss. The best cure for this is to find someone to workout with you, so that you have an obligation to go to the gym. Also, working out with a buddy makes it more fun! You can do exercises for pairs; take a class, run races, anything that makes you get off the couch. It’s always fun to meet and surpass goals, and having another person alongside you to do that means you always have someone to push you when you’re down and congratulate you when you hit a new peak.
- Stay Healthy: Winter break is a priceless amount of off time for college sailors. It is one of the only opportunities we have where we don’t have classes, practice, or regattas to worry about. As a result, it is important to take full advantage of this time to catch up on sleep, eat well, and relax so that your body can be at its healthiest when you return to school and to sailing. In the spring, air and water temperatures are frequently below freezing and if your body is ill prepared, it can spell sickness or injury very easily. So, the biggest piece of advice I have for college sailors during these precious weeks off is to confirm to them that it is okay to not think about sailing for a little while, if you need to focus purely on improving yourself first. We devote so much of ourselves to our sport that needing to take a little time off during the winter is only natural, and often it will make you a more refreshed and ready sailor come spring time if you intentionally use this time to pursue other interests and keep yourself healthy.
Hopefully, this article is helpful in reminding college sailors everywhere that staying in shape is critical for a good performance in the spring. Granted, many of the exercises I’ve recommended are crew specific, and maybe they’re even me specific. This is not a rigid list, and there are all sorts of useful types of exercise that you can do that I haven’t listed. The best resource for motivation are those around you who know what you need – teammates, coaches, and family members all make excellent work out partners and resources for new things to do when you feel like you’re in a rut. And, as always, the most important thing to remember is that any exercise is productive exercise!