Sailing on a Clipper 70 racing yacht is demanding. Crew, be they “round-the-worlders” or “single-leggers” or doing their own half-circumnavigation, will burn an average of 5000 calories a day and have no more than 4 hours sleep at any one time. Its hard strenuous work that will only get harder the more tired I become. Facing Mother Nature at her rawest, most angry moments, I’d rather like to put up a good fight. I’m hoping my body will say thank you if given a head start before pushing it in the South Atlantic, Southern Ocean, North Pacific and North Atlantic ……….. so its time to start improving my fitness ………. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.
Getting fit(ter) is therefore an important prerequisite and will require focus on the following 5 areas:
- healthy eating
- muscle tone
- aerobic fitness and stamina
- core strength and balance……………….. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.
Now some of this is fairly obvious and some has an added sailing twist. Yes, I’m going to work on lowering my fat intake but while lots of diet and fitness programmes will stress the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, BOTH will be a luxury onboard during the race …………….. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.
Muscle tone should be improved gradually so its many repetitions of small free weights for me rather than a few repetitions of big weights and resistance machines. When it comes to aerobic fitness its time to step up my exercise programme a notch every week and introduce more variety. So where I currently walk I will walk longer. I will start to walk faster. Swimming is going to reappear. Instead of walking upstairs, I will be running. Lunchtimes at home are going to include a bit more brisk walking, I might even walk more quickly to and from the pub! I’m introducing 10 minutes of stretching exercises into my daily routine. The suppler and limber my muscles and tendons are, the less likely I am to pull them. I will be more agile when moving around on a heaving wet deck or whilst climbing over and around things at a 45 degree angle below deck. Over time I aim to introduce sit ups, push ups and planking…………..It’s All Really A Question of Balance.
Sit ups, push ups and planking will all help core strength. Core strength is essential. Just helming a 70ft yacht in certain conditions can feel like a full body work out and once I have started to improve my core strength I need to work on my balance …… core strength, agility and balance are all closely intertwined…………. It’s All Really A Question of Balance.
I have to learn to feel what my vestibular system (located in my inner ear!) is telling me. The more sensitive I am to this the better my balance will be. I need to start by closing my eyes and concentrating on standing totally straight and upright with my feet close together or even touching. I will feel my body swaying slightly, constantly correcting my balance. Time and patience need to be devoted to this exercise. Then I am to try standing on one leg, flamingo-like, for 30 second stints. If I start to lose my balance, I should squat down to regain stability. Apparently it helps to focus on an object close by to begin with as the eye will help detect subtle movements and aid my body in correcting them. This exercise requires me to progressively try to focus on points further and further away until I am looking at the horizon. The official Clipper guidance on all this goes on to say,
“Standing in the middle of a park or a field performing this exercise may look a little odd, but keeping nearby objects out of your peripheral vision will dramatically improve your rate of progress. Once you are confident with this exercise, try to do the same with your eyes closed. Over time you should be able to stand on one leg, with your eyes closed, without having to squat for at least 30 seconds.”
You see ……… IT REALLY IS ALL A QUESTION OF BALANCE!!!!!!!!