Getting fitter all the time



By this July I was seriously unfit. It’s been a rough three years and I’ve not found it easy to sink my sorrows into a gym routine. Whisky and cheese are better companions in the dark hours. Along the way I’ve also had a number of small, slightly risible incidents which haven’t helped, from a broken finger to a blood clot in the ankle and injuries to both shoulders. Nothing serious but they all contributed to the general malaise. I’d kept up a lot of Pilates just to stop me freezing up completely, but one class a week wasn’t cutting it.

The morning after I booked the Europa trip I bounced out of bed, unrolled the mat and started training. The pre-trip newsletter sent out in August specifically suggests getting a bit fitter and losing some weight.  Now I wonder whether I’m training for the sailing, or going sailing to get me back in the gym.

I am a very long way from where I’d like to be but a steady regime of four or five workouts a week is making a difference. I started off with about seven weeks of fairly gentle resistance exercises and some cycling, which got me back in the habit of exercise. Then I graduated to tougher workouts. Now, two months later, my upper body strength is miles better, I am certainly fitter and my core muscles are toughening up. And I’m shedding about 1kg a fortnight, without any serious dieting.

Every time I do a new class, though, I know how far I have to go. This morning, I am stiff from yesterdays kettlebells, which made my back and backside work harder than they’re used to.

Some years ago, on a forum for cruising sailors, I posted a question about fitness regimes when living afloat. Many cruisers living on their boats think that a bit of winching, walking and cycling to the shops and the general lugging about involved in living aboard is enough. In nearly a decade of living on Roaring Girl, I found that wasn’t true. A great reply came from Mike and Rebecca, who were then just starting their cruising life as they kitted out a catamaran in Canada. Their blog,, is now on of the most read sailing blogs on the internet.  These two used to run a  martial arts gym and were elite athletes. The link takes you to the ‘shipshape’ page on their site, which only hints at the awesome shape they're in. I’m delighted to say that they’ve agreed to write a post for me on fitness afloat, which I’m looking forward to posting in December.

I started researching what the elite long-distance sailors do. Visiting Ellen Macarthur’s boat some time back, and watching an interview with her, showed me that she could not move about that boat without doing chin-ups to get from one cabin to the next. Simply being aboard those huge flying multi-hulls  is a workout regime.  So it is especially interesting to see the Team SCA plan. Here’s just one version  of what they do:


Repetitions: of 24, followed by repetitions of 20, 16, 12, 8 and 4

  • Horizontal pull-ups
  • Overhead lunges
  • Side slams
  • Push ups
  • Turkish get-ups


Interval Circuit Training: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. Three laps with 1 minute rest between each lap

  • Rowing
  • Paralette push ups
  • Stability ball upper body clockwork with weights
  • Box jumps
  • Horizontal pull-ups
  • Tricep dips
  • Mountain climbers
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Jump rope
  • Bosu squats
  • Russian twist with weights
  • GHD back extensions            
  • Medicine ball over the shoulder

(These two pictures are the team working out in Lanzarote: awesome!) I admit it: I’m not doing this routine yet, but it’s a goal of sorts. I am delighted though, that on this trip Europa isn’t racing.

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