5 Ways to Improve Your Winter Training
If you're anything like me, you probably hate the thought of sailing in cold weather, and would do anything to avoid it! With the Laser being one of the most competitive dinghy classes around, it's important to 'keep your feet wet' during winter, but it's also a great opportunity to improve your fitness off the water in preparation for the summer sailing season.
Here's a few tips for how you can get the most out of your winter training, and avoid hypothermia at the same time!
1 Work on your cardiovascular endurance.
With most races lasting close to an hour, and with multiple races a day, sailing is an endurance sport at heart. To be able to perform your best over the course of a regatta, your body needs to have a good 'baseline' fitness to work for multiple hours a day.
Working on your endurance or your ‘work capacity’ is usually best suited by longer, lower intensity cardio sessions. These can come in the form of cycling, running, rowing - you take your pick! Personally, I prefer to do my cardio using the program Zwift and an indoor bike trainer. This allows me to specifically target certain ‘power levels’, whilst being able to catch up on Netflix at the same time! Although high intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the craze nowadays, there is definitely still a time and place for long steady training.
2 Injury Prevention
Most sailing movements involve actions which don’t come naturally to the body, and as a result, it’s quite easy to pick up injuries if your body isn’t properly prepared for the stressors of sailing. Injury prevention activities should be a part of any well constructed fitness plan, and a number of areas where Laser sailors can focus on are shoulders, lower back and ankles.
3 Wear the right clothing
Having been someone who spent a long time being rather outspoken about my dislike for cold weather, and sailing in cold weather, I’ve learnt a lot about dealing with colder temperatures after a year of living in Europe. It’s true that appropriate layering is the key to getting out on the water in the off season. Besides, for most of you reading this, your winter probably isn’t that bad. My go to gear for sailing in Australian winters were the Sandiline Evo Hikers and the Zhik Microfleece Top.
4 Targeted Hiking Bench Training
If you want to get serious about getting results in the Laser, there’s no two ways about it - you need to get good at hiking. You can do all the sailing in windy conditions you want, but I’ve personally found that using a hiking bench for very specific exercises is often underrated, and overlooked by most sailors. The winter is a good opportunity to build strength in the hiking position, and I’d suggest starting to incorporate some light weights in 30-60 second intervals, and gradually building up the amount of weight you can hold - ensuring you maintain good form. Another option is to vary where you hold the weight, to make it harder or easier.
5 Goal setting
After a long summer of sailing, it’s often good to reflect on where your strengths and weaknesses lay throughout the forgeone season. If you can pinpoint honestly where you can improve, or have an idea about what strengths you may need for upcoming regattas, this gives a good framework for planning short, focussed on water sessions, to ensure you’re getting the most value for your time in the cold conditions.
Now that you've got some ideas for how to train during the winter, get out there and get faster!