Fit For Sailing

We have more time to get fit as we get older, but Andrew Verdon warns that balance is the key.

From our late twenties up to our late thirties, we spend most of our time on our careers, partners and the responsibilities and priorities that come with them. But as we reach our 50’s and beyond, we generally have fewer work responsibilities, the kids leave home and we may find we have more time for exercise. But our bodies are not the same as they were when we turned 30.

The main areas that people find deteriorate as they age are a loss of strength, poor balance and reduced flexibility and stamina.

Everyone can maximise their health and fitness as they mature by taking time for age-appropriate exercises – on top of adapting a healthier diet. (Remember, a walk around the golf course twice a week is activity, not exercise!)

Pleasingly the Laser class sees more and more entries each year in its Great Grand Master division (65yo plus) at major championships and my clients often find they are much fitter when they turn 50 than when they were 40.

So my focus here when I develop a program for over-50s is “bang for your buck” – maximum results for minimum time spent to help slow the aging process.

Health and Injury Risks

You do need to be aware of the risks associated with exercise as you age. My suggestions would be to check your blood pressure regularly and check in annually with your doctor. If you are overweight then work slowly to bring this back to a healthy level to further reduce the risks.

Be aware of your heart rate when exercising to monitor your intensity. (There will be some detailed information on how to monitor your heart rate and exercise intensity in a future issue.)

A very basic formula is: 220 minus your age = your predicted max heart rate. For example, a 55-year-old has a theoretical maximum of 165 beats per minute: 220 - 55 = 165.

You also need to be aware that as you age you lose flexibility in the muscles and tendons and the lubricating fluid in the joints. So go for exercises with less impact and stretch regularly - daily if you can!

Exercise Program Basics

A good goal is to train on three days a week for 45-60 minutes each day. A person in their fifties and sixties still needs a good balance of aerobic, cardiovascular, and strength training exercises. My tip is to divide each exercise session you complete into the rule of thirds:

1/3 for cardio exercises.

1/3 for strength.

1/3 for flexibility.

So at the end of the week, if you added all your exercise up to equal, say, 180 minutes then aim roughly for 60 minutes of cardio, 60 minutes of strength training and 60 minutes of flexibility.

Most people are never close to these numbers and therefore spend too much or too little time in certain areas. Older people generally don't spend enough time on strength and flexibility.

Fitness Tips

Exercise is your strongest
preventive medicine.

•Keep muscle! You lose 10% muscle mass per decade after 50 if sedentary.

•Focus on good fats – omega 3 and 6 in your diet.

•Exercise intensity remains high but balance the program. Be mindful of the risks.

•Stretch daily if possible- recovery is crucial!

•Use the “rule of 1/3rds”.

•Remember sailing is a demanding activity/sport and the better you prepare the better and longer you will perform.


Flexibility and mobility 20 minutes

Ensure you include some dynamic stretches and some mobility work especially around the spine and hips and gently raise the heart rate over the 20 minutes

Strength - 20 minutes

Select 5-6 exercises and complete strength and core exercise together as a circuit. Do this three times with 1-2 minutes rest at the end of each cycle, then begin again. Aim for full body – i.e. upper body, lower body, and trunk exercises. You could use a mixture of free weights, body weight and some equipment.

Cardio - 20 minutes

A choice of two methods:
Alternate an interval session one day and steady state session the next time you train.
Intervals: Warm up 5 mins then 5 x 60 sec sprint with 2 min recovery after each
Steady state: 20 mins at moderate pace.
Warm Down 3-5 minutes
Light stretches or a swim.

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