16 tips for Stretching

Practical: stretching it

Coastal and offshore sailing can place unusual stresses and strains on the body, with long periods of inactivity and then sudden periods of intense effort. Maria Grigg outlines the exercise routine she uses to ward off injury.

Up anchor, raise the mainsail, let out the genoa, tack. It's all in a day's work for a sailor. No wonder many of us end up looking for a chiro, physio or doctor as soon as we enter port. Here is a warm-up program that might improve your fitness and help you avoid some common sailing injuries.

These are general stretches suitable for young and old. They were given to me by Benjamin Setter, a Bowen Therapist from Setters Health Centre in Townsville, who advises they may prevent up to 70 percent of injuries if carried out morning and evening. They are great for cruisers but have not been specifically designed for us. Benjamin has checked these instructions for accuracy. Contact your own health practitioner if you have concerns about doing any of them.

Thanks to Heidi on the English catamaran Persian Lady for demonstrating the movements.

1. Neck
Stand comfortably, butt and tummy in, back straight, legs shoulder-width apart.
Clasp hands in front of your body.
* Turn your head to one side, hold to count of seven.
* Turn to opposite side and hold.
* Close your mouth and tilt head back to look at the sky, hold.
* Tilt head forward to look at the floor, feel the stretch, hold.

2. Palm and finger stretch
Stand as before.
* With right elbow at 90¡, hold right hand in front of you in a straight line with your arm, palm face up. Lock the wrist so hand doesn't droop. Place left fingers across right hand with left thumb under knuckles (this is for protection, do not crack knuckles), slowly bend right fingers back gently and hold to count of seven.
* Turn right hand 90¡ keeping wrist straight and point thumb up. Use left hand to stretch right thumb backwards and hold.
* Bend right fingers at 90¡ from the palm with thumb still up. Again stretch thumb back and hold.
* Repeat on left hand.

3. Wrist rotation
Rotating the wrist warms up all the major tendons from the wrist to the elbow so be sure to take it slowly.
Stand as before holding wrists up in front of you.
* Rotate both wrists together slowly seven times in each direction.

4. Elbow rotations (affectionately known as the “scarecrow”)
Stand as before holding arms out to either side at shoulder height and bend the elbows.
* Slowly rotate at elbows seven times in each direction touching your chest with each rotation.

5. Shoulder rotations (freestyle and backstroke)
Stand as though you are riding a horse, with legs apart and knees bent. Keep your back straight, and concentrate on rotating your arms at the shoulder.
* Swing each arm slowly seven times forwards (as though doing freestyle) and seven times backwards (as though doing backstroke) passing the centre point of your body each time.

6. Side stretch
Stand as in 1.
* Put your arms up and gripping one wrist with the other hand, pull your body over and hold.
* Repeat on other side.
Don't allow your arm to touch your head and keep your elbow bent.

7. The prayer
Stand as in 1.
The prayer uses the count of four at each of four levels.
* Level 1 – Place your palms together at groin height. Swing arms backwards towards your bottom and forwards until palms meet again. The first two swings are done at 60 percent of your strength, the second two at 70 percent. Move to the next level.
* Level 2 – Repeat swing action as above at belly button height.
* Level 3 – Repeat swing action as above at chest height.
* Level 4 – Repeat swing action as above at head height.
* Don't just drop your arms but continue the movement in reverse back to Level 1.

8. The Mexican wave
Stand as in 1.
* Raise both arms as far behind your head as possible. Then let them swing down, and behind you as far as they will go. Repeat seven times.

9. Saving grace

Even if you can't do all your warm-ups, take the 14 seconds to do this stretch. It should help protect against upper-body damage.
Stand as in 1 with knees slightly bent, bare feet are best.
* Bend forward, cross over arms and grip the outside of each leg, just above the knee. Move the shoulder of the outside arm to the midpoint of your body and then gently pull your upper body up. When you reach your maximum 70 percent stretch hold it for seven seconds.
* Reverse arms and repeat. You should feel this stretch between your shoulder blades.

10. Pelvic rotations
Stand as in 1.
* Do seven slow and controlled pelvic rotations in each direction as if you are using a hula-hoop.

11. The “Arnies” (in honour of Benjamin's favourite action hero!)
For the Arnie stance stand as in 1 and rise to the balls of your feet ð not too high or you'll lose your balance. Bend your knees, pull in your bottom and your abs (stomach). Bring your arms around in front of you, clench your fists and hold this position resembling Arnie.
* With your whole body tensed up now think of your calf muscles, hamstrings and gluteus maximus (your behind). Pull them all tight for the count of seven.
* Repeat pulling your abs (stomach) in tight and hold.
* Repeat pulling back your arms as though you're trying to touch your elbows together behind you and hold.

12. Washing machine
This helps the area at the base of the spine called the sacroiliac notch (or the dimples just above your bottom).
Widen your feet so they are set past your shoulders and bring your arms up straight out in front of you.
* Starting with your left arm, rotate your whole upper body left, slowly turning around, and toward the rear, then allow your opposite right heel to come off the floor. You should feel the stretch in the dimple area of the lower back. Hold the stretch for three seconds.
* Repeat to the opposite direction.
* Do seven slow rotations each way.

13. The lunge

This is a great hamstring, calf muscle, and Achilles tendon stretch.
Stand with legs together.
* Take one large step forward, keeping the spine straight and back heel on the ground. Stretch forward and hold to the count of seven keeping the knee above or behind the foot.
* Reverse.

14. Quads

The quadriceps are the four major muscles that run to the knee, at the front of the leg.
Stand upright.
* Bend one leg back and up. Hold the foot in hand, pull heel to behind and hold to count of seven.
* Then keeping spine and pelvis straight, pull leg out to side and hold.
* Reverse.

15. Ankle rotations
Stand with legs together.
* Raise one leg forward and do seven slow and controlled ankle rotations in each direction.
* Repeat on other leg.

16. Feet

Stand with legs together.
* Move one leg forward pulling up foot, stretching the Achilles tendon. Keeping back leg straight, reach for toes and hold to count of seven.
* Roll foot onto outer side and hold.
* Roll onto inner side and hold.
* With toes to the floor pull foot up and stretch under toes and into the arch of the foot and hold. If you do not feel the stretch in the arch, move your heel forward until you do.


At the time of writing Maria and husband Gary were on their way back to Australia via Borneo in their Adams 40, Merlin V, after cruising Indonesia extensively. They hail from Victoria.

Don't go bull at a gate
Except where stated, movements should be slow and controlled, each position should be held to the count of seven seconds. Resist the temptation to speed up and never force your body. You're just looking for gentle stretches, using 70 percent of your strength. Never use 100 percent of your strength – your muscles are not prepared for it especially after sleep.

Although this warm-up program is highly effective in promoting maximum health and preventing injury, it may not be sufficient intervention for some health-related issues or concerns. Information contained in this program is not given or intended to be a substitute or replacement for qualified medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The reader is to take responsibility for his or her health, and should not take text or reference that presents medical advice in any way, as it is not intended to be used as a source of information as such. Therefore its owner(s), developer(s), and maintainer(s) are and remain exempt.

My thanks to Setter's Health Centre in Townsville, who can be contacted on (07) 4728 8800, www.settershealthcentre.com.au, email settershealthcentre@bigpond.com.au.

Jeanneau JY55
Race Yachts
Jeanneau JY55
Race Yachts