Stretching Exercise Plan: Before Going Sailing

Stretching Exercise Plan: Before Going Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Bennett D. Richardson, PT, DPT, CSCS

June 15, 2022

Do you perform a warm up or stretching routine before going sailing? If not, you should strongly consider implementing one, as it can help you in many ways.

Many sailing athletes neglect to perform a proper warm up before their competition or sport. However in doing so, they open themselves up to the increased risk of injury and decreased performance. A warm-up primes the sailor’s body for the journey ahead and should not be skipped.

Many people don’t perform adequate warm-up or stretching before going sailing. This is for a variety of reasons including, belief that there is no need to or lack of knowledge about how to properly construct and perform a workout. But you wouldn’t get on your boat for a sailing trip if it wasn’t ready for the activity; you should consider your body in the same way. In this article, I will outline the benefits of a proper warm up and stretching routine that should be performed before a sailing expedition (or any athletic effort) and detail a sample routine that you can follow along with before your next sailing trip.

This article was prepared and written by Bennett Richardson, an orthopedic physical therapist. The views expressed in this article are my own, unless otherwise indicated. Links to appropriate source material and research studies will be provided throughout the post. Always remember that these posts are for educational purposes only and are no substitute for an in person, individualized examination performed by a licensed healthcare practitioner such as a doctor.


Table of contents

Benefits of Performing a Proper Warm-up and Stretching Routine Before Sailing

While there are numerous benefits to having good flexibility and performing a warm-up before athletic efforts and for sailing specifically, I will just outline a few here: priming your muscles for the upcoming sailing trip, priming your cardiovascular system for the upcoming sailing trip, and reducing injury risk on the sailing trip.

  1. Priming Your Muscles for the Sailing Trip. Muscles do not generally perform as well when they are cold and stiff. Therefore, a warm-up is the perfect primer for any exercise session, especially one that will be long and strenuous like a sailing trip. We’ll go over specific movements later in this article, but suffice it to say for now, a total body warm-up specific to sailing is a must, as the sport requires total body movements.
  2. Priming Your Heart for the Sailing Trip. A study found that warming up before activity may significantly improve athletic performance from a VO2 and cardiovascular perspective. This is a crucial finding, as it shows that not only is a warm-up critical in terms of safety in terms of limiting cardiovascular events during exercise, it also improves performance. This should compel competitive individuals and those concerned about their heart health alike to diligently perform a warm up before going sailing.
  3. Reducing Injury Risk on the Sailing Trip. Another study further confirmed the benefits of a warm-up and flexibility training in reducing injury. There were specific parameters outlined in this research that indicated optimal timing and type of warm-up. The researchers differentiated a “warm-up” from “stretching” as the two items are very different and accomplish different goals. However, the important thing for our purposes is to understand that a proper warm-up does reduce injury risk.

How to Properly Perform a Warm-up Before Going Sailing

Those participating in a sailing event should follow the tips below in order to get the most benefit out of their warm-up before a sailing trip.

  • Your Warm-up Should be Specific to Your Activity. Since you are sailing, you need to consider all of the movements that you’ll be doing while on board. To address these, you’ll want to move deliberately, progressing from very slow, small movements to bigger and more high energy movements to prepare yourself for the sailing event. Movements that are overhead and involving rotation, squatting, and reaching are critical to include in your routine. In addition, high energy movements such as jumping jacks and high knees are excellent movements to include in your warm-up.
  • Your Warm-up Should be Performed Within 15 Minutes of Setting Sail. The closer you are to the time when you start sailing, the better. This is due to the fact that our bodies recover to a resting state very quickly and we want to be primed and ready for the sailing trip right as you take off. You can maintain the effects of the warm-up by continuing to pace, hopping, dancing; anything that keeps you moving. The main goal here is to not sit or stand still, allowing your heart rate to return to baseline.
  • Your Warm-up Should Include Dynamic Stretches. A study on different styles of stretching found that dynamic stretching was more effective in improving performance in high intensity sports than was static stretching. With sailing, you have a mixture of high intensity and longer duration/lower intensity demands. However, the preponderance of research seems to indicate that dynamic stretching as part of a warm is more effective injury prevention and in improving performance. Don’t overthink it, just make sure you’re not going into the competition or sailing trip cold, and all will be well.

What is the Difference Between Dynamic and Static Stretching?

These two very different styles of stretching have been debated for time immemorial. So, which is the better style? Well, each has their place in a comprehensive exercise program.

Dynamic stretching refers to movements in which the person takes their limb or joint through a progressively further range of motion, but only holds the stretch for a very short time, if at all. An example of this is doing high knees for 30 seconds before an athletic event. This is what comprises an effective warm-up: a series of dynamic stretches.

Some people further differentiate dynamic stretching into dynamic versus ballistic stretching, however I see little difference between the two, so for our purposes, let’s just stick with dynamic and static stretching.

Static stretching refers to what most people would probably imagine when they hear the word “stretching”. This form of stretching involves taking a joint to a far range of motion and holding for a defined period of time. An example of this type of stretching is holding a seated hamstring stretch for 30 seconds. This type of stretching is useful for improving range of motion and flexibility, but is not appropriate to use as part of a warm-up, as it does not significantly increase the heart rate or prime the muscles for high energy activity.

What are the Best Warm-up Movements that Should be Performed Before Sailing?

There isn’t necessarily a “right” answer to this question, but there are “wrong” answers (or shall we say “less effective” answers). The best way to warm-up before sailing is to move through a full range of motion, with all the muscles that will be involved, in a progressively more intense manner, 15 minutes before the sailing trip begins. Let’s examine each component of that statement and give some examples to make it more clear.

  • Full Range of Motion. This refers to the entirety of the distance that a given joint can move. This is going to be slightly different for everyone based on a variety of factors, but to illustrate this concept, you can stand up and perform a jumping jack, taking your arms all the way up overhead with each repetition and your legs all the way out to the side as well.
  • All the Muscles That Will be Involved. This is where you can get creative. Think about what movements will be required of you while sailing and perform warm-up movements that mimic those you’ll be doing while aboard. You may even invent some of your own movements that really get you loosened up and ready for the sailing trip. This might in turn prompt other sailors around you to ask you for advice on proper warm-up technique.
  • Progressively More Intense. This is a key concept. Ensure that you start slow and get faster and more energetic as your warm-up progresses. This will allow you to ease into the warm-up without risking injury. Additionally, this allows your heart rate to slowly increase rather than having to rapidly increase and catch up to the effort level you are demanding of it on the sailing trip.
  • 15 Minutes Before The Sailing Trip Begins. This part could be tricky, but just do the best you can. The main point is: be loose and primed going into the trip. If you can only get a warm-up in 20 minutes before the trip, don’t beat yourself up.

Below is a table outlining a sample warm-up that can be used before every sailing trip.

Table 1.

Movement Duration/Reps Intensity
Self Hugs 30 seconds to 1 minute Low
Trunk Twists 30 seconds to 1 minute Low
Alternating Punches 30 seconds to 1 minute Low to Moderate
Jumping Jacks 1 minute to 2 minutes Moderate
High knees 1 minute to 2 minutes Moderate
Squat jumps/Power Squats 1 minute to 2 minutes Moderate to High
Running in Place/Running Laps 2 minutes to 3 minutes Moderate to High
Stretching Exercise Plan: Before Going Sailing
Bennett D. Richardson, PT, DPT, CSCS

Bennett D. Richardson, PT, DPT, CSCS

Bennett is a physical therapist in the Pittsburgh, PA region who specializes in the areas of orthopedics, ergonomics, and weight loss. Bennett graduated from Slippery Rock University’s DPT program in 2017. He also obtained his BS from SRU in 2014 in Exercise Science with a Gerontology minor. In his work, Bennett has had the unique opportunity to rehabilitate many novice and experienced sailors. The advice he provides is always research-based.

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