11:03 am | Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sailing is a skill. It’s about controlling the boat, reading the wind and water, planning a strategy to outwit the opponent’s and executing fine manoeuvres through the expert use of the equipment on the boat, even if it is just a sail on an optimist. All this is true. But skill is just one side of the coin. Fitness, is the other. Skill is learnt on the boat and fitness is achieved off it.

All modern day sailors agree that without fitness it would be difficult to perfect those skills so required for success. Sailing also has longevity; it is a sport for the young and the not-so-young. And one can literally sail into the sunset, so to speak because skills and instinct evolve with experience. But, if fitness fails, it definitely shortens the sailing life of even the most expert sailor. At the highest levels, being fit can make all the difference by allowing sailors to move with more agility, hoist with greater speed, endure the onset of fatigue and have the reserve stamina to squeak through to victory.

This mantra also applies to kids learning to sail. After a busy and tiring week at school, you want them to be enthusiastic about sailing on the weekend. A light to moderate attention to fitness could translate into greater energy and frame of mind, which in turn will ensure the optimal use of their sailing lessons. All it needs is the right attitude and approach. Here are a few fitness-related pointers to focus on.

  1. Fitness is about being in fighting form. It is NOT only about losing weight. Your child maybe at his ideal weight and yet be unfit because fitness means building stamina, endurance, strength and speed. The first step to getting fit is eating right. It means a balanced diet and as little sugar as possible because although sugar releases an initial burst of energy, it also causes a slump soon after. Complex carbohydrates, lean meats, nuts and plenty of fruits, vegetables are what your kids need.

  1. Cycling is seen as a great fitness tool for sailors because it builds stamina and endurance. Sailing relies heavily on the use of legs. Pushing those pedals builds and strengthens muscles along the entire length of the legs.The world’s best windsurfers and sailors swear by road cycling for burning fat, augmenting endurance and even a for recovering after a hard day on the water. You can make it fun for your kids by organising for a group of friends so that they enjoy cycling while getting the exercise. Just make sure weather conditions are alright, that they’re wearing helmets and that they’re hydrated.

  1. Swimming is another recommended and fun form of exercise for kids. It works out the entire body combining strength and cardio-vascular aspects. Breathing and stamina control so essential to swimming will definitely benefit your child’s overall health.

  1. Sleep - it’s the one basic requirement of getting and staying fit. This is especially true for children because they are growing everyday and 8 hours of sleep every night is essential to their proper growth. So be firm about going to bed on time, so that they’re fresh and raring to go every morning. It’ll also stop them from dozing off on the boat!

These are basic, common sense tips but make no mistake,should your child adhere to them in the long run, he/she can take the leap to more advanced and intensive training regimes at the age when he/she will need to workout seriously. So on the boat or off, fitness comes first.