April 21, 2016

My Quest for Fitness

By Doug
Someone once told me that Lasers were never designed for people over 35, but he was clearly wrong. So, how long can we competitively sail a Laser if we stay fit and avoid injuries? And what what kind of exercises would be needed? And who would know ... 
By Peter Seidenberg
I am 78 now, going on 79 in November, and I still sail the Laser competitively and with some success, albeit preferring the smaller Radial rig because it is more suitable to my weight of 160 pounds. The Radial is also becoming more and more popular with ever increasing fleet sizes for meaningful competition at regattas. Admittedly, the Radial is a bit easier to handle, already on shore with stepping the mast and, of course, on the water with having more control over the boat on windy downwind legs. Upwind, however, the Radial still requires full-out hiking, just like the Standard, only that ones efforts result in less healing, and therefore in better upwind speed and more sailing enjoyment.

Of course, to sail the Laser competitively requires fitness, and the higher the fitness level – the better the sailing results. This simple formula is my incentive to work on my fitness. As we all know, without an incentive, good fitness intentions generally evaporate.

Since the fitness requirement for our sport is multifaceted, I gear my work on my fitness accordingly, doing various exercises generally for one hour every morning in my basement gym. I rotate some of the exercises to allow my muscles and joints to recover. My versatile workout station helps me to do a variety of exercises. They consist of:
  • 5-minute stationary bike rides for warm-up,
  • 15-minute yoga stretches for flexibility,
  • sit-ups on my hiking bench for core strength,
  • bench presses for shoulder strength,
  • reverse sit-ups for lower back strength,
  • lateral pull-downs for shoulder strength,
  • leg-raises for knee and quadriceps muscle strength,
  • butterfly pulls for shoulder strength,
  • wall-sits for knee and hip strength, and
  • arm curls for bicep strength.
Aside from my morning exercises, I attend a yoga class once a week throughout the year and ride my mountain bike in the summer twice or three times a week. While doing all these exercises, however, I am mindful of the saying that everything should be done in moderation. I pace myself to avoid injury and set-backs as a result.

Whenever possible, however, I sail my Laser, since I believe in the saying that nothing beats time in the boat. On weekends in the summer I go to as many regattas as I can, and there are plenty of them along the New England east coast. I also take part in Tuesday nights practice sailing in the Newport area whenever it is on the agenda.

I am really lucky and happy that my sport and passion gives me the incentive to work on my fitness, and I intend to continue for as long as I can.

Update: Peter's training worked again - he won the 2016 Master Worlds in the Legends category (75+). 


  1. Thank you for that post. I was wondering how old Peter was. The guy that usually beat up on all the old guys.

  2. I recently saw Peter in action in Cabarete and I can confirm he is absolutely fit and motivated. One day the wind was less strong than usual ( I mean, it was only 15 kn...) and during our 2 hour training he was not satisfied of his speed compared to the other guys ( mostly standard rig..). Well, when we all came back I wondered why he was eating is lunch without taking out his gear. The answer? Immediately after his salad, he went out alone for an afternoon session to ... Improve his sailing! Go, Peter, go!

  3. Peter, thank you for this. You're an inspiration to us all.

    How do you feel about jogging as a way for masers sailors to help build or maintain cardio? (Especially on days when it's raining and biking is a bad idea...) Is it worth it, or not worth the extra stress on the body?

    1. I've forwarded this to Peter. Here are my thoughts: for me, biking is hard on my knees and jogging is hard on everything. So Pam introduced me to jumping on a trampoline while watching TV. It's almost as good as jogging but less stressful on my body.

    2. Hi Al, I consider jogging a bad idea for someone my age. The joints in hips, knees, and feet get really stressed from the pounding. Building them up bicycling and stretching them hiking-out is much better for them.

      I used to jog regularly and eventually experienced pain in my knees causing me to slow down and do it less regularly. Then, about 5 years ago, I developed sciatica from running on an uneven grassy surface. I got the message. Now, I only bike for cardio fitness and joint strengthening - 2 to 3 times a week, weather permitting... Peter

    3. I agree. I used to jog 20 miles a week but gave that up a long time ago because of the damage it was doing to my neck. After that, my neck got 90% better... Doug

  4. Doug and Peter, thanks for the input. I agree: Even at the tender young age of 47, jogging for me feels a bit rough on the joints.

    Another question -- and perhaps an idea for a future blog post -- is, how have you shifted your boat handling technique to be "low impact" yet still as effective as possible?

    I ask since, getting back into Laser racing for the first time since my 20s, my muscle memory is leading me to use techniques that might be better suited to a younger body.

    Thanks again!

    1. Sorry Al, I missed this message. I quit jogging 30 years ago because of the strain on my knees and neck.

      For me, sailing is a low impact sport so I haven't changed anything except how I tack in a breeze... with a tight vang, I'm now more concerned about getting through a tack without stalling. For me, a little slower and safer works better than fast and getting the main caught on the back of my life jacket!

      Off the water I take breaks to rest up. For example, I've not sailed a Laser since the worlds (6 weeks ago) and feel that these breaks are probably why back is still in great shape.

  5. Using this type of book, you are sure that the program or exercises you are using are right for you and the program will help your game not hurt it.
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  6. Try dancing or take a yoga class. You could also do a boxing or yoga class. If you don't like a certain activity, you don't have to try it again, but will burn some calories just trying. Look here


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