Article originally published 9 years ago, but still very useful, given the current circumstances
by Peter Commette
Racing sailboats is a wonderful sport. It’s always available for you when you are ready.
I find myself constantly training for training, constantly trying not to fall too far from the competition, so that when I am ready to train, I won’t have so far to go. I am not sure when that day that I have some time to train and race regularly will come, but I’ll be ready.
Since 2007, I have been too busy to regularly race, but I believe that life will change in the future. My time will free up. Therefore, in the meantime, here is what I do to get ready for that day, and it has been this way for me since my last Olympic effort, 1980. If you will remember, USA boycotted the Olympics in 1980. After training for 18 months, instead of going to the our Finn Olympic Trials, I went back to law school that summer. Since then, my sailboat racing life has been on and off, twice off for as many as seven years.
In those down times, the trick is to stay in touch. Don’t let your body get too out of shape. Sail enough regattas to make sure you know what tuning is working, what sails are fast, and how to think on the racecourse. Visit your friends at the regattas that are near. Stay involved. Read enough to stay up on the rules, and to see what others have been thinking and doing. Look at regatta photos and compare.
Over the last two years, I ballooned up to about 200 lb. (91 kilos). In May, I went on a high protein and low carbohydrate diet, and began working out in earnest. I got down to 178 lb. (81 kilos), but went up to 185 lb. (84 kilos) over Christmas. This week, my wife, Connie, my daughter, Sheehan, and I have been working out together, and Morgan reports that she is working out, too, so I have high hope of getting back down to where I was before and having one of my all-star crews ready when that time comes.
A little bit about working out when you are getting old (I’ll be 57 in March): You have to be smart working out. Gone are the days when you can pile on the weights and challenge yourself. The challenge now is not to hurt yourself, to just push a little, so that you do not pull muscles and lose training days. Likewise, eat healthy, take vitamins (I take a multiple vitamin, vitamin C, and fish oil every day), and work hard to stay healthy, so that you do not lose training days. I do cardiovascular workouts about 5-6 days a week. I do 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer on days that I also exercise – every other day. On days that I do not exercise, I do 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer. No more running for me; too hard on the back. I always start with the elliptical trainer before exercise to get the oxygen flowing in my blood and to loosen up.
A word on the elliptical trainer: On my non-exercise days, I do not use the arms, and I go 5 minutes in forward and 5 minutes backwards, alternating. On my exercise days, I use the arms on the machine. I start with 5 minutes of regular use of the machine. For the next five minutes, I pull on the arms hard and fast for one minute, then push on the arms for one minute, then reverse for one minute, then for two minutes I take my arms off and go as fast as possible, trying to keep my speed at 250 cycles per minute and get my heart rate up over 160. This gets the workout started pretty well.
On days that I exercise, I do another 45 minutes after the elliptical trainer. Sometimes I will throw in 20 minutes of swimming, too, but not now; too cold! For exercise, my routine is pretty simple. I do all mat work or use weight machines. I find that with free weights, my form is not dependable, and I hurt my back, the tendons in my elbows, always something, so I stay with the machines; much safer for me.
I start with the sit-up or abdominal machine. I do 110 lb. (50 kilos) 40 times, 90 lb. (41 kilos) 60 times, and 70 lb. (32 kilos) 80 times. Then I do four upper body exercises, two exercises for my shoulders, curls, and an incline bench press. I do three sets of ten for all. No more high weight and low repetitions. I’m not trying to build bulk, just tone what I have.
Then, I move to the mat. On the mat I do another 100 sit-ups on a ball, doing 10 crunches, 60 twisting sit-ups touching each opposite knee with my elbows (hands locked behind head), and finish with 30 more crunches. Then I do an exercise lying down on my back on a cylinder. It’s called the “dead bug.” I bend my knees and put my arms straight up. Then I raise the opposing leg and extend my arm back and over my head. I do 60 of these. Then I finish with 30 crunches.
Next exercise: On my stomach on the mat, I do 60 “Superman” exercises, where you alternate lifting the opposing arm and leg. Then I do a front plank for 1 minute 15 seconds, and two side planks for 1 minute each. Then I stretch and I’m done.
I know there are many other great exercises I could do, but I don’t have any more time than that. Now, I just need to wait to get into sailing shape with a little heavy sailing, when the time comes. Of course the key word in that sentence is “wait,” and wait and wait, but I’m ready! In meantime, if you are in a situation similar to mine, work out, read, stay in touch, and wait for your time. Your time will come!
I hope to see all of you soon.