Friday, March 5, 2010

Cross Training

Jen here,

Today was day one of on water cross training for me. Well, that's not entirely true. There were actually three days of washing, rigging, and tweaking before going sailing-all of which had been originally planned as sailing days, but perhaps that was a bit optimistic.
Royal Vic has acquired a Europe, and as part of my transition from crewing in the 470 to driving the 470, I am adding in a few single handed practices in the Europe each week. The Europe is an absolutely beautiful little boat. It's a dream to sail, so well balanced and responsive, nicely cut sail, and a hot little carbon fibre mast. On the way back from training today, I found myself reminiscing about how nice the boat felt as it powered up in the breeze.
Tacking, though. Oh tacking. When I first got into a 470, I was impressed by how low the boom was. This is, of course, because I had come from the world of Radials, 29ers, and (yes I'm that old) Laser II's. After some practice however, I became accustomed to the layout and physical bending required to move around the 470. The Europe, however, feels like a different animal altogether. I found myself bending like a pretzel in ways that I didn't know were possible, only to have the boom graze my but on each and every tack or gybe. Then I would finish a tack to see my training partner, Phil, with a perplexed look on his face. "I've never seen someone get their rear stuck on the boom while tacking!"
Why is this of any interest to anyone? Well, for starters, it's always hilarious to see someone out in a new boat for the first time. Things like balance and footwork, which we can easily take for granted, become totally foreign as we grapple to find the groove in our new boat. More importantly though, it reminded me of how important flexibility is within a training program. Of course we spend hours and hours running, lifting, crunching, and doing everything we can to make ourselves fitter. But when it comes to flexibility it seems that we have little time to give to our bodies. The little attention we give is simply to prevent our muscles from tightening up after we have just spent a few hours abusing them. This does little to increase our overall flexibility in the boat.
There were many things happening in the Europe today. First and foremost was getting used to the boat and the way it feels and sails. Second was working out many of the lingering rigging issues; not a big deal, and easily solved during the next windless day. Third, though, was the realization that cross training not only helps to strengthen areas of known weakness within one's existing training program, it helps to shed light on new areas for improvement. Yes, hundreds and thousands of tacks in the Europe will smooth out my footwork and prevent me from squealing in panic as I catch my butt on the boom-again. But so will some attention to my overall flexibility. No doubt that both of these solutions to my cross training tacking challenges will result in smoother 470 tacks as well, which is the whole point of this exercise.

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