Like many a sailor preparing to transition to a life of cruising, I spent countless months in New York devouring sailing blogs, reading books and listening to tales of the disasters and triumphs of many old salts who once lived on the high seas.
From stories like Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, I took comfort and gained confidence; if a young girl with no sailing experience could sail the world single-handedly, I could probably sail it with a smidgen of experience and a partner on board. From books like Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey, I got the importance of studying the weather and maintaining good communication aboard (both for our safety and the sanity of our relationship). From blogs like Bumfuzzle, I absorbed the belief that you can do anything you set your mind to, if you can ignore the naysayers who’ll say you’re being foolish and suicidal. I followed Windtraveler’s posts for inspiration, fun and a photographic catalogue of the beautiful things cruising has to offer. And I was encouraged by Zero to Cruising’s ability to stay incredibly fit and active while living aboard.
From all of these cruising viewpoints, I started to form a picture of what I wanted my life aboard to be like. And at the top of my list of must-haves was fitness and staying active. My worry, though, was that sports and fitness would become elusive while life onboard revolved around maintenance, chores and navigation, and as we fell out of a regular routine. After all, routines have played a large part in keeping me involved in sports: between marathon training with running clubs, Saturday morning races in Central Park, roller derby practice three nights a week, cycling to and from work, and slalom ski racing every weekend in the winters. Looking at this list, I knew when we sailed out of New York, I’d have to give up most of these sports. But I also wanted to keep as much of it in my life as I could.
Okay, so obviously skiing and roller derby were out. It’s hard enough to stay upright at sea as it is. Imagine if I tried it on roller skates? Running and biking would stay, but probably not with any regularity. After all, some islands seem to consist of mostly sand and rocks with not much in the way of paths. Where there are roads, though, you can be sure I’ll be there with my sneakers on.
What we really needed was something on board to help us build strength and release those addictive endorphins when running and biking wasn’t possible. And then I read Zero to Cruising and learned how they used their TRX on board. The TRX is a simple set of adjustable straps that allow you to use your body weight as resistance to work specific muscle groups. And it looked perfect for the boat because we could hang it from the mast and use the small space on our foredeck to do a work out.
I have to admit, though, that it took us a while to get into a routine with the TRX. In fact, it’s traveled all the way from New York City to the Bahamas in an unopened box, buried beneath a dozen cans of cat food, while Ryan and I remained unmotivated to give it a try.
When we got to the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas, though, we started finding islands we couldn’t run or bike on. So on a breezy night in Allens Cay, when we craved some muscle burn and a little energy release, we broke out the TRX, watched the instructional DVD, and did our first 45-minute workout as the sun set over Hideaway in her secluded anchorage.
And it was good enough to make me regret not breaking it out of the package sooner. The TRX even comes with an easy-to-follow picture booklet that shows you easier and harder options for each exercise, so you can ramp up your workout any time you’re ready.
It wasn’t the kind of thing I would have chosen to do in, say, the basement of our house, or outside in cold weather. But with a beautiful view surrounding us, some music pumping from the stereo and a partner to keep me on task, the TRX suddenly became the perfect fitness accessory for our boat.
So here I am, like many a cruiser before me, trying to figure out what I want for my life aboard. It’s not always sunshine and sundowners, but I think we’re getting closer to understanding what our priorities are. And as Ryan would tell you, I’m a much easier person to live with once I’ve had a good sweat. So this TRX toy of ours may become more important than we ever realized.