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Fitness Afloat: The Value Of High-Intensity Training

Exercising on a cruiser can be a challenge. Physical exertion aside, the small open spaces aboard can really choke your ability to move freely. Here is how to work with what you've got.

Our friends who don’t live on boats believe that Karen and I must be carved to sun-bronzed sinew by our cruising life. They may think hauling stout lines through stormy seas keeps us buffed to boaty fitness, but nothing of the sort occurs. It’s fun to think boating makes you fit, but after a few months cruising we had begun to look more like a chubby Gorton’s Fisherman and his wife than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and so do most cruisers we know.

And why not? Cruising can’t build the cardiovascular endurance that keeps hearts healthy and bodies ready to fight or flee. We know, we used to be fitness fanatics: Karen a black belt and I a bodybuilder. But martial arts, bodybuilding and boating aren’t concepts that coexist easily, and our “in-shape” selves were put ashore when we sailed away.

When age and ailments finally got us thinking about exercise on the boat, our skills in the gym were useless. Boat life is the art of doing without, especially without the space for weights and treadmills. So we found a different routine: High-Intensity Circuit Training (HICT)—full-body exercises performed in a seven- to 10-minute circuit with little rest in between. HICT is sound science, easily done within a boat-friendly footprint of 2 by 6 feet.

If you need a refresher on how to execute these moves, refer to our first Fitness column here.

Here’s a basic eight-minute HICT routine. And don’t forget to consult your doctor.

1. Start the clock and immediately do 10 regular (or “knee”) push-ups. Do jumping jacks until one minute ends. (No headroom? Skip jumping jacks or keep your arms low. Of course you can always head outside.)

2. Move on to spider lunges. Do 10, and then jumping jacks until one minute ends.

3. Do 10 jumping lunges, and then jumping jacks until one minute ends.

4. Finish up with 10 perfect walkouts. Do one more round!

Start slow! One round killed us the first time (four minutes). The joy of HICT is that five to 10 minutes daily is enough to get in heart-healthy, muscled shape, even on a boat.