Annapolis Sailing Fitness hopes to fill niche with new gym in Eastport

 By KATIE ARCIERI, Staff Writer
(article from The Capital Online)

"Don't swing your legs – stay focused ”, Legum says to Dan Wittig as he works through a grueling set of pull-ups, his face turning a shade or two lighter than sunburned red.

Mr. Wittig, head coach for J World Sailing School in Eastport, is already in great shape, but Mr. Legum's workout exclusively for sailors is pushing even this ablest of athletes to the limit.

Since 2003, sailing professionals like Mr. Wittig have trained with Mr. Legum, getting their triceps screaming and abs burning for whatever the ocean has in store for them come race day.

Now Mr. Legum has opened a 1,200-square-foot gym where sailors can target the specific muscles needed to pull halyards, tie down sails and hike out of a dinghy.

Mr. Legum opened the Annapolis Sailing Fitness studio in the Eastport Yacht Center on Aug. 1, making it the only studio of its kind in the country.

Mr. Legum and Rob Almeida, former Naval Academy sailing coach, are aiming to train anyone - high-end competitors, Wednesday night buffs or just casual sailors.

"We're going to get them where they're going to be challenged," Mr. Legum said.

To say the studio has been a dream of Mr. Legum's for years is an understatement. Raised as a catamaran sailor, he formulated a workout three years ago to train specific muscles that competitive sailors need for a tough day on the water. As an independent contractor in 2003, he has trained top sailors with workouts that build abdominal, back and quadriceps muscles, while also perfecting techniques and preventing injuries.

It's a teeth-clenching routine that'll leave you physically exhausted, but the result is a higher fitness level and your saving grace once the winds get rough.

"We're going to duplicate those kind of (sailing) motions," said Mr. Legum, a personal trainer for 19 years. "That helps the person to be that much more effective. These are all just things to enhance the sailing."

Since 2003, Mr. Legum has steadily worked up a thick Rolodex of clients who gave him support in this niche business.

"Tiger Woods did it for golf," he said. "That's what's happening in sailing."

With his new studio, Mr. Legum plans to expand on that niche and eventually open second and third locations in other sailing hot spots "north and west".

The opening of the Annapolis Sailing Fitness studio has put more spotlight on a sport that hasn't necessarily been equated with a high level of fitness.

"The reality is, these days the type of boats that people race are much more physically demanding than traditionally," said Dave Gendell, editor for SpinSheet sailing magazine in Eastport. "If you want to race on a high level, you have to be physically fit. Your core strength is important, and Harry understands that."

Mr. Legum is also breaking new ground when it comes to sailing.

"It's definitely an eye-opening concept," said Mike May, spokesman for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, which tracks sports trends. "I think if it flies in Annapolis, it will fly anywhere."

Mr. May said the niche business is tapping into a growing sport, and a profitable one at that.

The number of Americans who sail grew from 4.3 million in 2004 to 4.7 million last year, according to SGMA. The average sailor is 37.9 years old, and has a household income of $81,200.

"You've got people who have a fair amount of disposable income," Mr. May said. "They like to spend it on a niche. If you can afford to buy a sailboat, you can invest in the fitness to go sailing."

"You're trying to condition the body," he said. "You're trying to get results."

Published August 15, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.