Program helps keep sailors shipshape

 By Annie Linskey, Baltimore Sun reporter
(Originally published February 12, 2006)
Program strengthens sailors for a sport that's no breeze

Those who think the sport of sailing is code for floating around the bay and drinking beers during the day ought to talk to Harry Legum. For 18 years, Legum has been tailoring fitness programs for Annapolis sailors. He works with America's Cup racers, junior sailors, Naval Academy midshipmen and casual day sailors. Next month he plans to restart a sailing fitness class at the Annapolis Athletic Club.

"When you're sailing, you have to move quickly," said Legum, 41. "You have to explosively get up and start performing. If you're not working out, the chances of getting hurt are higher."

The new class -- which started briefly last month and was then put on hold for a few weeks -- will be 30 minutes long and will include routines geared toward increasing core and upper body strength. Those are muscle groups that Legum says sailors need to strengthen to hoist sails and grind the winches.

In the class, sailors will work out at different stations for short periods.

Legum has some specialized sailing workout equipment including a "hiking bench," which mimics the oh-so-painful motion of leaning out of a boat to keep it flat.

He also has sailors do exercises while balancing on a rubber half-sphere to enhance their flexibility and stability.

Legum says sailors are social creatures.

"We had 35 people show up for the first class," he said. "The thing that people like is that they're with other sailors."

A lifelong Annapolitan, Legum got into sailing fitness after casually helping a few friends prepare for big races. "I just fell into it," he said.

He's now also working on a sailing fitness book.

"Harry is familiar enough with sailing that he designs a program for you that helps increase your strength and flexibility," said Frieda Wildey, 54, of Annapolis, who works out with Legum on an individual basis two or three times a week.

She added that Legum has sailed with her team on Wednesday night races just to get a feel for her and her team's fitness.

"You have to be able to react quickly, and when we age, our responses get slower," Wildey said. "I feel like I'm a better racing sailor than I was five years ago."

Wildey works "the pit" in the boat -- she's responsible for fast sail changes, setting the spinnaker pole and hoisting halyards, the lines for raising and lowering sails.

However, the drivers, or skippers, of the larger boats can exact benefits from the workouts, too.

Ed Freitag, 59, of Annapolis races a 40-foot-long Beneteau and sees Legum twice a week.

Freitag doesn't always work up a sweat on the boat but finds that the workouts help him concentrate for longer periods.

"Being in shape helps me keep aware of what is happening around me" in a race, he said.

But, he noted that the sport is a physical one.

"If you're doing a regatta where there are multiple races, you get tired, you use a lot of energy," he said. "If it's blowing 20 knots, you don't feel like going out for beers. Even the young guys are tired."

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