Trainer tailors fitness program to amateur, pro boaters

by BILL WAGNER, Staff Writer
(article from The Capital Online)

trainingNon-participants probably don't consider sailing a strenuous sport. There's this image of middle-aged men and women sitting on a comfortable boat drinking beer.

Competitive sailboat racers know there is a lot of physical activity involved. Hoisting sails, cranking winches and hiking out all require a certain degree of strength, endurance and athleticism.

Yet the reality is that many sailors, both amateur and professional, don't train the way they should. Sitting behind a desk all week then going out and doing a four-hour race on Saturday can lead to injury and/or exhaustion.

Returning to Annapolis after more than two decades away, Harry Legum was stunned to learn the area had no workout programs targeted toward sailors. Legum, an elite-level certified personal trainer at Annapolis Athletic Club, has taken it upon himself to remedy that situation.

Legum has established Annapolis Sailing Fitness LLC, which provides specialized training geared toward the type of activities performed aboard a raceboat. Local professionals such as Terry Hutchinson, Jahn Tihansky and Brian Bissell are now being trained by Legum, who is eager to expose recreational competitors to his sailing-specific conditioning program.

"When I got back to town, I couldn't believe there was no one taking care of the sailing community," said Legum, who worked as a personal trainer in Atlanta for 16 years. "It's the biggest sport in Annapolis with literally hundreds of participants, so it made too much sense not to create a fitness program that was relatable to sailing."

Tihansky is preparing to compete in the International 505 World Championships in the famously heavy air off Santa Cruz, Cal. He will be hiking hard throughout the event and knows that requires tremendous leg strength.

"Jahn told me whoever has the strongest quads usually wins. So I've had him doing exercises and lifting designed to strengthen those muscles," Legum said.

Paul Murphy turned to Legum for help when trying to get into shape for the J/22 World Championship that was held off Annapolis in May. Murphy was primarily interested in strengthening a previously-injured shoulder.

Hutchinson was recently hired as tactician for Team New Zealand, which is beginning its quest to recapture the America's Cup. The Harwood native's primary job is to survey the course and competition then make strategical calls, but he must also perform physical duties aboard a 70-foot sloop that possesses tremendous loads.

"You exert a lot of energy no matter what type of boat you are sailing," Hutchinson said. "Sailing involves a lot of explosive movement and bursts of energy. You need strength, flexibility and conditioning."

Hutchinson, who lost 21 pounds while doing a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, hikes hard while racing Farr 40s and uses all sorts of muscles while sailing a Star boat. The St. Mary's High graduate tries to stay in shape, but came away from a two-hour workout with Legum at the Annapolis Athletic Club knowing there was lots of work to be done.

"I've come off the water some days and my whole body has ached. You do things in sailing that strain your back, your stomach, your arms, your shins," Hutchinson said. "If you don't train properly, you're going to pull a muscle, strain your back or hurt your knee."

Legum, a 1982 graduate of Annapolis High, grew up sailing beach catamarans and boardsailing on the South River. He served as a paramedic in the U.S. Army before getting into the fitness business.

Legum was determined to get back into sailing upon moving from Atlanta to Annapolis, but didn't figure to do so in a work-related manner. His sailing fitness idea evolved from training longtime North Sails executive Jim Allsopp at Annapolis Athletic Club, which is located in Eastport.

Word of mouth and recommendations from the likes of Allsopp and Tihansky have brought other sailors to Legum, whose fliers can be found at The Boatyard, North Sails, J/World and yacht clubs.

"There are just so many little things you can do to better prepare your body for sailing," said Legum, who taught a fitness class to members of the Severn Sailing Association junior program. "There are certain actions that I can duplicate in the gym, like pulling a halyard. By working at a machine, we can condition someone to use the proper technique when doing that."

Legum has other unique exercises that help improve agility and balance, which are so important aboard a sailboat. He is discovering new ways to train sailors by crewing for clients.

"I'm taking advantage of as many invitations as I can get. I've been out on a J/105, a Mumm 30, an Etchells and every time I go I discover new things that I can incorporate into this regimen," he said.

Legum will hold his inaugural Fitness for Sailing Workshop on July 26 (7:30 p.m.) at Annapolis Athletic Club. He is working with Tihansky on a manual of techniques and also hopes to produce a video demonstrating sailing-specific excercise.

"Whether you are working the bow or steering the boat, it always helps to be in good shape," Hutchinson said. "Decision-making is important in sailboat racing and being in solid condition physically makes you sharper mentally."