Fit: Rocking the Boat - Express Magazine

IT'S A BREEZY AFTERNOON in Annapolis, and elite sailor Jahn Tihansky, at right, is preparing for an upcoming world championship regatta — indoors and sans sailboat.

To pump up his sea legs (and arms), Tihansky turns to Annapolis Sailing Fitness (Eastport Yacht Center, 726 Second St., 410-570- 6121), a gym catering to the not-so-ancient mariner set.

"You do perform better if you're fit," Tihansky says between bicep curls and tricep push-downs.

Sailors may not seem like a hard-bodied bunch, but racers can reap immense benefits from workouts like those developed by Harry Legum, Tihansky's trainer. Legum, who owns Annapolis Sailing Fitness, works one with about 30 clients in regular one-on-one sessions and numerous others in local groups and around the world (through Web consultations). Among his clientele: America's Cup competitor Terry Hutchinson, Olympic hopeful Geoff Ewenson and U.S. Naval Academy teams.

Legum, 42, had worked as a personal trainer for 16 years at an Annapolis gym, where he often coached competitive sailors. Four years ago, he cast off into business for himself. A handful of folks who pictured sailors as clubby gentlemen were puzzled by the concept. But mostly, Legum says, the reaction "was all, ‘God, that sounds like a great idea.' [Sailors] knew there were some ideas out there on how to [train to] be a better sailor, but nothing was ever really put together."

As a pioneer in personal training tailored to sailors, Legum drew on his background as a longtime seafarer to put together workouts that target the core and enhance balance and agility. Any sailor can benefit from the regimen, he says, since even casual sailors need speedy footwork for basic moves like tacking (changing the boat's course).

Training sessions are customized to fit each boater's needs and functions on the water. But they usually incorporate a few exercises and pieces of equipment that mimic the sailing experience.

One move replicates "hiking," a virtual requirement on relatively small boats (sailed by just one person or a few people). Sailors must balance leaning boats with their own bodies by sitting or standing perpendicular to the sail (or dangling their derrieres over the higher side of the boat). Hiking can be a killer workout in itself, but Legum brings the task ashore. He has students prop themselves on a wooden hiking bench, secure their feet under a fabric strap, and scoot off the edge of the bench. Balancing in that position, sailors lift free weights or tug on a weighted pulley to feel the burn in their quads, abs and arms.

Another exercise, designed to help those on larger boat crews who use a crank to coil rope and adjust the amount of wind in a sail, involves holding a weighted bar vertically and turning it slowly in circles. It looks a little like stirring a cauldron.

Tihansky, whose circuit often incorporates both moves, says his thrice-weekly sessions help him keep up as director of the U.S. Naval Academy's varsity offshore sailing team. "I love to be able to push them because they know I can do what I'm telling them to do," he says. Plus, Tihansky says he's convinced that more than three years of sailing fitness workouts have improved his performance on the water. "I'm 45 now, and I'm in better shape than I was when I was 25," he boasts.

You have to learn how to sail before you'll need Legum's services (which cost $80 to $150 per session).