Monday, May 28, 2007

So thirsty . . .

. . . the body wants water but the sailor wants to make weight! A topic which never seems to die . . . dreadful weigh in's for sailing. Had I been capable of creating a magic pill during my days at Pfizer, addressing this one sailing "woe"; I'd surely be a billionaire, sailing the South Pacific in my pimped-out V70 and managing Team SailTrim's fleet of One Design boats!

Not possible . . . yet, so lets talk! What does a sailor do to their body when they push it physically while dehydrated?

In past newsletters I've mentioned how one "feels" thirsty well after the body has already reached a physiological state of "dehydration" and how important it is to avoid said state by taking in fluids before one ever gets "thirsty".

All pressures aside of making weight, if one understood the damage done to their body as a result of dehydration plus physical exertion: would they still do it? I would hope not . . .

When the body is dehydration, along with temporary weight loss there is unseen damage. How? Every cell in the body requires water to function and survive, without they lose function and die. Properly hydrated cells are plump, happy and easily communicate with surrounding cells. A group of "talking" cells a.k.a. "tissue(s)" work together with little effort when there is a proper balance of water. Tissues that are in good working order lead to functioning organs and organ systems.

Sailor's Perspective:
  • Dehydrated muscle can lead to muscle cramps and decreased function of muscle groups
  • When muscle is not functioning properly, the joints supported become susceptible to injury
  • Aside from poor cell communication, fluid in joint capsule is minimized making joints more prone to damage when in use as a result of triggered localized inflammation (ex. trimming sails on a Farr40 the day of weigh in on a dehydrated sailor may set the stage for future shoulder injuries in an otherwise "fit" individual as a result of joint inflammation triggered by the decrease in joint capsule fluid which normally helps prevent bone on bone contact/friction during joint movements when present)
  • End of day re-hydration will help minimize further damage the following day but will not undo the day's physiological events. For the professional sailor the stage can and likely has been set for possible joint issues later down the road . . . was it worth it??

Phew . . .

The above is one example and does not include the impact on neurological function. Mental clarity is the first thing to suffer when dehydration sets in. The brain really hates to be parched and goes on strike quickly! Accurate decision making leaves the boat and for example, a dehydrated foredeck crew, while physically exerting themselves during a set or douse could easily injure themselves. When dehydrated it's much easier to make non-typical mistakes like inadvertently being unaware of a line wrapped around a foot or losing balance and taking a fall on or off the boat . . . and to think this could all be during a practice sail, imagine if it was race day . . .

It's rather impressive the number of things which may go wrong by not drinking water and further amazing how we'll intentionally purge our bodies of moisture to make weight despite the risks for the love of sport (since sailors are not the only athletes who walk such lines). There is a fair bit of scientific literature supporting how "bad" it is to dehydrate the body on purpose. I can assure you SailTrim will keep writing on the subject.

At the end of the day it comes back to lifestyle and most people find it easier to dehydrate for weigh in then a little tweak here and there in their day to day in effort to lose the same amount of weight. It's too bad, most of these same folks I imagine, have the desire to sail well into their more mature years.

Maybe someday there will be a magic pill to undo the damage of our youth, but till then; is it worth it? Is it worth long term shoulder, spinal or knee damage when making small diet changes could have you weigh in ready minus long term bodily damage . . . I know my answer. I plan to still be racing when I'm 100!

So drink up!

~ Jenn

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Sailors Road Trip . . .

. . . will very likely include a van full of salty gear, enough sails for a fleet of boats, rigging upon rigging, copies of yacht and yachting splayed across the dash and if lucky: a full size bed in the back!

The office view today is from Gravedona on Lake Como and the event: 18 footer Italian Grand Prix. The road trip from England . . .the best time a sailor can have next to a good run in firm breeze! We began the trip late Thursday evening (24th) and due to some car trouble (standard road trip blunder) missed our 2AM ferry to France . . .

What do sailors do when they have time on their hands and can't move forward . . . they work on the boat of course! In the world of the 18footer . . . that is usually carbon fiber repair of some form. I dare not tell them, "no, you must sleep and rest!"; I made them sandwiches and set out bottles of water and sports drink to keep them going strong. It's a lifestyle and you have to work with it, not against it . . .

We caught the 4:45AM ferry, slept like babes after a warm bottle of milk and hit the ground "rolling" as we continued across France. All was uneventful till we blew the fuses for the stereo and Si's bank card was not simply stolen by a machine but the whole machine removed itself from the wall and revealed a little man inside . . . clearly Si missed the note in French explaining the machine was out of order . . . the man would not return the card . . . after a fair amount of arm waving between the Englishman and the little Frenchman . . .nothing was lost in translation!

We settled affairs with the bank card, replaced the fuses and I revealed how easy one can stretch and do a little yoga in the back of a yellow Mercedes Sprinter outfitted with a full size bed! Aside from the comedy, because we knew there would be little prep time once we arrived, there was a bit of seriousness in taking care to make good nutritional choices, staying well hydrated and a "watch system" of sorts to ensure the guys were well rested despite all the driving (24hrs in total). We did have some "fun food", rest assure; I am not a sailing fitness nazi but when you invest money and time away from family and work to compete at high levels . . . it's silly to shoot yourself in the foot with poor self care.

And it was being in a positive physical and mental state that helped us weather our final hurdle (as if towing a boat through the Swiss Alps was not enough of a challenge) . . .we get stuck at the border . . . 25mins from our destination, there is a little place on the west shores of Lake Como where you leave Italy, enter back into Switzerland and return to Italy. On one side we have mountain cliffs and the other; the lake . . .what does boarder control, who is unhappy with our van set up (no seatbelt for fourth person) do with a yellow van, skiff in tow and no place to park . . .

They discuss the situation while we gave consideration to whether or not we could all sail the skiff to the club. . .they were concerned about us in the van, not the boat! When well fed, properly rested and hydrated a team can think quite creatively through problems! Thankfully, they became bored and let us carry on in the van . . . phew.

We arrived at the club warmly greeted by the rest of our British sailing contingent, enjoyed an adult beverage and turned in for the night. Day 1 of racing was postponed due to light shifty breezes, sneaking in one race to which awarded my team a second out of a fleet of 21 boats. The boys came off the water very pleased and remarked it was the most enjoyable sail since their days of match racing. They were "dancing" very well, had good energy and felt focused.

Today the breeze is still light and due to make a 180 shift at anytime but the race committee is determined to get as many races off as possible. The boys did enjoy the Italian hospitality last night but did have sense to get good sleep, have finally made habit in smart AM food choices and when the time signal for "rigs ups" arrived, were in fabulous spirits and ready for another day on the water.

At last . . the shift has filled in from the South . . .and it's good breeze! Check in tomorrow for a report of how they faired! I am quite pleased we threw in extra energy bars and fluids! They just went from 0-60 . . .

Fair Winds,

The van...Photo:C. Favreau

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Travel woes . . .

Trying to maintain weight is a battle many folks contend with. It does not have to be however, even the best intentioned individuals have periods when something else in their lives takes priority pushing their health, fitness and nutrition plan to the wayside. Travel, whether for work or holiday is a regular culprit . . .and since the vision of SailTrim is an organization that is housed virtually while I move about the world of sailing . . .mastering an "on the go healthy lifestyle" is a part of the program.

I've come to have a fair bit more respect for the professional sailor's lifestyle as my own life parallels. When home is a "duffel bag program" that is laid out in a different local within a different culture and this changes week to week: it's not easy to to maintain the little things that facilitate healthy choices. For example; I had no appreciation for how lucky I was to have access to good tap water and keeping my glass full while working with such convenience! Good hydration sets a solid foundation for healthy living. When well hydrated, whether it is psychological or physiological, people typically make healthier choices.

I had kicked myself for not bringing my trusty Nalgene bottle in past travels . . .I brought 2 with me this go around (they are great for storing items). The first thing I purchase when arriving to a new destination: a couple of large bottles of water to keep the "walk about bottle" always full when out and about.

If there is an impending "weigh in" shortly after arrival from a long flight . . . I am still collecting "data/feedback" from the community on this topic. However; I've been finding that if I make an extra effort to be well "topped off" (hydrated) before I get on the plane and just keep sipping fluids to evade that whole "dry" feeling, save the dreadful cup of joe for the last hour of flight; I feel fine. I typically encourage folks to be mindful of this and if you do not know how much your body typically retains on a day to day, don't have a means to do pre and post weights; I would recommend adding ~1-3lbs to average weight.

If I have the time, my steadfast method of relieving lower extremity bloating from travel (or long days of hiking) are wearing tights while flying and sleeping with a pillow or two under my legs the first few nights post travel. While relaxed, gravity is facilitating the return of extracellular fluid which has a tendency to take up residency while sitting in the plane and or due to the pressure points from hiking hard on the lifeline. Taking 3-5mins to elevate legs and gently massage works wonders and feels great too!

The gym does not fit into my lifestyle at all anymore . . .so what do I do to stay "sail ready", next to always having my water bottle and sailing gear in hand? I walk everywhere, do ~ 30mins of yoga/pilates twice a day (for sure once/day if it's busy) and walk away from laptop for a mini stretch after ~60min of work. These are habits I developed before embarking this venture and seems to work well no matter the country, time zone or climate. This is where one needs to have an open mind and think "outside the gym" to maintain fitness goals.

Do I miss the gym . . .yes, very much. Primarily because of the lovely people I shared it with. My training, though not nearly as intense has me feeling good and ready for unexpected adventures (on or off the water).

In short . . .if you have the foundation for a healthy lifestyle in place and positive attitude. . .it won't really matter where you travel too. If still working on the "lifestyle" part . . . keep checking in and as a community we'll get there!

Fair Winds,


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Does size matter . . .

Can speed, efficiency in motion and body awareness help a small sailor do a "heavy job" or a larger sailor do a "light job"?

Of course!

With One Design weight thoughts aside, a person can can train to do both heavy and light jobs on a boat. Someone like myself can use his/her body efficiently to hoist halyards, pull large sails and trim big kites. On the same token; a larger person can be aware and comfortable with his/her body to appreciate it's role and effect on the boat, being a great asset (some people simply to no know their own strength!).

The folks who do this well have a feel for the boats they sail, are in tune with their bodies and have a drive to succeed. No matter your size or gender, once you have a gauge to how the boat moves underneath the body in different conditions, the individual can begin to anticipate actions and subsequent reactions; learning how to use the boat's movement to assist their own (ex. a well coordinated roll jibe not only helps the boat accelerate out of the maneuver but can help the foredeck crew execute a nice end for end transition).

While acquiring a "feel" for the boat be mindful of one's own body and the in pact it has on the boat. Too much moving around on a Melges 24 is the equivalent of throwing an anchor over board! While on a larger boat may interfere with adjacent crew's roles/jobs. Together as a team different size and weight ranged crew can work the boat to be fast with proper communication and coordination.

If one can completely understand the relationship between body, job and the role their job plays in the performance of the boat: they will succeed at execution of tasks despite their size, shape or weight. From bow to stern there is a way to dynamically use your body to fulfil a corresponding job on all boats.

Many folks are either sailing, getting ready to start the season or wrapping it up. No matter; if there was ever the feeling of wishing to be smaller or larger for a role on a boat . . . stop. How badly do you want to give the job a try? Watch the people who do the job of interest well and though each has their way, a lot can be learned by watching how other people move about the boat to complete a/the task. So the time has come to give it a try . . .ask someone to watch who does the job well and debrief after maneuvers to learn how to improve . . .repeat . .

Don't ever be discourage, though respect some people fit in naturally to roles on the boat. However, to find one's fit requires trying all the jobs no matter size, shape or gender. It's possible to have a good sized bow person who moves like Tinkerbell and a small powerhouse trimming a monster kite . . . have you seen some of the V70 sailors?!?!

Later this week . . . when weight matters . . . ugh. The love/hate relationship of One Design racing . . .weigh ins after an international long flight . . . what can you do to minimize water retention and bloating from traveling?

Fair Winds,