Fit and Fabulous: Keeping in shape during a long-haul

15 April 2010 By Louisa Cowan

For the fitness fanatics amongst boat crew, being confined to the yacht for a fair few weeks during a long-haul trip can seem like torture. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do and those muscles begin to twitch from all the pent up energy. Although it is true that you are limited by the confines of the boat whilst at sea, there are plenty of ways to flatten your tummy or beef up those triceps. In fact, this lengthy time on the water could be the chance to start a new fitness regime rather than a lame excuse to plough your way through the new films on the server.

One frisky stewardess, who would rather remain nameless, told, “I’m on board with my boyfriend and we find all sorts of ways to keep fit when we are at sea – behind closed doors!”

This kind of workout is not so readily available to most yacht crew, but maybe some of these other suggestions will help you raise your heart rate and tone up that six-pack.

“I keep a good stock of fitness DVD’s to hand,” says Stewardess Jemma of M/Y Vita, “but my favorite workout tool is my hula-hoop. It’s easy to stow and the movement whilst underway helps to get your hips going.”

Technology is now moving beyond the basic workout DVDs and some boats will have the luxury of computers on board to help you keep up a daily fitness routine. The Nintendo Wii system boasts its famous Wii Fit Package or, if you fancy something a little more lively, you could boogie the monotonous nautical miles away with dance games such as Dance, Dance Revolution.

Onboard equipment is a big advantage when trying to fight the lethargy of long-haul. Guest Hostess Nikki of M/Y Leander says, “We have a crew and a guest gym on board but during crossings the captain kindly lets us use both. We have a really fit crew and I would say that about eighty percent of us use the gyms regularly when we are underway. We’ve got spin bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, weights and kickboxing equipment – the boys get pretty competitive about their workouts.” She explains, “They are really focused at the moment as three of them are training to do a fundraising climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro when we get to the other side [of the Atlantic].”

Downtime during crossings cannot only be used to get fit but also to raise funds and awareness for a good cause, which is brilliant motivation to keep you going. In April 2010, the crew of M/Y Talitha made sure their onboard rowing machine got some serious use as they row the Atlantic whilst underway. During the 10-day voyage from Antigua to Gibraltar the crew row for 24 hours a day to raise money for the earthquake victims of Haiti. A friend of the crew told, “[They] are taking the row so seriously, they have been training hard and are determined to make it.”

Yoga is a popular pastime with many yachties but is it really practical whilst underway? M/Y Leander’s Nikki says, “The girls have a fairly flexible schedule on long-haul trips so as well as using the gym, we also try and keep up our yoga and Pilates, but we need to be a bit careful about balance.”

Freelance Chef Laura says, “I do some yoga while getting meals out underway. I will often do the runners lunge whilst firing out a drawn out breakfast and I've even been known to do my up-dog, cobra, down-dog, and plank series while waiting in the galley!” She agrees that balance can be a problem but adds, “You do tend to drift as the boat sways, but it actually gives you more of a core workout!”

The mate of one sailing yacht due to cross the Atlantic soon pointed out that sailing across the ocean is enough of a physical workout without having to add any extra exertions. “During your watch you will have to take the helm for at least an hour and, believe me, this keeps you fit enough,” he says. “Throw in a few sail changes and you aren’t going to need to a lot more to ensure maintaining a pretty good level of fitness.”

Being restricted in space doesn’t seem to faze most crew when it comes to keeping fit and it seems that there really is no excuse not to work up a sweat, even in the middle of an ocean.

To support crew fundraising attempts, visit or