10 Ways to Stop Your Legs from Aching after Sailing

If you're taking part in an event that lasts more than one day then sore muscles can be a problem. Here's 10 ways you can stop your legs from aching on day 2 (or day 3, or day 4...).

1. Do a Warm Up

We all know we should warm up before sailing, but very few people do it. But if you want to avoid muscle soreness, then warming up protects your muscles from the sudden shock of full-on exercise, and instead eases them into the day.

There are a couple of sailing-specific warm up options here, along with some extra information to help you start your sailing day better.

2. Drink Enough Water

Water is good for us. We know this. So drink enough. Not just when you're on the water, but every day.

3. Stretch After Racing

The science is a little unclear on stretching, especially before exercise. Some feel that stretching cold muscles is risky, and doesn't actually make much difference anyway. In fact, there is some evidence that stretching before exercise can restrict muscle flexibility.

But.

There are lots of people that find it helps. Like Doug in the video below - and he's a top sailor (with a brilliant blog).

Whatever the science on stretching before racing, there's a lot less controversy about stretching after exercise. So it is well worth going through a simple stretching routine once you're off the water to ease those overworked muscles. Follow Doug's tried and trusted routine, or the one below, or whatever works for you.

4. Eat Protein

Protein repairs muscles. Don't ask me how - I haven't a clue.

But I have been told (many, many, many times) that it builds muscles and helps with recovery. Have a protein shake or recovery drink (this comes highly recommended) as soon as possible - the longer it takes to get protein into your system after racing, the less benefit it will have.

5. Eat Healthy Fats

I like this one because it means I get to eat salmon or tuna (not tinned tuna, though. It has to be tuna steak). Essentially you want to be eating anything with omega 3 in it - so peanut butter fans will also be happy.

Or you could take flaxseed oil - but why would you do that when you could be eating salmon.

Mmmmmmm, salmon.

6. Take an Ice Bath (or Apply an Ice Pack)

I'm going to be honest - I don't do ice baths. The amount of effort and planning I would have to put in, purely to suffer horrendously, just isn't in my nature. But they do work (apparently) so if you're up for it then be my guest.

Alternatively, you could just knock the shower to cold for 30 seconds. This is also a horrendous experience, but it requires less planning and effort. It also works, in my experience.

Or you could get an ice pack and apply it to the muscles that are likely to ache. This seems like the most sensible option to me.

But then I'm a big girls blouse.

7. Have a Sauna or a Warm Bath

"But you just said to take a COLD bath!"

Look, don't blame me. I'm not the expert here - I'm just telling you what I've found from researching the topic.

And anyway, you shouldn't complain too loudly - a warm bath or sauna is a lot better than an ice bath, that's for sure.

Apparently, saunas and warm baths increase blood flow to the muscles and thus help them to recover.

But the bad news? Coupling a sauna with an ice bath is even better for recovery (assuming that your heart can take it - something I'm not inclined to even test myself).

8. Have a Deep Tissue Sports Massage

OK, now we're talking. Saunas, warm baths and massages? And salmon for dinner?

Even I will start hiking properly if that's what I get at the end of the day.

Of course, if you're away from home for your event, finding a sports masseuse might need a little forward planning, but if you are prone to getting sore muscles it could be well worth the effort.

9. Elevate Your Legs

Raising your legs above your heart can help them to recover, so sleeping with a pillow under your feet can be a good idea. Also, this legs-up-the-wall pose is easy to do, looks completely fine and not ridiculous at all*, and it can help make sure your legs are ok the next day:

*the author can't guarantee that getting into this pose doesn't make you look ridiculous. But anything to stop your legs from aching, eh?

10. Meditate

I don't know if this one works because I am rubbish at meditating. Really, really rubbish. But apparently lots of people are rubbish at it too, and it is still supposed to be helpful, so I should probably give it another bash.

In terms of leg recovery, it helps by relaxing the muscles. One of the key elements of meditation is relaxing the muscles and calming the body as well as the mind. Tense muscles aren't recovering, so even a relatively short period of meditation should help switch your body off, help you sleep, and help those muscles recover.

If you want to get in to meditation, then I have it on good authority that this lady is a great place to start, and this is a very good, very basic beginner's guided meditation.


There is one more, bonus way to help with muscle soreness, but I'm a little reluctant to recommend it because I don't know too much about it. Several times in my research I have found anti-inflammatory pills, like Ibuprofen, recommended. Personally I don't like taking pills unless I need to, and I certainly wouldn't take pills on a regular basis without a doctor telling me to. But if you are in a lot of pain then, as a once off, taking an anti-inflammatory could be a useful solution.

4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Stop Your Legs from Aching after Sailing

    • Hmmm.

      I’m not sure I’ve ever experimented with not drinking beer after sailing. It would be weird.

      Is it even legal to sail and then not drink beer? It sounds like something that there should be a law against.

    • Thank god. I was worried for a minute that no-one had taken the time to write this stuff down.

      Rule 28 is crucial to our sport.

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