Exercising On A Boat: 18 Clever Tips (Everyone Can Do!)

In Boating by Shelby Sullivan

Staying in shape is very important. With an increase in focus on fitness and health, if you are taking a long boat trip, you might have issues staying healthy and continuing your workout plan.

This can be very difficult for those who are regular runners, gym enthusiasts, or other health-conscious people.

This can be especially difficult for people who workout to maintain control over a health condition.

Rest assured, there are options that you can do to stay physically fit while out on the water.

How To Work Out While on Board

It might seem like while out on a boat, you have no options to workout while actually on board your vessel. This can be discouraging to any seasoned workout enthusiast.

Often, people who work out consistently cannot take time off from their workout. It becomes an essential part of your daily routine as well as can make you feel powerful and happy.

If you want to work out while on board your boat, this is incredibly possible.

How To Do Cardio:

Cardio is very important when it comes to working out. Not only does it raise your heart rate, but it also builds endurance and is a great way to stay trim.

Cardio might seems like a daunting task during any circumstances. People often think of cardio as long unforgiving runs. This would be very difficult to accomplish while on a boat.

Unless you have a large boat that could house a treadmill, which is usually bulky and expensive, you are likely not getting your run in while out at sea.

Running is not the only way to get cardio in.

One great way to get your cardio in while out at sea is something you might be doing anyway, and that is swimming.

1. Swimming is an excellent, full-body workout, that is cardio-based and good for endurance.

While onboard a boat, you should always be near a place to swim making it easy to hop in and get a workout in whenever time allows.

This is not a guarantee though if you are in rough waters or a marina or other “no swim” areas.

It is likely, though, that you have many places to swim while on your boat.

2. Other possible cardio activities that do not require equipment are jumping jacks, knee highs, butt kicks, burpees, and other “running in place” type options.

Doing a mixture of these types of cardio exercises can help get your heart rate up and are a good source of cardio.

Doing cardio activities without equipment can be challenging. Anyone who is used to the equipment at a gym or who has equipment at home might rely on the equipment to track calories burned or heart rate.

3. If you plan on working out without equipment, you might want to invest in a fitness band. These will allow you to keep track of all the stats a treadmill or other equipment would generally track for you.

It is a good idea to track these things so you can be sure you are getting a sufficient workout each time.

Equipment Available:

Just because a treadmill is large, expensive, and not generally safe to use on a boat that rocks too much, does not mean that there is no cardio equipment available to you while onboard.

You have a few options if you want to have cardio equipment onboard your vessel.

These options include:

4. Stationary bikes are a good option while on a boat.

These options are smaller than a treadmill while still offering great cardio results. Stationary bikes also offer different workouts, levels of resistance, and distance tracking.

Pedaling can get kind of boring but a stationary bike is not a focus-heavy workout and allows for entertainment activities like reading, watching television, or listening to music while you are working out.

Having a stationary bike right on board can save you the difficult task of having to go to shore every time you need to get a good sweat in.

5. Rowing machines are also a good way to get your cardio in while onboard your vessel.

Like stationary bikes, rowing machines are an excellent way to get your cardio accomplished while onboard a boat.

They are often smaller than a treadmill and some even fold up for easy storage. This can be great for smaller boats that do not offer a lot of room.

Rowing machines are also a full-body workout that combines cardio with strength training. This allows them to offer the best of both worlds in one compact machine.

6. Portable ellipticals can be an option for cardio while out at sea as well.

Small and portable elliptical machines are generally small and inexpensive. This makes them a great option to take while you are out on the water.

Even more compact than the rowing machine, these can be a great cardio machine that does not get in your way when you are not using it.

Because these are so easy to move, you can also take it on and off your vessel and use it in your home as well.

Some of these machines are even able to change your resistance setting to increase or decrease the intensity of your workout.

Make sure when you use these, you have something nearby to hold on to if needed.

7.Ab boards are a simple way to get a good cardio workout in.

If you happen to have an ab board or twist board, you can also combine some strength training with cardio while out at sea.

These boards focus on your core but also offer an intense cardio workout, especially if combined with hand weights. Hand weights bring the workout a more “full-body” experience as well as getting your heart rate up higher and quicker.

These boards are often small and compact as well as highly inexpensive. They do not take up a lot of room and can be done pretty much anywhere.

Much like the portable elliptical, make sure you have something to hold on to if necessary.

How To Do Muscle Training:

Muscle training is much easier on a boat than cardio activities. This is because muscle training is much easier to do with absolutely no equipment.

There are muscle training workouts for every part of the body that do not require any equipment and can be done practically anywhere.

These muscle workouts include:

8. Ab Workouts:

Ab workouts are great for getting a tight and toned stomach that will look good in a bathing suit. This can be great while out on the boat where bathing suits are common attire.

Some ab workouts that require zero equipment include:

  • Sit-ups
  • Crunches
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Leg Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Russian Twists

These can all be done fairly easily and you should be able to find plenty of information online about proper form, ideal set and rep count, and other information that you may need.

9. Arm Workouts:

Arm workouts are great for toning your arms and building strength and muscle. These are slightly harder without equipment, but there are some things that you can do.

One of the major arm workouts available without equipment is pushups. These can be done as standard pushups, knee pushups, triceps pushups, wide pushups, or even wall pushups.

Each variation of pushups work a different part of your arm and can be a great “entire-arm” workout.

Arm workouts and other activities that strengthen your arms can also help you swim better and faster. This can be good if your chosen cardio is swimming, or if you are just interested in improving your swimming.

10. Leg Workouts:

Leg workouts are also important when you are trying to stay fit, healthy and toned. Commonly, people do not work out their legs as much as they should and instead focus on the other areas of the body.

Leg workouts do more than just building strength, they also can help your cardio. Strong and powerful legs can make biking, running, and other cardio activities easier.

They can also help increase your speed and endurance as a runner because stronger legs are less likely to give out during a long run.

Possible leg workouts can include:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Wall Sits

Equipment Available:

11. You can also buy hand weights to increase the intensity of your workouts and incorporate weight training.

These are small and very easy to store. Generally, you will only need one or two different weights for a variety of your workouts.

12. Yoga:

Yoga is a great way to work out your full body and can be done anywhere there is room. If you are an avid practicer of yoga you might wonder if yoga can be done on a rocking boat.

There is actually a new yoga trend where you practice balancing poses on a thick floatation device in a pool.

If this is possible, it is completely possible to practice yoga on a boat of any size.

Yoga is a great way to strengthen and tone your entire body.

If you are familiar with yoga, you can run through your favorite poses. If not, there are many online videos, DVDs, or even books that can assist with your practice.

You do not need to be in a yoga class to enjoy the mental, fitness, and health benefits of yoga.

Working Out While NOT On The Boat

Working out onboard is not your only option. If you have a smaller boat or need more than your onboard equipment can offer you, you can always go to shore for your workouts.

While this takes more time and requires you leave your vessel, this can be a great addition to your onboard workout that will keep you feeling normal.

This can be accomplished easier if you have a dinghy to take you back and forth to shore. This can eliminate the need to haul up your anchor and dock your larger vessel.

Just because a dinghy is easier, does not mean it cannot become inconvenient and frustrating at times.

This is why you should also have options to work out right on your vessel.

13. Running:

If you are a runner and it is important for you to continue to run as a workout, you can always go to shore and continue to run.

If you are training for a race, or you want to become a stronger runner, the only real way to do that is to continue to run.

Other cardio or endurance exercises can help your endurance, but the specific muscle development needed for running should be achieved by running.

14. Marina Gyms:

If you are traveling and plan to hook up in a marina, you might be able to find one that features a gym. This would be an excellent way to stay fit and have all the proper equipment at your disposal.

If having a gym is very important to you, you will want to look for marinas that offer this feature.

This can be especially important for people who live aboard their boat.

When docked at a marina, it is much easier to hop off and head to the gym then it would be if you were anchored out at sea.

That would require a dingy to take you to shore every time you needed to go. While this is not impossible it can become annoying to deal with.

Why Exercise is Important When Boating

You might not think that you need to exercise while on your boating adventure, but this is likely, not true.

Many people who take long seaward adventures notice weight gain, muscle loss, and decreased endurance.

If you only plan to be out at sea for a week or less, this is likely not going to be an issue, but any longer and you will be able to see a change starting to take place.

Exercise is important for:

  • heart health,
  • lung health,
  • decreasing the risk of cancer,
  • lowering cholesterol,
  • lowering blood pressure
  • managing weight
  • increasing strength
  • improving mood
  • improving sleep
  • assisting with relaxation
  • and overall fitness

Health on a Boat:

If you are not a person who works out consistently while on land, you might be tempted to continue that lifestyle while at sea.

This is a mistake.

Being on a boat generally means you walk less and for shorter distances than you might while living on land. This is due to being in a smaller space, not having a yard, and not being able to just walk out the door and go down the street.

You are also likely not encountering any stairs or increasingly fewer stairs than you might be used to on land.

It is for this reason that you need to pay more attention to your health and fitness while onboard a watercraft than you might while living your life on land.

With a decrease in opportunity for activity, you will likely be moving less than you ever were before.

This can also be combined with a changed diet and can really affect your overall health, likely in a negative way.

What Else Should I Know?

Now that you have decided to make the commitment to fitness, even while out at sea, you will want to make sure you remember the following:

  • Try to get 30 minutes of activity a day
  • Doing any activity is better than doing nothing, so it’s ok to start small
  • Make sure you get some intense activity at least a couple times per week
  • Make sure you do strengthening at least twice per week

15. It can also help to have an accountability partner to make sure you get your activity complete for the day.

Having someone dedicated to working out with you can make a huge difference and can make it harder to shirk off your workout for the day.

16. Try to schedule your workout for the same time every day.

Getting your workout into a set schedule can make a major difference when it comes to actually complete your workout. If you are a morning person, you could make sure to set aside the designated time right when you wake up.

You could also schedule it right before bed. This will also help keep you tired and assist with your sleep.

17. Make sure you mix it up.

There is nothing worse than a workout that is getting stale. As an avid exerciser myself, I can tell you firsthand how hard it is to get into a workout that you find boring.

Most people who work out regularly will tell you that they have to change their workout frequently so that it stays fresh and entertaining.

Finding motivation to get up and do it is hard enough, it’s even harder if it is boring or repetitive.

18. Keep at it!

One of the most important things is to keep at it. Teaching yourself a habit is very hard, and there will be some days that you miss and some days that you just get discouraged.

It is important to fight through this.

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is taking a day missed and turning it into an excuse to give up.

Don’t count a missed day as a failure. Look at it as a rest day, and then get up the next day and work hard at your routine all over again!