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One of my biggest fears about going cruising is staying in shape. Even heading out for an overnight on our liveaboard sailboat has me feeling antsy, wanting a full body workout plan to get me moving…anything besides pulling on lines.

I know in warmer climates I’ll be able to swim and surf, but for long passages and times when I can’t get off the boat, I better think about fitness routines I can do onboard.

That’s where Rebecca Sweeney from ZerotoCruising comes in, a former martial artist turned sailor who really knows how to figure out a full body workout plan in a small space.

She’s produced a series of YouTube videos about how to turn your sailboat into a gym, which I think are fantastic! I caught up with Rebecca to ask a few questions via email about staying fit while cruising.

What are the biggest concerns about fitness and sailing?

I think for the most part, people who are concerned about staying in shape while cruising are those who were involved in some sort of fitness regime prior to sailing. They were perhaps members of a gym or they were involved in some sort of activity that kept them active. The thought of being on a sailboat without these things available raises concerns that they will not be able to stay in shape. For some, it may be cardio but for others, it may be strength conditioning.

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I never try to preach to others to stay fit and eat healthily. I only try to inspire by doing it myself. While we were cruising, I consistently exercised on the bow of our boat each morning. Others would see me doing this and subsequently told me that I have inspired them to work out, too.

What are some examples of a full body workout plan to do on a sailboat?

Here is a video of a full body workout plan I did on the boat that can be done in a HIIT format. In other words, perform each exercise for 50 seconds (do as many reps as you can in that time without compromising form) resting 10 seconds between each exercise. Complete 3-5 sets.

As far as deciding how often and what body parts to exercise, I would suggest the following: work up to being able to exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be strenuous every day, but you should do something each day.

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It also does not to be a long workout. Even a short 10-minute workout is something. Unless you are training to be a bodybuilder, do full-body workouts. No need to separate which body parts to exercise. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should do the SAME exercises each day but some variation of it. For instance, if you do squats one day, maybe do some other leg exercise such as lunges the next.

There are literally hundreds of exercises that can be done on a boat. Squats, push-ups, lunges, chin-ups, planks are just a few examples of exercises that can be done that require little space and no equipment.

What pieces of equipment do you recommend for a full body workout program?

If I were to recommend one piece of equipment to invest in, I would have to say a suspension trainer. I had an aeroSling Elite on our boat and it was perfect.

I now have an aeroSling lightweight XPE that I travel with on my bike. It is small, lightweight and easy to hook up almost anywhere. There are a ton of exercises that can be done with it to give you a full-body workout and it is super durable.

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What are some ways to get cardio when cruising?

Full body workout plan for a sailboat


This is really not that hard. If you are cruising from island to island, getting off the boat to go for a run or hike is easy enough to do and if you find yourself in a spot where there are cruiser activities, there is often organized sports activities that go on such as volleyball or aerobics.

Having a kayak or a paddle board is also another way to get some cardio and of course, there is swimming. A cardio workout can also be achieved even during those times when you cannot get off the boat. By doing exercises at a relatively fast tempo and shortening your rest times between exercises, you can easily get your heart rate up. I tend to do a lot of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts and they are great for keeping me in shape!

How about staying fit while on a passage?

Full body workout plan for a sailboat

Advice for those on long passages apart from going completely insane? Lol! It was not uncommon for me to be doing squats, lunges calf raises or other exercises while on watch. Push-ups and planks across the seats in the cockpit are a good challenge while underway!

Obviously hanging onto something on standing exercises especially in rougher conditions is key to avoid injury but there is a lot that one can do to keep moving while underway.

Rebecca and Mike are no longer cruising on a sailboat, after seven years aboard, they decided to sell their boat and embark on a bicycling adventure.

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They have so many good tips about fitness to share and I’m excited to try out these workouts.

How do you stay fit on a sailboat?