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To Sit or Not to Sit?

Cruising for the fitness-minded

By Betsy Kingsley

Personal trainer Betsy Kingsley has found ways to stay fit while on the water. Here she prepares to launch her stand-up paddleboard from the stern of Whistler, a custom built Duffy 35. When not in use, the paddleboard is stored on the cabintop. All photos courtesy Betsy Kingsley

For those of us who love cruising but also need to maintain a certain level of movement and activity, there are certain dilemmas while aboard. Let’s face it folks, cruising is sedentary. Not only that, but eating and the evening cocktail hour go hand-in-hand with cruising, at least in my family. These realities have forced me to be creative about how to get the right amount of exercise while afloat.

In my daily life, I work as a personal trainer and have always been a mover. Simply put, I have to find ways to exercise no matter where I am. As a youngster in East Millinocket without access to a gym, I hiked Katahdin, biked around town, spent countless hours hitting a tennis ball against a backboard, and shot hoops at home in a makeshift basketball court in our driveway. My mom’s flower garden barely survived those years.

Growing up far from the ocean, my only early experience on a boat was when my father would pack up all the kids and hook the ski boat to the car for a day trip to Jo Mary Lake. He took great joy in hauling us around the lake on water skis, and I have good memories of these times spent as a family on the water.  

Years later, my husband-to-be, Scott, suggested we charter a sailboat for our honeymoon and cruise Penobscot Bay. Despite knowing nothing about sailing or cruising, I thought it would be a fun adventure and had faith in his ability to captain the boat, so of course, I said yes. As it turns out, it was the best honeymoon and even though we were sedentary, I was hooked.

We returned to Penobscot Bay the following year with friends in tow to charter a Bermuda 40 with five people, three guitars, and way too much food and beer. There wasn’t much room to move our bodies that trip, but the guitars got a lot of use.

Whistler In the fall of 2003 we finally launched our own boat, Whistler, a custom-built Duffy 35 finished off by Clark Island Boat Works. We have gone cruising every summer since, traveling as far east as Roque Island and as far west as Block Island.

That’s a lot of sitting. The first couple of years I figured that if I brought sneakers and exercise bands I could take a walk while in port, then get creative on board by wrapping my bands around the radar arch and doing some push ups and squats on deck. Despite the addition of limited exercise, I still returned home with a higher body weight and stiff muscles.

Since then I’ve learned how to add more activity during our cruises. Now I always bring my paddleboard, strapped to the cabintop. I paddle around islands, into coves, up rivers, and into little gunkholes. Some of my favorite paddling has been down on Cape Cod, Naushon Island (Hadley’s Harbor), Onset, and Martha’s Vineyard. Those beautiful harbors offer protection and awesome scenery, and paddleboarding is absolutely great exercise.  

Kingsley sets off on a paddling adventure. Stand-up paddleboarding is a great way to stay fit while having fun.

After a cardio workout on the water with the board, I get out plastic gliders and do 50-100 “mountain climbers” on deck—an exercise where you put your hands on the floor in a plank position, and with a glider under each foot, slide your feet back and forth. 

After working the legs, I strap my TRX Suspension trainer to the custom rod holder and work my upper body and core. This piece of equipment is so lightweight and portable, no one will even know that you smuggled it aboard. You can work legs, arms, abs, and every other part of your body. Simply put, it is the best.

The latest discovery that is now part of my daily routine is the Barre workout. Modeled after ballet, this strength-training exercise provides a way to stay active with pliés and relevés whether at anchor or under way.

Kingsley and her husband spend a couple of weeks every summer cruising the coast in their Duffy 35.

With experimentation, I found the right formula and even came back from this year’s cruising season feeling stronger and fit.

There is talk of building a bigger boat. Maybe this could even mean a real gym on board. Shhhh, don’t tell my husband. 

Betsy Kingsley is an ACE certified Personal Trainer. She lives in Cushing with husband Scott and her Chesaeake Bay Retriever, Bruschi.

Onboard exercise Tips

Although I use gliders ( and a TRX Suspension Trainer ( on board, you don’t need fancy equipment to stay fit on the boat. Here are a few exercises you could easily learn on land, then take with you when you cruise. And of course, check with your doctor before you jump in.

Wall Sits
Mountain Climbers:
with or without gliders
Pull ups: on the gunwale or from an arch
Dips: off a settee or from the gunwale


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