As a once upon a time competitive sailor, I recently decided to get back into the sport. What led me to this decision is a story for another time. But how I’m readying myself for my renewed passion is a story made possible through the expertise of one of BC Recreation and Park’s (BCRPA) Fitness Leaders.

With a 13-year gap since I last competed, and the decision to sail a sport dinghy rather than the less strenuous keel boat of my past, I knew I needed the expertise of one of BCRPA’s esteemed Fitness Leaders in order to prepare me for the thrilling and somewhat terrifying years ahead in the wind and tide.

Living on Bowen Island, I am fortunate to have a BCRPA registered Fitness Leader nearby; Mary Letson has a beautiful studio, Positively Fit, that I’ve often thought to join when life slows down. But then life speeded up and working with a Personal Trainer became urgent. Trained in the 90s by Andre Potvin, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders and owner of Infofit, Mary is both highly experienced and my age; it is inspiring to see her lithe body do what I hope mine will be able to do by the Spring.

Mary’s first comment in our program design session was, “You already have a clear goal and an achievable timeline which is a fantastic first step – because what you are taking on is going to be challenging!” Fortunately, I am in good health and have discipline and determination on my side.

I haven’t worked with a Personal Trainer before nor ever lifted a weight, but of course through my role with BCRPA I know the value of the profession and the passion of the professionals. For this Boomer to be able to compete on the water with Millennials and Gen Zeds, I knew I needed six months of guided preparation in the gym before jumping into a sailing adventure that is prone to injury due to the high speed and athletic demands.

After Mary sat me down at a huge weight contraption in first session and explained where my lats and sternum were, I was off. She coached me on the power of staying focused on a particular exercise or movement, to try and let go of the rest of the world while exercising, saying: “your strength training not only becomes very efficient but it also provides a kind of meditation.”

In a series of core, balance, and strength exercises that progressed over the first six weeks, I felt an immediate increased proprioception of my daily movements and posture. Some of what I learned during BCRPA’s BCFit conference this year were put into action too!

My husband and I are in the adventure together, determined not to sail into the sunset now that we are in our ‘60’s, but to continue to push ourselves and expect to triumph. I know, however, that I cannot meet the physical demands of this sailboat without a Personal Trainer to get me there. And as much as I really am enjoying our thrice weekly workouts in Mary’s beautiful studio, I’m also motivated by the immediate effects of functional training; I’m already getting stronger and improving my balance.

I’m not just going to the gym, with every visit I’m getting one step closer to being able master my new boat with physical and mental confidence. I’ll be able to hike-out when the wind blows, to raise the spinnaker quickly at a mark-rounding, and to trim the jib in all conditions without injury thanks to the skills and encouragement of my Personal Trainer.

Come spring, I’ll let you know how I do in my first regatta.

About the Author:

Rebecca Tunnacliffe joined BCRPA as CEO on New Year’s Day 2016. She is motivated daily by the organization’s purpose: to enrich the lives of individuals and their communities through the power of recreation. For her, this includes enriching the lives of her staff team with whom she strives to live the values of the organization. In 2021, Rebecca’s leadership style earned her the national Charity Village ‘Most Outstanding Impact – Staff’ award.

Rebecca’s career in non-profit leadership has been driven by interests in the arts, education, and health. Prior to BCPRA, she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Physiotherapy Association of BC, and the University Women’s Club, as well as Associate Director with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Living on Bowen Island, she enjoys a daily connection with nature, as well as a cycle commute into the BCRPA office. Her creative passion is recouturing vintage clothes into her modern wardrobe.

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