Erika Reineke: Tougher, stronger, funner

Published on November 27th, 2019

American Erika Reineke had a big year in 2017, collecting both College Women’s Sailor of the Year and US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year honors, but her priority now is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But while she may be one of the best in the Laser Radial, she is not one of the biggest. This fall and winter, her focus has been to maximize her 5′ 7″ frame, working to improve her fitness and mental toughness. Here she reports on the significant gains over the past two months:

After a long season of training and competition, Coach Steve Mitchell and I went over my strength and conditioning program to see where I could gain an edge by the time the 2020 World Championships started in February. We decided I didn’t need to alter my current program drastically but we could make some tweaks here and there to improve my overall fitness levels.

First, we agreed I should work with professionals in the strength and conditioning department who could give me one-on-one coaching and live feedback. In the past, I had been working out by myself five days a week, but now I have trainers that push me every day to beat my best.

When I arrived at Force Physical Therapy and Bommarito Performance Systems for my first training session, to my surprise, I was given a very similar workout as the NFL players training at this facility. The first thing I did was drag and push sleds for an hour. Yes…that was my “warm-up.”

Next we moved into the weight room where other professional athletes were physically pushing their limits to excel at their respective sports. Boxers, football players, NBA, and MLB athletes were all training together. It was an incredibly surreal feeling working out in the same vicinity as the pros.

Squatting next to an athlete who is benching heavy weights and chains hanging on the barbell doesn’t make me want to give anything less than 100%. Now when the trainer encourages me to get the bar up he says, “Let’s go big dog!” I almost burst out laughing every time but it also motivates me because he treats me like he would any other pro athlete in there.

That is something sailing athletes don’t always get because many people don’t take the sport seriously. The best part is that even though we all compete in different sports and in different leagues, I feel like I am ‘at home’ because of the similar lifestyles we live and the common goal we share: giving everything we have to a dream.

Coupling strength and conditioning with on-the-water training, I have seen major improvements in my hiking stamina. In the first training block in Fort Lauderdale, Coach Steve told me we were going to be doing lots of grinding upwind. As you can imagine, I tensed up immediately.

Day one was HARD. Day two was MISERABLE. Day three was TORTURE. Honestly, after day three I don’t remember much. My mind may have intentionally blacked out the last few days of the camp. I do remember laying on the couch unable to move the day after Steve left.

Just before he flew back to Canada, he hinted we would be doing long upwinds for the next few camps. He did not go back on his word. The next camp US teammates Charlotte Rose and Paige Railey joined me in my suffering and we all improved together.

After going upwind over and over again, I realized the pain that comes with hiking never goes away. Hiking elicits the same pain no matter what my fitness levels are and whether I am hiking at 70% or 100%. So…I might as well do all the work if it doesn’t hurt more and it makes the boat go faster.

Having this mentality pushed me hike harder than ever before during the four week training camp. By the end of the camp, I didn’t feel like hiking was hard or unbearable. It just felt the same and it was FUN going fast.

There is now three months until the 2020 Worlds in Melbourne, Australia (the second US Olympic Trials event). I am heading to the Worlds venue on December 2nd for another two week training camp and I am excited to show my international training partners what I’ve got.

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