When I woke up this morning I was hit with a sad and scary realization: I’m not 16 anymore.
Not that I’m old by any means, but my body used to be made of rubber. This past weekend, however, made me realize that Cantina breakfast burritos and pitchers at Dublin’s have taken their toll on my physical fitness.
On Friday a northwest swell brought some fun waves to Sands and Devereux, and as surf columnist for the students of UCSB, I decided it was my solemn duty to go surfing. You know, for work. Between the long rights peeling off the point and the pod of gray whales breaching in the channel, I had such a good time I ended up staying out for four hours, about three hours longer than I had intended.
My session ended when my left calf decided it hated me and expressed this animosity in the form of a cramp that had me clinging to my board for dear life. On my swim back to shore, my calf cramped again and I had to sit on the beach doubled over for a few minutes before I could make the trek back to my truck.
On Saturday morning my calf was still sore from my surfing exploits, so what did I decide to do? Go wakeboarding. Brilliant. Needless to say, Sunday morning rolled around and the aching in my calf had spread to the rest of my body and I was gimping around the Nexus office like I had a stick up my ass. Apparently my time in the gym has not been as well-spent as I thought, so I did some research on how to best train for the rigorous demands of board sports.
Of the fitness tips for surfers I was able to find, swimming was the most commonly recommended, which makes sense because the muscles used in surfing – particularly the ones in the shoulders, upper back, chest and torso – are also used in swimming. Swimming in the ocean is especially good training because you get used to dealing with the waves, currents and rip tides.
Weight training will also improve your surfing, just not the “get huge” approach to weight training. Most websites I visited recommend using light weights to work the shoulders, rotator cuffs, upper back, lats, chest and biceps on days when you don’t surf (to avoid overworking those muscles). Three sets of 12 to 15 reps should do the trick.
One surfing-oriented exercise I was surprised to come across was yoga. Apparently the combination of stretching and muscle control improves not only strength and flexibility, but also energy, endurance, mental focus and lung capacity. Other recommendations I stumbled across were pull-ups and chin-ups to improve paddling, running on sand for low-impact cardio, kayaking and bicycling. Doing sit-ups to keep your abs in shape is also important to prevent back injuries.
The one tip that seems universal to all things related to surf fitness is to train for function rather than appearance. Most people (I have been guilty of this too) work out because they want to change the way they look. For guys this usually means bulging, Arnold-esque muscles and for girls this means squeezing into size one jeans. In reality, big muscles will only weigh you down in the water and, conversely, the lack of any muscle whatsoever practically guarantees you an ass kicking, courtesy of the Pacific. So next time you hit the gym, think of your muscles as surfing tools rather than just bait for the opposite sex.
The most weight training Daily Nexus surf columnist Kristina Ackermann gets is lifting a beer to her mouth.