Fitness Quests
Get Set for Summer Sports
By John Doty
Jun 1, 2003 - 12:27:00 AM

Surf's up! Let's go rock climbing! Face it, although the warm months have come long before the "official" summer season, with the advent of Memorial Day, summer is here. We emerge from our gym enclaves, our treadmills and exercise videos to the real world of California summer sports. When you think about it, the gym really exists for those who live in the cold for four seasons in the other 49 states. Look guys, we have ideal weather year round. But for you neophytes, let's just imagine that the snow has melted off the Pacific.

Thinking about surfing? Kayaking? Boogie boarding? Or just plain old body surfing? How about rock climbing or hiking?

Photo by Brittany Crouse
Let me address the water sports first. I did some research on the topic of "dryland training". I do fool around with surfing and am an avid kayaker. I have almost killed myself on the boogie board as well as body surfing. I have tried to envision what a land based preparation work-out for those sports would entail. Initially, I thought about the movements necessary to execute a good surf move. Upper body strength, balance and core training. Leg strength. But, guys, can you swim in the ocean? According to Roy Ballard, of Ocean Echo Sportswear in Venice, CA, "[Before] I go to surf in Fiji or New Zealand, I swim in the ocean for at least two miles a day. Also, one must have good breath function and good leg muscles."

Well, I took that to heart and after speaking with Roy for awhile, decided that the only practical advice for those of you who want to tackle the elements of the ocean or the terrain, is to experience the environment. In other words, can you handle the environment in which you want to train? Are you afraid of the ocean? Of heights? If you're cool in a pool, are you cool in a potential shark pool? For example, I can climb a "RockWall", which keeps me safely within 4 feet of the ground, but get me higher than ten feet and I freeze. However, in the ocean, I am very comfortable.

Just as one cannot experience rugged terrain from any gym, one can't adjust to the rigors of the ocean from a swimming pool. Training for these types of activities cannot be found in any gym or manufactured environment. You have to feel the ocean, taste the salt, cut your hands on rocks and skin your knees. Yes, gyms can and do assist in building muscle and balance, but in reality, offer an artificial environment.

In further discussion with Roy, he suggested that leg strength is of paramount importance. What should have been obvious to me was the utilization of squat thrust or push-up position and stand type activity, which mimics the getting on the board. I also know that basic core work, which involves the hips, abdomen and lower back all working together helps to stabilize the body's ability to function as one unit, either in the surf or on the cliff. Another type of, what I refer to as "dryland" activity, for both water sports as well as terrain based activities is a crawling exercise, called "crab crawls". The body is stretched out, arms above the head, legs straight behind and the old ass down low. The movement is as if you were on "all fours" and crawling. The movement can be performed front, backward as well as sideways.

Rock climbing, as in ocean sports, requires good leg muscles, core stabilization as well as an appreciation for your environment or, recall, proprioception (the ability to adjust to an unstable environment). No better place for proprioception can be found than on the face of a cliff. Once again, practice and train in your environment.

Now if you aren't close to an ocean or a rugged environment, then you will have to improvise in the gym or your home. To review: basics of core stability, leg strength, proprioception, balance training, breathing technique, upper body strength and general stamina need to be present. All of the above needs to come into play, especially when tackling an unstable terrain or dark water.

Happy and safe summer!


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