If you’re planning a surf trip, you’ll need to be at a half decent level of fitness if you’re going to make the most of it. Surfing is a fairly strenuous endurance activity, particularly if you’re aiming at being in the water for more than two hours a day. For week long trips or more, you’ll need to do some fitness work unless you’re already in good shape.
The alternative is getting on your board, getting knackered after about an hour, then getting cramp and pretty severe muscle stiffness for a couple of days. The older and less fit you are, the more difficult it will be to get back on the board and enjoy the whole reason for going.
General Preparation – 2 Weeks before Holiday
If you haven’t broken a sweat through exercise for a month or more, then about two weeks with three general fitness sessions of 30-45 minute sessions per week should be enough to get you ready. It’ll give enough time for your body to adapt to strenuous activity.
It’s important that you don’t go hell for leather in the first few sessions. If you haven’t been running for a while, setting yourself 5km+ on a treadmill will very likely hurt; much like if you jump on a bench press and attempt to lift your heaviest weight. Take it easy – over exertion will likely leave you stiff for a prolonged amount of time. Worse still, it gives you a higher chance of injury.
You’ll probably notice after the first couple of sessions your body is quite stiff and even raw. This is normally just a lactic acid build up. Once the first wave of stiffness has rescinded, you won’t feel it again unless you push yourself too hard.
Specific Exercises for Surfing
Your sessions don’t have to be particularly complicated, and you can certainly prepare without the need for any gym equipment. The exercises below should easily suffice:
Running, Swimming or Cycling
Any exercise that can drive aerobic fitness will be good for surfing. This commonly means low to medium intensity exercise for 20 minutes or more. You can really pick between running, swimming or cycling.
Of course, swimming brings other benefits than simply aerobic exercise. Front crawl is probably the best all round stroke for helping your shoulders and arms adapt for a few days surfing.
Possibly the most straightforward exercise you can do (no gym equipment required), but highly relevant for surfing. After all, when you catch a wave you’ll need to basically do a press movement and turn.
If you do a set to failure one evening before bed two weeks before your trip, then aim to do it every night – with a small improvement each time – you’ll have the right amount of conditioning for you upper body for the holiday.
It’s not necessary to start body building, but if you want to gain some core strength, then a few kettle bells are probably the best weights you can do. The problem with most barbell weight exercises is that they usually only exercise a specific muscle group.
Because of the wide range of movements associated with kettle bell exercises, they can be more effective in getting your body ready for more strenuous activity. They’re also good in finding weak spots and exercising them. Even if you don’t have the weights to do the exercises – just mimic the movements without the weights.
Riding a wave is almost all about balance, so while you’ll want to get your fitness levels up to paddle out and catch waves, improving your balance is important if you want to be standing every time.
Simple balance exercises include walking heel to toe, standing on one leg or doing step ups. You could take this further by getting a flat surface board and Pilate’s roller, then maintaining your balance on that.
If you have a Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit or Microsoft Kinect with XBOX Fitness, then both of these have plenty of balance exercises which are great for surfing.