Fit for Windsurfing #1 – Physical abilities

Fit for Windsurfing #1 – Physical abilities

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Training1It’s cold outside, the days are shorter and the sessions on the water are few and far between for most of us. Besides the fact that sessions are not as frequent as they are during summer, they are also shorter in length due to the fact that the temperature is lower; few people can stay wet for more than a couple of hours or have three sessions in a day. The end result is that it’s hard to maintain your windsurfing fitness simply by windsurfing. These past few weeks I have received several requests to write a blogpost about how to keep windsurfing fit during winter. The thing is, there really is no way I could ever put an answer to this in a blogpost.

In the course of earning my diploma in personal training, one of the certifications I had to complete was that of sports conditioning. For those of you who aren’t familiar with coaching, a strength and conditioning coach is a fitness and physical performance professional who uses exercise prescription to specifically improve the performance of an individual in a certain sport. The sport I chose to work on is -as you might have guessed- windsurfing. What I did, among others, for this certification, was interview several PWA athletes who are taking their training seriously and employing personal trainers to optimise their preparation and maximise their performance on the water both during the off season and during the competition period. If you want to stay in the top of your game, you need to work on your overall fitness, work on your weaknesses and compensate for the days when you can’t go out on the water, right?

Frame-13-09-2016-04-59-31What can the average windsurfer do outside of the water to improve their sailing?

One thing I must stress out at this point is that there is no conditioning programme that can suit everyone practicing windsurfing (or any sport, for that matter). “Why”, I hear you wonder?
-not everyone has participated in the sport of windsurfing for the same amount of time
-no two people practicing windsurfing may have the same background in sports or the same level of fitness
-no two people may face the same obstacles and challenges within the sport (e.g. range of motion challenges, balance challenges, coordination challenges, cardiovascular fitness weaknesses, core and/or pelvic stability weaknesses, muscle imbalances and so on)
-no two people may have the same goals, same learning environment, sail in the same conditions, practice the same discipline or have the same move(s) they want to learn or perfect
-no two people may be equally prone to injuries or have to manage the same past injuries

DSC_7605With the above in mind and considering the fact that I can’t write a different answer for every person who asked me what they need to do in the gym, what I can do is give you some general recommendations. I am assuming that:
#1 reason to train outside the water during the off-season (i.e. winter time) is to maintain or increase your overall fitness so as to be able to maximise your effectiveness/performance on the water and ultimately maintain/improve your skills
#2 reason/goal to train outside the water during winter time is to be able to avoid injuries

The main physical requirements for windsurfing, as they relate to the different aspects of fitness, are: cardiovascular fitness, motor skills, flexibility, muscular endurance and muscular strength.

Now, if I were your coach, the first thing I would do before designing your programme is an assessment and goal setting. Then, based on your goals and individual circumstances I would have to compare the hierarchy of physical requirements for your performance to your current level for each one of them, see if your hierarchy of abilities is in the same order as the requirements for your performance and prioritise what we need to work on, starting from the element that will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals.

For example, even though strength is important for a windsurfer, it won’t help you learn the carve jibe if you don’t have the necessary motor skills to learn it. Likewise, although cardiovascular fitness is important for you to be able to stay out in the water for longer, it won’t help you learn the waterstart if you don’t supplement the learning process with other things like simulating the move on land, visualising it and analysing it over and over again until you can actually see yourself doing it. Equally, if you know you are severely lacking range of motion in certain joints, you should make regaining full ROM a priority #1, as winter makes the body more prone to injuries. You get the idea.

Frame-14-09-2016-10-39-27In order to improve your skills in windsurfing, you need to windsurf, so try to get in the water as much as possible. Regarding exercise on land, start by putting in 3 hours a week of movement; this alone would make for a great start. Although you can’t train all the skills for completing a gybe, waterstart, tack, forward loop, waveriding or whatever it is you want to learn in the gym, what you can do is work on all aspects of motor skills (coordination, reaction time, agility, balance and speed) so that when you are in the water, you will be up for the challenge. Motor skills can and should be trained with several exercises on land, I’ll talk about some of them in one of my later posts.

In the meantime, considering your goals, have a look at the physical requirements and see what you think your priorities look like. I’ll be preparing some videos in the gym, so stay tuned.

And remember; keep your motivation up and stay strong! Evi xx