Posted on July 17 2020
How true is this statement? We explore the value of fitness and activity that may contribute to your kitesurfing progression. Conversely is a discussion around kitesurfing contributing to your fitness and well-being.
A Physical Self-assessment: What can you do? What do you need to be able to do?
- Swim 25 metres.
- Hold your breath for more than 30 secs.
- Know left and right.
- Control the bar.
- Take a knock. Crash into the water .
- Good balance.
- Endure the cold.
- Control a kite.
- Twist left and right.
To learn to kitesurf most body parts need to simply be functional.
Fundamentally, you need to have a reasonably good control over your own body. Some things you will certainly adjust too.
Learning new physical skills always demands the use of different muscle groups. Once you're functional and have control of the kitesurfing elements, your progression will demand more of your body to perform the tricks and moves that make Kitesurfing what it is. Whether it's a surfboard snap or reo off the top lip, or your first backroll or front roll on a twintip. Maybe it's just a nice smooth transition. Your body will require more from you physically as you progress.
As with most sport, kitesurfing predominantly engages your 'core'. This refers to the abdominal muscle groups and then muscle groups working outward from the the core.
Your head and shoulders direct you and are required to face in the direction you are moving. The twisting action required involves your abdominal muscle group.
A mistake many people make is to think of their core as only being their abs, and because of this they train their core in many ineffective ways.
The “core” is a term used to describe just about everything on your body that isn’t your legs and arms. This means you can think of your glutes, hips, abdominal muscles, inner abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, and scapula as your core. Functional movements are highly dependent on this part of the body, and this is where your power is generated in order to carry out any movement, lack of core muscular development can result in a predisposition to injury.
Kitesurfing's biggest allure after learning to ride successfully, is jumping (boosting). Jumping and tricks that involve jumping can result in heavy impacts when not performed well. The knees, the torso (core) and ankles, absorb this impact. The impact can be reduced if the body is not just strong, but supple. Flexibility reduces impact. Even once performed well, the body is subject to increased G-Force, at times, equal to that of an aircraft fighter pilot. While most riding exerts around 3-5 G's, it's not uncommon for a rider to encounter 7-9 G crashes!
Once you develop strength and flexibility in your body you’ll be able to withstand more physical stress. Plus, you’ll rid your body of any muscle imbalances, which will reduce your chance of getting injured during physical activity. Correcting muscle imbalances requires a combination of strengthening the underactive muscles and stretching the overactive (tight) ones.
Fitness can be divided into two key areas, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic is about working out that increases your heart rate and keeps it there for an extended time. Anaerobic is about putting muscles under tension, generally to increase their strength.
In order to keep the heart rate up, when I'm away from home , I'll look at something as simple as a run or a brisk walk. Finding a hill to climb, means less distance to travel in order to raise the pulse and keep it there.
Kitesurfing can eventually become high impact so low impact aerobic fitness is ideal: An eliptical/crosstrainer may be a sensible option. This ensures movement yet keeping the impact for knees and core low.
If you were to use weights, it would be low weight, high repetitions (reps) to ensure the heart rate stays high. Cross training as an example of aerobic fitness is both functional and can be tailored to the needs of kitesurfing.
I started Les Mills Pump classes some years ago and now have the online version with gear at home. Pump classes are predominantly free weight and body weight training with low weights and high reps. A general 50 minute class will entail around 800 assorted reps). Having trained to be a Pump Instructor, I was trained in correct technique which helped significantly with understanding, posture and ensuring muscles and joints are well nurtured before, during and after a workout. Classes can be very motivating and it's great to see the range of people in a class to understand different levels of ability. This is particularly helpful when considering injury and recovery time and modifications. A good physiotherapist is also incredibly valuable post injury and can help with movement to be encouraged or restricted for a class such as Pump.
While in my younger days, I found 4-5 Pump classes a week were great, I've found 2-3 sessions with slightly lighter weights to reduce impact have been incredibly beneficial now I'm a little 'longer in the tooth'.
Swimming is another favourite past time. Good sets of varied swimming styles with kickboard sets in between have always been terrific injury recovery exercises. I often did several laps underwater, training myself to hold my breath longer. This was birthed from my surfing days, but I've found the skills have enabled be to remain calm in heavy surf or during a kitemare in the water.
This can include yoga/body balance work that puts muscles under tension for extended periods. Body Balance offers both flexibility training (See below) as well as anaerobic exercise. For any serious muscle development, weight training with free weights or machines with heavy weight and low reps is key. Leg press machines emulate legs under pressure similar to that of riding and carving turns. They also provide tension during extension and flexion, again, emulating the tension that your legs undergo during riding.
Through my early 30's I used the recommended dose of creatine for muscle building and training. I also used a small number of protein pills in addition to my standard meat intake. The creatine reduces lactic acid and allows for a prolonged weight training session. Beware, creatine overdoses can cause liver damage. As usual, correct doses are important should you choose ANY form of supplement. Consultation with a doctor or pharmacist is highly recommended before undertaking such ventures. My late wife was a pharmacist and clearly outlined the benefits and consequences of applying supplements.
The biggest challenge was removing the supplements once I had reach a strength and body shape goal. The 'boost' that the supplements provided was noticeable when I stopped using them.
This is a field I have probably encountered the most myth and controversy around.
- Stretching should be done BEFORE starting any exercise.
- Stretching should done after some warm up movement.
- Stretching should be completed at the end of every workout.
So which one is it? Is it a combination of all or some of these ideas?
I started the road to Yoga a few years back now, after it seemed to be the dominant activity that involved extensive stretching of muscles as well as body well-being.
While Bikram Yoga is widely frowned upon now, it introduced a large community to the benefits of Yoga and body well-being. A small yet important issue with stretching and 'yoga' is it's image which tends to be more 'effeminate' rather that the 'macho' image often attached to kitesurfing and related sports. Add to this kitesurfing (limited wind time) mentality that tends to result in kitesurfers rushing out onto the water and stretching often being omitted from the pre-kitesurfing set up regime. Stretching should be considered as important as clipping on your safety leash to both your harness and kite safety line.
'Body balance' offers a less threatening approach to the importance of stretching muscles and tendons. It follows a formula of stretch and strengthening without the use of external products.
Light muscle stretching is important as a precursor to physical activity. Body Balance offers a range of small movements that can be used pre-kitesurfing. At least, the core (including shoulders) and legs are essential warm up areas before hitting the water. Quadriceps, hamstrings, 'glutes' and calf muscles are key muscle groups that require small stretches, especially as you grow older.
It's important to recognise time as a factor because of the repetition and stress under which muscles, tendons, cartilage and bone are placed under when participating in a dynamic sport such as kitesurfing.
Repetitive strain injuries are the first signs of 'wear and tear'. What's interesting are the common processes for healing and recovery. In severe cases, surgery may be the only answer, however, more often than not the alternative processes used can not only offer longevity of use but potentially prevent injury altogether.
I use Body Balance classes as little as once a month but 2-3 times a week if I'm in a good routine. I certainly do small stretches that I have always used pre-physical activity.
Good practice around home can ensure that kitesurfing serves it's purpose. Hopefully, that purpose being a release or, all-encompassing lifestyle that activates mind, body and soul.
Those moments out on the water where everything 'clicks' is an excellent process in which the endorphins flow and there is true reward in your actions. The enjoyment/release of being separated from the stress of life, the elements of salt or fresh water that seems to 'replenish' the soul should never be taken for granted.
Keeping your gear well maintained and organised will ensure more euphoric sessions! Adversely, poorly maintained equipment or forgetting a vital piece of equipment can certainly reduce and otherwise awesome session to a mediocre day.
Applying this 'maintenance theory' to your body as well can ensure positive well-being and an proactive approach ensuring longevity.
Being informed about latest equipment or positive practice can further enhance a positive session on the water. Reading magazine articles, video clips, chatting can contribute to vision, goals and progression on the water.
Finally on the subject of kitesurfing well-being is time. Allocate time to all of the fields above. Rushing in where even angels fear to tread can have disastrous consequences. As a surfer I spent time sitting in the car watching surf, seeing where and how surf consistently broke. Looking for rips and visualising how to use the conditions. Taking the time to watch sets roll in, helped make important decisions pre-surf and also helped mind, body and soul, to let go of whatever the past events of the day/night had presented. Have you ever been to your local spot(s) without the wind? They're often incredible places even without the wind, that offer other moments of bliss and peace.
Is there a place for meditation? Absolutely. Taking the time to sit and relax and contemplate can be hugely beneficial. The barrage of information these days can be formidable. Taking the time for incubation: allowing you to visualise or consider the information that you have taken in offers the opportunity to respond to situations you will encounter in the future rather than react. Responding being a considered and informed action to an event rather than a reaction, being an unconsidered, panic action to an event.
Meditation helps me to practice a teaching I have shared with my sons from very early on: Remain calm at all times. Panic tends to lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions, lead to poor results and consequences.
Respond vs React.
Responding to a challenge in this context, refers to a considered and measured approach to a find or provide solution. Reacting is an approach that has no time for consideration or measurement. Reactions can often result in a negative outcome. A well practiced response can eventually become a positive reaction rather than a negative outcome. Positive well-being helps to develop positive responses.
For an introduction to meditation try:
The first thing to clarify: What we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.
- Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
- Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
- Follow your breath for two minutes. Take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, elongating the out-breath as your belly contracts.
Welcome back. What happened? How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did you notice how busy your mind was even without consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to reading this? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there, like: “Why DOES my boss want to meet with me tomorrow?” “I should have gone to the gym yesterday.” “I’ve got to pay some bills” or (the classic) “I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”
We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.
If you experienced these sorts of distractions (and we all do), you’ve made an important discovery: simply put, that’s the opposite of mindfulness. It’s when we live in our heads, on automatic pilot, letting our thoughts go here and there, exploring, say, the future or the past, and essentially, not being present in the moment. But that’s where most of us live most of the time—and pretty uncomfortably, if we’re being honest, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We “practice” mindfulness so we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on. In a nutshell, meditation helps us have a much healthier relationship with ourselves (and, by extension, with others).
Kitesurfing contributing to your fitness:
Kitesurfing, offers an extensive range of movement that can contribute to your fitness but like any fitness regime, kitesurfing demands discipline and commitment if you're looking for a result.
Most movement in kitesurfing is twisting and turning with some leg and arm pumping. Loading up muscles and releasing the tension or holding them in positions for periods of time. Legs are employed consistently throughout kiting. They direct the board and load up energy for either releasing into the air or direction and acting as 'shock absorbers' over 'lumpy' water.
While arms are at work and can be used extensively for unhooked various tricks, fingertips are all that is required initially. This leaves the core.
The core is imperative for twisting, an element used considerably in the context of directing the board, storing energy in the board (pre-loading) and for crunching, during a jump.
The fresh, salty air and the salt or fresh water offer a refreshing escape from any workplace that cannot be denied.
In conclusion, staying fit is more than just a run around the block these days. It is a balance of mind, body and soul. While we haven't even focused on nutrition, it is another important factor in a complex equation for another time.
For now it is clear that core body exercises contribute extensively to enjoyment and progression of kitesurfing. Regular exercise and stretching will ensure your body functions in the ways that you would like it too, thus enabling full participation. Aerobic as well as anaerobic fitness offer a balance of endurance and strength for our dynamic sport/activity. The more oxygen in your body, the better, brain and body function. Stretching also enables our bodies to function with less impact and hopefully prolong longevity with reduced or no injury time. Finally, your personal well-being is essential to positive and responsive outcomes, especially when things turn to custard. Being able to remain while having a body that that can respond to issues you encounter may very well ensure long-lasting participation in the world of kitesurfing. Go to it!