IF YOU’RE A WATERSPORTS ENTHUSIAST, this is a rough time of year. The days are shorter, the heat of summer is a distant memory and you’re likely spending more time dreaming about next season than engaging with the current one. The off-season, however, offers plenty of opportunity to not only maintain your fitness but also ensure you are at the top of your game when the next season of wakeboarding, waterskiing, kneeboarding or (insert your obsession here) begins.Thomas Kohl, show skier
If you’re in the frozen north and facing months of hard water, you’ve got to be resourceful. Thomas Kohl, show skier If you’re in the frozen north and facing months of hard water, you’ve got to be resourceful. Thomas Kohl, a third-generation waterskier and 20-year veteran show skier, said his average off-season in Minnesota runs nearly nine months, from Labor Day until Memorial Day, so he works hard to stay active.
“For show skiers, you’re at your peak fitness on Labor Day,” Kohl said. “My goal is to stay as close to that as I can, so I don’t lose it. I’m not a gym person, so I stay active and competitive through intramural leagues and community sports.
“I played rugby in college,” he continued. “That actually gave me the best transition to waterski season, because it’s high impact.”
If you’re interested in maintaining peak fitness, and perhaps even upping the ante for summer 2016, Kohl has a few suggestions.
• Lean toward weight training, but don’t neglect cardio, which will help build your overall endurance level.
• Make sure you get a full-body workout, because waterskiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding will involve every muscle in your body.
• Strengthen your core and pay attention to posture — that means chest up, back straight.
• It’s winter and you have no control over the weather, so make the most of it! Take up cross-country or downhill skiing, or give snowboarding a try.
• Stay socially active with other people who are passionate about your sport, in person and through social media. Follow different people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and engage them in conversations. “It’s fun, it keeps you going and it fuels your passion,” Kohl said. “Not only can you trade training tips and information, you’ll keep your energy level and excitement high.”
Believe it or not, even enthusiasts who live where one can get out on the water year-round have an off-season. It’s shorter — some pros say November to February, while others say late October to April — but it’s still downtime. And an off-season training regimen is just as important in the Sunbelt as it is in four-season climes.
Eight-time world champion wakeboarder Raimi Merritt became one of the youngest competitors on the pro tour at age 14 in 2007. She lives and trains in Orlando, Fla., and she said her biggest goals for the off-season are to stay in shape and learn new tricks. Her tips are simple and straightforward.
• Stay in the gym during the winter, because next season will come around sooner than you think.
• Maintain healthy eating habits.
• Make plenty of time for rest. “During the season, it’s easy to get burned out and hurt, because we’re constantly riding at our best, which is tough on our bodies,” Merritt said. “Taking some time off is good for you. I write down goals, like tricks I want to learn and things I need to remember for certain tricks.”
Josh Palma, world champion wakeboarder
Fellow wakeboard pro Josh Palma, who also is based in Orlando, advised that careful training during the off-season provides an additional benefit beyond maintaining fitness and prepping for spring. It can help protect you from future injury.
“My goal is always to keep people safer, especially those who have short, three-month seasons,” Palma said. “I want to provide practical advice to help them progress a little faster.”
Watersports are high-impact, so be sure to give your body a well-deserved rest. In other words, rather than powerlifting or going to CrossFit, run a 5K or run intervals — high intensity for 20 or 30 minutes, then take a break. “That’s what our sport is, anyway,” Palma said. “It’s explosive.”
• Try some fun low-intensity activities, such as stand-up paddleboarding or biking.
• Consider working with a certified trainer, particularly one who understands the movement involved in your sport.
• Body-weight exercises such as pullups, pushups and finger crawls are excellent, because you learn to control your body weight. You’ll also become stronger without putting on a lot of extra weight, which means you won’t come down as hard.
• Teach your body to catch the impact through plyometrics, exercises that improve athletes’ ability to use their strength. For example, jump off a six- to 10-inch step block, and focus on how you decelerate and catch your weight. Don’t just land and stop; instead, engage your leg muscles so you land softly. “The off-season gives you a great opportunity to work on this in a controlled setting, instead of trying it for the first time going 22 mph behind a boat,” Palma said. “That’s huge.”
• And, finally, remember that healing is just as important as working out. Foam rollers and products such as The Stick will help stretch muscle fibers, promote healing and give your body the best chance to rebuild tissue efficiently. “I roll my calves, my quads, the arches of my feet … I even roll my back,” Palma said. “You can do it on your own, anywhere.” With a laugh, he added, “It hurts, but it hurts good!”