Every year as the winter months melt away, riders of all ages and skill levels come to me for coaching (freedomwakepark.com). Some of them claim to have worked out so hard during the winter that they don’t think they’ll be sore after their session. I always chuckle to myself — sometimes out loud — because they will be sore!
Waterskiing, wakeboarding and even wakesurfing are sports like no other. They keep the human body under constant tension. I have never come back after an extended break without soreness. However, I’ve learned there are ways to keep key muscle groups strong, so that even if I’m sore at the beginning, I am not weak. The biggest areas of focus should be shoulders, core and legs.
Almost everything we do behind the boat requires the use of our entire body, so some of the exercises I recommend are multifunctional. Others will focus on muscle groups that are key for injury prevention but tend to get neglected. Most require no machines or equipment. If you have access to a stationary bike, use it for a warm-up before undertaking these five exercises.
1. Bear Crawls
Not familiar with bear crawls? They look exactly like they sound, and their benefits are multifaceted. You crawl around not only on your feet but also your hands. This exercise warms up the shoulders, hips, and knees and requires coordination and some core strength. The idea is to keep your back as flat (horizontal) as possible, which means your knees will stay bent most of the time. As you move forward, try to move one hand and the opposite foot at the same time: step forward with your left leg and move forward with your right arm. At the beginning, do this for about 15 yards. As you get more comfortable, slowly increase the distance to 50 yards. You can replicate this with a lateral (sideways) or even backward bear crawl.
Watersports athletes tend to neglect their hamstrings, which are important to prevent knee injuries. Nordics require three accessories: something padded to kneel on, a friend or a strap to hold your ankles down, and something about 12 to 24 inches off the ground to lean toward. Start in a tall kneeling position. The movement is a forward descent that hinges from your knees. The idea is for your body to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders the whole time, using only your hamstrings to control the movement forward/down and back up. Catch yourself with your hands at the bottom of the hinge. Most people tend to bend at the waist, but activate your glute muscles to combat that tendency.
Just to make sure you don’t feel uneven after that hamstring work, work the front of your legs too. Pulses will light up your quads, hip flexors and abs. Start in a seated position on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Hinge forward slightly at the waist and place your hands on the ground somewhere around the outside of your knees. Then lift your straight legs up off the ground by tightening your quads and abs. These are the pulses. It helps if you point your toes. Try to do 20 pulses. Increase reps as you feel more comfortable.
4. Linear and Lateral Bounds
The desired outcomes of linear and lateral bounds are balance, single-leg acceleration and deceleration, and ankle, knee, hip and core stabilization. Basically, these two are the same exercise but performed in different directions. For linear bounds, start balanced on one leg and then leap forward, landing on the opposite leg. Maintain your balance for a count of three and then repeat with a leap forward to the other leg. Do sets of eight for each leg. The lateral bounds, as you may have guessed, go side to side instead of forward. The key is stability and balance. Once you are comfortable with the exercise, change things up by focusing on either height or distance with the bounds.
5. Farmer Carries
When people first get back on the water after a long hiatus, their first complaint is usually about tired hands and weak arms. I typically say you don’t need a lot of arm strength to be towed behind a boat, but if your shoulders aren’t strong you rely on biceps and forearms. Farmer carries help not only with shoulder strength and stability but also with grip strength. To begin, pick up two dumbbells you are capable of carrying but that will quickly feel heavy. If you don’t have dumbbells, carry full gas cans or something similar. Stand tall and then walk forward, carrying the weights at your side. Focus on keeping your shoulders pulled back; don’t let them roll forward. Also, keep your abs tight, with your hips rolled underneath you, not arching back. The goal is 50 yards. When you can walk 50 yards with these weights, turn around and walk back. When you can do that, increase the weight up by five or 10 pounds.
No matter how hard you work this winter to stay in watersports shape, chances are high that you’ll be sore after the first run of the season (and maybe the second and the third). So what can you do to combat that soreness? An internet search reveals dozens of suggestions — eat more mushrooms, eat more cherries, take an ice bath, take a hot bath, get a hot pepper rub — but here are five that are solidly backed by the experts:
1 Alternate heat and cold
2 Get a massage
4 Stretch lightly
5 Use a foam roller