This is my shoulder story.
As a professional athlete I had an unconventional path. At 23 years old, after having spent 5 years studying to become a computer science Engineer, I embarked on a radically different journey. I moved to Maui, Hawaii to become a professional windsurfer. I went from sitting most of the day to surfing or stand up paddling in the morning and windsurfing for hours in the afternoons.
After a year at this intense rhythm, my shoulder was on fire with pain and everyone was unanimously telling me I had ‘shoulder tendinitis’. Luckily at that time I had decided to invest in high quality fitness training classes where I discovered shoulder mobility exercises.
After 2 weeks of mobility practice, the shoulder pain had reduced and after a month it had disappeared. Turns out I did not have tendinitis, I just needed to correct my shoulder joint and keep it happy under stress.
Throughout the years I continued to develop my own routines, taking inspiration from professional trainers and athletes in a variety of sports. Nowadays I split my time between at the desk and on the water. I have identified the movements that help me and my personal training clients stay pain free while maintaining the ability to push our limits when we decide to. Some of these techniques are inspired by functional training, yoga, rotator cuff rehabilitation, surf training, rock climbing stretches and even Gyrotonic.
Conditioning specifically for windsurfing
The best way to condition your body for the sport of windsurfing really depends on your goals, your current level of fitness and your discipline. A slalomer has different goals and priorities than a wavesailer or a freestyler. But overall there are 3 key pillars that we should keep in mind for conditioning our bodies for windsurfing:
1. Cardiovascular training. Fast walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, dancing… whatever it is, make sure to incorporate interval training in your cardio session instead of keeping the same pace all the time. In the real world we swim after our equipment when it gets pushed by waves or we pump to catch a wave or to come out of a jibe. For our heart it’s the equivalent of doing little sprints throughout the session. Cardio interval training will not only increase the ability to pump hard and catch that wave but once you're on it you’ll have the juice to perform and take full advantage of the ride instead of recovering from the pumping.
2. Strength training, in a broad sense. To me that encompasses:
a. balance, agility and proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body) which you can be practiced by creating instability in workouts with tools such as a bosu or an indo board, incorporating obstacles such as hurdles and adding a stimulus like someone throwing you a ball.
b. strength, muscle endurance and power which are achieved by playing with variables of a resistance workout such as load, number of repetitions, order of the exercises and rest. I can’t give a complete program here (I actually plan on creating an online one next year…) but I will emphasize the importance of working on these 3 modalities. Whichever part of the body you’re training, you want strength to accomplish the movements of windsurfing, muscle endurance to last through long and intense sessions and (depending on your level and goals) power to jump, smack the lip of the wave or do freestyle tricks.
3. Mobility/Injury prevention. This is the often neglected portion of conditioning. Cardio and strength turn us into super heroes... for a little bit. We windsurf windsurf windsurf, whether it is at our local spot or on a well-deserved vacation and then our body gets hurt. We were not designed to pull on a boom for hours on end, to hold our pelvis tilted, to keep our feet in foot straps and our toes up… all this is unnatural for the human body and when we do it extensively our joints become irritated. Those joints in turn exacerbate the postural issues of being hunched over a computer. Mobility exercises are not only key to help counter the effect of that overuse but they will enhance gains in all other aspects of training.
Mobility is vital
Mobility training aims to increase the range of motion of your joints through dynamic stretching techniques. Where flexibility only focuses on increasing amplitude, mobility training allows you to control your movements throughout that gained amplitude, making you able to precisely produce and absorb force in all parts of the range of motion.
Mobility training also corrects muscle imbalances, decreases muscle soreness, relieves joint stress, improves muscle extensibility and maintains the functional length of all muscles. These factors increase neuromuscular efficiency and enhance overall function.
Designed specifically for windsurfers and wing foilers, Solid Shoulders is a unique upper body mobility program built on 8 years of experience as a professional ocean athlete and certified fitness trainer.
It is comprised of:
3 workout videos
1 foam rolling video
1 guided hypnosis for mindset training
The program can be downloaded for just $35 (no subscription required) at https://www.nc6training.com/programs
This is a great way to stay in shape and prepare for your next windsurfing vacation or clinic! You too can have healthy and strong shoulders without having to go through expensive and complicated procedures.
Based on Maui, Hawaii, Sarah is a 3x overall winner of the International Windsurfing Tour, 2x Winner of windsurfing's most prestigious contest the Aloha Classic, and recognized worldwide as one of the top big wave riders in the history of the sport. Her accomplishments have earned her the attention of a following who not only supports her athletic conquests but also her advocacy of eco-friendly and gender-balanced policies, projects, and products worldwide.
Sarah constantly pursues mental and physical training techniques to fully prepare herself for any situation big waves or life may throw at her. After receiving her personal training certification, she has helped the world’s best windsurfers with workout programs to keep them on the water longer, performing at their best, and feeling great. Sarah has expanded her training to virtual fitness classes to stimulate the body and mind through a long day on the grind.
Watch Sarah's athlete reel