The secret to balance for surfing: group classes

As anyone who’s attempted to balance on either a surfboard or a skateboard can attest, it’s no easy feat to achieve such an effortless looking activity. But Cat Woods has found a quick way to do it: with Fitness First group classes. 

In order to paddle out into the depths of the ocean, you’ll require excellent core and arm strength for starters. Then, to make the lightning-fast leap from lying on the board to standing requires exceptional glute, back and leg strength combined with heightened body awareness and reflexes. To maintain the standing position atop momentum-fuelled waves requires superior balance, focus, core strength and determination. While targeted gym workouts are valuable for general strength, all of the skills required to surf with skill can be mastered and practiced in a variety of Fitness First group classes. Additionally, while gym workouts often focus on isolated work, group fitness classes focus on dynamic, compound moves.

Just as you’ll have to navigate sharing the surf, the skills of sharing your workout space will prepare you for surf diplomacy. And in case you’re harbouring any doubts that group classes will prepare you for a summer of surf, Stephanie Gilmore is a pilates devotee.

CX WORX

Can’t spare a full hour but want to work on your core strength, reflexes, coordination and proprioception? CX WORX is designed to fit a full-body, core focused workout into a 30 minute window.  The core is made up of the anterior and lateral abdominal muscles, hip flexors, hip extensors, glutes and lower back. CX WORX combines rotations, prone holds, isolated leg and arm extensions to hone strength. Classes typically include the use of resistance bands and weighted plates, which allow participants to dictate the level of resistance and difficulty they experience.

BARRE

Postural muscles in the lumbar spine stabilise the vetebrae and play a key role in back extension and rotational movements. They are also key to preventing injuries and improving reaction times, so that sudden movements don’t cause jarring, strain and damage. In barre, we move in 360 degree motion while holding perfect, tall posture through the spine. Lateral, forward, backward, extension, flexion, stretch and isometric holds are the barre basics.

Barre is an exceptional workout for building strength as well as building rapid reflex skills. Being able to move from first to second, fourth to fifth position rapidly while on the balls of your feet takes skill, strength and mental focus. Holding down in plie position, hips wide and quadriceps burning for extended periods of time is also going to prepare your body for holding steady on the board. It will also prepare you for judging exactly where your feet need to be to stabilise yourself and to be able to shift body weight between front and back feet, crouching down and springing up as required to carve the waves.

BODYPUMP

In 55 minutes, you’ll work every major muscle group with high-repetition, moderate weight resistance training geared towards muscle strength and postural awareness. The goal is to push yourself in each track until you fatigue and feel you really need the break. Each track is approximately five minutes. At the end, you switch the focus. These quick transitions from upper to lower body, front to back of the body allow you to recover one area while you exhaust the next. In this sense, it’s a great cardio challenge as well as a strength building workout. There’s a reason BodyPump is the longest running weights-based gym class worldwide. It is not only an effective workout, but a fun one. The music is pumping, there’s no confusing choreography, and before you have time to wonder if you even like doing chest presses, you’re on your hands and toes doing push-ups.  To enhance the strength building effect, give yourself time to recover between classes. It’s recommended to do Pump 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days.

HOT YOGA

In the humid, sun-drenched Aussie weather, trying to surf for hours takes serious stamina. By building strength, flexibility and balance in a heated training environment, you’re preparing to withstand the real surf conditions you’ll be in. Stability, power, mobility. Each of these assets is central to the hot yoga practice as well as riding waves. The hot yoga studio is typically around 35 degrees (depending on the number of participants – more bodies, higher temperature). You’ll typically be working in a dynamic flow including the sun salutations, plank holds, one-leg balances, inversions and lunging warriors. Beyond the physical benefits, the focus on deep abdominal breathing and calming the mind, focusing the thoughts and remaining cool-headed under physical and emotional demands is what has made yoga so beloved of CEOs, bus drivers, students and elite athletes alike. This is a discipline and science that has countless benefits beyond the physical and there’s no place it’s greater to appreciate being in the present, focused, and breathing fully than when out in the full force of nature with the ocean below you and the sky above. Om, indeed.

PILATES

In pilates, the core is central to all movement and postural alignment is mastered through coordinated breathing, pelvic floor engagement, balance, stretch and stability exercises. Pilates can look deceptively simple to those who glance in from the doorway, but what pilates might lack in big, sweaty, effusive action (mostly!), it makes up for in refining mind-muscle control, ability to isolate muscle groups, appreciate the role of pelvic floor and strengthening deep core muscles which are vital for supreme balance and rotation.

Many people complain of “tight hips” as a result of both their fitness training and everyday life. Pilates teaches participants to engage the abdominals, glutes, hamstrings and thighs to do the brunt of strength and balance work so that the hips are not central to actions where they’re not supposed to be the key player. Ultimately, this leads to a much more efficient and economical use of muscles and energy. An extra hour in the surf as the sun sets? You’re geared for it.

Cat Woods.

Cat Woods is a Melbourne based barre, pilates, yoga and BodyPump instructor who sometimes manages to stand up on a surfboard. She primarily works at the Victoria Gardens, Richmond club.