We all share memories of youthful athletic accomplishments and dreams of keeping the journey going whether we are a Runner, Surfer, Cyclist, Rower, or Stand up Paddler. Each spring in the Northeast we shake off the cobwebs and sometimes even a few Icicles as we start to assess our favorite equipment of choice, (i.e. bikes, paddleboards, surfboards, kayaks, etc.) and perform a self-evaluation of our physical readiness (knees, shoulders, etc.). Dealing with a Bike Tune Up or Patching a Dinged up board may be frustrating and even cost a few bucks, but truly pales in comparison to the challenges that a nagging sports injury can present.
For those that chose to hit the Gym, local Yoga Studio or worked with a Trainer over the long winter season, your personal preparations should be well underway. For others, the journey may just be starting. Not unlike most important endeavors a good plan is essential to getting in shape for your favorite spring / summer activities. For me the upcoming months in the Hamptons will offer endless Paddling from both Kayak and Paddleboard with frequent fishing and surfing sessions mixed in. That combined with longer hours at the Surf Shop will mean early mornings SUP race training and late evening surfing or kayak fishing sessions. Life is good.
So with our first race now officially less than 60 days away, “The Race for the Bays” is on for May 7th, at Havens Beach, Sag Harbor, the season is coming on fast. Mobility and flexibility are always first on the list, let’s make sure the knees and shoulders are mobile and pain free, before putting heavy loads on them. If you are an experienced athlete you know the drill and should be able to go through some fundamental movement tests checking for discomfort? You may also, try a short easy outing focusing on form and function, rather than distance or speed. If you experience any pain or discomfort, a Physical Therapist should check you out before starting a rigorous training regimen. Barring anything serious you should be able to begin the Spring Training routine. At 55 years old, my joints light up like a pinball machine during an MRI with little tears and spurs. Fortunately, today’s Physical Therapy techniques offer a comparable alternative to surgery for many physical movement challenges. Remember Surgeons make a living doing Surgery; Physical Therapists do rehabilitation work, both pre and post surgery. There is a time and place for both. Do your homework and be clear before you go down one path or the other.
Given you are not a candidate for surgery, its time to get to work. Stretch, stretch, stretch and then stretch some more. Proper stretching and conditioning in order to achieve balanced movement and flexibility is essential. This is a key step in order to achieve peak performance. During a recent visit to my PT it became clear my right quads were considerably tighter than my left quads and my left shoulder was aggravated from tendonitis. The imbalance in my flexibility and the intricate relationship between my lower body and shoulders was contributing to incorrect form and over use of my left shoulder. A few visits to a good personal trainer or physical therapist is a great way to perform an assessment and make a spring training plan.
After my recent PT visit, I am currently working on improving the flexibility of my quads and mid back, and strengthening the shoulders. While a PT regimen often feels like a part time job or a never ending journey of stretching, work outs, icing sessions and hot soaks, I still prefer it to the prospects of a scope job or going under the knife. You should always be the quarterback of your personal fitness and wellness routine.
In addition to physical preparations, it is important to continually evaluate form and technique. I found that even after many years of paddling I was overloading my shoulder and it was in a compromised position when I was at the power phase of my forward stroke. Considerations like paddle length, reach of stroke and others are being reviewed during my opening training paddles this spring. Having a good training partner or coach is always helpful, particularly when evaluating form during an on the water session and for keeping your spirits up when the going gets tough.
Well its time for another training session, and I am feeling blessed to be out on the water for another season of paddling and surfing bliss on Eastern Long Island. Please tell the Artful Dodger that I am looking for him.
Happy Paddling and Surfing,