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Autumn swell is just round the corner!
Swimming is the most ‘like surfing’ exercise around, and is a safe bet for getting you ready for that first Spring session. Unfortunately a few lengths of breast-stroke once a week while you shoot the breeze with your girlfriends won’t really cut it: you need to be swimming regularly and have a decent regime…
Click to view full imageThe Theory
If you’re doing it right, then the upper body movements and fitness demands that swimming place on the body are similar to surfing. Paddling requires the shoulders, back and triceps to work together and power you along – this is also the case for front crawl.

Swimming also places similar aerobic demands on the body to surfing. The steady metronomic nature of front crawl is great cardiovascular exercise, and will help you with your paddle out and with paddling around on the hunt for your next wave. It’ll also help to build your lung capacity and prepare you for the less fun aspects of surfing: like wipe-outs and hold downs!

As with paddling, your swimming speed is largely governed by good technique, rather than strength. Think about having a lesson or putting in a call to that water-polo playing friend to get some tips and ensure that your technique is right: more dolphin than wave-machine…

The Regime
If possible, you need to get to the pool 2-3 times a week (check out the cost of a monthly membership). If you already have a solid front crawl, then you’ll notice the difference within a few sessions. If your crawl is weak, then mix it up with some breaststroke, and build up slowly (even just half a length at first is fine!).

Aim to have sessions of between 40-60 minutes and, although just swimming up and down is fine at first, you need to start mixing it up for maximum benefit – when is a surf session ‘steady’? You paddle up and down the line-up much slower than you do when you’re going for a wave for example…

The Program
Warm Up: 6-8 minutes of low to mid range aerobic swimming. Try swimming 16 length of front crawl at a steady pace with 10 seconds rest after each length. Your breathing should be steady (this is usually about 60-75% of your max heart rate). If 16 lengths is too much then do less, or throw in a couple of lengths of breast stroke.

Main exercise: 30-45 minutes. Pick up the pace. You should take your aerobic fitness training up to high end aerobic levels, this is about 85% of your max heart rate (your max heart rate is 220 minus your age), and during this you should be breathing very heavily. Above 85% your maximum heart rate your exercise is known as “anaerobic”. Exercising at around this level will take your surfing paddle power up a few notches guaranteed. A basic set of high end aerobic swimming would be 6 x100m (4 lengths) of front crawl with a rest interval of 30 seconds between sets. Again, if you’re starting from scratch, then build up to this gradually: but do push yourself.

Finish Off: 5-10 minutes. Unfortunately that annoying rip never eases up when you need it to, and surfing often pushes you beyond your normal limits, so you need to be prepared for when you need that extra bit of power… Sprint training will push you to the edge and get you ready for when you need energy the most. Swim 8 x 25m of front crawl at 100% effort. This should get your heart right up towards 95% and leave you ready for a well earned diet Coke when you get out!

There is more info on swimming for surfing fitness in my new book, The Complete Guide to Surf Fitness.

Information kindly supplied by Lee Stanbury. Lee is a professional swimming coach and personal trainer. He's currently training top surfers including Ben Skinner and Oli Adams.

For more information check out www.fit2surf.com
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