Today we’re looking at kitesurfing fitness, and the simple steps you can take to ensure your physically prepared to give it your best shot once you arrive on your course. By the end of this lesson you will (hopefully) realise that you don’t need to be an Olympian Athlete to learn to kitesurf, nor do you need to be particularly strong. Any one…no matter their personal level of fitness can give it a go.
Kitesurfing looks like a sport that requires an awful lot of upper body strength, great levels of fitness and flexiblity to master. To let you in on a little secret (and one I never tell girls I’m chatting to in a bar!) you don’t. One of the true beauties of kitesurfing is that it can be enjoyed at a variety of different levels by almost everyone on the planet.
I’ve seen 90 year olds kiting with their 9 year old grandsons or daughters, overweight men kiting with their Kate Moss thin girlfriends (money talks I suppose!) and all sorts of characters from all walks of life enjoying the exhilaration of being at one with the wind and the water.
At its most basic level, simply cruising up and down will require very little in the way of Olympian fitness but still exposes you to that incredible feeling of being at one with the elements in a way few sports can.
If you want to push it then disciplines like freestyle and wave riding will work every muscle in your body, and, as the saying goes, plenty you didn’t know you had. As for the strength required to kitesurf, you are attached to the kite through your harness and as a result the weight is taken through your entire body and the pull on your arms is negligible.
There is a trend amongst kite manufacturers to make the ‘bar pressure’ (the pull you feel on you arms) as light as possible to a point where it is often possible to control the kite with 1 finger from each hand. Kitesurfing equipment these days is super safe and most kites can be 100% de-powered by simply letting go of the bar.
Truth is you can push kitesurfing as much as you want, sure, if you want to be doing the latest crazy tricks and catching waves in Maui then you’ll need a level of dedication and a level of fitness to match. However for many the true thrill comes from being out on the water, in the elements, cruising up and down with your mates and kitesurfing at this level can be enjoyed by all.
So now we’ve established that you are fit enough to kitesurf, what specific exercises can you do to ensure that you don’t pull or strain something during your kitesurfing lessons that will keep you off the water and bring your progress to a crashing halt?
The main 3 areas you’ll want to focus on are:
- Upper Body: The main muscle group you need to work on here are the deltoids (shoulder muscles). These are responsible for a lot of the movements and are also stabilising muscles. You’ll also need to work on your upper back muscles and the ones that make up the chest.
- Core Stability: because the sport is largely about moving your body around under dynamic force conditions, you body should have well developed core stabilizing muscles. One very good way to improve your overall core strength abilities is to use a core-stability ball or take up Pilates. You may also have to add extra weights to your core stability exercises in order to truly match the kind of forces you will face when in the water. Often the kite will want to pull you in a direction you do not want to go so it will be your developed core strength that will let you remain planted.
- Aerobic Fitness: Although you might not associate the sport with aerobic fitness, your lungs and heart will need to be in shape. Due to the fact that various muscles will be working hard, they will be demanding ever increasing volumes of oxygen and they will be churning out more and more CO2 and lactic acid. Without strong lung and heart function to get the oxygen around the body and take way the bi-products from the system, fatigue can kick in quickly. Running or swimming are great ways to work on your cardiovascular system.
Hang on wait a minute I thought you just said you don’t need to be fit and here you are giving us all these exercises to do!
Well yes, I know I did say that and I stand by it, however, just like any sport, the fitter you are, the better your body will cope with the demands. Kitesurfing is very much an endurance sport with a lot of people spending hours on the water at a time so rather than going out and picking up the biggest weights you can I would suggest doing higher reps at a lower weight to build up your muscle stamina.
Some interval training (where you work the body hard for a period of time and then slow down for an equal period of time) would also be wise so you can cope in those moments where you need to suddenly push it.
While your learning I would also recommend you take care of your neck, the first few days of a course will see you staring up at the kite as it sits somewhere above you, this can lead to a bit of a stiff neck, some simple neck stretches can alleviate this and ensure it never becomes a problem.
Try to incorporate a full stretching warm up and cool down as part of the course and take regular breaks to ensure you remain fit and ‘up for it’ throughout. Stretching before and after your kitesurfing session is of paramount importance. Believe me I know how easy it is to forget this when the wind’s up and you’re in a hurry, but I know plenty of people who’ve paid the price for foregoing this vital step.
The main thing to take away from this is that having a fit and healthy body before you start your training course will only help you. That said you do not need to be particularly fit to learn to kitesurf as the sport can be as demanding as you want it to be and throughout this course we encourage you to pace yourself to your individual skill and fitness level.
I have taught people who really did not classify themselves as fit, but were looking to get into kiting as an excuse to get off the sofa and do something. This is fine and no matter what your fitness level, you shouldn’t let it stop you from getting into this amazing sport, believe me once your hooked kitesurfing really doesn’t feel like exercise!
If you’re looking to get fit for your kitesurfing lessons we’ve put together a 30 day program designed to be taken before or during your kitesurfing lessons that will get you fit for your lessons so you’ll knock days of the time it takes you to learn to kitesurf and save hundreds on your lesson costs. You can check it out HERE