Ask Beth |
How to Surf Longer, Safer, Harder
MUSCLES Surf Fitness Index:
Flexibility is key in avoiding cramps. In your case, the foot being the cramper. You want to check your lower leg flexibility including your calf (gastrocnemius and soleus), your Achilles tendon, and maybe your arch. If this still doesn't help, check the flexibility in your hamstrings, hips, low back, and quads. If your posture is bad, it may effect your feet.
Do you wear good foot wear? If not, you may want to check that. If you have a high, weak arch, and pronate plus wear flip flops you could be doing yourself some harm!
Medical conditions such as diabetes can cause cramping. Cold water can cause cramping, and certain medications can, as well. So, since you said earlier that you have no conditions and are not on any meds, you can rule those out. However, cold water could be adding to your problems. I wear 5 mm booties and there are 7 mm booties out there. You may want to try them.
Lastly, strengthening your intrinsic foot muscles by doing toe curls or picking things up with your toes and squeezing them can help.
WHEW, a long-winded response. I hope this helps. Good luck and let me know what works.
I have read many articles on what to do about cramping- and other than the well-known cures I mentioned above, there are still questions as to why cramping occurs.
Try these out the suggestions above and see if any of them help. Let me know if they do or if we need to check into this a bit more carefully. (And as always, check with a medical doctor if you suspect you have any type of serious medical condition)!
Good luck and happy surfing!
The night before I didn't get enough sleep, being that I was all excited about the incoming southern hemi swell. I surfed about 1 and 1/2 hours that morningÖ and went back out for about 2 hours. I kicked out of a wave as a beginner was getting washed towards me. His board whacked me right in the knee cap, and the area went numb. I rubbed it when I got back outside and it seemed okay. But what started to happen was some pain in the groin. I caught a few more waves as the pain worsened with each wave. I took off on a wave and worked it a good ways when a guy I know takes off in front of me and surprised me. I reacted instinctively by trying to turn and slow up at the same time ...my upper body went in the right direction but my legs did not. There was this gnarly pop in my groin and I yelled out. I knew I was in trouble as my leg wanted to straighten out- and when I tried to bend, it gave me shooting pain.
I learned a few things from this incident already. If your tired, get the rest first- then surf. And before you surf- stretch properly. And finally, always remember your age. Damn, I hate getting older this is painful!!!
How long is this going to keep me out of the water, and what's the game plan for recovery, Beth?
Hey Kevin, Ouch!! Groin pulls can be oh so painful. A noticeable pop is often a good sign that you did, in fact, pull the muscle. Did you have any discoloration (black and blue) afterwards? Also, which part of your "groin" did you pull (more towards the inside or outside of your quad)?
You are definitely right that a good warm up and stretching will help prevent pulls like this from happening. But after the fact, you need to figure out whether or not you need a bit of intervention to help you get through this injury.
If you still have pain and are limping around a bit, I would suggest getting a doctor to check it out and make sure it is not too severe. A bit of massage and rehab may help expedite the healing process. Any time you aggressively pull a muscle you have depreciated the integrity of that muscle and a bit of TLC is needed. Once it starts to feel a bit better, you should start a light stretching program, get some hands on tissue work (massage) to help promote healing, and then re-educate the muscle by doing certain basic exercises on the muscle.
Hopefully everything is feeling better and all you needed was a bit of rest, ice, and stretching. It sucks when your foot is lodged on the board and the body and board have different ideas of which way to go. I have almost felt the same sensation a few times, but have somehow pulled it off and walked away unscathed!
Let me know how it is and whether or not you are able to surf. I hope you got some of that North swell and sunshine. Happy Fall!
While paddling, you tend to use mostly upper body strength and abdominal strength. This includes your upper-, mid-, and lower traps, lats, deltoids, pecs, rhomboids, scapular muscles, and a bunch of little stabilizer muscles in your upper body. Mid and low back muscles are also a part of it all not to mention your biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles (used a lot for duck diving). I am sure I have missed the name of some other muscles but I hope you get the picture. As for the abs, they are all used. Upper, middle, lower, and side-to-side, baby. You gotta have a solid core to paddle hard and stand up strong. The gluts (yeah, your ass muscles) and hamstrings are used somewhat while paddling and most of the lower extremity is used while standing. I, myself, tend to spend 95-98% of my 2-hour session here at Ocean beach paddling so my upper body gets huge whereas my legs tend to shrink in size.
SO... if your next question is how do I train all these muscles, take a look at many of my older responses to questions and you should find about 10 that answer the same thing. But, if you need some more info on top of all this, please don't hesitate to ask.
These surfers should stretch out their chest and biceps and try to strengthen their back. For example, doing some triceps pull-downs (back of arms), side raises (lateral deltoid muscles), rowing (shoulder blade muscles), and lat pull-downs (lats). Basically, what kind of surfer are you? Do you know what muscles you are using while paddling? If no, you need to learn what these muscles are and start to wake them up in the gym so that you use them while surfing.
If this doesn't come close to answering your question, let me know. Hope you had a good 4th of July!
I am 43 and I live on the Texas Gulf coast and believe it or not there is some type of surf here, just enough to keep tuned up for Central America and Mexico. I would love to attend one of your seminars but due to logistics I will be unable to attend. Do you have any suggestions on how to stretch a really bad shoulder?
The orthopedic doctor recommends joint replacement in a couple of
years, or when pain sets in. I have dropped my weight program and am
totally concentrating on cardio work to keep in shape. I would appreciate info you could give me.
Have the doctor guide you in the right direction with Physical Therapy and eventually strengthening to prevent further problems with that shoulder. Avoiding any kind of surgery is WAY CRUCIAL if possible. Once those things are addressed, and you are still in need of stretches, I would get involved with a basic Hatha type yoga class and make sure the teacher understands shoulder problems. Yoga has saved my shoulders from chronic pain because it not only stretches the actual shoulder, but all the surrounding muscles up and down my spine (and throughout my body, for that matter) that effect my shoulder area. So just performing specific shoulder stretches is not enough, you need to get the whole body involved!
Good luck and let me know the diagnosis. Hope you score some surf soon. Me,
I am off to Tavarua!
You mentioned you have a good massage therapist in SF who understands the shoulder and back tightness that surfers get. Can you let me know the name and number of that person. Also I have very tight shoulders and upper body, I am doing Astanga yoga twice a week. What stretches do you recommend for the shoulders?
Finally, I have moved down from a hybrid (7' 6") to a short board (6' 8"). I used to catch everything, now I miss a lot of waves. Other than lots of surfing and swimming, what weight work do you recommend for strengthening my paddling.
Thanks your column is great.
My body worker dude is here in Mill Valley and he rocks. His name is Rick Kutten and his # is (415) 381-4959. If Mill Valley is too far away, let me know and I can ask around for a good one in SF.
As for good upper body stretches, you should definitely ask your yoga instructor to show you some. I think the entire practice is helpful. It is hard to get a good stretch from just one because unfortunately, "your ankle bone is connected to your... hip bone," and so on. Tight gluts or hamstrings can increase the tightness felt in your low back resulting in tight shoulders, etc. See what I am gettin' at? This is why I am sold on serious stretching for over an hour at a time at least 2 days per week.
I can totally relate to moving down in board size. You are on the right path for getting stronger. What I find is that you slowly get used to your new board size and actually get into different shape for your new board. The best way to get stronger for a shorter board is to ride it a ton. The weight room can also help by increasing the strength, size, power, and endurance in your muscles. I am actually giving a seminar on upper body strength on the first Tuesday in June in SF at a local surf shop. Check out our web site or contact me if you are interested.
Smaller boards are tough though. You are definitely not going to catch as many waves on a shorter board- especially if you just made the switch. You are going to have to learn how to better position yourself and get comfortable with taking off closer to where the wave is actually breaking. I have taken many a pounding while trying to get comfortable on my shorter board... but it is worth it!
Let me know if you have any more questions and do check out the surf
seminars I am offering. They may help.
I have a problem with cramping even with a wetsuit on, or in warm water it still affects me. It will start with the hamstrings and then proceeds to the triceps and calves. It has been so bad that I can't bend my arms or legs which can be scary if it occurs inside of a big set. I make a point to always hydrate like mad before I paddle out, stretch real well, and eat a banana for potassium. However after one hour in the water I experience the lock up. It takes a little longer in warm water but has even occurred in 80 degree water? Any ideas on what might be the cause? I do weight training but also stretch pretty well and I am pretty limber.
So, I did a bit of research through the internet, books, and colleagues and still was unable to come up with the perfect, curable answer. I did find some interesting stuff. You are doing all the right things to try to get rid of the cramping. However, I would try a few different things. How intensive is your stretching regime? If you are only stretching 10-15 min a day, that may not be enough. You may want to try and drink a drink that is filled with electrolytes rather than just water. Sometimes you can over-hydrate yourself with water which in return can deplete your body of the necessary electrolytes which help prevent cramping. I read a couple of articles claiming that their football players drank pickle juice to prevent cramping. They were unsure of why it worked but all they cared about was that it helped!
In the past, exercise scientists have been unable to reproduce a muscle cramp in the lab which makes it difficult to study the reasons why a cramp occurs. As of late, they have figured out how to cramp a muscle in the lab so in the future we should have more answers to these questions. There are cases with severe cramping that have been diagnosed by doctors as muscle or nerve abnormalities. Since yours sounds pretty constant, you may want to consult a doctor to rule out any abnormalities you may have. Good luck with this and please let me know if you figure anything out. I have read many articles and studies over the years and have yet to find a solid answer to the ever nagging muscle cramp!
Hi, I live in Southern Cal but am very interested in staying fit between surf. Is there a book you could recommend to me, or another option?
Thanks a bunch,
I actually know of 2 great surf books that I recently picked up. One is called Surf Flex written by Paul Frediani. The other is called Fit To Surf by Rocky Snyder. I found both of these at Amazon.com. I would also recommend hiring a trainer who is a surfer to teach you proper technique and to put you on an actual program you could follow. It may sound expensive but you only need one to two visits with the trainer to get a usable, lifetime program. Happy surfing!
I have been suffering from back, neck, & shoulder tightness and minor pain off-and-on for many years. (I played football and had problems with stingers in high school & college). I have been surfing for 5 years and am trying to take things to the next level this year, moving from a 9-ft longboard to a 7'8" that is suitable for mid-size Ocean Beach.
A friend recently recommended that I try active-isolated stretching, and so far it has been pretty helpful. I suspect that if I make progress with flexibility issues in my hamstrings and through my entire hip area, everything else will loosen up. After a few more weeks of this, I also plan to add yoga to my regimen.
But I want to augment this with some occasional massage. I would really
prefer to go to someone who has dealt with athletes and/or surfers before.
I read that you know of someone in Mill Valley. Could you forward me his
name, along with anyone else in San Francisco you would recommend?
As for yoga, add it ASAP. For some reason I kept telling myself for about 8 years that I would start yoga and I have finally incorporated the practice into my life. I wish I had done it when I was a competitive athlete but I figure better late than never! Man, what a difference 2 days a week can make. The place I am going to is called Green Path yoga and it is on Lombard in between Pierce and Steiner. The owner's name is Clayton and he is awesome (and a surfer as well).
Best of luck to you, Mike. Getting old is great, but this achy body stuff is
a bit much!
I wanted to ask you if you could be more specific about your advice of "...you definitely want to focus on strengthening the opposing surfing muscle groups and stretch the muscles you use for paddling." I have read similar admonitions from chiropractors about "stretching what you use and strengthen what you don't." Could you give me some concrete examples? For instance, I would guess that paddling utilizes the latissimus dorsi, triceps, front deltoids, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the pectorals? So you would concentrate on stretching those muscles? And then following that train of thought, which muscles would you then work on strengthening? Lower back, bicep, side delts?
It seems like the traditional dry-land surfing workout of pushups and pullups are working the exact same muscles that you use in surfing - lats, front delts and pecs. So wouldn't that go against the prescription of "stretch what you use, strengthen what you don't"? I surf just about every day and also work out regularly, and I just want to make sure I'm not over-using or over-building certain muscles during my dryland training (I had some rotator cuff problems flare up over the summer). If you could possibly provide me with some clarification, it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again for the wonderful column!
Start with paddling...if your paddle stroke isn't perfect, you may be using more of your neck muscles and shoulders and not calling in your back or lats. If you are wicked tight, you may not be able to even come close to using certain back muscles while paddling because your shoulders role forward so much. If you get worked inside one day or get hammered by a close-out barrel and torque your neck or back, you may throw something out of whack which can mess up your perfect equilibrium.
So, what I am getting at is that there are a lot of variables in surfing and everyone's bodies are different. In most cases with surfers, I have noticed that we have incredibly tight pecs, biceps, and upper traps while our smaller deltoid, rhomboid, and levator scapulae tend to be weaker. I would suggest that you have a good body worker check out your body and find your tight areas and maybe do a few tests to figure out your weaknesses. Chances are, if you just use lighter weights and focus on the smaller muscle groups, you may find an increase in strength and balance.
Let me know if this clarifies things for you. I hope you got in the water a bit today (Sunday). Kind of fun and clean out at OB.
Michael S., San Francisco (7/12/01)
Hey, Michael. Since this has been a chronic condition, I am sure you have tried many avenues of rehab, so I apologize if I am repeating what others have told you. When you say push out, do you mean bulging disc? You and I may need to email each other back and forth a few times to figure this one out. What else causes pain? Have you tried strengthening your lower abdominal region? Have you tried yoga or some sort of stretching method or does that cause pain?
Prolonged stretching may be key to aid in the breaking up of scar tissue but you need to be careful as to not over-stretch or aggravate the area. Have you tried massage or body work? I have a great guy here in Mill Valley who is amazing and has done some serious work on my shoulders which have bothered me since I was a competitive swimmer. Let me know if you want his name.
So basically, email me back with the answers to these questions and we can go from there. I definitely need to know what you have tried and what the doctors have told you to do.
Have a great weekend.