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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Urban Surfing with SurfSet Fitness

It's the end of January and this is what I really want to do...

Photo: Oriana Fowler/Surf Simply

But, it's the end of January (I said that already, right?) and I am a cold water wimp. So, instead, I've been trying to workout with my mind focused on the day when I will actually be able to jump back in the water and surf.  I've been swimming to build up my endurance for paddling out against the waves, doing core exercise and strength training, spinning to maintain my cardio, going to yoga to work on my balance and flexibility, and training for a half marathon to distract myself from the fact that I can't surf. But it's not quite the same. That's when I heard about SurfSET Fitness - a surf-based strength and endurance fitness class currently being offered at Chelsea Piers Sports Center. Sign me up!

It was freezing as I made my way from the subway to Chelsea Piers so I was even more excited about the prospect of warm water day dreaming. It's been years since I last stepped inside the Chelsea Piers Sports Center. It is a ridiculous fitness facility. Full 400-meter indoor track, swimming pool, rock climbing wall, indoor beach volleyball court, countless cardio and strength training equipment, and spa overlooking the Hudson River.

SurfSET Fitness was developed by Mike Hartwick, a former pro hockey player and a surfer, as a way to stay in shape when he couldn't surf. He developed the RipSurfer X to approximate the dynamic feel of riding a surfboard on the water. It is essentially a surfboard resting on three mini BOSU balls so any movement you make requires you to recruit muscles in your legs, core and arms to stay balanced. At one end of the board is a pulley system that you use to mimic the motion of paddling in the water.

I went to a SurfSET Classic class which incorporates all the core SurfSET moves. The 45-minute class was structured like a surf session. We started on the "beach" and warmed our bodies up. Then got on our boards and started padding out through the "breaking waves." With the pulleys, the focus was on the in-water portion of the paddling motion (where it counts!) and the pulleys provided a good amount of resistance which can be adjusted.

As we paddled out, we also got to do some duck-dive push-ups where you push the board under an imaginary wave and then pull yourself up on the other side - sometimes doing this movement fluidly and other times pausing at various points to increase the burn in your arms. Ouch! Once we made it past the breaking waves, we performed a series of ab exercises as we waited to catch a wave. I found this part to be super challenging and I couldn't quite get it right. 

Finally, it was time to catch a wave and "ride" it back to the beach. We started paddling again, and then paddling a bit faster as you would if you were really trying to catch a wave. The pop-up was the most fun for me, maybe because I've been trying to practice them everyday as part of my New Years resolution. I was surprised by how much popping-up on the RipSurfer X felt like it would if I were actually out on the water. Once we were up, we practiced carving rail to rail by shifting weight between our toes and our heels. For me, this was a great exercise because I have a hard time balancing my weight evenly when I surf. I often dig the toe-side rail of my surfboard into the water which makes me fall. 

We also did some other balance moves while standing on the board like walking side-step along the length of the board, lunges and single leg squats which were definitely challenging on the unstable surface. Bill, my instructor, also spiked our heart rate a couple of times by making us do "wave runners" (I think that's what they were called?) which is essentially performing mountain climbers on the RipSurfer X. It was hard to move my legs quickly. I thought I was going to fall on my face. We also did more plyometric-type exercises like hopping up and over the RipSurfer X.

The 45 minutes flew by. It was hard but also a lot of fun. I was definitely sore afterwards and felt like I worked some long neglected muscles. I appreciated that so much of the class focused on paddling because really, that's such a huge part of surfing. I look forward to going back. If only Chelsea Piers was a wee bit closer to my apartment...

SurfSET will be at Chelsea Piers until early March but they are also touring major cities across the U.S. to launch the classes. You can find book classes through their website or follow them on Twitter. They are hoping to have maintain a presence in New York City and I do too!

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At February 1, 2012 at 9:19 AM , Anonymous Martha @ runninginmommyland said...

That's amazing! I would love to try SurfSET! Isn't Chelsea Piers unbelievable!

At February 1, 2012 at 7:58 PM , Blogger Christine said...

It was a lot of fun and I hope that you get a chance to try it. Chelsea Piers is ridiculous and amazing.


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