CHASING WAVES the size of small buildings around the world requires more than an apparent disregard for one's safety. Big-wave surfer Ian Walsh is willing to take the risks, but he also does whatever he can to minimize them. And since his sport has no off-season, just unpredictable waiting periods between swells, he needs a training regimen that keeps him in peak form at all times. "It's a challenge," says Walsh, 32.
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2015 issue
The response includes a strict diet, plenty of time in the water and gym work with trainer Samantha Campbell, owner of the Deep Relief Athletic Training Center on Maui. "What Samantha and I generally do in the gym is build off the baseline of what my lungs can do when they're completely relaxed in a very comfortable setting," says Walsh. "And then we re-create the stresses of what it's like to be held under water by a wave. Your heart rate's a lot higher. Your limbs are flying all over the place. It feels like you're trying to hold your breath through a car accident with your eyes closed."
He'll replicate the effects of getting pummeled and dragged under by a 70-foot wave by going through circuit training—a series of exercises done in sequence—that might include max pull-ups and push-ups while working on breathing techniques (see below). In winter Walsh is in the gym five days a week, building his stamina, explosiveness and leg stability with exercises such as the box jump, with and without weights, and medicine-ball routines. In summer he'll concentrate on "maintaining flexibility and balance on both sides of his body and adding upper-body endurance so he can push hard in harsher ocean conditions," Campbell says.
"There's always a storm or a swell going somewhere," Walsh says. "So [you need to] stay fit and prepared to drop everything and move toward some of the biggest waves on the planet." The ride is worth the effort. "Right before I take off on one of those waves," he says, "I feel like that's the pinnacle."
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THIS WEEK'S ATHLETE
"I train by running more than 200 miles a month, taking spin classes and spending several hours a week stretching to work on flexibility and help injury prevention. Having battled more than 14 years of addiction, I've completely changed my life, and while my goal is to run 100-mile races, it's most important that I keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle." #runitfast #ultramarathontraining
Samantha Campbell of Deep Relief Athletic Training Center provides a few tips on how to increase your stamina and breathing capacity
1 Build your lactate threshold: Do high-intensity cardiovascular workouts (biking, beach runs, hills, shuttle runs, cone course) to increase your baseline stamina.
2 Practice static holds: While in the pool, hold your breath under water for a comfortable period, timing yourself to get a baseline number. Repeat, holding your breath longer each time to increase your capacity. (Always have a spotter.)
3 High-intensity breath holds: After you've built breathing capacity and baseline stamina, do a four-minute set of high-intensity work while seated (e.g., on a spin bike, to prevent falls), stopping every minute to hold your breath for 10 seconds. Wait 10 minutes, then repeat. Start with three four-minute sets and slowly build in duration and number.
For more athlete-training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/trainwith