Seems like everyone's on some new training program this year. Inspired by Mick Fanning's obvious training-induced success, other surfers are taking a more professional approach to their WCT preparations. All you need is an exercise ball and a theme song. Well, maybe not. What some people may not understand is how comprehensive Mick's new program really was — this isn't just going to the gym on New Year's morning to lose five pounds, this was years of preparation, diet and mental focus. Since his nearly career ending injury in 2005, Fanning has spent massive amounts of time with 24-year CHEK (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinisiology — it's even hard to say) training veteran Jan Carton, building himself into the ultimate surfing machine. SURFING caught up with Mrs. Carton in Queensland just before the Quiksilver Pro to find out more about the program.
SUFING MAGAZINE: HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT DEVELOPING SURF-SPECIFIC EXERCISES?
JAN CARTON: The way we do that is to break down what's called the primal patterns for the sport. So, the primal patterns of surfing would be the lunge pattern, the twist pattern, a pull pattern for paddling and things like that – we'll break down those primal patterns for the sport. And then basically we'll work on exercises that mimic the movement patterns that they have to do out on the water. With someone like Mick going through rehab, he did a lot of postural alignment work, a lot of stability work, then on to a heavy strength phase and movement-specifics. So when we say we work on movement patterns, they actually have to build all those other steps first – but always keeping in mind, with the surfers, their primal patterns for surfing.
SO, YOU SORT OF BUILD ONE LEVEL UPON THE NEXT, WHILE MAINTAINING THE PREVIOUS LEVEL?
Yeah, it's sort of like building a building. You actually need to build those steps to get to the level of high-performance at the end of it. So a lot of people will see a lot of fancy exercises and things – they might even see Mick doing those things in photos – but it takes a lot of building the body to get to that level.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THAT LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE?
You're looking at years to build that sort of stuff. Mick goes to another level each year. If you're trying build the body to that level, you must have good nutrition and good health to support the nervous and muscular systems while you're building that.
WHAT'S A TYPICAL VISITATION LIKE?
We'll cover all aspects. We might sit down and see how he's feeling, check the physiological load of the body and then he'll always do a stretch warm-up. Whatever his conditioning set is will depend on what time of the year. So, from here on it's all maintenance work for Mick, so he'll have a maintenance program that will be very specific to each event he goes to. So, his training now for Snapper will be quite different than when he's at Bells, and his preparation changes again slightly when he goes to Teahupo'o.
HOW WOULD TRAINING DIFFER BETWEEN SNAPPER AND TEAHUPO'O?
For Snapper, we'll do a lot of reactive work. A lot of speed and highly rotational work, and really quick sort of work. And then when he goes to, say, Teahupo'o, and he's getting the big barrels, he'll revert back to a bit more strength, strength with some amplitude work against the massive bulk of waves that can hit them – they've got to be able to stabilize that massive load. And because his body is so well-conditioned now, it's quite easy to diversify his training just a little bit, just to be specific for whatever venue he's competing at.
DO YOU ALSO WORK WITH THE MENTAL ASPECTS OF COMPETING?
Definitely, because they can do all the exercises in the world, but if they mentally have issues or they haven't learned to deal with themselves, and the life of competing, and the stresses that go with it and whatever – then they'll never put it together. So we very much work heavily on that with any of the surfers that we work with.
SINCE MICK'S PROGRAM HAS BEEN SO PUBLICLY SUCCESSFUL, HAVE YOU HAD A LOT MORE PRO SURFERS COME TO YOU?
Yeah, very heavily inundated with surfers now. [Laughs]
A LOT OF JUST AVERAGE GUYS, TOO?
Mostly competitive. We've got a lot of the grommets on now. We've worked with Stephanie [Gilmore] the last couple of years. We work with a lot of 'QS boys who come in. A lot of the grommets are actually starting, I think, because of Mick too – sort of hearing that there are other things you can do as far as preparation for surfing. Surfing is really starting to change, in the way it's becoming much more professional in its approach. The young ones are actually learning now that it's not just about surfing. Because it's such a hard, physical sport on the body, people are going to get injured if they don't learn to prepare their bodies for the stresses of the huge amount of waves that come down on them, and the high-rotational forces, the traumatic forces on the limbs. So they're learning it now, through hearing it and seeing it, they can prepare themselves much better and prevent injuries by looking at how they condition themselves out of the water.
2007 Women’s World Champ Stephanie Gilmore has followed Fanning’s lead
DO YOU GUYS HAVE ANY OTHER WCT SURFERS WHO ARE ON YOUR PROGRAM NOW?
Yeah, we currently work with Kai Otton, Tiago Pires, Kieren Perrow, Dan Ross… Who else have we got on there? Luke Stedman, Taylor Knox, Raoni Monteiro, Pancho Sullivan, Ben Dunn, Ricky Basnett and a lot of the Rip Curl boys. The ones who come in just once or twice to apply it to themselves, those are the ones who you really see move forward and be successful.
IS SURFING A MORE COMPLICATED ACTIVITY IN TERMS OF WORKING OUT A PROGRAM?
No, they're all sort of equal – each sport has its own specifics. We analyze each one when they come in and we'll do a full clinical assessment of them, break down their primal patterns and assess them on that. And then we do a lot of work analyzing the actual sport and the movement patterns they have to have in that sport. We work biomechanically to get try and get that body as functional as we can for the sport. So each particular sport is just as intricate. The good thing about surfing is that it's got a good mentality, in that with a lot of endurance sports, you've got to teach these people to back off and rest their bodies. It's all about quality work. With surfers it's more about trying to get them to do it. But I love working with surfing because it's just such a creative sport.
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU'VE BEEN REALLY SUCCESSFUL WITH THE GUYS YOU'RE WORKING WITH.
Well, the guys we work with are great, and we love what we do. They become very much like family over here, so they're all like family members. And it's just great to have someone who wants to do better, so we can do our job better. We can develop that person. So it's good, it's exciting, and it's good to be with a professional sport because it really is changing in its professionalism.
DO YOU FIND A LOT OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HOW PEOPLE SHOULD BE TRAINING?
Oh yeah, there's still a lot of old-school training out there, because for a lot of people, that's all they hear. It's, "Ok, I should do something," so they go train in gyms and they'll get strong, and they hear a lot about core and they think it's just about doing sit-ups. But the core is much more intricate than that; it's your abdominals but it's also the swing systems and the way the body works like that. So there's still a lot of that, but I think by the time they come to our establishment here, they're sort of always referred in, or they've heard about it from someone, so they sort of have heard what to expect. So their mentality is pretty right to go. But if you're talking to a lot of people outside, yeah, they often have the wrong concept about how to train. They think if they just do any sort of training and get stronger, it will make them better in the sport. But it can actually take them out of the way if the training is not specific enough to the sport. Because you can get strong, you can do a lot of strength training in the gym or whatever, but the body works in movements – it doesn't work in just muscle. So you need to be training motor patterns into the body, and that's where the specificity comes into it.
SOUNDS LIKE YOU'VE GOT A GREAT PROGRAM. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
If you want to, you've got the CHEK Institute in America, where we study, from Paul Chek's Institute in America. He's a got a website there that would probably show you a whole lot more about what the whole CHEK philosophy is. It's just www.CHEKInstitute.com. And then you can access that, and it's just more about the whole philosophy behind CHEK, it'll have CHEK practitioners in every country of the world. We teach it about as closely as possible to how Paul teaches it, so we don't water it down. But the CHEK work is a lot of years of Paul's research in many, many fields all combined into one – he's sort of mentored off of some of the top orthopedic surgeons, physiotherapists, conditioning experts, Buddhist monks, nutritional experts – and he's studies all that over the last twenty-odd years and put it together into how this can be reached across to mainstream people. So, if you look up the institute, you'll sort of see the whole philosophy of Paul, and where it all comes from, and you'll get a good idea of the depths of it.
SO, DO YOU SURF?
Oh yeah, I've lived on the Gold Coast all my life, so we've been exposed to the water and to surfing forever. We love the water and we get down to it as much as we can with the guys too, because as I said, they're sort of all like family.
WHEN THE SWELL COMES UP, DO YOU GET A LOT OF CANCELLATIONS?
Um, we used to, but it's been so busy with us now that people rarely cancel because they don't want to lose their spot. But we always try to work with them when the surf's up. Of course, sometimes we also have to tell them to take a little rest too, if they get a bit excited, like now because the surf's been so good and we have quite a few of them. We tell everyone, "Just give your body a bit of a break. Rest. Because you've got to be fresh for the competition."
This moment has motivated Mick’s competition to catch up with him in the fitness department
For more on the CHEK program here in the United States, visit www.CHEKInstitute.com
To see a more about Mick Fanning’s routine and his description of what goes into it, visit www.MickFanning.com