Pete Hanning competed (with distinction) at the East Tamaki Duets competition on the weekend.  He tries to get away on a big surf trip every year,  and these trips were his original motivation for joining us two years ago (happy anniversary Pete!).  He upgraded to a full time membership a few months ago,  stepping up his training frequency,  and (thanks to the progress he's been making in movement efficiency and skill acquisition), his training intensity also.

We chatted recently about some of the adjustments and allowances that are necessary to be a well functioning and healthy 'mature' athlete... he dropped me an email shortly after, that is well worth sharing.


I have always been pretty active, with a focus on keeping fit enough to keep surfing until i am 100+.  Surfing is a pretty rigorous activity, where having a strong core, shoulders and good endurance is necessary to catch waves, and strong legs and good balance/core is important to ride them. Having reached my mid 40s (?!?), I started doing a bit of reading about the impact of ageing, and realised I needed to build in some sort of resistance training to my exercise regime.  I have tried various things over the years to keep fit, but had only done gym work sporadically in the past - on those occasions when I did decide to get into it, the boredom of the programmes/environment soon overcame any initial enthusiasm and I would give up after a few months. But CrossFit seemed to include resistance training and a few other things besides.

So, I started my CrossFit journey in 2014, having been cajoled / convinced by my lovely wife Fritha that I should give it a go as she felt it would achieve what I wanted re resistance training. I was pretty reluctant to join initially, as I thought I would get bored pretty quickly.  The first few sessions were extremely humbling, as I discovered that my body could not achieve anywhere near what I remembered being able to do.  Who would have thought that air squats would be so hard, or burpees, or bloody slamballs??  One of my early sessions was an EMOM with chin ups, where I learned that repeatedly going to failure hurts at the time, and REALLY hurts later.  In those early sessions, I did not leave my ego at the door - instead I brought it in, let it take over and it took a good hammering (along with the rest of my body)!

My goals with CrossFit were initially to try and understand what the hell Fritha was going on about (AMRAP that and EMOM this and who the hell is this Froning guy anyway?….), and to increase my overall strength and to stabilise my shoulders, which were feeling the effects of 25+ years of paddling.  I have achieved these goals, with my strength having increased by at least 50% on all movements and my shoulders feeling stronger than they have since I was in my early 20s.

My goals now include beating Fritha in any given workout (it helps that she trains at 5.40, and I am at 9.15 so I always have her score to aim for - it is a stretch target though). I also keep a quiet eye on how a few others have/are doing in any given workout too, as further motivation.  HSPU are a goal for this year, along with muscle up efficiency and virtuosity in all movements.  I need to set some goals around overall strength and conditioning, with a surf trip in 2017 to train for!

This year I have had a change of pace - I have gone from working full time to being a stay-at-home-dad.  This means I have been able to change from training early mornings or late afternoons (around my work schedule), and have joined the Rockstars crew at 9.15.  This has been great - it is way easier to get moving at that time, and I can check out the results of the early crews to give me something to aim for.  9.15 is more social too.  I was also able to go from 3 sessions a week to 5-6.  However, that increase in training intensity has required me to be more conscious about rest days and time off.

Darren’s blog post identifying the differential response of muscles, tendons and joints was a good wake up call, as has starting ROMWOD with Fritha in the evenings.  This week I have taken a week off with a few active recovery days thrown in.

Having done a wide variety of things over the years to keep fit for surfing, including cycling, martial arts, yoga, running, pool swimming (yawn!!), gym work (double yawn), sea swimming, paddle boarding, balance board and swiss ball work,  as well as a couple of years of Crossfit now, I believe that CF is the best fitness training platform for surfing outside of surfing itself.  Although I am surfing less than I did in previous years, my surfing has improved because of my increase in strength and overall conditioning, and I am fitter than my mates that surf 2-3x more than me (and I have fewer shoulder issues).   My fear of getting bored turned out to be misplaced too, as there is always a lot to learn, and people to have some friendly banter and competition with.

I have learned a lot.  Prior to CF, my only experience with a barbell was doing bench press and some Les Mills pump classes so long ago I would rather not say.  The first time I picked up the bar at CFNZ it felt pretty weird and awkward.  I am getting more confident now, and am focusing on making the movements more efficient - still lots more to learn!  The Olympic lifting course has helped a lot - thanks Joe and Olly.

I recently overheard one of my daughter's friends saying to her mum "that is Xanthe's Dad - he can do cartwheels and handstands!"  That was a reminder of how many skills I have relearned since I left the school playground, and how many adults do not realise what they have lost.

I am also learning about how to do better at the internal battle during a workout - my body can go further than my brain says it can, but only if I can replace the negative self talk with something more positive.  Still a work in progress, but when I get it right it is sweet!

I look forward to the next 2 years and getting stronger in body and mind, and surfing harder!!!  See you all at the box or at the beach.

Darren Ellis