The Quest for Perfect Balance

Although skaters are not known for doing yoga and exercising every morning, the topic of physical health is becoming more popular in skateboarding.

Besides Egons on SkateTV, whose wise advise we never took seriously, there wasn’t much talk about stretching or exercise for skateboarders in the recent past. Skateboarding was always perceived as something you were just good at by chance. However, as it turned out, your body type, flexibility and overall physique impacts how you skate. 

This might seem obvious, but, for a generation that grew up with Baker 3 as their how-to guide for skateboarding, it came across as surprising at first.  

“Wow! We can workout and have higher pop? Or perfect balance like in THPS?”

To find out more and to demystify the importance of physical health in skateboarding we talked to three local skateboarders that know a thing or two about how muscles work. These guys earn a living by helping people get in shape, and their knowledge in skateboarding makes them even more valuable for our community. 

We asked them the same set of questions and maybe it will motivate you to get in shape.   

Karlis Griva

What can you teach skaters and what is your main specialty?
I work as a physical trainer. Mainly working with skaters. I work with fixing asymmetry and improving core, balance and physical strength.

How important is physical training for skating in your opinion?
I think it’s important if you want to skate a lot, and skate at your best. As skaters we usually say that skateboarding is not a sport, I agree to that. But it’s still a physical activity, and nowadays it’s getting pretty tech and gnarly. Skateboarding requires a lot from your body, so you need to workout in order to withstand all the falling, and, of course, the makes too.

What do you think skaters need to train the most?
I’d say posture is the main thing skaters need to fix. Skating is an asymmetric activity, so working on the muscles that are not used that much while you skate will improve posture, and, at the same time, your balance on the board. Big part what I do while I train skaters, I give exercises that work on core (abs, back, pretty much all the muscles around your stomach) and mobility. Stronger core means better body control, better body control means better board control and so on.

How hard actually is it to become stronger and healthier?
It definitely depends on each person individually, but if we take a typical skateboarder, who usually is a little bit underweight because he/she skates a lot and sometimes forgets to eat, then in a few weeks of training the person will already feel. I think one of the most important things is to start slow and work your way up.

Do you feel your skating change because of exercise?
Yes, definitely. As a kid I was not that much into sports. To be honest I sucked. I did skate, but quickly realized I`m not that good. I could do some tricks but there was no pop and no speed. Then in high-school I started to go to the gym, started lifting weights. Long story short, I am still not the best skater, but the tricks I can do, I can pop them pretty high. And talking about speed— I`m ready to take on the challenge of the fastest push in Latvia.

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Richards Sekste

What can you teach skaters and what is your main specialty?
I am experienced more with fitness related stuff – I mostly work with people who need to lose weight, but once in a while I work with athletes. In a nutshell I am a qualified personal trainer. I really enjoy working with athletes because it’s different and I can get more creative with exercise. Currently, I am working with the one and only Fricis Štrauss. You definitely have seen him doing more gnarly stuff since he started to workout with me. Do you think it’s a coincidence? I don’t think so.

How important is physical strength for skating in your opinion?
I wouldn’t say it is the main thing one should worry about in skating, however it does come in handy as means of injury prevention. If you think about stronger body means stronger bones and joints as well.

Do you think skaters need to train their bodies?
I think it definitely helps if you train your body in a specific way that can help you improve your skill.  So, athletic attributes such as endurance, agility, flexibility and balance are important in skateboarding. Strength exercises I’d say should be done with your own weight, these are good old pullups, pushups, squats, lunges, etc. You also can focus little bit more on leg strength and core, because these are essential for a high ass ollie. Now if you want to get little bit more creative then for strong melon you can do some arm training.

How hard actually is it to become stronger and healthier?
It depends how healthy you already are, but it is just a matter of habit forming. If it is important to you and you want to skate for as long as possible, then you should put some effort in it. I know it’s cool for skaters to live a wild and free lifestyle with junk food, drugs and alcohol, but if you do it too often and too much, at some point your body will say “Fuck you!.” On the positive side, I see a new health trend among older skaters I know. Some of them are paying more attention to what they eat, do regular training sessions, stretching, cold swimming and take long brakes from booze. And you can tell it is paying off, they are having success in what they love to do in the first place. So kids reading this – take notes!

Where do you think these skaters get motivation to live a healthier lifestyle these days?
I think some of this health trend is coming from Andrew Reynolds who said that skaters often get too involved into extracurricular activities that derail their passion and talent. Also Neen Williams who got a big coverage in Vice with his life changing story. From what I have seen about Madars Apse, he also seems to support healthy lifestyle, recommending healthy food choices and going winter swimming. But I think it all comes down when a skater gets older and realizes that his energy and motivation starts to drop, injuries start to stack up, and it kind of forces you to make better choices. You can get away with lots of stuff when you are younger, but as you get older you have to change your mindset, otherwise you will have to forget about skating and replace your hobby with less strenuous activities like gardening or something.

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Seimur Guseinovs

What can you teach skaters and what is your main specialty?
I am a a physiotherapist and in a nutshell, my main specialty is educating on the ways of how to deal with the body (strengthen weak muscles, stretch short ones, maintain mobility, relax the tightened muscles and etc.)

I could help a fellow skater to recover from an injury, and to instruct him/her in the ways of doing it. Being a physiotherapist I can show you how to work with your body. Of course I cannot do it instead of you. That is why, it is always like this – physio teaches you how to do things (50%) and it depends on you, if you do it for your own benefit or not (the rest of the 50%). Of course, in some cases physios puts a bit more effort in their work. Let’s say, after ACL injury we try to maintain the full range of motion of the knee with some passive movements, but the satisfactory result will only be possible if the you do the rest of the work on your own (some static quadriceps and hamstring exercises).

How important is physical strength for skating in your opinion?
Strength, as such, is not that big of a deal as person’s ability to maintain his body muscles properly aligned. And for that, you don’t need that much strength as concertation. Basically, this concentration is just awareness of your body in space (kinaesthetics). In skateboarding, stability, flexibility and mobility is way more important than strength. Let’s say, if all of these aspects are well balanced with one another than you will have a smaller risk of getting an injury. As for skateboarders, probably the sadest thing is to get an injury which can limit their skateboarding later on.  For this reason it is important to maintain your muscles, tendons and joints in a good condition in all aspects. As long as you have enough strength to pop an ollie you are good to go.

Do you think skaters need to train their bodies? 
In its own way, skateboarding already is a perfect training of the body, as you need to integrate a good mind (creativity, courage, persistence) and body (balance, timing, stability) relationship. Skateboarding involves a lots of complicated things on its own. It is a perfect source for cardiovascular and nervous system (muscle memory) training, and of course it is really therapeutic. For example, let’s say you had a bad day and you’re really stressed, and you just don’t know where to let it all go, at this point, you can grab your board and just go out, doesn’t matter if you just go for a cruise or do some flat ground tricks, all that matters is that you are untroubled and free while learning something new and fun. Probably that’s why most of the skates are chilled, like ultramarathon runners. In spite of all the benefits that skateboarding brings it always important to train your body in various ways.

Skaters are in a higher risk of getting injuries, so probably for this reason it is more likely for us to do things which are not connected to skateboarding. In my opinion, best training for skateboarders should involve – core, knee and ankle stability exercises. Also, it is important to involve upper body (shoulder stability, thoracic mobility) and dynamic stretching exercises. Skateboarding cannot train the same muscle groups as bouldering does, and vice versa. So the best way for a skater to train is just to involve in his/her everyday life different kind of movements that are more focused on stability strengthening (slow conscious movements of the whole body). I mean, if you want to get ripped like Weckingball then it is a different question, but if you wish to maintain your body in a healthy condition on the basic level, than all you need in life is just couple of simple exercises that will prevent injury and make your body feel more loose.

How hard actually is it to become stronger and healthier?
I would say, it all depends on your state of mind, if you want to become stronger and healthier than you will get there. But if you feel good the way you are then your good to go. Such simple things as a small workout, that involves core engaged exercises, a bit of upper and lower body stability strengthening, and stretching, two or three times a week should do the job quite fine.

Do you feel your skating change because of exercise?
I wouldn’t say that it changes my skateboarding skills as such, but it definitely gives me a more secure feeling of falling, maintains my skating endurance, keeps me away from overload injuries and just makes me feel good.

The point of exercising is not improve your skateboarding skills as much as to keep your body in a good shape. If you treat your being well in all aspects of life (body, mind, matter, humans, animals, nature and etc.) than it will give you fruitful results that will improve your quality of  everyday life. Treat your body well and it will do the same for you.

Does getting fucked up affect skaters?
In a long term for sure. As you just can become an alcoholic probably. Of course Dustin Dollin proves us wrong – you can drink heavy and shred like crazy. I think it’s okay to get fucked up once in a while after a session. Just don’t let alcohol become your dopamine in your everyday day life, then it’s all good.

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