What we can learn from a pregnant and competitive surfer?
Well, to begin with, learn to moderate our heart rate and control our breathing while surfing.
Earlier this year, Surf Mei Mei met Mei while traveling in Taiwan. She runs a local surf school (George Surfing Northeast Taiwan) in Yilan with her husband George, and competed locally. Mei was already 9 months pregnant when we first met her. Not only did she surf right up until her due date, perhaps the most impressive thing was that she continued to surf competitively! (All with her doctor’s approval)
Much to Mei’s surprise, not only did her doctor encouraged her to continue surfing after becoming pregnant, but Mei believes she became a better surfer due to her pregnancy. One of her biggest gains from the experience was learning how to control her heart rate during surfing for her baby’s safety. Her doctor recommended that for most pregnant athletes, their heart rates should be kept under 140 beats per minute during active periods. As a result, Mei learnt how to keep her heart rate below 140 bpm during surf competitions. Otherwise, her active surfing period needed to be less than 15 minutes. If the heart rate was close to or over 140 bpm, it would be unsafe for the baby.
As many surfers have experienced, surfing can be overwhelming for multiple reasons: wave conditions, weather, personal health and other surfers in the water. Under a stressful situation, it is only natural that our heart rate increases, and, very often, we forget about breathing when stressed. Needless to say even spurts of hard paddling increases our heart rates significantly.
“3 in 5 out” breathing method
- Similar to runner’s breath and the Ujjayi breath in yoga. Breathe in through your nose 3 times loudly and breathe out with your mouth in an “O” shape as if you were blowing off candles.
- Focus on your belly (kegel) muscle for full extension of your breathing.
- Practice this breathing at least 3 times per day, everyday and anywhere
- Practice a Sun salutation when you wake up to exercise your belly and give you (and your baby) more oxygen and energy.
- Stretch before surfing
- 30 minutes or longer of yoga practice is recommend after each surf session. You might want to consider making it an everyday practice as well.
- Never surf with an empty stomach. Your baby might be hungry!
- Eat simple and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid coffee before surfing; caffeine will increase your heart rate.
- Measure your heart rate constantly to ensure the safety of your baby at all times!
Mei did not have the luxury to forget about breathing nor did she have the luxury to allow herself to get tired from paddling. Her baby is everything to her, and so she had to learn how to control her heart rate. Surprisingly, surfing has become easier for her because she now uses less energy and stays calmer due to her breathing adjustment in most conditions. Luckily for Mei, she never felt discomfort while surfing with her growing belly. The Water and surfboard actually acted as her support in the water. Her pregnancy became the best thing that had happened to her both spiritually and physically.
Next time when you are in the water, think about your breath and Mei’s surfing spirit!
For more information on pregnancy and surfing, follow professional surfer and model Holly Beck’s surf mama blog!
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