Have you ever had your non-flyer friends ask you what kind of fitness training you do for skydiving or tunnel flying? Or maybe you have had other flyers ask you for recommendations on what kind of skydiving or tunnel fitness training they can do? Or wait! Do you even do any strength training yourself as a flyer? If not, don’t worry, there are many skydivers and tunnel flyers lacking in this department.
Actually, its kind of a running joke with some of us. Flyers are referred to as athletes, but sometimes there isn’t much going on in the athletic department for us! Of course this does not mean our athletes in the sport are not amazing flyers or canopy pilots. However, if you are wanting to be your best in your sport, why not consider the possibility that fitness training could unlock another level? Lets take a look at some skydiving and tunnel fitness training that could help you step up your game!
Stretching and yoga
Stretching is a very easy and affordable way to get your body ready for skydiving and tunnel flying. Especially when skydivers first start jumping, our bodies can very tense. From the adrenaline of jumping, and also from the impact received during our canopy deployment. This is a new sensation for your body. By stretching often, and especially before a day of jumping you can really be doing your future self a favour. Stretching before and possibly lightly between jumps and after, you could reduce the tension you may feel on your body in the next days. Some gentle neck stretches, hip rotations and basic folds could really warm your body up for what is coming.
This same idea can be transferred into beginning to fly and learning new things in the wind tunnel. Think about it, you are spending more consecutive time flying, plus you are already laser focused and tensed from trying to learn something new. I remember when I learned to sit fly in the tunnel, my arms where absolutely cooked after day one. For sure I wish I had thought to do a bit of stretching before and after. That was a long and sore few days in the tunnel!
Check out this awesome article by the USPA on different stretches for everyone at the drop zone! They have everyone covered – packers, manifest and pilots included! This is a great example of easy skydiving fitness training you can try.
Wrist and ankle strengthening
Okay so this one is probably overlooked. Although if you think about it, we can be running out landings or flicking our wrists in strange ways while skydiving. Especially when we are learning to skydive, landings can get pretty interesting. But in reality, any jump for any of us could potentially lead us to a not so perfect landing. Ankle stretches and mobility can provide that extra strength and stability for an unexpected issue during landing.
As for our wrists, warm those guys up! Wrist rolls and stretches will provide extra mobility. Pitching our pilot chute can be a weird motion for some people. (We will talk about our shoulder mobility and deployment later on). Also, for me I get wrist pain very easy. Sometimes after a few jumps, my canopy flight starts to bring me wrist pain. Its really important for me to stretch and roll my wrists to relieve this discomfort.
While yoga can easily be done by yourself at home, you should make sure you are performing your movements properly. There is potential to injure yourself by doing something improper while attempting to replicate something you see. Take a yoga class, there is plenty of options for beginners. It is also important to be performing properly because yoga will aid in body awareness, balance and symmetry. Which directly translates to your body flying.
If you have experience in freefall or the wind tunnel, then you know how even the smallest movements can instantly throw your body off position. (Think things like, lifting your chin or curling your feet in flight). Yoga focuses on form. One does not need to be in the deepest expression of a position, instead the need is to prioritize the correct form. This will encourage your body awareness and ability to make small corrections in your movements. Which is going to increase your tunnel fitness and body flying abilities. Yoga also encourages core strength. Which I will talk more about core strength later on.
“When performing a move in the tunnel, just the small adjustments in body position are needed in combination with a shift of your centre of gravity, [or balance point]. You need to learn how to activate the exact muscles that are needed. Therefore training your core strength, body awareness and overall balance will help you to perform in the tunnel.” – Max Martin, professional tunnel coach and competitor
Yoga can also encourage mobility in your body. Having good mobility can allow our body to be more functional when we skydive and tunnel fly. Of course you can still be amazing without this extra training effort. Yet why not optimize our chances to improve our ability and be our best! By performing yoga and also focusing on mobility exercises you can better express your body’s full range of motion. Anyway, just think about it, why not make some effort into having your best possible range of motion? Your mobility could unlock something you didn’t know that you where missing!
Shoulder mobility can be overlooked in our sport, but actually it can be very beneficial in many of our disciplines. In body flight, especially tunnel flyers who are flying often, shoulder mobility helps with extending arms fully over head. This range of motion can be a great asset and make your flying a lot more comfortable. Without the ability to extend your arms above as easily, you may have a harder time learning some body flying techniques. Working on shoulder mobility will be a great way to improve your tunnel fitness level.
Maybe you want to get into freestyle flying or improve your current status. Stretching, yoga and mobility can help with that! Lower body extremities assist in controlling your flying. Hips need to be able to rotate functionally and with great mobility to be able to get into some of the more popular freestyle positions and movements that we see.
In skydiving shoulder mobility is also really beneficial. Remember that when you are pitching your pilot chute, if you have bad mobility in your shoulders, this can affect your deployment. You want to have the best range of motion as you can for this extremely important moment of your skydive. Not to mention, you will next be putting your arms up to meet your risers and toggles. Working on your shoulder mobility should not be over looked. Canopy pilots who are extending their shoulders and landing with their body forwards in the harness on distance runs would also benefit from some added smooth shoulder mobility. Don’t forget about wingsuit flyers! Stretching out in the those big suits for their whole skydive, and then deploying their parachute is going to require some mobility from the shoulders.
Okay, so when I say strength training, I do not mean you need to go to the gym and become a big muscle gorilla. In fact this will probably limit your shoulder mobility like we talked about above. However, general strength training is going to really benefit your skydiving and tunnel flying. Strength training, along with the other mentioned skydiving fitness training, is going to put your body in better physical shape to keep you jumping and flying for longer and with more ease! Remember I mentioned my wrist issues with canopy flying? It actually effects my forearms too! So I try to focus a bit on this area with light weights while strength training.
Core stability is essential in being a strong flyer. A strong core helps to stabilize the body, and you will not be blown around by the air flow uncontrollably. So as you can imagine, core strengthening is an important tunnel fitness training to focus on. Training your core during your workout is a really good idea. Remember to keep your body in the correct position during all types of strength training. With the correct body position during full body strength training, you will train your core at the same time as training other areas. Not sure how to do this? Talk to a personal trainer who can help you learn the ins and outs of building a strong core and using it during your whole workout.
“Flying is a balance sport and a strong core generally helps you with balance. You can think of your core as your foundation. It is made up of difference muscle groups that provide stability to your trunk. These muscles link your upper body and lower body together and enable you to move in any direction without loosing your balance.” – Max Martin
Breathwork training may also be something that you have not considered in your skydiving fitness. This type of training refers to breathing exercises and techniques. Performing these breathing techniques often improve mental and physical well being. Training your breathing can guide you back to focus and keep you calm and in the zone. Breathing techniques are also known to reduce stress. So when you are overly anxious about performing in a particular skydive, canopy flight or tunnel session, breathing techniques can help to calm you and bring you additional focus with the right mindset. Breathwork training can give you the tools to remain in a calm state and visualize what you’re about to achieve.
Trampoline parks and dance training
Wonder where I am going with this one? So maybe its not relevant to your particular type of tunnel flying or skydiving. However, there are benefits to these styles of fitness trainings as well. For example, if you are working on a particular twist or flip in the wind tunnel. Why not check out a trampoline park and work out the kinks while jumping into the foam pits? Its actually going to be a heck of a lot cheaper for you to spend some time getting body awareness in these movements at the trampoline park. Combining practising inside and outside of the tunnel can progress you quicker, and save you some money in tunnel time. This is a great example of tunnel fitness training.
Dance training, or working with a dance choreographer, could be a really good idea for people who are creating freestyle routines in both the sky and the wind tunnel. If you do not have an artistic/dance background, this style of training can inspire you to move your body in ways you may not have imagined. It is just another tool to become more aware of your body movements and flow. Which all directly correspond to when you are flying freestyle. Who knows what you could be inspired by in dancing, which could look amazing while flying!
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What kind of skydiving and tunnel fitness training do you do that helps with your flying? If you want to share or if you just like the article, please let me know; send me an email or a message on Instagram. I want to know about your experience and thoughts!
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