Conditioning for Anglers, Part I

Written by: Robert W. Day, MBA, ATCR

Many of us take for granted our ability to wade strong currents or rocky bottoms or to stand all day on the bow of a rocking boat. But as we get older we lose muscle mass, strength, and endurance as part of the natural aging process. More importantly, we lose our balance and proprioception (the unconscious awareness of where we are in time and space) and posture. Fortunately, through specific exercises and training, you can slow this process and make improvements. This series of articles will focus on these and other important factors and will help you develop a conditioning program you can use on a regular basis and before you embark on one of your preplanned trips of a lifetime to an exotic location.

Balance, proprioception, and posture are the basic keys to success in physical activity, whether it is football, tennis, or fly fishing. The need for balance is obvious: You need to have control of your body as the environment changes around you. When you are wading through a stream and step on a rock, good balance keeps you from falling into the water. When you are flats-fishing for bonefish, your balance keeps you in control when the boat is rocking side to side. Proprioception, on the other hand, is not so obvious. Proprioception is your awareness of your body in time and space. For instance, even if you close your eyes, you can touch your finger to your nose. You do not have to see your nose or finger to do so. When you are flats fishing, proprioception tells your body how to react to the movement of the boat while on the water. So balance and proprioception work together to keep us upright.

Posture is something that has been ingrained in us by life’s observations and experiences. Our early posture is formed by our observations of those around us. How often do you see a young person’s posture mimic that of his or her parents? Participation in sports has a dramatic positive effect on a person’s posture. However, with age and loss of strength and endurance, your posture can deteriorate. Luckily, barring any structural abnormalities, posture is a matter of habit and endurance, so it’s correctible.

In order to make a change in balance, proprioception, and posture you need to embark on a regime of exercise that will focus on these factors. It is well known in the rehabilitation world that it takes a minimum of 3,000 repetitions of related exercises to begin to make a positive and lasting change to tissues and the body as a whole. That sounds like, and is, a lot of exercise; however, it’s not as much as you think. Let’s take a series of three exercises, performed in three sets of 25, that you do five times per week. That is 225 repetitions per day or 1,125 a week. So in less than 3 weeks you have reached our 3,000-repetition minimum.

Lining Everything Up
For your first exercise, let’s start working on your posture. My suggestion is to do this exercise in numerous short bouts throughout the day––15 to 30 seconds each time, then longer as it becomes more comfortable. Each five-second period counts as a repetition, so keep a log. Stand up against a wall with your heels against the floor board, your buttocks touching the wall, your middle back touching the wall and finally the back of your head touching the wall. Be sure to keep your chin down and your jaw parallel to the ground. This puts you in perfect alignment, with your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle all in a line. This may be difficult at first, but over a few days it will become easier and easier. Repetition is the key.


Posture Exercise

Standing with your heels, buttocks, lower back, and head touching the wall will be uncomfortable to start, but it will
get easier as you practice.

photo by Tim Bronson

Over this series of articles, we will incorporate a number of exercises that will help you achieve your goal of improved conditioning for furthering your enjoyment of fly fishing and getting the most out of the trip of a life time. A series of exercises will be your core routine, and then some additional exercises will cover areas of weakness or injury. Next, we will be discussing coordination, strength, and endurance––followed by trunk/core strength, leg strength, upper back and shoulder strength, and forearm and wrist strength. Every exercise will be related to balance and proprioception and posture is some way. You’ll be able to do all these exercises at home, on your own time, and with equipment you already have around your house. I will also show you how to make a few pieces of equipment that you will always want to use. Start working on your posture until next time. Comments, questions and observations are always welcome.

Bob Day holds a Master’s Degree in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine and is a retired Certified Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapy Assistant, with over 30 years experience treating and conditioning athletes at all levels. He also guides anglers in and around San Diego Bay.

One thought on “Conditioning for Anglers, Part I”

  1. I,ve been using Orvis fly rods since 1980,anyway my casting shoulder has been bothering me for years,they kept sticking me with Cortizone until finally I demanded an MRI,I showed a torn rotator cuff so in Dec. last year I had it operated on,they fixed the tear but they had to do Acomiplasty,the Surgeon told also that I,d eventually need my shoulder replaced.Fly Fishing has been my whole life,fly tying,collect old fly tackle,carving fish you name it.I,m hoping you can pass along to me some good exercises to help my shoulder.When I have gone fishing this year my shoulder has bothered me afterward.I,ve been chasing Atlantic Salmon mostly over the past 40 years and in the Fall we usually use sinking tips,I,m scared about this because it bothers me using floating lines.I do have two Spey rods but are rivers in Nova Scotia aren,t that big.I also thinking my I,ll have to switch to Switch rods. I’d like to hear your input on these matters? Thanks

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