Meet Merit

Merit is a personal trainer who has taught everyone from beginners to pros on the World Tour.

Hey everyone, I’m a certified personal trainer based in Portugal. Originally from the landlocked US, I’ve been living by the ocean since my move to Australia in 2014, eventually settling in Portugal five years later. Despite being surrounded by the coast for a while, I only started surfing about four years ago, inspired by a cute surfer I was dating, of course.

I’ve always enjoyed staying active, playing various amateur sports since I was a kid. However, when I started high school, I didn’t make any competitive sports teams. So, I turned to fitness classes at my local gym, running around my block, and doing at-home workouts to channel my energy. My passion for the gym continued to grow over the years, even now, 13 years later.

Combining my love for exercise with my background in science (a bachelor’s degree in Biology), I completed my certifications in personal training levels 3 and 4 with Australian Fitness Academy. Initially, I wanted this certification out of personal interest, with no intention of coaching others. However, COVID-19 changed my plans…

The unexpected turn of events during the pandemic redirected my career path. With limited job opportunities post-university, I took advantage of my Personal Training certificate. I registered on the International Board of Personal Trainers, so that I could work overseas, and began training a couple of friends. As word spread, more friends joined in, leading to larger group classes and eventually evolving into my full-time job in Portugal. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

Fitness and surfing

I guess my deep rooted passion for fitness is a big reason why I picked up surfing. The love of actually catching waves came much later- as expected when you’re a complete beginner- but the feeling of being in the ocean, active, no phone, under the sun is what got me hooked immediately.

Throughout my career as a personal trainer, I’ve only lived in surf towns. Consequently, I’ve worked extensively with surfers ranging from beginners to professional athletes on the WSL. Despite their varying skill levels, one consistent aspect of my training approach has been the emphasis on mobility. Mobility, which is the combination of strength and flexibility, is fundamental for surfers as it forms the basis for improved movement capabilities—enabling you to surf with greater agility, power, and pain-free.

Surfers recognise the importance of physical well-being, and its direct impact on their performance in the water. As surfing is a full body sport, whether it’s a stiff neck, tight lower back, or sore knees, any discomfort will be felt when surfing. Therefore, it’s essential to address these issues proactively to minimise the risk of injury and ensure pain-free sessions in the water.

By integrating simple mobility routines into training regimens, surfers can effectively reduce the likelihood of injury and maintain optimal performance levels, allowing you to enjoy the waves to the fullest.

Mental fitness and surfing

Surfing is as much a mental game as a physical one. Whether facing challenging conditions, new spots, or crowded lineups, surfing tests us mentally. In such moments, it’s crucial to remember why we’re in the water. Are we there to impress others or for our own enjoyment? Since most surfers pursue surfing as a hobby rather than a career, it’s important that we remember to surf for genuine reasons, free from external pressures.

Surfing should be fun and stress-free. However, if you find yourself struggling to catch waves due to low confidence, a bit of intensity can sometimes help. In those moments, tap into that heightened energy, connect with the wave, and immerse yourself in the moment as if you’re alone in the water. This mindset can boost confidence, helping you catch more waves and make your sessions more enjoyable. However, always remember surf etiquette and to respect the rules in the lineup.

Merit’s Tips for Improving your Surf Fitness

For beginners, aim for two strength sessions per week. These can involve fitness classes, body weight exercises, resistance bands, or equipment. If you opt for weight training, select two exercises each for the upper body, lower body, and core, and perform three sets of 10 reps for each exercise.

Here are my top three strength exercises:

  1. Pull-Up – Upper Body
  2. Bulgarian Split Squat – lower body
  3. Banded Wood-Chop – Core

While strength training may require more scheduling, mobility exercises can be done anywhere, anytime. Incorporate a deep squat while brushing your teeth or stretch while watching TV. Make it a part of your regular routine! If possible, aim for at least 30 minutes of mobility work per week. This can be completed in one session or divided into three 10-minute sessions. It’s achievable and will significantly improve how you feel. Don’t let “not having enough time” be an excuse!

Here are my top three exercises for mobility:

  1. Deep Squat – Hips and Lower Back
  2. Runner’s Lunge – Hips and Legs
  3. Chest Opener Stretch – Upper Body

Consistency is key

Fitness isn’t a quick fix but a lifelong journey. My 3, 2, 1 Rules offer a structured approach to kick-starting and sustaining a fitness routine:

3. Allow yourself three weeks to adapt to a new routine.

2. Commit to your program at least twice a week to establish a habit and see progress.

1. Set one small, achievable goal to accomplish within three weeks, fostering lasting change and tangible results. For example, going to bed 20 minutes earlier or having more protein at dinner.

Skipping any of these rules resets the process.

Remember, find what works for you and make it part of your lifestyle, however that may look. Happy training everyone!
xx Merit

Workout with Merit in our 14 Day Countdown to Surfing

Starts 29 April 2024