Who: Kaitlin Donner
What: New Wave Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation
Where: 7125 Turner Rd Ste 101B, Rockledge, FL 32955
When: Monday - Friday 7am-6pm; Saturday 12pm - 4pm; Closed Sunday
Kaitlin Shiver Donner, a Satellite Beach native and decorated athlete, opened an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic in February of this year specializing in sports rehab and local athletes. She met with us to discuss her background and provide tips and exercises for surfers and board athletes.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on the Space Coast graduating from Satellite High School (“SHS”) in 2007. During my time at SHS I competed in cross country, swimming and track and was lucky enough to win multiple state championships in both cross country and swimming with the help of my amazing teammates. I then went to the University of Florida (“UF”) on a cross country/track & field scholarship, and again was lucky enough to be on multiple SEC championship teams. During my junior year, I was recruited by the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program to pursue triathlons, which led to me being a member of the USA Triathlon National Team for several years.
I graduated with her Bachelors from UF in Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology and stayed in Gainesville to pursue my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. I worked part-time while racing and traveling for triathlons, but in February of this year decided to open an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic specializing in sports rehab in the Suntree area since I am back living in Satellite Beach!
I know you’ve recently taken up surfing, why now?
Growing up in Satellite Beach, having parents that were avid water skiers and wake boarders, I always found it funny that I never even tried surfing until maybe 6 months ago! I think during high school I was so busy with school and others sports that I just didn’t have time, not that I didn’t want to. When my husband and I moved back to Satellite Beach I told him we really needed to get out there and learn to surf if we lived here! We both love the water and just enjoy being out there!
How does surfing interplay with your running/triathlon training? Are there exercises that benefit both?
I think surfing is a great overall endurance and strength exercise since you are paddling out (and the difficulty of that dependent on the weather conditions), the explosiveness needed to pop up then the balance to stay on your board! The overall conditioning I think benefits any sport, combined with the mental aspect of doing something different than, for me, swimming, biking and running. For swimmers that aren’t as comfortable in the open water it can also help them since they have a board instead of being out there swimming with nothing, while getting a better feel for the water and paddling that can help with swimming.
I think pretty much all sports can benefit from a general strength and plyometric/power program. A lot of my endurance runners I progress to plyometrics like burpees, box jumps, broad jumps, single leg jumps as well as a lot of balance activities on the bosu ball and indo board. I think all of those are certainly beneficial for surfers as well.
I've been involved in sports my whole life and for each of them we were instructed to warm-up before playing. However, growing up on the beach, I rarely see surfers stretch or warm-up before heading out into the water. Should surfers warm-up and if so, what kind of exercises would you recommend?
I absolutely think surfers should do some kind of dynamic warm up before heading out! Like you mentioned, most other sports do some kind of warm up and I think surfing should be no different. A few quick and easy dynamic drills like ankle circles, some half kneeling ankle mobility, hip openers, trunk rotations, arm swings and lunges with a twist could all be very beneficial to prepare the body for what you are about to do. A warm up is meant to help bridge the gap between doing nothing and then asking your body to go 100% paddling or catching a wave.
Surfing is known to be a full body workout. What are some good strength training exercises to do to be better in the water/on the board?
I could answer this question for days! So I think some of the big muscle strength groups like lunges, squats, deadlifts, push ups, lat pull down and mid rows are all very beneficial for strength gains, when done with the correct form of course. But then for surfing, also adding in the dynamic stability such as bosu squats or lunges, swiss ball hamstring curls, planks using the swiss ball, swiss ball reverse flies and dumbbell rotation (just to name a few). Then you have core work, which is crucial. I personally love simple ones like dead bug and bird dog to start with then adding in swiss ball stir the pot and pivots or anything with lateral sliders. Like I said, I could go on for days, but I think to get the most of any exercise program we have to continually change the stimulus we are giving the body and force it to adapt. If you do the same 3 exercises everyday, at some point you reach a ceiling.
The most common injuries I've seen in surfing tend to be lower back pain/neck pain as a result of the repetitive nature of paddling with a hyperextended lower back, shoulder joint injuries and knee injuries from the twisting movements while surfing. Any suggestions on how to prevent these types of injuries or rehab to do if you experience an injury of this nature?
I think the first way to prevent those types of injuries is core and general strength then progressing to the dynamic stability and balance work. So most people think abs when they hear the word core. To me, your core is anything that attached to your spine and provides the stable base which all movement centers around. This means, your lats, all your back muscles, your neck and your hips all contribute to a good, stable core and help with injury prevention. These muscles, especially your hips, also help provide the dynamic knee stability needed for surfing. Specific to surfing, I think developing muscular endurance for you back extensors and neck extensors with exercises like supermans and hip extension activities combined with balance work is most effective since, like you said, those are the motions specific to paddling out and catching waves.
While we've mostly been focused on surfing, does the advice given above also apply to skateboarding and wake boarding or are there differences you'd like to highlight?
I think there is a lot of carry over between wake boarding/skate boarding and surfing. You’d potentially need more explosive strength for skateboarding and wake boarding depending on the amount of jumping and tricks being done. With wake boarding, you also have the component of holding onto a rope so upper body strength and endurance is going to be a bit more important than with the other sports.
What advice, if any, would you give to an adult who's never surfed before, but is looking to get into it?
I think anyone looking to get into surfing should look for a surf coach or take surf lessons as they get into it. I can watch surfing and help from a strength side, but I am a terrible surfer and would go to an experienced surfer/teacher to learn the tricks and techniques it takes!