How athletes train: Courtney Conlogue

The pro surfer talks bodyweight training, breakfast recipes, and more

Courtney Conlogue rode a surfboard for the first time when she was four years old before becoming the youngest athlete selected for the USA Junior Surf Team at age 11. There’s nowhere she’d rather be than in the water.

But the 25-year-old from Santa Ana, California, was forced onto the land in February after she broke her foot while training in Australia. Her walk was more like a penguin waddle, she says, and she had to relearn how to take proper steps.

Conlogue is finally back to full strength. In August, she won the Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, which happens to be one of her favorite local spots. (Find out her must-haves for a day at the beach here.)

Furthermore caught up with the two-time World Title runner-up about the importance of maintaining her weight, her favorite breakfast recipe, and how she recovered from her injury.

The Training Regimen: My preseason training is full of endurance work, power-building, and high-rep moves. I focus on weight training to put on a bit of muscle mass, then during the season I do more bodyweight exercises and stability training with TRX bands, BOSU balls, and physio balls. I always do full-body workouts rather than focusing on one body part because surfing is so three-dimensional. You can’t put too much time into one area, because you’ll create weak spots and that’s when injuries happen.

I train in the gym three to five days a week. I start with a 30-minute warm-up to roll out my muscles before moving on to core and upper-body work with cables, resistance bands, and dumbbells. For push-pull exercises, I use 25 pounds and do 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. I have to be aware of putting on body mass since weight affects the buoyancy of my surf equipment. Because of that, half of my routine is loaded, then I use my body weight for the rest. I only take rest breaks if I’m working on power, like explosive moves or squats, otherwise I train nonstop for 90 minutes.

I love going to the gym because it’s somewhere I can challenge myself not only physically but also mentally. When you’re pushing through pain, you also break through mental barriers. I find it really helps me overcome certain situations in my competitive headspace, especially in big-wave conditions.

During the season, I surf every day but I take a week or two off in the offseason to let my body rest. I always come back feeling fresh and excited like a child. Usually I get to the beach and give myself two to three hours to work on whatever my weakness is at that time. I might do 15- to 20-minute drills where I have to accomplish a certain task, like catching three waves.

The Nutrition Regimen: One of my favorite breakfasts, which I love to eat on competition days, is steel-cut oatmeal with diced walnuts, sliced apples, a drizzle of honey, and some almond milk. For beach snacks, I pack a bunch of dry cranberries, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts in a mason jar in case I get a craving. After gym sessions, I drink a protein shake within 20 minutes and before I compete, I’ll have an Enduro shake with potassium, magnesium, and zinc. I’ve also been taking calcium and potassium to help my foot bone heal.

I really enjoy cooking and I eat proteins like steak, fish, chicken, or black beans with almost every meal. I make a salad with beets, spinach, greens, and olive oil and vinegar instead of a heavy dressing. I have a Big Green Egg, which is an amazing barbecue cooker with wood charcoal, and I just cooked a tri tip and nailed it. I’m trying to be gluten-free, so I’ve been eating gluten-free pastas and lots of butternut squash.

The Regeneration Regimen: I’ve had to be very patient while rehabbing from this injury. It was my first break and I ended up in a boot for nine weeks, but I’d take it off around the house to do ankle rolls, toe points, and gentle tissue massage to keep the circulation flowing. Right when the boot came off, I went pretty heavily into the MELT Method. Then I had to re-strengthen my foot and ankle as they were both atrophied, so I did a lot of tedious band work.

After that, it was all about learning how to walk properly again. I had a penguin waddle, which was pretty funny. Next was working on my muscle-mind connection by doing slow, low ladder drills to teach my foot to go where I needed it to go. Now I’m onto plyo work, doing box jumps and dynamic drills like full speed skaters. The best feeling was when I did a bottom turn, which is a specific surfing technique that’s very heavy on your toes, in South Africa recently and it finally didn’t hurt.

What’s Next: Coming back from this injury, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the water. I’m not looking back, but instead creating a new version of what I want to be. After the Vans US Open, I’ll be training for the Surf Ranch Pro, which takes place in September, at a wave pool in central California designed by Kelly Slater.