Staying Fit to the Finish: Part 9 - Gary Hunt

Gary Hunt
The greatest cliff diver on the planet completes our fitness series

Spread over six action-packed months, the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is not only a test of skill and aerial awareness, but also of mental and physical endurance. All the diving ability in the world is worth nothing to an athlete if their body and mind can't cope effectively with the stresses and demands of a long season. Thousands of air miles, new cultures, different foods and, of course, the repetitive launching from up to 27m into twisting, somersaulting, gravity-defying dives at speeds in excess of 85km/h; all of this combined can take its toll. So, how do the athletes stay fit to the finish?

In the clip above the divers explain some of their fitness routines, coping mechanisms and recovery techniques. Over the past few weeks, in a series of installments, we've released the full interviews for a more in depth look at how they stay in prime physical and mental shape during a long season. Read on for the final part 9 with Gary Hunt.

Part 9: Gary Hunt

Staying fit
We've never had a season so busy and there is no time to recover really if you are hurting yourself with injuries. You just kind of have to put a bandage on it and keep going. You have to be consistent, you have to think about the long run, play tactically; it's tough to get up there, knowing you are hurting and it really affects your diving, more mentally than physically, because you are hitting that water not knowing if your body is going to withstand the impact. Just feeling strong knowing you have done your work in the off-season, obviously gives you a step ahead of the rest.

Mental challenge
There is always a mental challenge in high diving; you are scared most of the time you are up on that platform. It makes a big difference; but the impact is what makes it hurt, the impact is what makes you struggle to get back up there. If you have a hit, it stays with you mentally, you think about it the whole time, especially if you are hurting, so it makes a big difference to know your body, and to be in good shape, but it takes a long time and takes experience to know how many high dives you can do and what you need to do to conserve your energy.

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Gary Hunt says it takes years of experience to understand your body and what it is capable of. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Most core
Your legs need to be strong, your back needs to be strong; all your joints will get a hit. You kind of feel it after years and years of doing it, you start thinking why is my lower back hurting... okay maybe I should work more on this in the offseason. It's all a thing that takes time.

Part 8: Alessandro De Rose

Staying fit
I have my personal trainer Lucca Bossi; we work together basically every day. In the start of the season, we need a lot of gym, we build muscles, we put some weight on it, because now we will not have time for going to the gym again, because we are travelling so hard.

When you come back from a competition you always have some problems so I have a physio center looking after me, and every time I got some problem they are really good with me and always find the time to work with me.

So it's a mix of a good preparation in the winter time and good physio during the season; obviously we are also lucky that at each stop we have our Angy – our angel that is taking care of us; so everything during the tour you have from that what you have built up before the tour.

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Alessandro De Rose puts in a lot of hours at the gym to stay in good physical shape for the season. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Physical preparation
Being physically prepared, is really important; we are falling from 27 meters, 85kmh this is a tough impact every time. Your muscles must be bulky, be strong to control the impact every time, and then you have to deal with unpredictable weather, we have waves and under the water you have to stay tight because the waves will break your position. The physical preparation is really important not only for cliff diving but for every sport.

Mental fitness
Mental work is key to this sport, is a mind trick, every time you are going on the platform it is a mind game. What I do personally is just try to close my eyes, try to figure out my dive as if when I'm doing it, two or three times and then when I'm on the platform I try don't think about it.

This sport is a mind trick; every time you are on the platform you have to fight with your mind, because it's telling you 'don't do it', so working mentally is really important for me. One exercise that I do is close my eyes and figure out my dive, watching a few times, then when I'm walking to the platform I just don't think what is around me, I will just try to do the things that I just imagined. This is something that comes out from the training in the pool, so the more times you do it in the pool, the more security you will feel on the platform.

Part 7: Blake Aldridge

Staying fit
To be honest, for me I find being on the road for a long period of time is the mindset for me to cope and stay fitter, than if I was at home. For a lot of other divers they struggle with being on the road for so long, with the eating, keeping fit with the training and travelling. For me I'm in great shape at the moment, I feel like I'm probably in the best shape I've been in for a few years. And that's due to what we've done with the travelling to the Philippines, and then on to Ireland; I went to China for a training camp, then the World Cup and then straight here. I've just been eating really well, and training and doing a lot of diving and I feel great at the moment. So although it's a long season, I'm now experienced enough to be able to deal with that in a right way to benefit from it.

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Blake Aldridge believes being on the road helps him to stay in better shape. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Body & mind
I mean body and mind is what it is all about. When you get up there you need to be conditioned, with the head to be in the right mind space to be able to complete a dive safely; you need to be physically strong enough to be able to take the impact. I suppose for me it's the years and years of experience not just with the cliff diving now, but also with my past as an Olympic diver. You learn very quickly when you're put in these situations and I've been put into so many of these situations now I'm starting to have enough tools in the box to be able to pull out what I need. The problem for me now is with the competition so fierce you need to have the body and the mind, the big dives and to do them well, so it's getting tougher and tougher.

Part 6: Adriana Jimenez

Staying fit
Well I try to drink lots of water, always. And I try to look for healthy food, and naughty ones as well to give you energy, and enjoy. If you enjoy the travelling it's not too heavy for your body. And I always like stretching in between flights or in the room, do some abs; always to smile is the best way to keep your body and your mind happy.

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Adriana Jimenez likes to fit in a bit of stretching wherever possible. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Mental vs. physical
I think it's vice versa. If your mind is strong and you're convinced to do this, your body will accept the challenge. When you go past 30, injuries come to your body because you worked too many years and the impact for me is the issue with the injuries. I have special training in my country, like not too many impacts in my training every day, and going to the physio and the chiropractor and here in the World Series Angy, she is the best!

Part 5: Michal Navratil

Staying fit
I prefer to train my body on a daily basis, and I focus more on feeling physically fit, and avoiding injury, because I try to focus really physically on my body. And the diving process is not to do so many dives, if I don't feel it, but when I feel it I'm going and pushing myself to train hard; but I never stop working out, because after the training session I'm trying to get my body stronger with stronger exercises. I think this is the main goal to really keep fit as much as possible, and don't get tired and don't get weak, because the water is stronger than you sometimes, and you have to be stronger and tougher than the water.

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Michal Navratil prepares his body for the stresses and strains of a cliff dive from 27m. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

What's core
All body is one piece together and everything has to work together; if you are not calm, if you are not ready in your head, your body will not work together; that's why sometimes it's good to release all the thoughts and start to focus and listen to your body. When your body feels strong, your mind will be even stronger, and this is what I'm trying to do. Just focus to be strong and feel the body in one piece and my mind knows that my body is ready.

Part 4: Jessica Macaulay

Staying fit
It's super important because for me I'm having more competitions this season than ever before, everything is pretty much back to back, so to stay in shape is like number one for me. Early on in the season it's important for me to stay physically fit for the rest of the competitions.

It's definitely difficult to stay on routine, but trying to do a lot of cardio and injury prevention workout. Even if I can't work out as much as I want to, I can make sure that I focus on the things which are really important. For the most part I try to eat healthy, but it's pretty tempting when we come to these places where it's natural to eat ice cream and pizza. I do give in to the temptation every once in a while but for the most part I try to stick to whole foods and fresh fruits and veggies.

Physio/Recovery
It's super important just to feel at one with your body, feel that everything is loose and in place. Physio is super important to feel like you are on top of your game. It's really easy for us to get little tweaks and pulls on our muscles, so just to have a physio there to make us feel comfortable is really important.

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Jessica Macaulay stretches ahead of another competition during this long and demanding season. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Mental fitness
I think mental fitness is the most important thing in high diving, just because it is really scary and to be able to overcome that fear over and over again is very difficult; and what I do to stay mentally fit is that I just keep talking to myself positively. And when I get up there I do a small meditation, I just allow myself to do the dives instead of thinking too much and that really helps.

Part 3: Rhiannan Iffland

Staying fit
It's always challenging to find time to get in the physical preparation while you are travelling so much. It's going to be a busy season; we have 7 stops this year and they are pretty close together. So it's mainly focusing on what really needs to be focused on. I have my program and I'm working with the To the Edge High Performance Center back in Newcastle, Australia, so just communicating and really concentrating and listening to the body is key to staying uninjured and to staying in a top physical shape.

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Iffland is able to switch her mind on better than most when it comes to stepping onto the platform. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Mental strength
That's a tricky question. It definitely helps your mental state when you are in a good condition, but I also proved to myself that I can do it and I can put in four consistent dives with an injury, so I think it all comes with time and it all comes with experience. Just to be able to switch your mind on once you get to the end on the platform is very important.

Part 2: Jonathan Paredes

Staying fit
I think it's the most important point, being strong, being fit, being healthy. I think it's the main topic here on cliff diving. This year is full of competitions; World Cup, World Championships, already a few competitions out from Red Bull.
Mentally you have to be also really strong.

Mental fitness
I think you never learn, I think you just try to deal with it. In some competitions in some places, you are mentally stronger, because you are used to that place, but there are other places that, for example on my side Portugal, you know it's very difficult for me. Portugal it's already like what eight, seven years we have been there, it seems to be like the worst place for me.

My hardest season is definitely the off-season, during the winter time. I try to be in the best shape I can to try to deal with the whole summer season, but you need to continue working, at least in the pool trying to be strong, and it's part of our job, it's our office, it has to be like that.

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Jonathan Paredes works hard on staying physically and mentally fit throughout the season. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Physio/Recovery
I think Angy is the most important person on the series, I truly believe without Angy we couldn't be walking, but we couldn't do what we do. Especially when you have an injury, when you have a bad landing, Angy is one to make us believe again that we can dive.

Travel mode
It's not easy; travelling around the world. To many people it seems we are just travelling and having fun, but as I said before just sitting on a plane is horrible. And you know what's more horrible when you try business class and then you go back to economy that's even worse, because you cannot deal with it (laughs). But you know it's part of it. I love what I do, and when I have to sit on a plane for 12 hours I don't mind. Because I know as soon as I come here everything is perfect.

Routine
Normally what I do is when I arrive in a new place, I try to forget about the whole travel, just like be around the guys, be around the atmosphere, just try to forget about everything. You can move a little bit or you just lie on your bed, but that moment when you are ready to dive and heading to the competition I think you can forget about everything.

Part 1: Steven LoBue

Staying fit
Staying fit throughout the season is particularly challenging. I think between the air plane travels, between foreign diets which are really tasty but not the best for your figure, finding a gym constantly to keep up with your program is really quite challenging. I find a lot of the athletes will spend a little extra time after a training session just utilizing what we have, putting in a small workout or if the hotel has a gym putting in some time there. But it can be especially challenging to stay fit during the season.

What's core
I think in the sport of cliff diving stabilization might be the biggest key factor so really a nice tight core and a strong back as well; your back needs to have nice tight and strong muscles. So from my perspective there are obviously things like explosive power, how you're jumping off the platform, which are very important; in terms of safety and general rule of thumb you really want that stabilization, that good core stabilization.

Mental fitness
Mental fitness is difficult as well. Especially it depends on if your season is going well as well. If you're having a great season it's a little bit easier to stay in that mental groove. At the moment I have some things that I'm working on, this is also really helpful, I'm not feeling down and out; there is a lot of room for improvement, mentally for me that is kind of a good feeling to have, never quite get complacent and lazy, always feel there's something that you have to do. I think for me personally I just take a little bit of extra time in the morning and time at night, to mentally run through what I have to do and get my nerves in check and I really just visualize everything.

Physio/Recovery
We are super fortunate to have some super physiotherapists travelling with us. Angy and Maria are both spectacular in what they do, and this is super important for us as divers as well; a lot of the injuries that we get are nagging injuries that happen over a time, and so they are really good in identifying the problem, maybe working it out and also giving you some homework and feedback on how you can make yourself better. I'm super thankful to have such a talented team of physiotherapists.

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The American credits the physiotherapists with helping him stay fit and strong throughout the season. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.