look Cory Teunissen on a race and you will appreciate the thousands and thousands of hours that went into making him a quadruple world wakeboard champion. The 24-year-old Australian stands in position while being towed by a boat, waiting for a wave that is coming just the right way. When he finds it, Teunissen leaps into the air, turning and twisting with chaotic precision.
It takes a lot of hard work to stay on top of the mountain, as Cory reveals in a chat. His training regime begins with a grueling pre-season that leaves him “struggling to get out of the gym” and then transitions to an in-season program focused on injury prevention and maintaining his high sporting standards. Alongside trainer and close friend Nam Baldwin, Cory’s training is an optimal balance of pushing himself and working smart to protect the body from the “pretty weird positions” that wakeboarders find themselves on the water.
Cory also delves into the mental side of training – how training helped shape his mind, as well as his body. It’s a routine that has helped him crystallize his personal and professional goals, while helping him realize the full extent of his considerable talents.
What would a typical training day look like for you when you’re in season?
Every time I’m in season, it’s about maintaining what I did in the offseason. I will train at least twice a day — maybe twice in the water, or maybe once in the water and then a session in the gym, depending on the day. During the season, I will probably go to the gym two or three times a week. When I’m in the gym I don’t do any strength work – it’s all body movement and I keep my body open. We end up in some pretty weird positions on a wakeboard, so I have to try to keep my body open and functioning properly.
My on-water program is basically only 20-30 minutes long, but the whole time it is thorough and high intensity. I go hard for this. It’s a pretty short workout, but you’re maxed out.
I try to put my body in more difficult states at home so that when I’m at an event, I’m more comfortable.
Wakeboarding requires a lot of strength, but you also need to stay nimble to twist and contort like you do on a board.
Is there a specific way to adapt training to balance the two?
Yeah absolutely. A lot of that work comes during the pre-season. I’ve worked with Nam Baldwin for seven years now and we have an amazing relationship. Nam has been a big part of my success. He knows me very well and knows exactly what I need. In pre-season we focus on a lot of strength work, doing a lot to get our muscle fibers working the way they should.
Whenever we wakeboard, we basically fight on the water and go to the gym to feel better. We go to the gym just to get our body back where it should be or where it needs to be.
In a pre-season, it’s very different; I have trouble getting out of the gym. But if you look at a wakeboarder’s body, knee injuries are the biggest injuries you’ll see. You will see a minimum of two or three ACL injuries each season. So we do a lot of strength work in the legs and core.
Lifting weights is almost useless for what we do. Wakeboarders need to be super strong, but also light and nimble.
Upper body work will come with the foundations we do in the gym and on the water, but it’s more strength, balance and hand-eye coordination in the gym rather than trying to lift as much weight as possible. Lifting weights is almost useless for what we do. Wakeboarders need to be super strong, but also light and nimble. It’s hard to find the right balance, but I’m lucky to have someone like Nam in my corner to help me. It’s almost like cheating to get it.
It’s quite special that you have a coach with whom you go back a long way. How did you meet?
Mate, he was a big part of who I became as a person and an athlete. I owe a lot to Nam and his partner Devo. I consider them some of my closest friends and a huge, huge influence on me.
We met through Red Bull, actually. Before Nam, Red Bull set me up with Wes Berg (former Australian ironman). Wes was awesome and we’re still friends today, but I think Red Bull started me with Wes because they knew I wasn’t ready for the difficulty that Nam considers his standard yet.
After a season with Wes, Red Bull put me in touch with Nam and we clicked straight away. We got on well and had a great connection from the start. We got down to business and it completely changed who I am as a person and as an athlete.
I started working with Nam when I was 17. As I have matured and aged I have learned a lot about myself, my morals and what I want from the sport. Basically, I learned what my goals are. Nam has been in my corner to help create that path and make the path much clearer for me. He’s been a big influence in keeping me on my toes and letting me know who I am and what I want from myself.
Would you say that the personal journey you took through your training was just as important as the process of becoming, say, fitter or faster?
You definitely learn a lot more about yourself as a person and what is actually possible. If I had looked forward and seen some of what Nam and I have done over the years, I would have thought, “Man, there’s no way I can do this.” But the slow progress you create for yourself happens over time and you learn what your possibilities are.
You’ve recovered from shoulder reconstruction and won world titles. To what extent should you factor injury management into your training?
Everything we do in the gym is injury prevention. Nam and I have put ourselves in situations that will put your body under more stress and more difficult situations than you will face in competition. If you can challenge your body during training, you’ll be pretty nice.
There are situations, the 1% cases, where you get injured, but those are just high level sports. It’s a risk you take every time you make your trade. While the majority of training helps you progress as an athlete and improve at your craft, you also become stronger, fitter, and more flexible. You build, build, build, which certainly helps with injury prevention.
If you ask any athlete, we are so in touch with our own bodies that we will know when something is wrong. The best athletes know when something is wrong, they know what to change and how to get back to feeling what they need to feel to perform at such a high level.
Nam and I use the phrase “state of flow” to describe when everything somehow becomes easy in the gym or on the water. It comes when I know I’m feeling good, I’m healthy, I’m eating the right things, I’m lean, and I am. This is when true progression begins to shine. You get into that state and you start to think, “Oh okay, let’s keep pushing, I feel good.” You can progress slowly from there by not overdoing it.
We always try to improve one percent at a time, rather than ten percent.
We always try to improve one percent at a time, rather than ten percent. If you’re trying to pull off incredible feats in training, is that going to put too much strain on your body? I think the real results come when you feel it, when you feel good and know when it’s good to keep going and keep pushing.
How does a can of Red Bull influence your training?
If I’m at home, I train two or three times a day. If I’m feeling tired in the afternoon, I’ll definitely pop a can before hitting the water or hitting the gym.
But Red Bull really influences me on many levels. It’s an honor to be a Red Bull athlete. You could ask any member of the Red Bull team: there is a standard that we have to live up to because we are part of an exclusive team. Red Bull believes in us so much that they want to support our lives and support our dreams, and provide us with so much. So really, performing to the standard is almost like our way of supporting Red Bull and giving back to them for giving us so much.
I am incredibly grateful and very grateful for the opportunity Red Bull gave me to work with Nam so long ago. What really sets Red Bull apart is the relationships they have within the company. We deal with the best, don’t we? I probably would never have been introduced to Nam without Red Bull. Working with him taught me a lot about the business, sportsmanship and the level of expectations I should set for myself. I feel like we’re one big family!