Work Out Like: A Red Bull Cliff Diver

The divers are back to take the plunge off of the ICA into Boston Harbor.



The locations of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series are usually beautiful lagoons off of Mediterranean Isles. And then there’s Boston Harbor. The diving returns for the third year in a row to the ICA on Boston’s waterfront, where divers will take the plunge from a 90 ft platform above the contemporary museum. So what does it take to cliff dive? We asked Steven LoBue, a 28-year-old diver who will be competing in Boston about his workouts, calming his fears, and why he hates cardio.

How do you train for something like this?

Training for this sport is extremely tough and unlike any other. There are no facilities to train where there are 27 meter platforms. The highest most of us train is 10 meters (the highest olympic platform) so the rest of our training has to be done mentally.  I usually practice the main gymnastic part of the dive from 10 meter and then you have to mentally rehearse what it will be like to fall for another 17 meters. I still workout in the pool and try to do as much diving as possible so the body and mind stay fresh but the majority of my work is done mentally at home.

What kind of exercises do you perform outside of the water? 

Outside of the water physically, core and legs are the most important exercises for a high/cliff diver. I am working with a personal trainer and really focusing on all of my mechanical weaknesses so I can move more efficiently, stronger, and faster. Currently, I’m working on improving the range of motion in my shoulders through multiple resistance exercises.

What kind of mental training goes into cliff diving?

The mental training is equally as important, if not more. Relaxation is an exercise and like anything it requires practice so I try to spend 30 minutes a day picturing everything about my dives from top to bottom. From my walk out onto the platform, to the weather conditions, to the fear and nerves, even down to what it smelled like at a particular location. When I think about all of this and picture my dives my nervous system kicks into overdrive. The heart speeds up, palms get sweaty, etc. After that I practice calming myself down. I think about how to cope with the fear and nerves and envision all the successes.


What is your favorite way to work out?

My favorite way to work out is at home with some good music on! I use TRX bands, an Indo Board for balance in combination with free-weights, and I also use multiple resistance bands. It’s nice to just be in your own world and set your own standards (if you’re motivated).

Least favorite?

Ugh, I hate cardio. It’s definitely a weakness of mine. I’ve been using a jump rope to try and get better.

What is the scariest part of the dives? Do you have any fears?

The scariest part of the dive is right before you take off, telling yourself to jump. There is always fear and up on the platform or before any practice is when you will see it in the eyes of every high diver. The key is to control and respect your fear levels. If the levels are too high it means you probably aren’t thinking clearly enough and you need to take a step back to reassess the situation. If the levels are too low and you don’t respect the height then you are sure to hurt yourself doing something stupid.

What is your favorite part about cliff diving?

My favorite part of this whole experience so far is the opportunity to travel and meet new people. We travel with mostly the same group every time so whenever I go somewhere new I am with 15 to 20 of my closest friends. I love exploring new places, learning about new cultures and histories, experiencing local cuisine. These little things off in the peripheral are what I enjoy most about competing.

What are some tips and tricks you use to calm your fears and prepare to jump?

This is where all of the relaxation comes into play. Standing on that platform in front of an audience that can range from 500 to 75,000 always brings out the nerves. My favorite trick for relaxation is when I arrive on the platform, I take a few moments to soak in the view. Most views are one of a kind and truly an epic experience. I reflect on how fortunate I am to be doing what I love for a living. Appreciation of the situation and reflection on how I got there are zen like to me and with calm but steady nerves I can finally jump. 

Steve TK in action. Boston 2012

Steve Lobue in action. Boston 2012

Red Bull Cliff Diving will take place Sunday, August 25 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Gates opening at 1 p.m. Public ticketed zones will be stationed on Fan Pier, Pier 4, and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) outdoor plaza. The ICA will remain open to the public until 6 p.m. that evening.