Have you ever been flipping through the channels and landed on one of those X Games competitions on ESPN?

You might have thought to yourself something along the lines of “Wow, I wish I could do that” or “Oh my gosh, I could never do that!”

Well, chances are, you’re probably at least halfway right: You could never do what these professionals do in your current state. The people you see laughing in the face of danger while performing death-defying stunts have dedicated their entire lives to doing what they do, so there’s no shame in not being on their level.

But that doesn’t mean participating in extreme sports is completely out of the question for you.

By nature, extreme sports are those in which the risk of injury is high if you don’t know what you’re doing. Because of this, they require participants to be in top physical condition in a variety of specific areas.

If simply going to the gym seems like a boring way to get in shape, maybe you should check out some of the following activities to not only get you up off the couch, but also help expand your horizons.

Mountain Biking

It’s one thing to hop on a stationary bike at your local gym for an hour and pedal up and down virtual hills while watching the news. Taking your mountain bike out into the real world requires a lot more than just leg strength.

Biking through forests and over rocky terrain requires you to have complete control over your body and bike. You need to be able to counteract any bumps in the road through balanced actions while not overcorrecting too much and ending up on the ground.

You’ll also need to utilize your upper body strength to keep your wheels pointed in the direction of your path. As previously mentioned, this isn’t something you need to worry about when taking a virtual tour on a stationary bike from the comfort of your gym.

Getting in shape isn’t all about physicality – it has a lot to do with mental toughness as well. You need to maintain focus during your bike ride, and be prepared for any danger that comes across your path. Letting your guard down for even a second could lead to disaster, so keep your eyes on the road.

Mountain Climbing

For those of you not absolutely terrified of heights, mountain climbing is a great way to work your core, build up stamina, and do something most people would never dream of doing.

Mountain climbing requires you to not just haul yourself up the side of a mountain, but your backpack full of equipment, as well. Because of this, you’ll need to do some basic strength training exercises from the safety of your home or gym. Once you’re strong enough to support the extra weight on your back, you’ll be a little more prepared to do so while scaling up a mountain.

You’ll also need to build up your stamina before your first climb. Natural mountains don’t exactly have rest points built into them, so once you get started you won’t be able to stop if you start to feel tired. Make sure you have the endurance to make it to a safe spot at all times.

You’ll also need to take into consideration the fact that the higher you go, the harder you’ll have to work. There really isn’t any way to prepare for the different feeling of climbing at higher altitudes other than to just do it, so it’s best to over-prepare yourself, knowing you’ll naturally be weaker the higher you go.

Surfing/Waterskiing

If you’ve ever seen professionals surf, or even watched seemingly everyday people waterski, you might have thought it looks pretty easy. You simply stand up on the board or skis and let the waves push you or the boat pull you, right?

Obviously, it’s not that simple. Both require a lot of physical and mental prowess throughout the entire process.

First of all, you need to be patient. Rushing into either activity will lead to immediate failure. Whether waiting for the perfect wave or waiting for the exact right time to stand, you have to understand that the water is an outside factor which you cannot control. Wait for conditions to be optimal before you dive in.

Speaking of diving in, you’ll obviously need to be a great swimmer before you participate in either of these activities. You’ll need to be able to get to shore if things go wrong, which usually means battling undertow or unexpected circumstances. Large bodies of water are completely unpredictable, so make sure you can counteract nature with your physical abilities before trying these extreme sports.

As previously mentioned, waterskiing and surfing aren’t just about standing up and going along for the ride. You need to be in complete control of your body at all times. This includes maintaining balance, shifting your weight, and leaning in to counteract natural bumps along the way. As with all extreme sports, you’re not a passive observer when engaged in waterskiing or surfing; you’re an active participant who needs to know what their doing at all times in order to stay afloat.

Skiing

Though we can all agree that the dangers of skiing are fairly obvious, many of us probably think it’s pretty simple. Not that it’s easy by any means; it just seems pretty straightforward: Get dropped off at the top of a hill, stand up, and don’t hit any trees on the way down.

If only it were that easy.

Skiing requires you to utilize a variety of strengths and skills in conjunction with one another at all times.

First of all, you need to remember the ground under you isn’t solid; it’s, ideally, the most powdery snow imaginable. Of course, this means the ground underneath your skis will constantly shift with your weight as you race down the hill. If you don’t distribute your weight correctly, you’ll end up quickly going off course – and likely right into danger.

You’ll also need to be able to shift your footing (called edging) in order to turn when necessary. Subtle shifts in your ankles and feet determine the angle at which your ski hits the snow, and determine how smooth your run will be. Edging requires a combination of balance and leg strength to be able to pull off correctly.

Finally, skiing utilizes the ball-and-socket joints in your hips in a technique called rotary movement. Used in conjunction with edging, rotary movements are the best way in which to steer your skis. It requires you to not only have control of your legs, but also your hips and torso as you race downhill.

Featured photo credit: Surf / Eduardo Avalith / Flickr via farm9.staticflickr.com