Summer is on its way. And that means your workout just got a lot more interesting. Not only can you work out in the gym, but with the sun shining and the ocean calling, the world is your fitness oyster. For the more adventurous of you, there’s no beating the full-body workout of aquatic sports like surfing, diving, and paddling. Today we’re going to talk about the newest member of the water sports fitness family: stand up paddleboarding, or SUP.
What is SUP?
Stand up paddleboarding is in fact just like it sounds. You stand. On a board. And you paddle. It’s an ancient recreation and hunting technique that originated somewhere among Polynesia, Peru, and Venice and has been growing in mainstream popularity since the early 2000s. In the US alone, the number of people doing SUP has nearly tripled in recent years: 2.8 million people participated in SUP in 2014. And the number of new paddleboarders just keeps increasing.
What muscles does it work?
Paddling engages your core, shoulders, back, and leg muscles. Not bad. Not to mention that the muscles are used in a way that’s quite different from regular lifting. SUP draws upon even the small stabilizer muscles in your legs that aren’t normally used throughout the course of the day. (Unless you live on a boat.) Your core is the muscle chain most utilized during paddling since it takes constant abdominal engagement to:
1) keep your balance on the board, and
2) paddle from side to side.
If plain old paddleboarding isn’t enough for your swole self, there are special SUP exercises that you can do on the board to up the ante. Of course, this sort of thing is best done on calm water where there’s no worry of a fast current or rogue wave throwing you off your board.
A newly popular, fan favorite supplement to SUP, is Yoga. To learn more about SUP Yoga, check out the New England based company SUP YO (Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga), a highly reviewed and highly recommended school for learning and practicing yoga, and specializing in SUP Yoga.
From their website, “SUP YO offers classes on the water in Rye NH, Seabrook NH, Amesbury MA, Beverly MA, Boston MA, Hingham MA and Chelmsford MA from May to September. In addition, we offer Yoga Hikes in the White Mountains of NH, Full Moon Paddles once per month, Sunset Paddles, SUP Yoga for Kids, ‘Back to Earth’ Weekend Retreats in New England and 7-Night Destination Retreats Worldwide.”
While it’s easy to tout SUP as just fun exercise, it’s important at the same time to remember that it’s an outdoor sport and so necessitates a certain amount of awareness beyond general safety measures.
Dress for the weather.
If you Google SUP, you’ll see a lot of photos of women in bikinis. But not all paddleboarding adventures will be swim-suit-suitable. Colder water temps and windchill factor can take an ordinary paddling excursion from fun to freezing in a matter of minutes. They don’t call one of the big SUP races The Frostbite Series for nothing. If you plan on paddling in an environment with whitewater rapids, undertow, and/or frigid water, be sure to layer up with wicking base layers, neoprene booties, and even a dry suit if conditions are predicted to be especially rough. There’s no reason that paddleboarding can’t be a year-round sport as long as you’re prepared for the elements.
Know the environment.
Paddleboarding is gaining steam all around the globe and in all sorts of environments, from rivers to oceans and everything in between. Before taking off on a paddling trip, especially if you’re traveling internationally, it’s vital to map out your route and make sure everyone in your party knows what obstacles lay ahead. In whitewater paddling, that generally means knowing your rapids. Bonus: you sound really cool to your friends when you can name that gnarly rapid you tore through. In open ocean SUP, it means being aware of the tide and riptipes.
If you’re traveling internationally, take the extra minute to look up the nearest local hospital to your put-in and take-out points in case of of emergency. Also, make an emergency gameplan for how you or your travel partners will get back home if things get really hairy. No one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but it’s best to be prepared.
Maintain good overall fitness.
Once again, while SUP is a fun workout, it’s important to keep in mind that it can be strenuous. No matter how far you paddle, you’ll always have to paddle back. Make sure your body has the proper fuel to sustain it for an hours-long workout. Eat healthy, bring high-energy snacks and plenty of water, stretch before your workout, protect yourself from the sun, and take breaks along the way. In short, be healthy and listen to your body.
Have you tried an SUP workout? Share your experience in the comments.