SUP for Fitness

Every day that the sun is out, and many that it isn’t, you will see scores of runners dragging their injured bodies down the street. It is often the “40 plus” runners who have injuries and will be wearing knee straps and orthotic shoes and physio tape. Ask any of them why they still run, and 90% will tell you “to stay in shape”. A full 70% of regular runners admit to being forced to take time off from running due to injury. So what is a solution? What is a way to get fit, stay healthy and avoid all the boredom and injuries associated with traditional cardio? Stand up Paddle boarding (SUP)! With SUP, there is no impact and you are working your entire body while actually strengthening ligaments and tendons in your legs. Simply standing up on a SUP board will cause your entire core to fully engage while the wobbly board surface, inherently unstable nature of water, and the occasional extra challenge of wind and current adds to the difficulty of balancing on a SUP board. This offers a complete full body workout that activates the core as you have to depend on these muscles all the time to stabilize yourself and secure yourself into the deck of the board. It’s almost as if your core and abdominal muscles are “gripping” the board. In turn, you work on conditioning your back, arms, legs and even your toes and feet while paddling. A good half hour on a paddle board will make your quads and calves sore for sure.

Once you get acquainted to SUP, it’s like any other rigorous exercise – an excellent cardiovascular activity – however it is also uplifting and relaxing in a way few other sports can match. The core of your body includes the stomach, lower back and upper thigh region. In other words it is your mid-section that essentially bridges the gap between your upper and lower body while providing foundational strength for the whole body. Unbalanced surfaces are highly effective for training or building up core muscles and so any sport that is dynamic and calls for a lot of stabilization automatically becomes an excellent core training activity. The core muscles are what stabilize you and help grip the deck of the paddle board through your feet. As difficult as it sounds, it’s not. Your body becomes accustomed to doing all of the gripping and stabilizing and you become more comfortable on the board-the benefits of all that work happen every time you step on board!

While traditional resistance training will target each muscle group separately, when you paddle board all the core muscles come into play working together just to keep you standing and dry on your board. As you balance yourself, you are actually moving around your body weight shuffling it between your feet and at the same time using the paddle to exert balancing/propelling force on the uneven water surface. Additionally, to propel and drive the SUP forward, you have to rely on a controlled and coordinated rhythm of paddle strokes. Other than core muscles, paddle boarding is excellent in developing specific muscle groups in the shoulder, upper back and chest region.

Consider the basic paddle stroke: when you raise your arms up in the air with one arm perfectly extended and the other bent, it engages the Deltoid muscles (upper shoulder joint and chest area) into action. Every time you change your guiding hand, a different side of the deltoid muscles gets worked out. This is why it’s important to switch the paddling side from time to time to avoid muscle asymmetries from developing. While underway, as you push and pull at the paddle at the same time to move the paddle board forward, the triceps and upper back are engaged. And finally while bringing back the arms closer to the body to restart a stroke, the Latisimus Dorsi (mid back muscles responsible for the V shape of the back) get exercised. And while our arms and shoulders could certainly do all the work for us in paddling, they are much less efficient than engaging our backs and core muscle groups into the paddle stroke.

By making the “engine” of the stroke our core and our backs, we essentially deliver the power these muscles generated through our arms and shoulders instead of trying to make our more fragile joints do all the work. This helps to avoid overuse injuries that can develop in most other sports that offer anywhere near the same degree of workout intensity and value.

Every specific genre of SUP has its own set of health benefits. Surfing challenges and engages the leg muscles a lot as they cushion the landings, take the brunt of turbulence from crashing waves, and keep you on the board at all times.

Adventure touring improves cardiovascular fitness with long drawn out cruises on rivers and lakes while race SUPing competitively improves muscle coordination and helps improve muscle response time (fast twitch muscle groups as well as other anaerobic benefits). In the end it really does not matter what kind of SUPing you engage in or wish to try because you will still manage to work out your entire body while having plenty of fun doing it. This amazing sport will get you outdoors in the fresh air improving your health and the water allows your mind to settle down and enjoy life all the more.

Don’t know how to begin your SUP journey? Walk on Water has great instructors and an excellent array of equipment for all! Check us out on facebook or give us a call. Look forward to seeing you on the water!!


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