SUP: Fitness & Leisure

Stand Up Paddle Boarding or SUP has exploded in popularity in the past few years.  What was once an activity we saw celebrities partaking in, has become an almost mainstream workout or vacation activity.  Paddle board rentals are popping up everywhere and there are more and more opportunities to try this popular fitness and leisure sport.  Pretty much any body of water in the DC Metro offers SUP rentals, SUP instructional classes and even SUP yoga. 

This summer we bought a paddle board for our family beach house and It gets a ton of use. We all use it for different reasons. I like to use it as part of my fitness regimen and as a way to relax.  My dog even likes to come along. 

“Is SUP a good workout?” This is a question I hear a lot.  I’m going to get a little technical here, but the short answer is YES!

The intensity of your workout will depend on where you are paddling.  Calm water like a lake, pond or canal is going to be a less strenuous paddle when compared to the ocean, the open bay or a river with moving water.  The level of instability that the water creates will determine intensity of your workout.  I Start my paddle in a calm canal off of Isle of Wight Bay which shoots me into the mouth of the bay.  When I am in the open bay I face currents and boat wake, which increases instability, requiring more core work to balance on the board.   Battling a current, boat wake or ocean waves requires a bit more upper body strength while paddling. 

Paddle boarding is a dynamic core workout.  You are working your abdominal muscles, low back and your upper quads as you simply balance on the board.  When you add the paddle motion (torso rotation and forward scooping of water) you are activating your shoulders, upper back, chest, obliques and spine.  Lets not forget about your toes.  Your toes are gripping the board.  For all you yogis, I like to think of it as “Yoga Toes”. I spread my toes and grip all 10 toes onto the board.  In addition to all the strengthening and balancing, you also work on your endurance.  A SUP session can be taxing on your muscles with the constant repetitive motion of paddling and the need to maintain balance.  Once you have the paddle motion down, you can expect a total body workout. 

SUP scorches calories.  I did a little research, and a leisurely paddle burns an average of 225 calories per hour.  Increase the intensity by paddling at a steady pace (increasing your heart rate) and you are burning about 500 calories per hour.  If you are facing elements like wind, current, wake or waves you can add about 100 calories per hour. 

Another perk of SUP is it’s meditative nature.  You are outside, on the water and your brain is forced to concentrate on balance, paddle strokes and the elements (waves, wind, boaters, etc).  It allows you to stop the hamster wheel of thoughts you may have during a regular workout.  I find it very nourishing for my soul and a huge stress reliever.  I love to go out early in the morning before all the boaters and jet skiers are out for the day. It’s just me, a few fishermen and sometimes my dog.  To me SUP feels like a leisure exercise despite all the amazing fitness benefits. 

Benefits of regular SUP sessions:

  • Improved balance
  • Improved coordination
  • Improved core strength (abdominal muscles, obliques, low back & upper quads)
  • Increased strength in shoulders, upper back, spine & chest
  • Improves endurance
  • Relaxation
  • Burns calories

If you would like to take advantage of the warm weather before fall is in full force, try a local SUP class.  I attended a class lead by Potomac Paddlesports with my Storm Fitness Team a couple weeks ago.  Despite the fact that I am not new to SUP, I learned a lot of valuable pointers that has improved my paddle game immensely!