Posted On Aug 09, 2016
From Laird Hamilton’s groovy invention, stand-up paddleboarding, to laps and aerobics in the pool, water once again proves to be your body’s best friend.
By Angela Arsenault
Stand-up paddleboards intrigued me from the very first time I saw them in 2008. My friend, Leon, paddled into the ocean and cruised around with his dog— perched Zen-like at the end of his board. He’s not surfing, I thought, but he’s standing up— so it’s not like kayaking. What is this fantastic form of aquatic locomotion? Since then, my question has been answered repeatedly, as stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity. It has reached virtually every waterfront—placid lakes or roiling oceans, from Maine to Hawaii.
World-class surfer Laird Hamilton developed the sport in Hawaii, back in the late 1990s. Like so many crazes that catch on, SUP was born out of necessity and boredom. “I had my first daughter, and I really wanted to bring her out in the water surfing with me,” Hamilton says. So he started riding tandem boards— larger surfboards made for two people. “I really liked the difficulty of riding these bigger boards,” he says. “It took a certain kind of skill to maneuver them.”
Around the same time, Hamilton says he was participating in a photo shoot. “It was a really flat day in the summertime and there was no wind,” he recalls. Needing to liven up the shoot, Hamilton pulled a tandem board out of his car and an outrigger paddle from a friend’s truck. “I went out and started playing on these little waves with it,” he explains. “The paddle was way too short, but that was where the spark came.”
A lifelong surfer, Hamilton was stoked when he realized that his new invention was more than just a good time on the water. “It was an incredible way to train for big wave riding in the summertime when there’s no surf,” he says. “Normally, when the winter comes, you have to do all kinds of other weight lifting or biking to keep your legs strong enough to handle the big surf. This was something that put me in the water, and it was an incredible training platform as well.”
A fellow stand-up paddler and sports medicine doctor, Clayton Everline, agrees. “If you do it right, it’s a full body workout,” says Dr. Everline, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii. “You’ve got to be really careful when you start stand-up paddleboarding. It’s easy to develop bad habits early, and it will unmask all sorts of core muscle deficiencies.”
Dr. Everline suggests that you invest in some solid instruction to avoid any potential injuries, both acute (i.e., bone fractures from falling on the board) and those from “improper use,” like tennis elbow or rotator cuff issues. His book, Surf Survival: The Surfer’s Health Handbook, contains a chapter dedicated to SUP. In it, he details land workouts and stretches that can help prevent such injuries, as well as information on how to treat a variety of common aches and pains from paddling. (Visit his website, everlinemd.com, for plenty more useful information.)
The time spent learning how to properly work your stand-up paddleboard is a worthwhile investment, since the returns are huge— increased muscle tone, improved balance, and, according to Orlando-based paddleboarding instructor and registered nurse Tammy Smith, a 1,200 calorie burn per 90-minute paddle session. The best part is, says Smith: “You’re having so much fun you don’t even realize your heart rate is in that fat-burning zone.”
The ultimate hook, according to creator Hamilton, is less about fitness and more about the magical feeling that you’re walking on water. It’s the perspective shift that results from experiencing a familiar environment—the water— from a standing position. “When you were a kid, you crawled,” says Hamilton. “Once you stood, you never crawled again.” Welcome to your latest obsession.
For people who love the water but feel a tinge of trepidation about adding a stand-up paddleboard into the mix, there are fantastic workouts to be had. Rodney Centeno, the aquatics director and swim coach at Alpine Hills Tennis & Swimming Club in Portola Valley, California, says many of his swimmers report feeling “a healthy soreness in parts of their body that they don’t usually experience. That’s a good sign to us that they’re using several different muscle groups.” Many adults who participate in the club’s masters swim program note improved energy in other areas of their fitness regimen once they’ve added swimming to their routine.
A major benefit of working out in the water is the lack of impact on your joints. Dr. Jonathan Chang, a sports medicine physician at Pacific Orthopaedic Associates in Alhambra, California, says that in addition to being an “excellent way to bolster your cardiovascular system,” swimming suits those with joint issues like arthritis. “Because you’re not bearing weight, you’re not pounding. You can exercise without worsening your joints.” Dr. Chang notes that some amount of weight-bearing activity is necessary for anyone wishing to improve bone density, and always encourages cross-training. “You get benefits from one type of exercise that you won’t in another,” he says. “Variety is always good.”
Centeno says the same when he talks about the pros and cons of aqua aerobics. One upside for anyone who feels anxiety about the breathing mechanics of swimming is that the workouts are done with your head above the water’s surface. “You don’t have to concern yourself with, When do I take my breath?” he says. “Your face is out of the water so you can focus on the movements and exercises.”
While swimmers try to reduce drag, the whole point of water aerobics is to use the weight and the resistance of water to make your muscles work harder. Often, says Centeno, aqua aerobics is a great way for people to get comfortable with the notion of a water workout. “Anyone who spends time in water doing any type of exercise will learn things about how their body moves in water. They can eventually transfer to swimming laps.”
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
The key to an effective swim workout, says Centeno, is interval training. “In the water, adults should do different strokes, different elements of those strokes, have part of the workout where they focus on legs only, part upper body only, and part of it when they work on respirations— hypoxic work where they challenge their aerobic capacity,” he advises.
Here’s a sample workout to try the next time you head to the pool. (Consult your doctor first!)
? 1 x 300 yards swim (mix of strokes) 1 x 200 yards kick (mix of strokes with kickboard)
? 4 x 75 yards freestyle 25 R-arm / 25 L-arm / 25 swim / :15 rest 8 x 50 yards, 25 fast non-freestyle / 25 easy freestyle / :10 rest
? 1 x 300 yards freestyle pull (with buoy) 1:00 rest 2 x 150 yards freestyle swim (middle 100 strong) :30 rest 3 x 100 yards i.m. (fly/back/breast/free) :20 rest
? 6 x 50 yards, 25 freestyle (3 breaths) / 25 easy backstroke :10 rest
? 1 x 200 yards, cool down (mix of strokes, no butterfly)