SUP into the New Year

Suzie CooneyAloha Athleta Chi readers returning and new. If you’ve followed me this year, you’ve noticed that yes, I am a huge fan and contributor to the sport of stand up paddling (SUP). My mission is to share what the sport can do for your mind and body. (See Stand Up and Sweep Your Way To Better Health.)

Approaching the New Year, I know some of you are looking forward to learning new things and making new goals for yourself. A a fitness expert, I have goals of my own to achieve; great challenges big and small. Having had the opportunity to represent Athleta has allowed me to touch wonderful and amazing people, like you. Some of you have contacted me from around the world to share with me how I encouraged you, inspired you and how the community of Athleta has made a difference in your life!

Well, you have inspired me too. Getting to know you and your desires has made me a better person, a better fitness professional and has allowed me to expand my teachings and experiences on and off the water. Thank YOU!

To get you revved up to include SUP in your life next year, check out my short new rock’n video filmed here on the N. Shore of Maui. From the waves to the 10 mile long distance course, turn up the volume and get pumped to paddle!


If you are considering learning the sport of  SUP, or for those of you who are getting into racing this year, I have a few special health tips to help you become a better paddler and make SUP a part of your fitness program next year and the years to come:

SAFETY FIRST: Learn all you can about water safety, weather conditions in your area, and if you’re taking lessons, be sure to learn from someone well qualified.

CORE STRENGTH: Power and strength is initiated from the core. Your core, which is everything excluding your extremities (hips, obliques, low back muscles, pelvic muscles, internal and external abdominal muscles), is getting a tremendous workout, as is all of the supporting, stabilizing muscles of your hips, knees and ankles. If your core is weak, you may fatigue more quickly or increase your risk of injury. One of my favorite core exercises is the simple Ball Bridge. See my Athleta article A Total Body Workout For Everyone with photos and instruction for the Ball Bridge.

UPPER BODY ENDURANCE: Your shoulders, upper and low back all work in unison with your core and your lower body to perform solid, smooth strokes. Whether you’re racing downwind or rounding a buoy or simply cruising on your local lake or bay, upper body endurance will get you through.

Make sure to incorporate extra core training and include a larger mixture of upper body endurance and resistance exercises.  For example, I’ll take an 8 pound medicine ball, stand on a balance platform (such as the BOSU) with knees slightly bent, and mimic the paddling stroke you would use on your board.  (Or see below.) Change up the weights — do one set with a 4 pound, 8 pound, then 10 pound medicine ball — about 15-20 alternating movements or strokes with each weight.

BALANCE TRAINING: Stand up paddling does demand upper and lower body strength as well as good balance and quick reactions. See my Athleta article The New Wave of Balance Training for a great balance workout. I recommend simple equipment, like a stability ball, resistance tubing and light weights, and an unstable training platform like my favorite piece of gear, the Gigante Disc made by INDO Board.

Indo Board

This disc inflates up to 12 inches for fast, four-way action. Or you can deflate it to slow it down.  You can also use two discs with less air under a larger board. You may want to remove your fin(s) so you don’t damage the fin box.

SUP Balance Training

Carefully mount up, look ahead and pretend you’re paddling. Use your toes, your ankles, knees, legs and hips to control the board. Shift your weight side to side and see how your body responds. Always look ahead.

SUP Balance Training

To add even more fun and get a great upper arm and lower leg workout, add a 12 pound weighted body bar and practice your strokes.  If you don’t have a weighted body bar, an 8-10 pound medicine ball works great too!

LEG TRAINING: If you’re starting to enter small to big waves leg training is very key. See my article Power Conditioning For Surfing, SUP and the Effects of Gravity. Lots of leg lunges and light to heavy plyometrics, depending upon your level of fitness, are the magic ingredient to charging small or big waves.

SUP Leg Training - Plyometrics

SUP Leg Training - Lunges

SET REALISTIC, MEASURABLE GOALS: I suggest that you don’t make your New Year’s fitness goals too daunting. Start out simple and build from there. Make sure they are measurable. For example, try keeping a running or SUP journal. I’m keeping a SUP journal to see how many days a week/month I can get on the water for my off –season race training. This includes waves too!

STAY BALANCED: Extra sleep and a healthy diet are also on the top of my list this year.  I need lots of energy, so that is how I approach food. I eat 90% for training and living, and 10% pleasure! I’m very strict about limiting sugar, alcohol and cannot get enough vegetables. Having a balance in my life this next year will help me be a better stand up paddler and allow me to do more for my training clients.

Ladies, if you’d like to come on a SUP adventure, now’s your chance to join me on a five-star SUP adventure April 10th -17th, 2011 in Costa Rica. Train with me daily and SUP while we enjoy the beautiful accommodations at the Zancudo Lodge. I welcome all levels of SUP and levels of fitness.  We’ll train on the beach, then stand up and paddle together! Come have some fun, learn to SUP or improve your current skills, and have the time of your life! Space is limited, sobook now! Click here for more information »

My message and mantra is simple: “Live it, ride it and don’t close your eyes. Believe in yourself to go a little faster, harder and smile big!” Make SUP a part of your fitness goals in the New Year. It will change your life — this I promise!

Mahalo and in good “SUP” health,

Suzie Cooney, CPT


December 17, 2010 at 8:28 am

Aloha Suzie, Mahalo nui loa once again for turning me not only into a person who’s about to brave the cold Bay Area water for the first time in order to SUP, but for the wonderful routines that have contributed to my overall strength. My New Year’s Resolution is to join a weekly Wednesday night paddle in January (along with a few more 5Ks, natch). 🙂

Suzie Cooney

December 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

You are so welcome Lucy. It’s been nice getting to know you across the E waves and I look forward to meeting you one day on the real waves! Now, for winter paddling, I know first hand you need to be warm. I suggest a 3/2 mil wetsuit with the new flex neoprene especially in the shoulders and arms. It’s a pain to try a bunch arm, but it’s the only way. The new wetsuits are so comfortable. Booties too will help. Some people like the split toe version. Keep on SUP’n girl and keep me posted. We’ll chat soon! Suzie


December 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Hi Suzy! I will be putting these tips into practice. After our delicious training session filled with sea turtles and whale tails, I am hooked. Going to demo and purchase a board once it stops raining in San Diego. Your instruction and tips were invaluable and I can’t wait for my next Hawaii lesson. You are amazing.

Many Thanks


March 11, 2011 at 11:17 am

I hope you all are OK.

I saw the news about the tsunami warnings this morning.

Mary Lanser

April 14, 2011 at 12:12 am

Ladies! If you enjoy stand up paddling and would like to share your love of the sport, visit my blog for women paddlers: I paddle on Maui and would love to hear from other women who love paddling too. I am giving away a neat bumper sticker to every one who subscribes and joins the fun!

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