4 Ways to Become a Better Paddleboarder Off the Water

There are plenty of reasons you may find yourself unable to wet your board and practice becoming a better paddler. Whether it is because it’s cold outside or you don’t have access to a place to paddle, there are always things that you can do off the board to become a better paddleboarder on the water.

Some paddleboarders are on the water every day, but would like to add a more wholesome approach to your training. Luckily, all it takes is a little creativity and dedication. Read the following guide we have prepared with you in mind for some tips and tricks!

Hit the mat:

A strong sense of stability is an asset to have on a paddleboard. Yoga has been shown to improve balance by working the core muscles of the body: obliques, the gluteal complex, back muscles like the erector spinae, and abdominal muscles such as the transverse abdominus.

More vigorous types of yoga like power, Ashtanga or vinyasa flow will really strengthen your shoulders and upper back too. Training in this way does wonders for you as a paddler because it conditions important muscles and improves the strength and mobility in your joints.

The slower forms of yoga, like yin or restorative, stretch deep and hard to access muscles and ligaments. Unlocking this will help your stroke. This type of yoga is a perfect complement to intense paddling.

While paddling, you are constantly bending forward. If you’re not careful to do this with a neutral spine, you can put a lot of pressure in your lower back. Stretching the front of the body through back bending and chest opening postures can help alleviate this and allow you to paddle with more ease. You can also release the tension help in the hips, shoulders and knees. If you have any muscle fatigue, it may help ease that recovery, hence the name ‘restorative’.

The breath work practiced in yoga will help you breathe better while you paddle. Breathing is of particular focus in flow or vinyasa-styled classes. Once you learn to move with the breath on the mat, you can transfer this to your paddle boarding.

Try inhaling to prepare, exhaling to stroke and inhaling again on recovery. Exhaling helps you engage your core as you pull yourself towards the paddle. Notice how I said that you pull yourself towards the paddle, not the paddle towards you. That tip is key!

Hit the gym:

Like everyone, you may find that there are parts of your body that are stronger than others. This will vary from person to person.

For example, I may have a very strong core, but after an hour of paddling, my shoulders become sore and sometimes even cramp up. My husband has strong shoulders so he rarely feels any soreness there, but he has upper back pain. Identifying your weak spots and what needs more work is an important step in improving your paddling.

The benefit of hitting the gym, versus an all-around workout like yoga, is that you can target specific muscles that require more development. Think of what areas and muscles you need to strengthen and target them. The main muscle groups that you use while paddling are the core, the legs (including the glutes), and the shoulders.

Here are a few exercises you can do for each of this general muscle groups.

To strengthen your core try:

  • Crunches: can be done on a mat or on an adjustable sit up bench
  • Planks and side planks
  • An ab wheel by rolling forward and up while kneeling
  • A stability ball! Adding an element of balance to your workout will feel oddly familiar

To strengthen your legs try:

  • Squats like dumbbell squats or sumo squats
  • Walking lunges while holding dumbbells
  • Leg presses on the leg press machine. Make sure to keep good form in this one!
  • The dreading step machine will tone your glutes like no other machine
  • Walking on the treadmill on a steep incline is the less intense version of the step machine

To strengthen your shoulders try:

  • The dumbbells for some military presses, flyes and deltoid raises
  • Push-ups, because they work!
  • The cables have so many versatile shoulder exercises

Eat smart

What you put into your body has a direct influence on your health and energy levels. To prepare for long paddles or races, eat legumes like lentils and chickpeas, fruit, and whole grains. These foods are high in low GI carbohydrates, which provide your body with the perfect combination of protein and fat you need to power yourself on your paddleboard.

If you are training for a race or a long distance paddle (think over 10k), I would suggest following these marathon meal plans for the week leading up to the race.

Go for a run

Endurance is a necessary quality to have on the paddle board. Think of a time you were stuck paddled against strong winds, feeling quite winded (pun not intended!). You probably wished you had a little bit more endurance. Endurance is something you can train yourself to improve and running is an excellent tool to achieve this.

Running enhances cardiovascular health, strengthening the heart and training it to take in and deliver more oxygen. Long runs are especially great for developing stamina. Both sprinting and slow runs have their benefits. Find what style fits you and get running! Go easy on your joints by running at a slower pace than normal. Running will improve your energy, something you will treasure on the water, especially in nasty conditions or when you are very tired.

As a word of caution, if you have any spinal disc or knee issues, you may want to speak to your doctor about running and if it is right for you. Always listen to your body, as it’s the best way to prevent injuries.

Make sure you check back in for more paddle boarding articles!

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