Forget manic cardio sessions where you end up in a sad and crumpled heap (or falling off the treadmill, Bridget Jones-style). Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is an excellent all-body workout that also happens to be serene and simple to do. Providing a double whammy of strength and cardio training, it’s an eminently fun way to spend an afternoon. And it’s a brilliant means of slowing down and really seeing the world, too. Skip past the crowded tourist sights and instead get out on the water, for a unique perspective on destinations all around the globe. Here’s 8 reasons why SUP comes top of our list for travel fitness:
It’s ridiculously simple
Much of the appeal of SUP lies in its tempting simplicity. It doesn’t matter what your body size, shape or level of fitness is. It’s so easy, pretty much anyone can get involved. “It basically comes down to standing on the middle of a board with feet shoulder-width apart, and propelling yourself through the water with a long oar,” explains SUP fan Nicky Collins to the Guardian. Don’t believe us? SUP athlete Lizzie Carr tried paddleboarding for the first time just two years before she made history as the only person to navigate the entire length of England via its canal networks. “I’m on a mission to show that anyone can have an adventure,” she said at the time. “What I’m doing is something anyone can do.”
You can burn loads of calories
What you get out of SUP depends on what you put in; the more aggressively you go at it, the more you’ll burn. But even a casual pootle can churn through upto 430 calories in the space of an hour, according to SUP World Mag. That’s about double the figure you’d burn on a moderately-paced walk over the same time period. Upgrade your SUP session to a yoga workout, and you’ll get through 540 calories in an hour, while an hour of SUP touring (paddling for a distance without stopping at moderate pace) will burn 708 calories, the same level as SUP surfing (like actual surfing, but with a paddle).
It’s a great core workout
Want to get your core up and running without the pain of a plank? Let SUP be your guide. This is a brilliant way to put your core through its paces, since your abdominal muscles will be constantly working to help you keep your balance. It’s more gentle and fun core exercise than say, a seated barbell twist, and yet you’ll definitely feel the reward in action. “The rockier the water, the harder you have to work to stay upright and balanced, which is great for your core,” says Nicky. “It’s great for a flat tummy, too – I’ve never had a six-pack before, but it’s coming.”
It builds all-body strength
Beyond the core, SUP is a brilliant all-round body workout. It’s an exercise in strength and endurance that requires almost every element of the body to cooperate and pull its weight. When you paddle through the water, your quadriceps, shoulders, arms, and knees work together to propel you forward. Your leg muscles also up their game to help the core in keeping your balance. And yet, you don’t really feel the ache in the same way as you might in the gym, as you’re distracted by the motion of gliding across water. It’s the perfect cross-trainer, providing both aerobic and strength-based training.
It’s low-impact and relaxing
Forget a hardcore weight-lifting session. SUP will kick your body into shape, but without the residue intensity of other strength-based workouts. It’s also easier to master than say, skiing, and less daunting than something like surfing. It’s up to you how intense you want to make it (current and speed will make the difference) but this is a good activity for anyone who fancies easing themselves into exercise. Surrounded by the beauty of the open landscape, it’s pretty relaxing and you can grab a refresher – by diving into the water – whenever it gets too sweaty.
You’re immersed in nature
As well as being a form of exercise, SUP is about escapism. You get to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, with the sun on your shoulders, and water stretching out all around you. It’s a rich and immersive experience, and one that will bring you face-to-face with the meditative delights of Mother Nature. “Nature has an overwhelming power to bring calm and clarity,” says Lizzie. Her own canal adventure, she says, was a way of treasuring “a presence of calm and tranquillity in often dense, urban places”.
You see the world at your pace
SUP provides a full-body workout in the most amazing settings. When you see the world on water, you gain a whole new perspective. And you can use it to broaden your travel horizons, too. Whether you’re paddling your way down a dense tropical waterway in the Philippines, or marvelling at the wilderness of central Europe, SUP carves out a whole new, and more serene, vantage point. It’s a unique way of spotting out wildlife, and appreciating the rich natural beauty of the planet’s lakes, rivers and coastal stretches. It taps into the delights of slow travel, too.
You can lie out afterwards
For us, the best kind of workouts end with some chill time – and that’s certainly the case with SUP. Whenever you feel like you’ve paddled enough, you can simply stretch out on your board and soak in the rays. Have a gentle snooze, splash some water over you to cool down; or start an impromptu water fight with your SUP neighbour (#yolo). Since you can SUP anywhere in the world – and even in the same place, wind and water conditions will vary – this is a workout where no two sessions will ever be the same. So, kick back, relax and make the most of this supremely soothing sport.
Stand-up paddleboarding: where to go
Photos: Flash Pack