While a massive advocate of cross-training, I’m not always great at practicing what I preach. I tend to go through phases of different activities. Outdoor strength training, cycling, hiking, aerobic classes, netball… I’ve done them all to compliment my running at one stage or another but I don’t tend to stick at any of them for longer than a marathon training cycle. My latest cross training however was completely unintentional. I found myself completely intrigued by Stand Up Paddle Boarding after trying a friend’s board on the coast last summer. I came home, ordered my own paddle board, and off I went. I didn’t get much in before the weather turned and I lost my confidence but this year has been a different story and I’m a little bit hooked. It’s only been recently that it dawned on me what great cross-training it is and so I wanted to explore the benefits of paddle boarding for runners. Turns out it is actually a great form of strength training!
Benefits of SUP for Runners
SUP Develops Stability
It stands to reason that anything that requires you to balance on a board on the water is going to help you develop core strength and some finely honed balancing skills. Don’t be put off if the standing part doesn’t come immediately. There are those who can’t stand up for a while when they first get a board, instead feeling more comfortable kneeling. I’m impatient though and it was about 20 minutes before I was bored of that and up on my feet. Similarly, my friend that I board with regularly was up on her feet after a similar amount of time.
Now it’s not easy – not by a long shot. You have to gingerly pull yourself up onto your feet and then hope that you don’t bump a bank or get caught in a bit of a ripple. Anytime I find myself approaching a bank, I sink back down again and wait for the thud. I am getting better though. It takes balance to stand upright (which is why paddle boarding as cross-training is an excellent choice). You have to plant your feet at a certain width and use your core to stabilise you on the board. Once up on my feet, I can confidently paddle for a couple of miles.
For muscular strength training, core strength, and balance, paddle boarding is a great choice. You can see how this would help with your downhill, or off-road running right? It’s no surprise that paddle boarding for runners is growing in popularity and that paddle boarding is great cross-training. It’s also great when you are on more of a rest day and don’t want to overdo it on leg impact.
Low Impact on Legs, Good Workout for the Arms
Want to have a break from pounding the pavements or stressing your body on the trails? Paddleboarding for runners means low impact on the legs, using your upper body instead to propel you through the water. In an opposite twist to running, your arms are going to be doing all the work on the board. Toning and strengthening your arms will help with your arm drive when hill climbing. It will also help your core stabilisation muscles too.
On your run recovery days, getting out on the board will still give you that exercise but it will give your legs a risk while giving the upper body a great workout.
It’s Not Expensive
Apart from the initial investment of the board and a canoe license (which costs £30 to use the rivers and waterways), there is very little expenditure. I’ve spent £330 on SUP in 12 months. The 5 pairs of trainers, a new Garmin watch, 2 new pairs of shorts, several running vests and a new sports bra have cost me more! You may want to buy a buoyancy vest too but you can pick these up relatively cheap.
This is the board I invested in after researching my options. It comes with all the kit and it’s a sturdy piece of equipment. As I get better and more into it, I will probably upgrade. I have two kids who love going out on the board too so it will certainly be put to good use. For now, this does everything I need, it comes in a compact carry case, folds down, and is easy to transport.
For the sake of honesty, if you do end up buying this board, I will earn a commission from Amazon but I do highly recommend it.
You Can Track it on Strava
While there is an actual SUP activity on Strava so you can track your progress, the reason I like this is that I can follow my SUP friends and get inspired. I have discovered new places by following others who SUP on Strava.
There are SUP Races and Combined Events
There are many events now which combine running and stand-up paddle boarding. In fact, one of my running friends and I were discussing our passion for paddle boarding on a run the other night. She’s less of a novice than me having been SUP’ing for a couple of years. She’s even entered a SUP triathlon – replace the swim with SUP. Now I’ve never done a triathlon because of the swim. Not so bothered about the bike and run, so I am considering having a bash.
It Offers Another Way to Enjoy Nature
Sometimes I just sit down on the board for a while and take it all in. Take a phone in a waterproof case and snap some great views too. There’s nothing like seeing life from the water.
Anyone Can Paddle Board
I do get lots of people asking me, especially those who see my Facebook posts or Strava updates about how, when, where etc. There are now quite a few of us that own boards and that plan adventures together. There are also those that find it daunting and think they couldn’t do it. That couldn’t be further than the truth though. Anyone can paddle board. You may want to watch a few YouTube videos first like this one on how to hold the paddle, stand up on the board etc. You may even consider a beginner’s lesson just to get to grips with the basics.
Finding the Perfect Spot
Now one of my most recent paddleboard-related Google searches is “best places to paddleboard in South West”. I started off on the river nearby that everyone frequents. That was OK. Bit busy for my liking. For the same reason I love running off-road in the hills, I want to get away from the crowds when I run. This was why I wanted to paddleboard. So, I then found another little stretch of river which was much more secluded and less frequented. In fact, if since discovered a new running route along the bank of the river that I hadn’t considered before. I started frequenting this stretch of river with my friend during the weekdays/early evening when there are less people about. Since then I have progressed in both experience and confidence and now have explored many coastal spots and rivers – Bigbury-on-Sea, Harlyn Bay, The River Parrett… I am always on the lookout and I have managed a whole 5k! Definitely hooked!
I’ve been reading lots of blogs about paddle boarding for runners, that’s how I came to write this one and apparently, performing squats, press-ups, and planks on a board and other exercises is extremely good for you. You can even do SUP yoga! This is next for me. For now, I’m just focused on going further and getting a little bit more fluid (pardon the pun) through the water.
In conclusion, there are so many benefits to paddle boarding for runners. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you are a runner or not. it’s good for the body and the soul and will certainly give you a new perspective as you watch the world go by from the river.