It’s awesome that we will be able to get back on the water as of next Tuesday 28th April. But remember – you’ve had no paddling for at least 5 weeks! You may well be super fit from all the running and cycling you’ve been doing to keep in shape, but those SUP muscles will be in rather less good shape. If you go too hard in your first few outings, you’re at great risk of injury, which would be tragic after so long off the water! Here are 5 great fitness practices so you return to paddling without needlessly exposing yourself to risk of injury:
1. Warm up on land
Increase your heart rate gently and mobilise the joints and muscle groups you’ll use. This does a range of things for mind and body. it gets you in the right frame of mind to exercise, warms your body temperature, enlivens neuromuscular connections and prepares tendons and muscles for work. There will be movement patterns (rotating), joints (shoulders) and muscles (back and arms) that have been under-used over the last 5 weeks. And keep your warm up dynamic. Static stretching is for warming down.
Warm up concsiously and notice what feels different or maybe like it isn’t working quite as it was pre-lockdown. These are all little signals to be mindful of when you’re paddling. If you have known injuries, niggles or weaknesses, pay special attention to warming those areas up. This is not wasted time. It may end up saving you a lot more ‘wasted’ time off the water.
Here are a few ideas for warming up and you’ll have your own too I’m sure.
2. Warm up on water
Take at least 10 minutes to warm into your paddle. Focus on what you are doing with your body position and movements, and focus on good technique. All these things make you more efficient and reduce injury risk.
We paddle for a bunch of reasons. You may paddle for recreation, for gentle exercise or for full-on fitness or endurance. Regardless of why you paddle, don’t go hard on your first few sessions. Keep your intensity low to moderate while your body is re-adjusting to SUP-specific load. One way of gauging intensity is on a scale of 1-10. 1= no exertion and 10 = flat out and gulping in air. So aim to keep your first week of SUP activities at a 3-6 kind of scale (you could maintain a conversation while paddling even if a bit short of breath). Be mindful that wiith increased intensity and power production, come increased risk of injury.
Whatever your normal paddling time on the water pre-lockdown shave 20-30% off that. Paddling (like running or cycling) involves a highly repetitive set of movements. Each repetition builds load and stress on your body, so by limiting the load on your rather ‘green’ paddling muscles and joints, you’ll be re-building their capacity rather than stressing them out. For those of you out there who feel like you’ve not exercised properly unless you feel sore for the next few days – caution! Your context has changed and your body isn’t ready for a hammering. You might do it and get away with it – or you might not. Worth the board being back in the garage?
5. Warm down
Probably most peoples’ Achilles Heel – you want to get home, you’re getting cold, other things to do, whatever. But warming down is really important!! Recovery is as much a factor in performance as movement and just after exercise is when your muscles are most receptive. So just like your window for recovery foods, treat your muscles to a bit of stretching before packing up. It won’t necessarily stop muscle soreness, but it will stop your muscles incrementally tightening. Hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds and repeat the stretch up to three times.
Remember the stresses of any form of exercise are very specific (think cycling vs yoga vs running). Even if you have been super active during lockdown, your movement patterns will have been different to how you use your body when paddling. So don’t go too hard too soon. Enjoy the water, the blue, the view, the breeze, the feelings of walking on sand and water lapping over your feet. Ease yourself back in and you’ll be enjoying being back on the water, and soon up to full SUP fitness again and able to go as hard as you like. But if you go too hard straight off, you may well find yourself back on that indoor trainer!!