A couple of years ago while in Long Beach, Calif., my kids and I had the opportunity to try one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world, Stand Up Paddling, also known as SUP. Not only was it fun, it was deceivingly effective as a total body workout. Fortunately, I won’t have to go back to Long Beach to get my SUP fix, as a new indoor SUP trend is growing in fitness centers as well as yoga studios.
For those of you not familiar with SUP training, it is a whole-body workout using a modified surfboard and paddle. Simply standing on the board is an exercise in stability. Though there are elements of relaxation with SUP training, ironically this exercise recruits many of the body’s major muscle groups, which makes it a great workout. However, beyond the typical SUP workout, now the boards are being used in yoga studios across the globe bringing a unique training challenge to yogis.
According to Jeremy Strom, director of education for Ocean Yoga Fit / Freemotion, which developed the indoor SUP boards, this versatile board offers some impressive benefits.
“Our Ocean Yoga board promotes bilateral stabilization throughout the entire body with its patent-pending design,” Strom said. “The board forces you to use your mind to equally engage the right and left sides of your body throughout all planes of motion. This unique challenge increases caloric expenditure, mental engagement and combines the strength and flexibility benefits of yoga and surfing.”
Laird Hamilton, surfing legend and spokesperson for the indoor SUP boards, was on hand to provide demos of the indoor boards.
“The board’s innovative design allows it to mimic dynamic water and wave movements,” Hamilton said. “Adjustable balance pods simulate a surfing experience and offer three different levels of balance and difficulty. The board is equivalent to a stand-up paddleboard about 65 inches long by 21 inches wide.”
When I attended a fitness conference a couple of weeks ago, I tried out the land-based SUP and found it to be pretty effective. Though I couldn’t hear the seagulls or the splashing of the waves, my body knew it was doing something that required some strength and balance. I did try doing a couple of yoga postures on the board and felt the challenge immediately.
According to Mary Frances, the owner and creator of Divine Power Yoga in Napervillle, she discovered the indoor SUP boards through a friend.
“On a trip to San Antonio, I went to my friend’s studio, took a class and found it to be challenging and fun,” Frances said. “She was using balance boards to simulate SUP Yoga inside her studio.”
After her experience with the boards, Frances is bringing boards to her studio so clients can use them for both SUP classes as well as in their yoga practice.
Frances believes bringing SUP boards to her studio supplies some great benefits.
“It brings new life to a student’s practice,” she said. “Every pose feels new and different as they strive to keep their balance on the board.
“Second, in order to balance on the board, students will recruit their abdominal muscles in ways they don’t always have to in a regular yoga class. Teachers always encourage students to use their core but, of course, that doesn’t mean it always happens. On the board, if you don’t use your core, you lose your balance.”
Frances notes that SUP is appropriate for all levels.
“We can connect with people no matter where they are in their practice and teach them to paddle and then start beginner yoga poses,” she said. “While a beginner can certainly practice on the indoor boards, it is helpful to have an understanding of basic yoga poses.”
Though I’ve been in this business for a number of years, this is a pretty unique concept. Will it have staying power? I guess that depends what people get out of it. Personally, I prefer SUP on the water, but if I’m looking for something during the winter months to emulate my Long Beach experience, I won’t have to go too far.
Nicki Anderson is a 30-year fitness veteran and lifelong Naperville resident.