December 4, 2015

The "Off" Season of SUP

As we enter the cooler months of the year, many paddlers at higher latitudes are forced off the water by cold or ice. Some paddlers voluntarily take a physical and mental break from the year. Although SUP is a relatively new sport, we can already see some patterns developing for what would be considered the “on” and “off” seasons.

In Season
Off Season
Pre Season


After the Pacific Paddle Games and the conclusion of the Salt Life Cup at Battle of the Bay, many paddlers retreat to their home waters for a much needed rest. Not just to recover, but also to assess the previous season and make plans for another, hopefully more successful, season! November and December in the Northern Hemisphere are great months to get in strength and cross training before the next “pre season” cycle. Some races also pop up in the pre season and are fantastic warm up races to gauge performance and dust off the cobwebs… but we’ll talk about pre season later.

While there will be a little bit of overlap for many people these seasons are close enough to develop a solid training plan and get into a rhythm. The off-season cycle isn’t a time to do NOTHING; it also isn’t a time to keep on training just to get a head start on other paddlers. Although this approach may work for a year or two, the long-term success is low. If you continue training through the off-season you risk over training and mental burnout. Alternatively, if you don’t train at all, you will detrain your body and be at a level like before you started. Ideally, an athlete would want to maintain 50-60% of their fitness; which gives adequate rest but is much easier to get going again. The best way to balance maintenance and recovery are through cross-training activities. These activities will combine a cardio, resistance, and flexibility. Cardio, like jogging, is a perfect way to keep up your cardio capabilities through the non-paddling weeks. Your aim would be no more than 60-70% of your max heart rate for anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Resistance training will also help increase overall strength, and should target muscles you don’t use while paddling (this can be hard considering that SUP is a full body workout, but examples I’ve found in my training are chest and hip flexors, you may be different). You can also use resistance training to shore up imbalances in sides. Being improperly balanced can lead to chronic injuries, so it’s a good idea to log some time with individual weights and strengthen each side equally. Don’t overdo it, about 2-3x a week keeping it light and absolutely no more than 50% of your 1 rep max. Other imbalances in strength can occur when one muscle (an agonist) is working hard throughout your season, while the antagonist isn’t stressed to the same extent. One of the best ways to increase strength in those antagonist muscles is to increase flexibility (try yoga!). You can’t strengthen your muscles without stretching them.

That about wraps it up from an off-season perspective. Enjoy holidays, feasts, fun, and family. Stay active, but don’t stick to a strict schedule. Your mantra should be “unstructured activity.” When we get back from the holiday months, we’ll talk a little bit about pre-season!