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If you are new to stand up paddleboarding and want to get into SUP racing, it can be a little daunting to hit the water for your first competition. Once you’ve mastered the basics of SUP it might be time to take up a competitive challenge. Whether you want to do a small charity paddle or a long SUP race, you need to make sure you’re up to the task. That way you can enjoy the challenge and stay motivated for the next one.

Fitness Tips for SUP Racing

When you arrive at the SUP racing event, you’ll feel excited maybe even a little nervous. But don’t let that get to you. Prepare ahead of time and you’ll know you’re ready to go and up for whatever the day brings. As a new racer, you’ll want to be in your best shape for the race and have practiced enough so your technique is solid. Going into a race well prepared will make the whole event much more enjoyable.

Man walks along beach with Thurso Surf Roller Backpack

Bag’s packed and ready to head to the water.

Gyms aren’t for everyone and neither is a private coach, but with some simple exercises you can easily build strength and stamina for a PR busting race day. Working through these exercises, always preceded by a proper warm-up will make your first SUP racing event a great chance at a personal record, regardless of what place you finish.

SUP Racing Basic Exercises for Beginners

Stand up paddleboarding is a great sport that helps develop and maintain a person’s overall well-being. It’s a good way to work on both the body and the mind. Being outdoors and on the water regularly is hard to beat. Moreover, SUP works the entire body; shoulders, arms, back, legs and (as beginning paddlers know well 😉) your core. It’s also a fantastic way to relax and give yourself a break after a busy day. Who’s up for a sunset paddle? So unlike other grueling, repetitive exercise routines, SUP fitness can actually be so much fun you forget you’re working out.

However, if you’re prepping for a race, there are certain exercises that can help you excel. Developing a stronger core is crucial to improving your paddling technique and getting the most glide out of your stroke. Of course improving your shoulder and bicep strength will help you power through a long haul. But overemphasizing those small muscles in your arms won’t help your SUP race day performance as much as you might think. To get the most bang for your buck in terms of increasing your speed and stamina, focus on large muscle groups and full-body movements that improve your coordination. Big movements that focus on coordination are fun to do, boost your strength, cardiovascular fitness, and help improve your SUP technique. Getting your entire body and mind moving together is what will make you faster and your time out on the water most enjoyable.

Man paddles on Thurso Surf Expedition Touring SUP in open water under clear blue sky

In addition to fitness, practice your paddle stroke and form to increase your speed.

SUP Racing Exercise Routine

Here are some ideas for a SUP race training routine. The following exercises should be done in a circuit. You can do every one each session or reduce the number of exercises per session and increase your reps on those you do perform. Try them out and pick which particular exercises are right for you. You may have to build up some strength before you try the variations. They can be challenging, but don’t worry. You’ll get there and this is a good place to start working toward your SUP race fitness goals.

  1. Jumping Lunges – This exercise is good if you are looking for stronger hamstrings, glutes and calves. This exercise can be done anywhere that has some space. First, make sure you can do a good static lunge. Once that is accomplished then you can incorporate a jump each time you change legs. This will help with the development of strength, balance and coordination, all of which is needed for racing.
  2. Supermans – Supermans are a simple exercise that can be done anywhere that there is space to lay out. It’s good for various muscle groups including your abs, upper and lower back as well as your shoulders and legs. Supermans are the perfect exercise for balance and paddleboarding. Holding your arms out and legs up in unison from the floor while on your stomach makes the body unstable. This in turn forces your core to work toward make them stable again. Your attention to balance during the exercise will help with your overall paddleboarding stability as well.
Man performs paddle stroke on Thurso Surf Waterwalker All-Around SUP

An efficient stroke can help propel you further and faster.

  1. Plank Rotation – This is another exercise that does not need a lot of room. It begins as a push up that doesn’t go down to the floor. Simply, extend one arm up, while keeping your back straight and toes on the floor. It works your shoulder and back muscles along with your abs, all of which are needed for SUPing. The rotation comes when a hand is lifted from the floor and the body turned outward. Arm reaching to the ceiling. First one side and then the other.
  2. Paddle Squats – This is an exercise that works your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. First, do a regular standing squat. This works on lower body strength, which can help build stamina for longer races. Once you feel comfortable performing a basic squat you can add your paddle into the routine. Hold the paddle over your head squarely and then lower into your squat position. This addition will help build your back muscles. Hold the position (paddle raised above your head while squatting) for 1-2 seconds each rep.
Woman performs yoga pose on Thurso Surf Tranquility Yoga SUP

SUP yoga is a great compliment to a fitness routine.

Along with building muscle and stamina, keeping loose and relaxed is important in a SUP race. SUP racing isn’t only about strength, stamina, and coordination. It’s about mental well-being. You don’t want to psych yourself out before the race starts, so training ahead of time helps to prepare mentally. Breathing is especially useful in stressful moments and SUP yoga is a great way to center your self and stay calm. Moreover, doing yoga on a regular basis can help improve your performance. It helps with flexibility, balance as well as strength. It is also calming for the mind, so a great way to improve stamina and well-being at the same time.

Stretch Before Your SUP Race Fitness Routine

The other thing to be aware of when it comes to fitness for your first SUP race is your warm-up. Stretching before the race is important. Do proper stretches for your legs, back, core and arms to make sure you don’t pull anything during the race. Proper stretching techniques should be used every time you workout. Simply put it’s a good habit to get into, even if you’re just going out for a cruise. Here’s 5 effective SUP stretches made better with a paddle to get you started.

Woman paddles in bay near beach on Thurso Surf Expedition Touring SUP

Enjoy putting in the effort on the water and off.

Final Thoughts on SUP Racing

Overall, being fit doesn’t only mean being strong, it means being able to meet the challenges that come with SUP racing. Whichever level you are going to compete a well-rounded fitness routine can help you get there. However, don’t limit your efforts to physical exercise. A big part of competition especially in an endurance sport like SUP racing means getting prepared mentally. Ultimately, your number one competitor is the one you’re always racing against, yourself. And, being physically and mentally prepared means you’ll be able to enjoy your first race. So, get warmed up and get ready to hit that PR! Good luck out there!


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