We look at Paddle fitness overall as this is always the overarching goal. SUP is a perfect way to get some of your weekly exercise and being on the river while you work out is definitely an added incentive not to skip a session. The main goal of these sessions is to improve our aerobic fitness and muscular endurance.
SUP is a great full body workout which is ideal for a fitness session and really simple to plan and adapt. The planning comes in before you approach the water – checking weather conditions, what the state of the tide is and making sure we select suitable equipment for our session. Once we are on the water we can assess the best route to paddle depending on what type of session we are aiming for and who’s paddling.
On a tidal river longer boards are better, this is going to give you more speed which is especially important when paddling against the tide. Narrower boards will also increase speed with less resistance in the water, but you don’t need to go so skinny that you will feel unstable especially when there can be potentially some wake from boats at any time of day. So a touring board is fine and race boards are ideal. We want to make sure we select the right size paddle, the length is just a case of adjusting to the right size but we should be selecting a blade size proportionate to our size and weight. Having a blade too big will put unnecessary strain on our arm and shoulder muscles which is amplified when we exert more power into the stroke and will increase the risk of injury. Having a blade too small is less of a risk but may not give us the necessary power we need and there is also potential to break a paddle which was not designed for your height/weight/strength as you put more pressure on it.
Working against the tide is ideal for a workout and means that we aren’t limited by what the tide is doing giving us the freedom to work on paddle fitness at anytime. The tide will be different in terms of overall flow ‘strength’ at different stages of the tide meaning we can’t fully control the resistance but we can increase and decrease it by choosing where we paddle.
Generally paddling against the tide we will need to work the slacks – essentially the inside bend of the river where the flow will be the weakest. The slacks are located in the inshore zones, the size of the inshore zone will also depend on the stage of the tide. They are marked out by marker buoys but at low tide these will be a lot closer to the river bank which will be a foreshore, as opposed to high tide where there will be a much bigger gap between the buoys and the riverbank which will be a steep embankment at most points.
So back to how we can control resistance, the further we are from the riverbank the faster the flow against us will be and vice versa so paddling just inside the inshore zone and nearer the fairway will be a much harder workout. This also reduces the risk of grounding or the fin hitting the riverbed when there is less water in the river on the Ebb tide and having to focus on the uneven riverbed while trying to workout can be distracting and potentially risk injury. Paddling to one side of the inshore zone will also allow space for a rower to pass as even at full speed they will be overtaking you. You will need to check over your shoulder still but less so and of course the responsibility will always be with the overtaking craft (Rower/Kayak/SUP) to avoid collision. When there is a lot more water later in the flood tide it’s not necessary or advisable to go as far out towards the fairway.
Paddling back in the fairway (with the tide) can be a nice cool down after a hard continuous paddle against the flow, or a break between if we are choosing to focus more on interval training. Paddling the same stretch again straight away can be a bit boring so drifting back past our start point and then paddling back is usually the preferred option and also provides some more motivation as there isn’t really an option not to make it back!! However it is definitely worth noting a back up get out point where you can get off and walk back if really necessary.
Technique is something we will focus on and analyse during warm ups/cool downs and intervals when we are still paddling as it gives you a great opportunity to practice and make adjustments in a position where they will make more sense.
Get in touch for more info on how to increase your paddle fitness through sessions on the water and in the gym.