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Women In Paddling

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stand Up Paddle Training at the Gym with Suzie Cooney

Quick Reactions and Good Balance Can Make a Better Stand Up Paddler by Suzie Cooney of Suzie Trains Maui

Whether you surf the big waves of Maui’s North Shore or touring the beautiful channels and waterways of Jupiter, Florida, or on Lake Tahoe, it’s known that if you have good balance and can respond quickly to changing water conditions or obstacles that can come in your path; better chances for a more enjoyable SUP session.

Time and time again I’ve had to call upon some of the tiniest muscles, to fire fast and respond to get me out of trouble or to dodge a turtle on the same wave! I’ve also encountered large pieces of floating debris, strange breaking waves, or other people in my line that I had to have quick reaction times and good balance for recovery to get my footing back.

As a trainer and water sports enthusiast, I’ve always encouraged the importance of trying to mimic similar conditions in your workout program on land. You can keep it really simple or add some fun equipment too.

To me, balance training is like brain training. Without getting too technical, it’s like adding a few more wires to our brain or panels so you’re ready for anything. One technical term I will use is called neuromuscular training. The definition simply means selecting specific exercises that are very specific to increase one’s performance, and trigger the appropriate actions to allow your nervous system to operate and perform functionally at its maximal level.

Your eyes, core, and all of the muscles connected to your central nervous system have an important role to quickly gather information, route it to the right department and fire away. Ever had the feeling like you’re moving in slow motion while during a serious wipe out? I have. It’s the strangest feeling. I’m not sure I’m fond of it and I try really hard to have cat like reactions and excellent balance to avoid that.

Stand up paddling, as simple as it looks does in fact require a little balance when you’re beginning and as you advance. When you’re learning, you’re so busy turning the paddle in the right direction, looking at the horizon and more than likely, gripping the deck with every single muscle in your foot, leading to early fatigue.
Once you’re up and gliding there’s not much to it. But, as you step into your first wave or go down in the size of your board, you may discover you need a little better balance or to retrain your brain to learn again.

Next time you’re in the gym or in your own home gym, start practicing a couple balance techniques to keep your brain and muscles fine tuned.

Equipment: The BOSU, INDO Board, my KIALOA paddle and an 8lb medicine ball or 12 -15lb body bar.

These are advanced moves, so start out slowly and progress safely:
Kialoa Pipes Stand Up Paddle

1.BOSU,dome side down with paddle, medicine ball or body bar: I’ve actually taken a bit of sand paper to roughen up the plastic side of my BOSUs to aid in traction, or have sand on my feet! I recommend barefoot so you can really get the feel of the movements of the BOSU. Step on safely, feet parallel to the plug, posture nice and tall, relaxed looking ahead. Take your paddle, medicine ball or body bar and start to paddle 2 strokes each side. Switch off to mix it up. As you move your arms out and to the side, notice how sensitive the BOSU becomes. I like to try and go to fatigue or until my legs scream!

KIALOA Pipes Stand Up Paddle

2. INDO Board on top of dome of BOSU: Place the INDO Board itself on top of the dome of the BOSU. I like to have a little less board off the back to I can really pretend I’m heading down the line. Or if you’re more comfortable to start, place the INDO board so it’s nicely balanced in the center. Change it up. You can place your feet side by side as if you’re cruising and do it that way, or if you’re charging some waves, assume the surf stance.

This time you’ll notice the added extra burn to your back carving leg at the same time looking ahead where you want to go, down the line.

Good balance for stand up paddling is key and important for many things we do in life. Next time you’re on the water, try paddling on one foot, or simply standing on one foot. In the gym, try kneeling on a stability ball for extra fun. Be sure to hang onto a sturdy object at first. Add more air to the stability ball to make it more challenging and fun.

Any questions about these exercises or to learn more, feel free to email me at or check out and

Glide with good posture, react fast and paddle hard!

Aloha, Suzie Cooney, CPT of Suzie Trains Maui

Suzie is wearing shorts from Athleta click here. She paddles with the new “Pipes” from KIALOA Paddles.

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