Paddle Healthy: Rest and Recovery

In the SUP community there have been giant leaps in training, gear and nutrition over the past few years. We’re seeing more functional on and off water workouts like SUP yoga and CrossFit-style programs tailored to paddleboarding, that are helping athletes enhance strength, flexibility and endurance. And with many of the top male and female paddlers buying into eating organic, locally-produced and whole foods, they have the fuel to push through these workouts and aid recovery afterwards.

But for many standup paddlers, there’s a missing component: rest. Whether it’s a long downwinder, the kind of intense-interval workout Danny Ching favors, or a hard gym session, EJ Johnson-style, training tears down muscle fibers. Eating right goes part way to rebuilding muscle fibers and supporting other physiological aspects of recovery, but without proper rest, a paddler is going to struggle to translate workout gains into race-day performance, regardless of whether you’re an elite competitor on the Standup World Tour or a newbie entering a fun event. Here are three tips to help recover better:

Turn Off the Electronics and Get to Bed!
When you’re recovering from a hard day’s paddling or a long gym session, it’s tempting to kick back and reach for the remote or an iPad. But it’s easy to get sucked into a Game of Thrones marathon that eats into your much-needed sleep time, or to get caught in a Facebook back-and-forth that lasts a lot longer than planned. To adequately recover from training, you need a minimum of seven hours uninterrupted sleep, and preferably eight to 10 hours. Laird Hamilton often gets 12+. So, if you want to be your best the next day, put down the remote, iPad or phone and get to bed! And, try to create a 30-minute buffer in-between screen time and sleep, as the sensory stimulation of looking at a screen can interfere with your body’s sleep pattern.

Photo courtesy of Lake Effect Outfitters

Photo courtesy of Lake Effect Outfitters

Embrace the Nap
Only kids and college students need naps, right? Umm, not so much. The reason that young people sleep during the day is not because they’re lazy (well, college kids might be an exception), but because their bodies are growing too fast for a good night’s sleep to be enough. Pro athletes have long been fans of napping when and where they can. An article on big wave surfer Rusty Long stated that he and his brother, Greg, can sleep just about anywhere, including on his board bag in an airport. Even getting 15 to 30 minutes of shuteye during the day can help your body recover and be ready to perform at your best, particularly if the first tip on this list wasn’t possible. And if you can’t get to sleep, try just closing your eyes, relaxing your muscles and listening to calming music. “Power naps” can be powerful, indeed!

Photo courtesy of Athleta

Photo courtesy of Athleta

Take a Rest Day
Going to the limits is becoming the norm in fitness circles—solo SUP expeditions, ultra marathons and “extreme” races like Tough Mudder, to name just a few examples. As such, overtraining is becoming an increasing problem, even for the most health conscious of paddlers. You can start to view taking a rest day as a sign of weakness, another opportunity lost for a workout. Not so, according to a growing consensus in exercise science. Taking a complete rest can actually help aid gains, while never taking a break inhibits them, driving up your resting heart rate, causing chronic fatigue and even contributing to heart disease. You don’t have to be completely idle, and some light exercise such as taking a walk or bike ride, doing some myofascial release exercises (think using a foam roller on sore muscles, for starters), or going for a very easy paddle can help increase blood flow and reduce soreness. Just save ‘pushing it’ until tomorrow. —Phil White

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