Unless you're SUP surfing overhead waves or hurling yourself down shallow rapids on the river, standup paddleboarding is generally a low impact sport. Of course, that's not to say SUP is easy on your body. When done properly, standup paddling engages the gamut of your musculoskeletal system, exercising the minutia of stabilizer muscles throughout and testing the durability of ligaments and tendons. But when not properly trained and protected, paddling can cause or worsen joint injuries. If you suffer from joint pain or weakness, or you're aiming to prevent these issues, consider these hacks for keeping your joints conditioned both in and around workouts.

Balance Your Training

Athletes have a tendency to build lopsided training habits. Maybe you're super psyched on distance training right now, or sprint intervals, or cross training in the gym to build more power in your stroke. Whatever you're into, be careful not to do too much, too often.

Stagger your days of pumping iron with days of cardio, separate sprint training sessions with longer, more sustained paddle outings. Take a rest day once or twice a week. Differentiating your training routine allows needed time for specific muscle groups to heal and grow, and helps ensure no single part of you blows out from over-tension.

Charlie Cindric with an all-in layback brace on Idaho’s Pipeline Wave, bracing.

Use a Waterproof Brace

If you've suffered a joint injury or are concerned about a tender area, a lightweight, waterproof brace can sometimes be just enough support to prevent further injury. The biggest issue with most joint injuries—dislocations, torn ligaments and even moderate sprains—is that they heal poorly, making the area prone to reinjury.

Aiding your ligaments and tendons with some sort of structural support—be it waterproof tape, a light and tight splint or compression clothing—can help drastically with injury prevention and recovery or at the very least, some sort of placebo effect. 

Jana Valesova gives herself a tuneup with the Trigger Point Grid Vibe after a paddle in Pacific Beach, California. Photo: Mike Misselwitz

Foam Roll

Ah the mighty foam roller—it hurts so good. Rolling out your muscles and joints before and/or after SUP workouts does wonders to prevent injury, speed up recovery, improve mobility and remove lactic acid in your muscles. It works like a deep-tissue massage with your body weight controlling the pressure to loosen up tissues and engage dormant or recovering muscle groups. Use it to loosen up your IT bands before paddling out or to dig knots out of your rotator cuff after a hard workout. It's an easy staple for your arsenal.

Stay hydrated on race day. Photo: Lorenzo Menedez

Use the Right Fuel

There are a lot of supplements out there, many questionably conducive at best, but when it comes to strengthening your musculoskeletal system, there are a couple with proven positive effects. Glucosamine Hydrochloride (not Glucosamine Sulfate, which is basically Glucosamine HCl with added salt), found naturally in shellfish, is known to enhance cartilage health and relieve arthritic pain.

Fish oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, will work as an anti-inflammatory to decrease pain and provide vital nutrients to the joint systems. Most importantly, be sure you're getting the calories you need and drink lots of water before, during and after your workouts. Hydration is king.


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