You just finished a hard SUP session. You hit the beach, grab your gear, load it on your car and drive off. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, the main thing is that you forgot to cool down properly. Unfortunately, this is a common practice, as well as one that can have negative short- and long-term consequences.
According to Brody Welte from PaddleFit in San Diego, Calif., the first thing you should do after a hard paddle session is simple: keep paddling. Really? Yes! Keep going at a pace that is comparable to what walking is to sprinting for five to 10 minutes. This will allow your body to gradually go back to a steady state and help your muscles remove waste products such as lactic acid, decreasing muscle soreness later. It will also prevent you from getting dizzy when you suddenly stop paddling hard.
Once you've finished your slow tempo paddle it's time to focus on flexibility. In the last article we explored how static stretching can be bad for you before a workout, but that's not the case when you get off the water and when combined with other mobility methods.
When muscles are under load they tense up, and if you don't stretch them out they contract further as your body rebuilds the fibers that were partially torn down during paddling. Multiply this by each day you get on your board or hit the gym and you start to develop positional faults. These include internally rotating your shoulders during your reach instead of maintaining external rotation, or hinging forward at the lower back instead of creating torque through the hips. These mechanical faults then contribute to injury. The good news is with a proper cool down that includes mobility work, you can avoid all of this.
Post-workout mobility is great because your core temperature is high, which is the best time to work on flexibility and range of motion. The focus should not be isolating muscles, but rather to make your mobility movements as multi-planar as possible-- i.e. incorporate as many joints as you can in different directions. After all, SUP is a total body exercise that involves twisting and turning with all your major muscle groups. Here's a video of four post-paddling mobility exercises that will finish off your cool down on the beach. --Phil White