Are you getting a bit bored with your Pilates routine? Would you like to spice it up and take it to the next level? Then Pilates on a paddleboard or SUP (short for ‘stand-up paddleboard’) might be just the right challenge for you.
You may have already tried or seen other people paddleboarding – a sport that has its roots in Hawaii and is an offshoot of surfing. Originally, it was used as a way to get further into the sea to catch the waves but is now practiced on all sorts of waters, such as lakes, rivers, canals and even swimming pools.
It is a fun sport suitable for most age groups and fitness levels. So, you don’t have to be an athlete or super sporty person to start and enjoy paddleboarding.
But how about SUP Pilates?
Who can do Pilates on an SUP – what are the prerequisites?
For this type of workout, similar principles apply as for the standard stand-up paddling version. Whether you are twenty or sixty years old, or whether you are a fitness enthusiast or someone who just likes to do some fun activities now and then, it’s suitable for most age and ability groups and is a great sport to try.
However, since you will be on the water for the whole duration of your workout, you will need to be confident in water and don’t mind getting wet as you will most certainly fall into the water from time to time. Being able to swim is therefore highly recommendable.
Although you don’t need any previous experience with standing on a board, you should know the principles of Pilates and what it is about. Also, you shouldn’t be a complete Pilates beginner and already know which muscle groups to engage for the individual exercises so you can focus on your balance and stability when doing your Pilates workout on the board.
What are the health benefits of paddleboard Pilates?
Doing Pilates on a paddleboard is really like exercising on a floating exercise mat. This means you do the same sort of exercises, engage the same muscle groups but with the additional challenge of having to balance.
This balancing act requires you to use your core muscles to a much higher degree than if you were working out on a solid base. Also, correct postural alignment is necessary to stay on the board so you are practically ‘forced’ to align properly.
Adding Pilates exercises to the balance and alignment challenge means that many muscle groups of the body are challenged at various times giving you a total body workout.
As a result, you will not only have a much stronger core, but generally more overall strength. A strong core and an overall strong body are the best armour in the battle against injury keeping your back and spine healthy.
Finally, apart from the physical benefits, working out on the SUP will train your awareness and focus as you will have to continuously watch out for waves, obstacles and other possible hazards that might make you fall off your board.
How do you start exercising on an SUP?
First of all, to try out paddleboard Pilates, it’s best to find a safe place like a still lake or a public swimming pool that allows boards. This will make it much easier for you to familiarise yourself with the board and learn to balance on it.
If you want to start off in the sea, make sure you choose a calm day with only light winds and somewhere not affected by strong currents so you can fully concentrate on your core alignment and balance.
It is always recommendable to take an introductory class where you will get some vital tips on how to balance and use your core efficiently. This way, you won’t be at risk of developing ‘bad habits’ that will make your exercise unnecessarily hard and also less effective and beneficial.
Usually, you can hire a paddleboard with your class, so there is no need to buy a board right away. You can still do that when you have decided that you want to work out regularly and wherever you fancy. Having your own board is great when you want to use it on lakes, near beaches or anywhere else without any board hire facilities.
Which SUP or paddleboard is best for Pilates?
Like an exercise mat, an SUP board has to be the right size for you, offer support to your spine and be comfortable, if you want to get the most out of your Pilates workout. On top of that, you have to consider factors such as practicability, e.g. is it light enough to be carried to the workout location, is it easy to store and is it made out of durable material.
In this respect, inflatable paddle boards are a good option as they are usually about half the weight of a hard board while their floating behaviour on water is very similar. Also, depending on their quality, they can be very strong and durable.
Apart from being very portable, durable and lightweight compared to their hard equivalents, they are more comfortable, a bit like an exercise mat. They also prevent injury as falling onto them will hurt far less than falling onto a hard board.
You can even take them on an airplane when going on a beach holiday as inflatable SUPs roll up to fit in a conveniently sized bag.
Good choice for beginners: The iROCKER Cruiser Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
One board that ticks all the boxes for an SUP Pilates beginner – but is equally good for advanced practitioners – is the iRocker Cruiser Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. It has a good length (10’6”), a generous width (33”), is fairly lightweight (25 lbs) and very stable. Being made of military-grade PVC materials, it is also highly durable and can carry weights of up to 400 lbs.
So, a good base for a Pilates workout. In addition, it comes with a backpack to carry the iRocker when it is flat and rolled up. This is quite convenient as you can carry your board on your back with ease and don’t get exhausted before you have even started your workout.
However, there is one disadvantage: You need to pump your board up which takes around 10 minutes with the hand pump provided – you might feel your arms afterwards! If you do this regularly, the little ‘pre-workout’ will, most definitely, make your arms toned and strong.
Which Pilates exercises can you do on a paddleboard?
While you can do most traditional Pilates floor exercises on a paddleboard, the exercise level depends on your core strength and how well-trained your sense of balance is.
When you start your workout, it is always a good idea to first lie on your back in “tabletop position” with your legs up and knees angled at 90 degrees, paddle in your hands.
From that position, you can do a variety of exercises, such as single leg stretch, double leg stretch, scissors or leg circles while lifting the paddle over your head at the same time.
You can also do push-ups as part of your paddleboard Pilates beginner’s workout starting on your hands and knees then slowly, and with control, shifting your weight into your hands before extending your legs until you are finally up in a plank position.
Even more than on a floor mat, it is very important you do all the movements very slowly while concentrating on your core and your balance. The core needs to be permanently engaged during Pilates moves, otherwise you will lose balance and control and fall off the board.
Staying on the board while exercising will be quite a challenge to start with. But as the core muscles get stronger and the sense of balanced more tuned, you will quickly notice an improvement.
Paddleboard Pilates – having fun with health benefits
Having a Pilates workout on a board that is floating on water gives you the best of two worlds: Great exercise that will improve your core and overall body strength protecting you more from possible back and joint injuries, and a lot of fun trying to master new skills in the safe environment of water.
It is an ideal type of exercise during the summer months, on sunny beach or lake-side holidays or whenever you fancy some water-based activity, as this can also be done in a wetsuit throughout the year.
So, if you haven’t tried it yet, don’t be scared and give it a go. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss this experience.