Tag Archives: paddling


12593627_10156454963675440_7871695030623706850_oby Jose Antonio PhD. “Watchin’ the game, havin’ a Bud.” One of my favorite commercials of all time is the Budweiser Original Whassup Commercial. Every time I see the acronym ‘SUP,’ it reminds me of that commercial. For old time’s sake, check it out! 

WhasSUP is SUP! Did you know that guys and girls who regularly train by doing stand-up paddling are overall, pretty darn lean. Yep, you read that right. One morning as a was sipping on my 2nd cup of caffeine-filled coffee (anyone who drinks decaf is as un-American as the ‘hammer and sickle”), I decided to massage a few numbers to see what the “typical” body composition was of seven male and eight female competitive SUP athletes that my research team at Nova Southeastern University have had the privilege of testing. Check out the figure below with pink circles and blue squares. It may look sciencey and all, but it’s actually fairly simple. If you stayed awake in your college statistics class, you’ll decipher that data faster than you can shake a Polaroid picture. So what’s the scoop? First of all, each pink circle or blue square represents an individual female or male SUP athlete’s percent body fat. If you look at the y or vertical axis, you’ll see the scale starting from 0% fat (which only exists on the X-Files) going up to 30% fat (which you’ll find is on the high end in female athletes in general).

Body Composition of SUP peeps

On average, female SUP athletes are about 18.3% body fat. Male SUP athletes are about 12.3% body fat. These percent body fats were obtained via air displacement plethysmography (aka the Bod Pod). One should note that the Bod Pod often overestimates % body fat in lean individuals. But what the Bod Pod is very good at is determining whether body composition changes (i.e., changes in fat mass and/or fat-free mass).

Nonetheless, averages only tell part of the story. You’ll also notice in the figure that there is quite a ‘spread’ of the data (i.e., standard deviation). You even have male and female SUP athletes in the single digits. Holy low-body-fat Batman! That’s like leaving a tooth under your pillow and finding a gold nugget the next day. Ok, maybe not. But it’s pretty intriguing. Obviously there are the lucky few who hit the genetic lottery and train like maniacs. It is extremely difficult for any athlete to hit the single digits and stay there. It’s as rare as seeing Bigfoot at Yellowstone National Park. On the flip side, you also have male and female SUP athletes exceeding 20% body fat. If you compare that to the average SUP’er it does seem ‘high.’ But in reality it falls within the range of where college athletes are. Let’s now go to figures below (red bar graph and blue bar graph).

I decided to look up some of the published scientific data on body composition in male and female college athletes. Keep in mind that the SUP athletes I’ve measured are typically older (> 30 years of age). And yet, at least for female SUP’ers, they are leaner than college-age basketball, softball and crew athletes.Slide1 Slide2

And for the guys, they are as lean as athletes in traditional sports like football, hockey and basketball. So clearly, all you young (and old) SUP’ers have a good thing going. SUP is a sport that can be best described as a ‘power-endurance’ sport. It also requires a high aerobic capacity as exemplified by the fairly high V02max data I’ve collected. However, you also need to generate power over many many miles. So it’s a bit of a ‘hybrid’ in the sense that it is not a pure ‘cardiovascular’ sport (i.e., it is not all about cardiac output). Instead, you still need to develop a high level of skeletal muscle power/endurance.

So before your eyes start to roll back because you’ve seen more data in this article than that dreaded stats or math class, I want to leave you a few key pieces of advice that SUP’ers and all athletes should follow if they want to perform better.

A few quick tips

  1. Haphazard training produces haphazard results. Have a plan. Stick to it. Train in a systematic fashion. Stay tuned for some super-cool data on training. What’s the correct mix of volume training versus HIIT?
  2. Remaining injury-free is critically important. Some might say this should be your paramount goal. In fact, performance success or failure is often influenced by rates of injury. (Reference: @YLMSportsScience)
  3. Dial in your nutrition. This is perhaps more difficult than training. Get plenty of protein and fat (the two most important macronutrients) and sufficient carbohydrate. There’s no need to ever ‘carb-load’ in this sport. (Nutrition can be its own article; maybe when my brain is more caffeinated, I’ll write that one).12493716_10156454958955440_4772152454592054761_o
  4. Sleep at least 8 hours a day. Athletes who sleep on average less than 8 hours per night have a 1.7 times greater risk of being injured. Yeah, that’s right. (Reference: @YLMSportsScience)
  5. Body composition is just one aspect out of many that are important for optimal performance. In general, having a certain amount of lean body mass is important for excelling at SUP.
  6. Each training session should serve a purpose. Avoid ‘junk miles.’
  7. Even if you’ve been dealt the not-so-good end of the genetic lottery, you can still improve. It just depends how badly you want it.


Geek Reading That You’ll Probably Never Read – Unless at Gunpoint – JJ Ode et al. Body Mass Index as a Predictor of Percent Fat in College Athletes and NonAthletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 39(3):403-409, 2007.

About the author:  Jose Antonio earned his PhD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Davie FL and the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. He enjoys junk food as much as the fat kids at the Texas State Fair. He’s been doing research on sports nutrition and human performance for nearly 3 decades. Somehow he’s managed to publish a dozen books and more scientific papers than there are states in the Union. And that’s between beach time and watching sports. Check out the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s conferences. There are more super-cool geeks (now that’s oxymoronic) here than there are Chins in a Chinese phonebook.


Paddling and Corenography

coreby Jose Antonio PhD FISSN. Not to be confused with Pornography, Corenography instead refers to the proliferation of books, websites, and blogs dedicated to ‘Core Training.’ Nevertheless, do a search on Amazon.com and faster than you can download that goofya$$ video of the fake Kardashian wedding video, you’ll find scores of fitness books dedicated to training the ‘Core.’  Sort of like the ‘core’ of an apple, you can define ‘core training’ as training the muscles attached to your torso (i.e. the abdominal muscles and lower back).  This includes all the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus and intercostals), the spine (the erector spinae group) and the hip flexors (iliacus and psoas, together known as the iliopsoas).  Basically these muscles stabilize and move the center or core of your body.  All this anatomy talk is making me sleepy.  Back to my point.  Apparently core training can do lots of things.  If you look at various book titles, you have “The Complete Book of Core Training: The Definitive Resource for Shaping and Strengthening the “Core” — the Muscles of the Abdomen, Butt, Hips, and Lower Back.”  That pretty much explains it.   But then you have a ‘revolutionary’ type of program (sort of like the American or French Revolution I guess) in “The Core Performance: The Revolutionary Workout Program to Transform Your Body & Your Life.”  And of course, if your IQ doesn’t exceed a banana, then “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Core Conditioning Illustrated” is for you.You’d think with a plethora of books on core training that nobody figured out before that training your abs, back, and hip flexors/extensors was important.  But as with many things in exercise, it’s basically a ‘different way’ of looking at the same thing.  If you do a full squat, you are training the core.  If you do heavy curls using an EZ curl bar, believe me, you’re training the ‘core.’  Heck, doing a friggin’ push-up trains the ‘core.’  But if you’re tired of the gym and doing silly exercises on Swiss Balls, BOSU, and assorted plastic contraptions, why not do ‘core’ work that also serves to increase muscle strength and endurance.  And it’s a helluva lot more fun that balancing on a stinkin’ Swiss ball.  What is it? Outrigger paddling my friends.  What exactly is outrigger paddling?  Well way back when, ole Captain Cook arrived in Kealakekua Bay in the year 1779, he reported seeing at least 1500 canoes. Purportedly, Hawaii must have numbered between 6,000 and 12,000 canoes for a population of 175,000 to 225,000. (http://www.coffeetimes.com/july97.htm) Here was a culture that was dependent on the ocean and used ancient canoes to get from the beach to 7-11.  Okay, maybe not 7-11, but when you’re in need of coconut water, the island next door might be your best bet. Polynesians actually have used the outrigger canoe as a mode of travel dating back thousands of years.  Paddling, specifically outrigger canoe paddling, utilize all the core muscles, as well as the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.  The rotation, flexion, and extension of the torso while paddling is a much better core workout than all the latest fad of the day exercises that you see at your local gym.  In fact, the paddling sports are unique as a strength-endurance sport in that you train your cardiovascular system intensely but in addition, you can gain quite a bit of muscle mass, especially in the back and shoulders.  Think of each paddling stroke as weight training using water as resistance.  For instance, an ‘easy’ workout would consist of a one hour paddle in which your stroke cadence is 60 per minute (15 strokes left then right, alternating); if you do a rep count, that’s 1,800 reps on the left and right side respectively.  That to me, is a helluva lot better than getting on some newfangled plastic ball and doing an exercise that you’ll never encounter in real life.  But that’s just me.

So do yourself a favor, take a break from the gym and workout on the water.  There are paddling clubs all over the world.  Check out http://www.y2kanu.com/ (the pictures here are courtesy of them), www.kanaluimiami.com and www.ocpaddler.com. Believe me; It is more fun getting a hard workout on the open ocean doing strength-endurance work for the upper body and ‘core’ while working the lower extremity muscles as stabilizers.  And besides, how often can you workout and see dolphins all at the same time?



Interview – Stand Up Paddleboarder Helga Goebel

helga2SNI: You are the #1 female stand-up paddleboarder (SUP) on the east coast. What’s the ‘secret’ to your success?

Helga: Wow. Put me on the spot won’t you. :-) Actually, there is no ‘secret’ to my success. What’s the old saying? The harder you work the more luck you have….. Just kidding… I do quite bit of SUP training. In addition, I cross-train with outrigger paddlers in Fort Lauderdale, the Lanakila Iki Outrigger Canoe Club. I also do a bit of strength and conditioning out of the water. I just started working with a strength and conditioning specialist as well as a sports nutritionist to improve my training/performance and health.

SNI: What is the most difficult thing (physically) about SUP racing?

Helga: One of the most difficult things is dealing with the unpredictability of the weather. Which way is the wind blowing, is the water choppy, are there sharks in the water (ok, just kidding, there aren’t really any), etc. The other part is dealing with the heat. Proper fueling before, during, and post-race are key.

SNI: What is the biggest misconception about SUP?

Helga: The biggest misconception is that it is a very difficult sport. Really anyone can do it if they are willing to put in some time in the water. Sure, you might fall down a few times here and there. But hey, you’re in the beautiful ocean (lake or river)! You fall in; you get up and start all over again.

SNI: Do you cross-train or weight training? If so, describe briefly what you do.6a013488ee9d3e970c01543533d8ce970c

Helga: Yes. I just started a new program in which I’m doing a combination of traditional weight training and functional training. For instance, if you look at the stand-up stroke, you’ll notice that it requires muscular endurance and balance of the legs combined with a strong core. In addition, much of the weight training work I do in the gym focuses on shoulder extension (to get the back muscles), the core, and lower body. Also, I mix in a bit of ‘instability’ work. For example, I might stand on an unstable surface while doing single arm cable rows to mimic the instability of being on a board in an ocean that is constantly moving.

SNI: Do you take any supplements to assist you with your training?

Helga: Yes, my sports nutritionist (Jose Antonio PhD) helps me quite a bit with my diet and supplement program. For instance, I take creatine and beta-alanine.  I’m no expert on supplements so I rely on the advice of my sports nutritionist.  I guess beta-alanine will help in dealing with the acid build-up from intense paddling; for example, when I do intervals on the water, I’ve noticed that they feel easier after taking beta-alanine for several weeks.  I also take creatine for overall power and to help me recover.  I am also a big fan of fish oil and take that religiously (the Original Nutritionals brand).  That and a multivitamin have done wonders for me; since I started taking it back in January, I haven’t been sick once, and I feel that those supplements help make my immune system strong . I try to eat clean, but sometimes I just eat my sweets.  It’s my weakness.  As I peak for a race, I clean my diet up a bit and I’ll notice my percent body fat drop into the low teens.  Usually my body fat % is in the mid-teens.

SNI: If you could be the BEST in any sport (besides SUP) what sport would that be?

Helga: I’d love to be a skipper or captain of an offshore sailing race like the Volvo race.

SNI: Which athlete do you admire the most?

Helga:  Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna.  He was a 3-time Formula One world champion.  Amazing athlete…and his attitude towards racing and outlook on life is great.  I highly recommend the movie/documentary “Senna” to anyone.

About Helga Goebel

Age: 35

Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nationality: Brazilian Title: Professional Stand up Paddle boarder

Sports: Swimming, Surfing, Diving, Fishing, Sailing, Wakeboarding, Kitesurfing, Snowboarding, Stand Up Paddleboarding.

Sponsors: Riviera Paddlesurf, Original Nutritionals

My Story: My interest in water sports began with a windsurf when I was 16 years old. My father used to windsurf and I couldn’t wait to learn it. When I finally did learn it, I used to learn how to jibe, water star, beach star all from the pictures on the American windsurf magazine (I didn’t speak English back then). And then when I moved to Fort Lauderdale one day I was driving down US-1 and I saw Water-Play (it was the biggest windsurf store at that time, they were in business for more than 15 years) and I thought to myself, why not ask for a job. So it eventually led me to employment at Water-Play for over 7 years. While working there it took me awhile to try kitesurf because the kites weren’t safe when they first came out. After a couple of years and the progression of the technology on the kites, they finally became safe and I decided to give it one more try and I have been kiting since then. Water-Play was sold so I became partner with Neil Hutchinson at the Fort Lauderdale Tiki Beach watersport concession for one year. That’s when I finally got to try Stand Up Paddle Board (AKA SUP) and since that I have try to get in the water every day for fitness, to look at the sea life, dive, surf and race.  My first SUP race was a life guard paddle series, I loved it so much that I looked for other races and nowadays it is a race pretty much 52 weeks out the year. So this is my story, and I have a lot more to tell you.

Recent Races

2011 SUP Splash 1st women’s division

2011 Quicksilver/Kam Islander Classic Race #3, 6 mile, Pompano Beach  1st women’s division

2011 Quicksilver/Kam Islander Classic Race #2, 6 mile, Pompano Beach  1st women’s division

 2011 Orange Bowl Paddle Championship 5 mile , Miami , Florida – 1st Women’s Division

2010 Key West SUP Classic 12 mile, Key West , Florida- 1st Women’s Division

2009 Surf World SUP Championship Series, Florida -1st Women’s Division