SUP – Stand Up Paddle-boarding

Have you tried stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) or know anyone who owns a board?  I’ve noticed more and more stand up paddleboards popping up in magazines over the past few years, usually mentioned by a fit celebrity or cited as a workout.  I had no idea there was a magazine specifically dedicated to SUP and it wasn’t until last year that I saw one with my own two eyes.  I was eating dinner at a restaurant in Seattle and out on the calm water a couple was watching the sunset from their SUP.  I was so envious!  If you’ve ever watched the sunset over the water you know what an amazing view it is, now imagine being on the water while it’s setting. Breathtaking.  Apparently I’m not the only newbie to SUP.  According to the 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, “Stand up paddling had the highest number of new participants in the past year. More than half of stand up paddling participants tried the sport for the first time in 2012.”

Even though I had a lot of interest in SUP, I didn’t get the chance to try it for myself until this past weekend.  My local outdoors store, Townsend Bertram & CO, hosted an event along with BIC (yep, the same people that run the pen game have a big hand in water board sporting equipment) to introduce SUP to those of us who have never tried it.  There’s a large number of lakes and rivers in NC, not to mention the Outer Banks area, so what better place to entice people to get into SUP? At least that’s what I thought when I signed up for the free event.

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K and I headed to the lake on full hoagie-bellies (that’s sub-bellies to you [katie here: haha, Calder and I argue about this all of the time, thanks for the data!])  excited to try something new.  Once we checked-in we were assigned a number.  The friendly folks at Townsend Bertram & CO would periodically call out numbers, which was the cue to step on down to the waterside.  First the paddle was adjusted for height.  You raise your arm straight up into the air, but let your wrist hang limp.  The top of the paddle handle should just touch your palm.  Then the instructors picked a board depending on our height, weight and intended use.  There are different boards for racing, yoga, surfing and just plain paddling around.  K and I both tried standard boards the first time out.  He was on a 10’6” while I was on a 10’4”.  I wasn’t that nervous about the whole thing, but I think K thought it was going to be harder than it was.  I only saw one person out of 70 fall the entire day!  You simply wade out into the water, hoist yourself onto the board and then kneel in the center of it.  After you feel comfortable kneeling and paddling you can stand up and off you go.  K liked it so much that he went out a second time on a slim racing board.

Before I tried SUP I was excited about the idea, but thought it was a bit redundant since I already owned a kayak. Once I was on the board, I fell in love! It’s much different from kayaking and maybe it seems selfish, but I want one of these too.  Unlike kayaking, you’re much higher than the surface of the water so you’re able to see farther.  As a photographer, I really like that about SUP. I also like that you can easily see where you’re going.  Instead of just paddling blindly through the water, the more detailed view allows you to anticipate different currents, depths and passages.  I also love that SUP works your core and more of your upper body than the kayak.  I tire very easily in my kayak because I have a relatively weak chest and shoulders, but my core is solid, which made SUP less challenging and more enjoyable for me.  You can also hop off your SUP when waters get rough and choppy as opposed to flipping over in a kayak, which scares a lot of folks.

I love that SUP doubles as a surfboard and for that matter triples as a floating yoga mat!  You know the Seasoned sisters love yoga and if you don’t, we tried to tell you here and here.  At the event on Sunday I also ran into Allison from LYFSUP. In short, LYFSUP is dedicated to building the SUP community around Jordan Lake and in Chapel Hill, NC and beyond, and they are dedicated to protecting water & natural resources, donating a percentage of their profits to the cause.  Allison has an impressive background in surfing and SUP so it’s no wonder she’s committed to bringing it to the area.  LYFSUP offers  SUP yoga classes, which is what I had the chance to see on Sunday at the lake.  Allison and her stepdaughter Haley went out on the water and demonstrated a mini yoga flow for me!  It looked so relaxing and at the same time more challenging and complex than yoga on solid ground.  After watching the ladies practice side plank, chair, down dog and sun salutations out on the lake, I started calculating a budget to see how quickly I could buy a board!  My family has a home in Virginia, just a few yards from the water, so I could already envision switching my daily yoga practice to SUP yoga.  Imagine how tranquil and relaxing it must be to practice while gently floating along *sigh*.  In the meantime I’ll take a couple of Allison’s SUP yoga classes and hopefully by next year a board will be mine.

I do think the boards are a little bit pricey, but that may be because I’m used to buying boats and equipment with more to it.  Since SUP is a newer concept to me, I think I’m having a hard time justifying such an expensive purchase on just a board (even though I know it’s so much more than that!).  Like I said, it really is a SUP, surf board and yoga mat all in one.  The boards I used on Sunday were top-of-the-line, but I did find some for as low as $600 and even $400, but I can’t attest to the quality.  The ones I saw Allison of LYFSUP using were even more impressive and perfect for practicing yoga so I’m excited to get the opportunity to try one out for myself during her class (the board and anchor rental is only $5 extra).  After perusing the internet and seeing so.many.options. I think it would be a good idea to rent several different kinds and really get a feel for the type of board that’s right for you.  In my family, we often split recreational purchases like this, making it extra important to research the boards to find one board that can fit everyone in the family.

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If you are new to SUP like myself, you should do a quick google search and see if any sporting good stores, outlets or parks in your area rent out boards.  I was surprised to find out that there are several rental venues in my area and near the Outer Banks too.  It’s a great way to explore, and who doesn’t love a new adventure?

I feel like I’ve become mildly obsessed with SUP in a matter of a few days.  I promise this post isn’t sponsored by anyone (although I wish it was, helllllo free SUP).  I tend to bounce around from one expensive hobby (backpacking to rock climbing and always photography) to the next so I’m really trying to reign myself in on this one.  I can already see myself buying a board during end-of-the-summer clearance sales.  So be it.  All the better to photograph the sunset with, am I right? [katie again : you have me convinced!]

If any of you are in my area, Chapel Hill, NC, let’s take a SUP yoga class together!  I’m doing it either way so why not join me?  Back to daydreaming about SUP in tropical locations for me…

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Five Minute Abdominal Cycle

Maintaining a strong core is not just important for bikinis and belly shirts, it’s about protecting and strengthening your posture throughout all your actions.  Your core enhances your balance and stability and acts as the central link between your upper and lower body.  A strong and flexible core means a more stabilized upper and lower body and virtually an overall stronger body.  This abdominal flow targets upper, lower and side abdominal muscles while minimizing potential strain on one’s neck.

Start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, slowly inhale into cow and exhale into cat.  Repeat five times while focusing on the breath and continue through the workout. Each movement should be done with proper form and purpose.  Remember to keep your breath even, deep and slow.  If you cannot maintain deep breathing and proper form, you’re not doing yourself any favors.  Most of these exercises have variations, feel free to utilize them!  Don’t overdue it, you want to strengthen not strain your abdominals.

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Lower Body Woods Workout

Want more yoga and exercise? Become a woods warrior, try this lower body workout, then end the day with bedtime stretches that relieve lower back pain. Check out my 200hour yoga teacher training experience and read about the school I attended here.

live seasoned lower body woods workout-1 copy            Growing up, I’ve always been involved in some type of activity, whether it was playing tag with my neighbors, going backpacking with my father or running around on the soccer field.  Because of this, my legs have always been the biggest part of my body and I admit, I used to feel a little insecure about it.  Struggling to squeeze into skirts and skinny jeans that my friends easily slipped on with their cute little bird legs and knobby knees.  Now that I’ve grown up a little bit and realized that Barbies and models are far from average, I love my muscular legs.  Are they proportionate to the rest of my body? Sometimes no, but it’s cool, thunder thighs are where it’s at.  They take me everywhere I need to go, even if it’s twenty miles from point A to B, I know they’ll carry me.  Climbing up a volcano? Yep, they were there. Walking three miles home from class carrying a twenty-pound camera lens? No biggie.  Taking dozens of photos while frozen in the same pose for an hour during this tutorial? No problem they say!  They even requested a yoga class afterwards. They’re that good.  So, after years of self-doubt and twirling in the mirror wishing they’d shrink up a bit, I decided it’s time to give my legs some love and some more exercise.  Time to cherish those limbs and treat them right.  This lower body workout is really basic, but can be easily modified if you’d like it to be a bit tougher.  I designed it to be easily remembered and equipment free that way you can add it to the end of a hike or a walk.  These moves target your thighs (especially the inner thighs), glutes, calves and even your abdominal muscles.  Read through all the exercises so you’re familiar with proper form.  You’ll find a concise workout routine at the bottom of the post.

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A few quick tips:

  •             Wear sneakers or supportive shoes
  •             Stretch out for a couple minutes before you begin
  •             Breathe consistently throughout each exercise
  •             Engage your muscles, especially your abdominals
  •             You are your own trainer.  Do what feels best for you. Don’t push it unless that’s what your body wants.
  •             If you’re not accustomed to strenuous exercise, consult your physician before you begin.

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Basic High Lunge

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart.  Engage your abdominal muscles and step forward with your right foot until your knee is bent at a 90° angle.  Your thigh should be parallel to the ground or as close as you can get to parallel.  Your need should be directly over your ankle, never over your toe.  Your left heel will naturally rise off the ground.  There should be a slight bend in your left leg.   Stand up, bringing your back foot to meet the lead foot and switch legs.  Continue lunging forward for a total of 20 lunges.
  • Modification: Bring your hands in a prayer position and use your abdominal muscles to twist slowly to the left and then the right.  This strengthens your core and improves balance.

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Calf Raise Three Ways

  • Super simple, but don’t let that fool you, these work and you’ll feel the effects instantly.  Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart.  Rise up onto your toes and count one Mississippi, two Mississippi and lower down.  Repeat twenty times and do a quick set of ten. Rise up, down, up, down as quickly as possible.  Make sure your rising up on your toes as high as is comfortable.  Now point your toes in towards each other and repeat, twenty slow, ten fast.  Finally, point your toes away from each other and repeat again, twenty slow, ten fast.  Your calves should be on fire at this point.  No need to wear heels to have defined calves anymore.

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Basic Chair Pose

  • If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you’ve probably done chair pose.  Stand up straight with your feet hip’s distance apart and your arms raised over your head.  Simply exhale and sit back as if you’re sitting down in an invisible chair.  The goal is to have your thighs parallel to the floor.  Your knees will protrude over your feet a little bit, but your weight should be in your heels.  I lifted my toes in the photo above to demonstrate that, but you should keep your feet flat on the ground. Keep your chest and arms lifted, look up and keep breathing.  Count to ten or twenty and stand up straight.  I like to sprinkle in chair pose between all of the other exercises.
  • Modification:  Instead of feet shoulder length apart stand with your feet together and challenge yourself to bring your thighs parallel to the floor all the while keeping your chest and arms lifted.

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Lunge Rollover

  • This is very similar to a high lunge. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart.  I like to hold my hands at my heart’s center in a prayer position, but you can also hold them overhead or down by your sides.  Engage your abdominal muscles and step forward with your right foot a little further than you would for a regular high lunge.  At this point, your knee should be behind your ankle.  You are balanced on the ball of your back foot.  Roll forward onto your toe, which propels your body forward so that your knee is now directly over your ankle.  Your knee should never be over your toe.  That is why you take a bigger step in the beginning. Rock back onto the ball of your foot, that’s one repetition.  Roll forward slowly onto your toe again and back, that’s two.  Complete 15 on each foot.

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Prayer Squat

  • Stand up straight with your feet a little wider than shoulder’s length.  Engage your abdominals and bring your hands in a prayer position at your heart’s center.  Lower down slowly until your thighs are parallel (or as close as you can get) with the ground and your elbows touch the insides of your knees.  Keep your weight in your heels and as you lower your knees will track outwards instead of forwards.  Your knees should never track out over your toes.  Slowly rise back up.  Repeat 15-20 times.

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Squat Walk

  • First make sure there are no strangers around because this is one sure-fire way to creep them out.  Take a wide stance with your legs with your toes pointing outwards; I like to pretend I’m making the letter A.  Then squat down so your thighs are parallel with the earth.  Keep your head and chest lifted and take 6 small steps forward and 6 small steps backward.  You should feel it in your inner thighs.  Continue six-steppin’ for about a minute.

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Speed Skater

  • Stand up tall with your arms at your sides.  Bend your left knee with your toe pointed towards the ground.  Keeping your back straight, lean forward bend your right knee and kick your left leg out behind you.  Your fingertips should be pointing towards the earth and your right knee will track over your foot a little bit, but never past your toes.  Pretend you’re speed skating in place.  Do 15 reps without letting your left leg touch the ground and repeat on the other side.

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Tree Squat

  • Find a tree with a smooth surface.  Make sure there aren’t any poison vines growing on it and lean with you back against it, thighs parallel to the earth.  Sit up tall and count to thirty.
  • Modification: Try lifting one leg for 15 seconds and then the opposite for 15 more.

Lower Body Woods Walk Workout      1-3 sets

  • Basic High Lunge x20
  • Basic Chair Pose 10-20 seconds
  • Calf Raise Three Ways: Slow x20 Quick x10
  • Lunge Rollover x15 each leg
  • Prayer Squat x20
  • Squat Walk 40-60 seconds
  • Speed Skater x15 each leg
  • Tree Squat 30 seconds

 

There are dozens of modifications for each of these moves, but rather than overwhelm you I thought it’d be great to start simple and go from there. You’ll see these basic exercises being built upon in future posts.  Exercise doesn’t always mean putting on bright workout clothes, paying for a gym membership and fumbling around with machines.  Sometimes the most effective workouts are the simplest because we’re more likely to be consistent.  I hope you’ll try out some of these moves this week while you’re out walking around or hanging out at home.

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Winter Hiking ~ Quick Tips

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We are serious about our hikes.

They aren’t crazy epic adventures, just 40-90 minutes in the woods on any given afternoon. Unfortunately, because of the shorter days we end up taking a lot fewer hikes in the winter than in the summer. But ~ when we push it and get out, that simple walk cures any sign of crazy cabin fever that’s so contagious at this time of year.

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When we were on this hike, Calder and I were talking about what we each find essential for a good winter walk. His answer: all you need is a charged iPhone and a good pair of boots. My list, which I’ll share below, was a bit more detailed, but the focus was the same: keep it simple, smart, and of high quality. This is the key to making it to the woods when all you want to do is hibernate.

Don’t let having a baby hold you back! We love to get out with Alex, and he definitely loves to take in the scenery. While being in the house all day may make this little guy grumble, a trip outdoors really soothes his soul. He’s quiet and wide-eyed, absorbing the sights and the sounds of the forest.

My list for a short winter hike:

  • good shoes and socks. This is key. You won’t be comfortable if you don’t have a secure footing and warm toes for trails that may have snow, some ice, mud, rocks, and roots. 
  • hat and gloves (obvs, I know)
  • a charged phone (for all of the reasons Calder mentions below)
  • a map or good knowledge of the area. If you’re hiking in a new-to-you area, pick up a good trail map. We go hiking in a local state forest, and many of the bike and outdoor supply shops sell maps marking all of the forest trails. 
  • the right timing. You don’t want to get caught in the woods in the dark in the cold (of course, this is when your phone’s flashlight comes in handy). Ideally you can start your hike with plenty of daylight left, but if you know the sun is going to set in 30 minutes, do a quick 15 min out and back hike, and don’t push it. 
  • a lifeline. I know Sarah’s reading this and shaking her finger saying the most important thing is to tell someone where you’re going, even for short walks. You never know when something will happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, so call or text someone and let them know you’re heading off into the woods. 

My second tier list:

  • camera (more on this below)
  • water bottle. For short walks, I find that this isn’t necessary and just adds weight. I keep mine in the car and sip it before I take off and when I return. 

The baby gear:

  • a warm hat
  • warm socks
  • a baby carrier. We’ve found the Ergo to be the most comfortable carrier, particularly as Alex has packed on the pounds. The straps are easy to adjust, making it a piece of cake for both Calder and I to use it, and to switch off during the walk if we want to give each other a break. 

That’s it!

Whoever is wearing the baby just zips their coat up and around him ~ that way the baby doesn’t have to wear a bulky coat, but he stays nice and cozy. Alex is nine months old, and still breastfeeding, so as long as I’m along on the walk, we don’t have to worry about food.

But back to Calder, he wanted to explain his list. The boots are a no-brainer.

The phone is essential because it will provide your flashlight and camera. If you have an app like Garmin’s navigation app, it’ll also provide your maps using satellite data (even when you don’t have cell service!). AND if you’re still nervous about setting off into the snowy woods, you can always download a winter survival app.

He had a really thoughtful response when pressed about what makes a winter hike great: a camera. He said that on any hike, if he has a camera (i.e. phone) along it, he’ll often slow down to take in the details more than if he doesn’t. I agree, sometimes I can be on autopilot, just walking along and thinking without really taking in the scenery. Don’t get me wrong, that kind of walk is great too, but if my mission is to get out and enjoy the woods, then I want to keep my eyes and mind open to what’s in front of me. Before Alex (B.A.), I used to take my digital camera on every hike, now there are times when I just take the phone and use its camera.

And surprise! In an effort to keep it simple for this post, we just used our phones for the photos. What do you think? Could you tell?

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What about you? Are you a winter hiker? If so, anything on your list that I missed?

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