SUPilates: Pilates on the Water

SUPilates: Pilates on the Water

Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience and enjoy the best of both worlds: the strength and grace of Pilates, with the tranquility of the ocean? Believe it or not, you now can!

Pilates Instructors across the country are taking Pilates to the water in their nearest ocean, lake, or river on Stand Up Paddleboards. These boards (also called SUPs) are the latest fitness sensation and fastest growing water-sport across the globe. SUPs appear to be large surfboards, and are propelled by a standing paddler who uses an extra-long canoe paddle. Stand Up Paddling originated in Hawaii, which mixes the traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe paddling with surfing. The result of this wonderful combination is a new sport that is easy for anyone to do. Fitness professionals have flocked to Stand Up Paddling not only because it’s fun and the cardiovascular benefits of the workout are superb, but also for the core-based balance challenge that the board provides to their clients.

As the board is floating on water, the paddler must constantly recruit deep stabilizing muscles of the pelvis and spine just to stand on the board and paddle it. Taking it further, adding core-based exercises to the board will enhance the recruitment of such muscles. Hence, adding Pilates exercises to the board will enhance the challenge and benefits of Pilates. For example, when performing what seems to be a simple exercise like Leg Circles, the participant is reminded to stabilize their pelvis, and ensure that their weight is not shifting from hip to hip. On the paddleboard, the board will not only provide feedback about the unstable pelvis by rocking, it will also provide more of a challenge because the wobbly hips and uncontrolled leg movements will cause the board to flip over. The same proves true with performing exercises that address spinal stability and abdominal strength. Not only will the participant be working the abdominals in flexion, they will be firing more stabilizers to maintain the stability on the unstable board, thus making the exercise more challenging. More complicated exercises, like Kneeling Side Leg Series, for example, are particularly challenging because of the requirement of scapular AND pelvic stability necessary to perform this series properly. All-in-all, Pilates routines on the Stand Up Paddleboard are very effective, very challenging, and very fun!

Now to the next step: How does one offer these classes? First of all, you will need to contact a local outdoor shop or a retailer that rents Stand Up Paddleboards. Work with them and set a pricing structure that is reasonable both for your benefit and for your participants to pay. Most retailers/renters also provide a location (or means to get the boards to a location), paddles, and possibly guide to help on the water. Finding a location may be challenging, but safety is the most important things to consider. Safety issues in the water include safe access to the water, tides/currents, wide/stable and durable boards, signed liability waivers, and a sufficient emergency plan. Practicing your routine prior to the class is also important. You may find that some of the exercises may need to be modified to provide a more effective flow or appropriate challenge for the level of your participants.

Are you looking for more information on SUPilates classes? Karen Mirlenbrink of Dunedin Pilates Studio and the crew at SUP Paddleboard bring SUP Pilates classes to the waters of the Tampa Bay area weekly. In addition, Karen has created a SUPilates Instructor Workshop, hitting the waters in the Spring of 2011. Feel free to contact Karen at [email protected] or visit her website at for more information!