Stand Up Paddle Interval Training to the Beat

March 12, 2013

Stand Up Paddle Interval Training to the Beat

Music makes the world go round and it makes me paddle faster! Let’s face it, training at high speed anything takes a little more motivation than usual.  To help keep your SUP training sessions more focused and gratifying, try using some groovy tunes to help you paddle faster!

Whether you’re training for long distance courses, or adding time or additional miles to your current training regime, those long, hard miles combined with some energetic tunes to make you smile through the pain and increase your pace could be just the trick for you.

Here are some tips on how to enhance your SUP training so it’s more structured and enjoyable with music:

1)   Like any kind of training I do, I start out hydrated and with a solid breakfast.  I treat my SUP training sessions just like a session in my studio or on the beach and always try to have a plan with a goal in mind.

2)   Be sure to choose a variety of artists to help you control your interval speeds during your workout.

3)   I like to use the waterproof iShuffle. It’s small, easy to use and can hold lots of songs so I can paddle forever. Choose what makes you happy!

4)   Don’t play the music too loud. You want to make sure barges, cruise ships or other paddlers have you in sight and that you have them in sight as well.

Workout Example

Kahului Harbor – 5 mile, flat water intervals

There’s a chance there may be side chop or head winds at this location.

First, I warm up to (2) two mellow grooves, and then I know after my 6-7 minute paddle (which is about how long these two songs will be in total) the next song is going to have a faster tempo, so I’ll increase my paddling tempo one notch.

During this warm up to medium tempo paddling speed, my stroke distance is of average length with a decent reach and my breath is steady as I begin to prepare my mental state for the next song.

Just then, I hear heavy guitar riffs and my focus and tempo shift as “Renegades of Funk” by Rage Against the Machine fills my ears. I begin to paddle full throttle.  Now, my stroke distance changes and I’m reaching down into my obliques for deeper power. I’m reaching and digging with everything I’ve got! Yeah!

This full throttle song’s length is 4:34, which is much too long to maintain a true state of normal anaerobic threshold. Instead, I go hard for 1 minute, and then bring down my pace by lengthening my stroke and not fully cooling down for the rest of the song. I stay focused with my head remaining down and try to keep my form consistent on the left and right sides of my board. I make sure to drink some water from my hydration pack and get ready for the next song.

Embrace getting lost in the music and pretend you’re on stage jamming with your rock heroes! If you’re really into it, start to play a mean air guitar, even if you start bobbing back and forth on your board at times! I do it regularly! It’s a well-earned rest and helps to break up the laps and miles.

Okay, back to business.

The next song is coming and I know it’s going to give me a great work out.  The song, “Mudshovel” by Staind, might too much for some of you, but I highly recommend it if you’re looking for the ultimate workout song.  Buckle up! Song length is 4:42…

The bass starts thumping as I prep my brain again for my next bout of madness. I’m focused on the smooth entry of my paddle, feeling the strength deep within, and watching the water flicker off the blade.  Just as the hair flipping part starts…Bam!

I’m digging in. My stroke distance is shorter and my focus now is maintaining a solid 45 seconds to one minute. My goal is to perform strong and hard using good form from right to left. Sometimes, I’ll count 15-20 strokes on each side within that interval. Some people prefer to count or average a certain amount of strokes in total for each minute. Whatever helps you have a successful training session is great!

Five miles using these techniques is quite the workout. If I ever need to adjust my sprints or bouts of effort, it’s easy to do. I’ll just find a nice medium tempo stroke rhythm or choose a song that let’s my body rest, but not fully recover. I’d rather complete the five miles then quit early.

If I ever feel my energy crashing, I always try to stay prepared.  In my hydration pack, I pack a delicious shot of Chocolate Haze, by Pocket Fuel Naturals, and follow up with a nice sip of water.

I like to do this workout, if possible, 1-2 times per week if my schedule allows. I will often mix up my playlist so I don’t grow tired of the songs and reduce the quality of my workout.  Experiment a bit on your song selection or try to find songs that you can tailor specifically to an interval paddling session like I have.

For beginners or those just discovering the health benefits of interval training on a SUP board, start your session a bit slower. You can also wear a heart rate monitor if that helps, too. Start your intervals after a thorough warm up and try to increase your heart rate or effort to 85% of your max heart rate for 15 seconds or 3o seconds. Bring your effort down to about 70-75% and slow your paddling down, lengthening your stroke.

Always have a goal, whether it’s distance or time. Also, make sure your paddle is the correct length so you won’t suffer unnecessary back pain or discomfort. You may also want to try different board lengths.

For example, if you currently ride a 10’6″ Naish Nalu (which is a great board!), perhaps try something longer like a 12’6″ or 14ft Naish Glide. Your world will change!


In review, music added to your own SUP training session can make a huge difference in you enjoying your training session and can actually help you increase your mileage and decrease your time. Get to know your heart and lung capacity and stress yourself accordingly. Make sure you are in good physical health and have proper clearance from your physician.

If you’re ever on Maui and want to train with me on or off the water, contact me through the below website. I can help you with your stroke and speed and everything in-between. I offer in studio and on the water instruction, but please be sure to contact me in advance.

I’d love to hear what you like to listen to when you train! Drop me a note here.

Aloha and Mahalo,

Suzie Cooney, CPT

Owner of Suzie Trains Maui, LLC

There’s also more at 

Naish SUP Team Rider


Photo credit: Darrell Wong – All Rights Reserved.