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June 27, 2013
All during winter and early spring one of my members tried to coax me out of the gym and into the water in the name of exercise!

Brian LeFeve owns Great Lakes Surf Shop in St. Clair Shores, and while we weren’t going to “hang 10,” we were going to try one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., stand-up paddle boarding.

On that first voyage was my friend and client Andy Miele, a Woods resident and professional hockey player. I suggested to Andy that stand-up paddle boarding might benefit him as it demands balance and core strength to remain upright…but I was really looking for another rookie paddle boarder to try it.

The trepidation I took into the experience was that it wouldn’t be long before I lost footing and belly-flopped into Mike’s Marina.

But I also know that integral to a healthy lifestyle is keeping things fresh by trying something new for exercise. And, to my absolute surprise, delight and dryness, getting up and going was not as difficult as you’d think.

Soon we were following the lead of paddle-board expert LeFeve, who showed us the ins-and-outs of sport. Proper technique demands you keep balance by focusing on the horizon rather than staring at your feet; you maximize stroke power by bending/hinging at our waist, using your core body muscles through the stroke movement.

LeFeve showed examples of proper turning techniques and maneuvers that allow you to turn quickly and navigate around oncoming boat traffic. It wasn’t long before we were confident enough to take the next big step….open water on Lake St. Clair!

As soon as we paddled past the break wall, choppy waters hit and Miele and I looked like a pair of newborn giraffes learning to walk. Almost immediately I heard a huge splash behind me as Miele hit the water. (Ha! I’d won that unspoken game of “chicken” we’d been playing since this adventure began.) Now, however, was no time to gloat as coming at us was a fishing boat trailing its wake...and so I took the opportunity to pull back and steer into calmer waters.

Once Miele regained his footing, the workout could begin.

LeFeve explained one up-and-coming thing to do on a paddleboard is something called “Surf Fit.” Think exercise on a paddleboard. With this he plotted a regimen where Miele and I would do push-ups (balancing on the board, of course) and then race to the end of the harbor where we would do a body-weight exercise created to increase the cardio workout, and then race back to the start.

Immediately, Miele left me in his wake! From a fitness-training standpoint I was thrilled at how tiring it is to paddle quickly and maintain board control.

The health benefits from this activity are immediately understood. Though I’ve spent the better part of 10 years “living” in a gym, I struggled to keep up with these “foreign” movements.

In the end, Miele got his laugh as I pulled in a nautical mile behind him huffing and puffing. And this is another thing that separates weekend warriors from professional athletes: Miele is a professional competitor. (Me, I quickly started conjuring up other exercises that I use on land that could work on water.)

From an activity “test drive,” a new training technique has sprouted for the professional hockey players I train over the summer; now we hit the open water once a week performing races, strength training exercises and even variations of yoga to help round out our regimen.

A great lesson to learn is that no matter what type of exercise you do, it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone now and again and try something new. There are plenty of ways to stay in shape; it’s important to explore them. Live well.

If you want to paddle board, contact Great Lakes Surf Shop in St. Clair Shores where they offer lessons, tours, classes and board rentals.

Its website is greatlakessurf.com and the phone number is (586) 359-6951.

Mike Hackett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and is an American Council on Exercise’s certified personal trainer. He is also the proprietor of Mike Hackett and Syphus Training LLC in St. Clair Shores. He can be reached at (313) 407-6656 or e-mail at Hack1913@hotmail.com. E-mail Hackett with health questions or topics.

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