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Sherri Leimkuhler

Eighteen months ago, after a decade of competitive participation in triathlons, I decided it was time to take a break.

Years of intense, time-consuming training had left me physically, mentally and spiritually fatigued. The sport I loved had become more like a job — an obligation — and was no longer bringing me the joy it once did. I was tired of waking up every morning with something always hurting: my hips, my feet, my knees, my lower back.

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Though I still enjoy the occasional triathlon, one of the many benefits of scaling back is being able to enjoy a wider range of sports and cross training activities, such as stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP. This spring, for our anniversary, my husband and I treated ourselves to an inflatable SUP and it has been one of the best investments we've made.

Take, for instance, last Sunday, when the mercury rose into the 90s. Rather than sweat it out on my bike or gasp for air while trying not to overheat on a run, I opted for an hour of SUP-ing instead.

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Stand-up paddleboarding — not to be confused with traditional paddleboarding, which is performed by kneeling on a board and paddling with the hands — is an offshoot of surfing in which boarders stand on their boards and use a paddle to move through the water.

In the Outdoor Foundation's 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, stand-up paddleboarding was listed as the most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants. And though the report listed 28 years old as the median age for stand-up paddleboarding, SUP-ing is a low impact, family-friendly activity that is relatively easy for anyone to, regardless of age, body shape, or size.

It's also an excellent workout for your core, legs, back, arms and shoulders. In fact, supworldmag.com deemed stand-up paddle boarding—which requires balance, strength and endurance, whether you are paddling or simply balancing on the board — "the best workout for a complete body workout."

In addition, healthfitnessrevolution.com identifies the top 10 health benefits of SUP-ing as follows: improves balance, full body workout, low impact, reduces stress, overall increased strength, cardio workout, useful in rehabbing injuries, improves endurance, better cardiovascular health, and allows for connection with nature.

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And you don't have to be SUP racing, surfing or even touring to reap the caloric benefits. According to supworldmag.com, an hour of recreational stand-up paddleboarding — the most common type of paddleboarding, defined as an easy, leisurely paddle with calm water and light winds — will burn as many as 430 calories, or about twice as much as you'd burn on a moderate paced walk.

Still not convinced stand-up paddleboarding is for you? In addition to SUP-ing, mensfitness.com also names swimming, kayaking, surfing, and waterskiing or wakeboarding among the top five water activities for burning calories.

The site notes: "Working out in the water is one of the best ways to get your heart rate pumping, tax your muscles from new angles, and burn fat even faster than you would on land."

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