Meet Jo Pavey

5 time Olympian, busy Mum of 2 and sup enthusiast

Michelle Meredith  |  1st August 2019

There is no shortage of evidence that as well as offering a peaceful way to get out onto the water and closer to nature, Stand Up Paddle Boarding also provides a full body workout.   Who better to chat through the multitude of benefits of SUP than with 5 time Olympian Jo Pavey.

Jo started running competitively in the 80s, winning national junior titles at the age of 14 before going on to compete in UK, European, Commonwealth and World Championships as well as the Olympic Games.

I think if you’re happy and you love what you’re doing, you can find a way, and perhaps achieve things that you previously thought were not possible.

“I’ve had many exciting experiences in my career and have been thrilled to pick up some medals along the way. I think my most surprising result was winning the European Championships gold medal at the age of 40 when I was just returning to running after having our second child. So I’ve been competing for a very long time, and my experiences have taught me to never give up on your dreams. I think if you’re happy and you love what you’re doing, you can find a way, and perhaps achieve things that you previously thought were not possible. However, it isn’t really the targets of major championships or running fast times that keeps me going, but the actual enjoyment of running itself, the joy that I feel out on a trail, surrounded by nature. When I’m in beautiful locations, it makes me feel so motivated and I get so much pleasure out of my running”.

Running is just one of my favourite ways to enjoy the great outdoors and coastline, the other activity I really love is to head out onto the water with my paddle board. It complements my running perfectly.”

Being Devon based ensures Jo has an abundance of epically scenic runs right on her doorstep but the South West offers so many more opportunities to get out and explore. Jo explains that whilst running is her first love, living so close to the water offers its own pull.

“I’ve always enjoyed getting outdoors and being active since I was a young child. I love visiting the many beautiful places where I live in Devon to go for a run, or to go in the sea, and to enjoy being active as a family.

Running is just one of my favourite ways to enjoy the great outdoors and coastline, the other activity I really love is to head out onto the water with my paddle board. It complements my running perfectly and allows me the opportunity to really appreciate the beautiful coastline from a different perspective whilst out on the water. When I’m running I often have this real sense of freedom that I also feel when I’m out on my board. If you paddle just a few hundred yards off the beach, it’s so peaceful and calming and you start to tune out a little. My schedule is tough, often with over one hundred miles of running a week and so time out on the paddle board is really enjoyable as an alternative activity”.

Early in 2018, after reviewing my training, we decided to try paddle boarding to replace some of my strength and conditioning work I do in the gym whilst at the same time having more fun.

A more specific workout

“I’m a relative beginner when it comes to paddle boarding. Early in 2018, after reviewing my training, we decided to try paddle boarding to replace some of my strength and conditioning work I do in the gym whilst at the same time having more fun. I’ve never really enjoyed working out indoors and so this was an exciting prospect. We already paddled canoes and kayaks and knew a bit about the benefits this could provide. However, with paddle boarding you are up on your feet and this ensures a much better and more specific workout for a runner. With this in mind we got a new board and within a matter of weeks I was completely hooked.  I now often head to the coast so I can paddle before or after a run and it really does add a whole new aspect of fun to my training”.

Being Devon based ensures Jo has an abundance of epically scenic runs right on her doorstep but the South West offers so many more opportunities to get out and explore. Jo explains that whilst running is her first love, living so close to the water offers its own pull.

Paddling for strength and flexibility  

By mixing up different fun outdoor activities I think your main sport can really benefit. With running, you need good form to maintain a decent pace and run fast. Good running form relies on having a strong core and good all round conditioning. It’s therefore important to include some core stability work and some strength and conditioning in your training.

  

I have found that popping out for a paddle is a brilliant addition to my strength training. When paddling, the power for the stroke comes from the torso, but the action requires you to use many muscles, not only to propel the paddle board through the water but to maintain your position and balance. The strength component of paddle boarding consists oflots of multi directional forces that requires theengagementof lots of different muscles. Its not repeated movements with the exact same resistance and range of motion. This is one of the reasons that my husband Gav, who is also my coach, and I were attracted to paddling. The movements are brought about through continual corrections as you respond to maintaining balance, good posture, the water conditions, wind and the variability of your paddle strokes as you maintain and change directionPaddle boarding definitely improves core stability too as you need to engage a strong core to stay balanced. 

“When paddling, the power for the stroke comes from the torso, but the action requires you to use many muscles, not only to propel the paddle board through the water but to maintain your position and balance.”

Additionally, there are huge benefits to proprioception and strength in the legs, ankles and feet. Paddle boarding therefore provides a great dynamic and core strength workout, which is great for promoting good running form. When you combine the refreshing and calming feeling and how rejuvenated you are after being out on the water then I think it delivers a motivational and a well being component too.

Being Devon based ensures Jo has an abundance of epically scenic runs right on her doorstep but the South West offers so many more opportunities to get out and explore. Jo explains that whilst running is her first love, living so close to the water offers its own pull.

Reliability and Durability  

As a pro runner and a mum of two very active kids I have quite a busy life. Aside from running I have physiotherapy sessions, running drills, strength and conditioning and also lots of admin to do, like sorting out travel and races. I also do presentations and writing, including writing for Runner’s World. Although it can be quite hectic I always put my kids first and so their needs take priority. So I don’t run, eat and sleep like many pro athletes! That was how I used to live as an athlete before kids but I now really enjoy a much busier routine.  Rather than exhaust me, I find the busyness energises and motivates me. I thought being so hectic would spell the end to my competitive running but I was wrong! We love to keep active as a family, and I think it’s nice to show the kids that it’s fun to be active. Even though life seems pretty crazy at times I’m so much more relaxed and happier and so I’m in a good place mentally. For me it’s all about trying to have fun and that’s what keeps me going.

           

I love my mix of outdoor activities like paddle boarding, hiking and cycling and I think these have all helped to make life more fun. I have a strong sense of adventure and I thrive off this lifestyle. I think it’s important to be a good role model to your kids too, so that when they see you outside being active they are more likely to do the same. I really like being creative with what I do, whether that’s swapping the gym for a paddle or finding ways to involve my kids with outdoor activities too, so my kids will often accompany me on a run on their bikes.

“I really like being creative with what I do, whether that’s swapping the gym for a paddle or finding ways to involve my kids with outdoor activities too, so my kids will often accompany me on a run on their bikes.”

As a family we all love the water. Jacob, my 9 year old son, loves paddling the SUP or sitting on our kayaks and he has really taken to the water. He is a member of Sidmouth Surf Life Saving Club too and spends his entire week looking forward to Saturday morning training. Emily, my 5 year old, will happily sit on the paddle board for an hour or so as I paddle. Sharing activities like this is so nice and I love the fact that I’m not always disappearing for hours on end training. Being active together in the great outdoors is something I’m really passionate about. As a family, whether we’re out on bikes, running or paddling, we aim to have lots of fun and it’s through this that all of us look forward to quality time enjoying outdoor fun together. My advice is no matter what activity you choose, try to be creative to involve the whole family and above all else, let fun and adventure be your goal!

 

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