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SUP Pro Talk with Suzie Cooney

Improve Balance & Reaction Time: Indo Board Training Gear & Suzie on the New “Gigante” 24″ Disc

Maui Wave Action!

Waves are a force of nature like no other. Susan does a superb job to illustrate this and more. A great read!


Surf Stronger Order This!

ATHLETA Article: Stand Up and Sweep Your Way to Better Health by Suzie Cooney August 2010


photo by Simone Reddingius

photo by Simone Reddingius

As most of you know, SUP or stand up paddling is a big part of my life and I enjoy teaching others and sharing the health benefits of this sport.

Here is an article I wrote for ATHELTA to share my knowledge and enthusiam for how I see the sport shaping the world but more importantly, how it’s getting more people healthy.

I encourage you to read and share how SUP has benefitted your health!  Click here to read the full story:

Well, by the overwhelming response and stories I read as one of the judges for  the most recent ATHLETA and SIREN SUP contest, one can say that any age, any person  can “sweep” their way to better health, just about anywhere there is water. People all across the world are “sweeping” their way to better health and having more fun than they ever imagined. “Sweeping” is a slang term used to describe the sport that is going viral faster than any social networking media and changing the world of sports on any body of water — and just about anyone can hop aboard.

Stand up paddling, paddle surfing, or SUP is helping people of all ages and  sizes catch the surfer’s glide, and helping people in all walks of life get fit and healthy, faster and safer. People are simply getting addicted. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the rise in popularity — not just for those, like me, who are fortunate enough to live in Hawaii or California, but anywhere there’s an ocean, lake, bay, or even river rapids, you can find this world phenomenon catching on. There are SUP fitness boot camps and clinics popping up anywhere there is water. You may have noticed more races and events happening in your community too.

Below are some photos of a recent FREE women’s Sup clinic last month, and these gals were wonderful.  In the first hour, there were smiles across the ocean and a new found ticket to health.  I do these monthly to ensure the health of our community and introduce women and men to a new way to get fit! For “fun” I had the girls attempt a few push ups. They were amazing. On the right is Amy Hampton, the Director of Maui’s American Heart Association, getting her heart pumping!




According to Wikipedia: Stand up paddle surfing (SUP), or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage. The sport is an ancient form of surfing, and began as a way for surfing instructors to manage their large groups of learner surfers, as standing on the board gave them a higher viewpoint, increasing visibility of what was going on around them — such as incoming swell. To begin with, this started with using a one-bladed paddle, whilst standing on a normal length surfboard. The popularity of the modern sport of SUP has its origination in the Hawaiian Islands. In the early 1960s, the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards, and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term “Beach Boy Surfing”, another name for Stand Up Paddle Surfing, originates.


Not only can you lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol and feel more energized after a session, but the overall experience of being on the water is often touted as “aqua therapy.” The benefits of having a sport you enjoy and can do on a regular basis can alter many of the morbidity factors that decrease our health and plague our society.

I use this sport as a cross-training tool for almost all my clients who are comfortable in the water and who can swim.  It is low impact on all joints and is also being used to improve balance and core strength for people recovering from serious injuries.  I used my stand up paddle board to recover from a serious bilateral leg and ankle accident.  I have also witnessed this sport transform people’s lives overnight, by instilling a new found level of confidence and achievement, making them feel invincible!

As a sponsored team SUP rider for Naish International, instructor, and SUP clinic organizer, I love to introduce the sport to everyone who visits Maui, and help others perfect their paddling stroke  — from flat water fun to waves, and the really popular coastal long distance down winders we do here on the North Shore of Maui.

But, before you hop aboard, I’d like to offer my professional experience and expert resources about water safety, board and paddle selection, and how to maximize your fun to maximize your health so you can glide into your later years with a smile and healthy body!


Continue reading ATHLETA Article: Stand Up and Sweep Your Way to Better Health by Suzie Cooney August 2010

Absolutely Amazing Abs Suzie Cooney’s Favorite Abs for ATHLETA


Click on the image above or click here for all the photos of how to get amazing abs!


To see the entire abs series photo click on link above!

To see the entire abs series photo click on link above!

Absolutely Amazing Abs

by Suzie Cooney • May 25th, 2010 • Category: Gym+Training, Videos+Tutorials

We all want to look and feel great with strong abs all year long. I’ve selected a few of my favorite ab exercises for you to try and get results!


This is an excellent exercise that you’ll feel immediately and get nice results for your upper and lower ab region.

Preparation: Sit with feet slightly apart. Heels down, toes up. Lightly clasp hands. Lean back to where you can begin to feel your abs protruding without risking low back compensation. With good posture and shoulders back, focus on keeping your chest or sternum in a straight line. I recommend doing this in front of the mirror.

As you twist, keep head and chest pointed straight ahead. Attempt to touch the floor with your hands. Engage your abs, and really FEEL them as they assist you to bring back your hands mid line of your body and then to the other side.

The speed should be a fast to moderate tempo. I would try at least 3 sets of 25. Keep breathing fast, short breaths!

Progression: Try a medicine ball of 4-8 pounds or a dumbbell. Use the weight to get into a rhythm. Don’t let your arms take over.


Targets upper AND lower abs at the same time! This exercise has amazing results.

Preparation: Place hands behind head, DO NOT lock fingers. Gently support head in nape of neck with fingertips.

Extend either leg and lift slightly off floor. If any lower back discomfort, raise extended leg higher. Tilt your pelvis towards you to encourage a nice, low back pressed to the ground. Bend knee of opposite leg. Imagine a pulley on your chest lifting you to the ceiling. Make sure you are looking above your eyebrow to prevent elbows from falling forward.

Lift chest and shoulders off floor and force your abs to contract. As you lift, hold that contraction for a count of 2, breath out. DO NOT allow your shoulders to come back to the floor, but keep the abs taught at all times. If you notice your elbows winging forward, look up and flatten them out, otherwise you’ll strain your neck and the exercise will have little effect.

Start with 3 sets of 25. Breathe out on the way up. Remember to build endurance and stick with it. You’ll soon notice that it will take you more reps to start feeling it. That’s a good thing!


The BOSU is a popular platform that adds new challenges and really can make your workout more fun and efficient. Here is a fun progression that demonstrates how to target your abs and obliques. This takes getting used to and if you’re just starting, you may quiver just a bit.

Preparation: Sit on top of the BOSU and scoot a little towards the floor, just below the center of the BOSU. Place your hands behind you to support your low back. As you begin to lean back you’ll notice your stomach protruding. This is a good indication that you are on target to begin.

Begin by contracting abs and pulling knees towards you, then fully extend your legs until they’re almost straight out in front of you.

Then to target the obliques, sit on your side with one hand in front of you and the other behind you for support, and do the same. You may need to find the sweet spot to get in this position. Be patient. Make sure your hip flexors or legs are taking the load, and really focus on the obliques.


INDO Board introduced the Gigante Training Disc, which was actually designed for stand up paddling and surfing balance fun. But I have found many other things to do with it. (See my recent article for Athleta here »)

There are many progressions you can do to make your ab workout on the Gigante fun and extra challenging. This 24 inch disc inflates up to 12 inches tall. For our workout, I’ve inflated it to about 5 inches. It’s more stable this way.

Similar to the BOSU, sit on top of the Gigante and place your hands behind you. Bring your knees to your chest, then extend your legs away from you. You are guaranteed to shake, quiver and wiggle — this is the fun part! I try to get my center very calm and still, and get very focused.

And then try your obliques! Remember, this disc moves in four directions so controlling it with your abs is hard work. But I promise it will get easier!

Then we progress once more to a medicine ball of 4–8 pounds. I’m using an 8 pound medicine ball. A simple dumbbell will do too.

Lastly, we took lots of photos to get this right and you can see I found this to be fun and challenging. This time I raised the 8 pound medicine ball above my head slightly to help me with balance! Try different angles with the medicine ball if you like. Positioning your outer thigh more on your hip is your starting point. This progression really requires quick reaction to the Gigante, then finding the sweet spot before you go into the extension.

As you can see there are many different ab exercises to choose from. The key is to mix it up and never allow your body to get used to one exercise. By selecting fun ab exercises you will be more likely to see results sooner because they won’t be such a dreaded part of your workout. I tell my clients they will never ever do a traditional sit up in my studio or on the beach. Why, when there are way more fun things we can do?

Also keep in mind one cannot spot-reduce a specific body part. Being fit and healthy is a total body effort. Including a smart cardio program, making better food choices, and eating smaller portions all contribute to weight loss and toning.

I tend to do abs last in my training routines because your abs support you and keep your body upright while you are working out.

Lastly, remember just when you start to get uncomfortable is when your body will change.

Be well and healthy!

New Picture

Warm aloha,

Suzie Cooney, CPT » » »

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Photos by Simone Reddingius. See more of her beautiful work & action photography on »

Catch the New Wave in Balance Training with Suzie Cooney and the New Gigante from INDO Board

 SUP Logo New

The New Wave of Balance Training:

See Athleta’s Featured Chi Article here:


Suzie Cooney • Apr 15th, 2010 • Category: Gym+Training, Tips From a Pro

Now you don’t have to be in Maui to catch this new wave in fitness training, and you don’t have to be a big wave surfer to get the benefits of my new favorite piece of training equipment. But before I reveal this cool new training platform, I want to talk about the importance of preparing your body for anything!

Whether you’re training for your first trail running race or simply want to prevent yourself from any unwelcome stumbles or falls, balance training is an integral part of everyone’s fitness routine—no matter what age or what sport you enjoy.

We’ve all missed a step or have felt our ankle buckle and you say, “Whew, glad I caught that one.” Almost one year ago now, I landed on the bottom step of my home for the millionth time and…. WHAMMO-snap-break-tear. In under 2 seconds, I found myself in the dark at the bottom of the landing searching for my cell phone to call my boyfriend for help. My left ankle and leg were broken, and right leg ligaments torn, which led to two months in a wheelchair.

You would think that as a fitness professional and athlete, I’d be ready for anything. The one element I did not mention was that the landing was completely dark so my brain had no awareness of what to do when I hit the bottom. I’m positive had I been able to see my landing I may have had a better chance at recovery.

We rely on our senses more than we realize. Our senses tell our body where our limbs are at all times. If our joints are not strong or flexible enough to react to our environment, it can result in down time or, worse yet, a serious injury. In my case, my eyes could not assist me to help assess and catch my fall. So part of balance training is actually brain training to navigate your body safely through any obstacles that may come in your path.


Balance training can be as simple as standing on one leg or as exciting as feeling what it would be like to surf or try the new craze of stand up paddling! My clients can’t wait to hop aboard a surf board or a stand up paddle board with me and practice surfing down the line, but more importantly working on improving their balance—and they don’t even get wet!

There’s quite a few balance training devices that will progress you safely, so best to start out simply. Part of my evaluation for every client involves balance testing. It’s quite a surprise to learn about your own balance, and which leg may be more dominant than the other. I achieve this with a simple piece of hard dense foam roller cut in half. I test all planes of motion with the progression of two legs (stable) to one leg (less stable).

As a client progresses with me, then it’s time to introduce the Giganté! You don’t have to know how to surf or stand up paddle. The Giganté (the first “G” is pronounced with an “h”), made by Indo Board, is a giant inflatable disc that allows for a new way to have fun and improve your balance. It gets all the small muscles that support the hip, knees and ankles to work together while you balance on a four-way rubber platform! And of course, all the while your core is working hard to center and ground you.


Here I’ve got two Gigantés inflated halfway (about 6 inches) with the nubby side up under a longer stand up paddle board. I use the paddle to assist me up to the board and then to mimic my paddling motions. I can also add a weighted body bar. Your ankles and feet may get a little fatigued from tension the first couple of times, but as your brain begins to register the information and send it back to the muscles and nerves that assist you in your balance challenge, each time you get better, stronger and more confident each time!


Balance training, as mentioned earlier, should follow a safe progression. For more challenge, the progression is to remove one Giganté disc, grab a smaller board and increase the inflation of the disc (the disc easily inflates by blowing it up like a beach ball after you remove the pin). Now we’re ready for more action and our balance challenge just got more interesting!

The disc is now inflated up to its max of 12 inches tall. This disc is so sensitive to my every movement—it feels like it’s reading my mind. I need to keep my upper body and feet loose and maintain good posture. As I begin to paddle, the board responds like I was surfing in more intense conditions. Fitness training was never so much fun. My legs also get a great workout!

With the Giganté, I will also sit on it and try to keep my body balanced on it that way—an excellent core workout at the same time. You can also simply lay down on it in a prone position with your arms extended above your head like Superman (or woman)! This is really an amazing test of core strength and balance, and is sure to make you giggle while you wiggle! By squeezing your glutes and legs together behind you, feet off ground and lifting your chest while keeping your head down, you’ll find your center balance point—or what I like to call the sweet spot. Wow, simply amazing.

One thing I’d like to mention: While starting any balance program or exercise, practice your exercise of choice without looking down. That’s not to say don’t look where your feet go for proper placement and body alignment, but in this case, I want to look down the wave or where I’m going. It’s easier on the brain and your performance will improve dramatically. You can also practice your balance moves in front of a long mirror, which I find very helpful.

Make balance training a part of your fitness routines and you’ll be ready for anything!

Aloha!  Suzie Cooney, CPT

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Athleta Chi Born to Run Free Barefoot Running by Suzie Cooney

Click  here to go to Athleta


Born Free: Barefoot Running

Suzie Cooney • Mar 1st, 2010 • Category: Run

Athleta Barefoot Run1I’ve just stepped into a new world! I guess I’ve been caught in a jungle of rubber and synthetic materials for too long. In the past few months, the topic of barefoot running has weaved its way into my training sphere and conversations, and I’ve become more and more curious.

Coming from a background in sports orthopedics and other medical specialties, I’m highly intrigued by recent studies touting significant findings for the benefits of running barefoot, versus running with traditional supportive shoes and the complications that can result. The results are well supported. For example, in a January 7th posting, Orthopedics Today discusses a recent study showing that “running in shoes exerts more stress on the knees, hips and ankles than running barefoot or walking in high heeled shoes.”

My personal orthopedic resource, local Maui physician Clay Everline MD, Seton Hall University Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic SurgeryBoard Certified in Sports Medicine and Internal Medicine, and founder of Waves of Health, shared his thoughts with me. “One thing I enjoy about the FiveFingers® is the increased proprioception from the spread toes and the molded arch support. It nearly forces you to run with proper biomechanics. Barefoot running is natural running where the foot contact with the ground helps you correct your stride by sensory biofeedback.”

The FiveFingers referred to by Dr. Everline is a barefoot running shoe from Vibram that is wildly popular and accommodates many other sports beyond running. You may take a second look at this gecko-like foot cover. They weigh about 6.7 ounces and can be custom tailored up to a size EEE. Running a marathon in animal pad-like rubber sheaths seems really interesting, and is getting noticed in the running world. There are barefoot running blogs with serious topics and conversations that cover everything from lack of arch support to “do everything” barefoot. Some tout their back pain has been cured by the change that has occurred in their posture. Others claim they no longer suffer from plantar fasciitis or other stresses to the foot and ankle joint causes by soft, fluffy shoes.

As an experiment for this article, I recently took a few laps in the sugar cane fields here on the North Shore of Maui to try barefoot running for myself. I thought of the movie Born Free and running not from the lions, but with them at early dawn in my new raw feet. While it took dodging a few sticker bushes, rocks and unsuspecting cane roots jutting out from the raw dirt itself, I actually was digging it! I liked feeling the traction I could get between my toes and the direct contact was great.

Now I didn’t run a lot of miles — just enough to get a real feel (and get the shot!). I also experienced an incredible connection to the earth, as I discovered those that ran before me have expressed the same. My feet were stained for a bit by the rich red minerals in the dirt, but all was good.

AtletaDressArticleBFootHere on Maui, our feet are pretty tough from walking over the rocks to the water to surf, fish and windsurf in some spots, or just from literally flattening out over time without wearing regular shoes. Many locals and others prefer to hike barefoot in the slippery jungles, or with a split toe aquatic shoe called Tabis. Going to the mainland in real shoes is no longer that simple. Our feet get a little wider and more swollen from our lifestyle. Forget my Italian shoes! Most of our days on Maui are spent barefoot, and no one ever wears shoes in one’s home except at fancy parties or other rare occasions. But since I wear supportive shoes in my day-to-day training with clients, I’m more used to it than most.


Before you toss your sneakers and hit the ground, literally, it’s best to take a few precautions. If you tend to pronate or if you are more flat-footed, it’s highly suggested to ease into the bed of something with some support. If you try one of the special shoes designed for barefoot running, proper sizing is important. Most people who use custom orthotics to help correct biomechanical deviations need to consult with their specialist and adjust accordingly.

Dr.  Everline also says, “Watch out for sharp rocks and sticks! Barefoot running should be avoided by those who have diabetes, specifically diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and other sensory problems of the feet, due to increased risk of infections from cuts that go unnoticed. Feet should be meticulously checked after each session if going completely barefoot. Cuts should be cleaned and dressed.” So be careful of  medical conditions that may contraindicate this new style of running — always check with your own doctor first.

You will also need to change your gait as you walk or run (see Mary’s recent article Cross Training and Injury Prevention with more info about gait for runners). Most of us strike the ground with our heels first and this seems more natural. We all seem used to the cushy, supportive shoes that cradle our feet with very thick soles. Practice landing softly on the balls of your feet or more mid-foot. Your calves and ankles will also get stronger, and you can learn to run with less impact and torque on your body and joints.

Start with short distances to build the supportive muscles of the foot, and be mindful of hard running surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Look for softer surfaces at first, like hard pack dirt, the sand, grassy parks or special cork tracks. Additionally, it can take up to 2 weeks to get your legs and muscles used this new form of running.

If you’re a barefoot runner, please share your experience!

Aloha, Suzie Cooney, CPT



Athleta Features Suzie Cooney as Athlete for 2010

Wow, what a thrill! I really love Athleta clothing and their philosphies they share. They represent real women in real life. It’s an honor to be a part of such a progressive, talented team of women!  I look forward to healthy, strong and inspiring year! Aloha, Suzie

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Introducing Our 2010 Featured Athletes

Team Athleta • Jan 29th, 2010 • Category: Feature Story


They’re yoginis and runners, triathletes, surfers, cyclists, and the list goes on. They’re moms, wives, friends, daughters, and professionals. They’re women who approach each day intending to stay balanced and strengthen their body, mind, and spirit for sport and the sport of life.

Sound like someone you know? Most likely.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading their stories, celebrating their accomplishments, and learning from their insight and expertise.


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Athleta is about real athletes inspiring active women with hip products that function, fit and perform beautifully. To help achieve our goal of providing the best products and service, we’re committed to connecting with athletes who inspire our business, our products and (most importantly) our customers. Please click around for information about these amazing women, or click here to learn about our sponsorship program.


ADRI KYSER is a yoga and Pilates instructor with over 1800 teaching hours through Yoga Alliance, garnering her the highest level of recognition as E-RYT 500 Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. She has done more than 300 hours of teacher training with Shiva Rea… {more}
AIMEE GALLO is a marathon runner, indoor cycling coach, holistic nutrition counselor and personal trainer. When not out pursuing her athletic goals, Aimee is busy with her company, Vibrance Nutrition and Fitness, helping her clients meet their fitness and nutrition goals by utilizing a mind, body, and spirit approach… {more}
ANDREA SMALLING is a runner, personal trainer and group fitness instructor who recently left a successful career to start her own business, fueled by her passion for athletics. Her company, Fitness Advantage, focuses on personal and small group training for women… {more}
Jennifer Yanazzo DINA MISHEV is a randonee skier, cyclist and hiker who, in February 2009, set the world record for the most vertical feet skied uphill by a woman in 24 hours. She is a category-3 road cyclist who consistently places top 5 in the longest single-day road race in the country… {more}
ERIN GRAY is a professional beach volleyball player who started playing indoor volleyball at the age of twelve and, by the age of seventeen, was an All-American indoor volleyball player. She went on to First Team All American in collegiate volleyball, was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year….{more}
JANELLE SMILEY is a mountaineering guide with Salt Mountaineering, a company she started with her husband in Crested Butte, Colorado. A 5.11 traditional multi-pitch lead climber, Janelle has been all over the world guiding, exploring, climbing and skiing…{more}
MARY DELANEY is a triathlete, skier, kayaker, hiker, sailor, and scuba diver who runs a coaching and rehabilitation business, called Rehab to Racing, that she started with her husband. Rehab to Racing helps injured athletes get back to their sports…{more}
RACHEL COLEMAN is a runner, hiker, skier and super-mom. While her most important job is being a mom, she also has a successful career as a singer-songwriter and is the co-creator and host of Signing Time, an Emmy nominated television and DVD series….{more}
SUZIE COONEY is a former sponsored motocross racer and windsurfer who currently fills her time surfing, stand-up paddling, windsurfing, mountain biking, snowboarding and riding motocross. She is a professional fitness trainer…{more}
TARA KROLCZYK is a dance, yoga and Pilates instructor who has trained with some of the most reputable professionals and dance companies, including: Mikhail Baryshnikov, River North Dance Company, Gus Giordano’s Dance Company in Chicago, and several others…{more}



Athleta Chi Feature Story Walking on Water