The Mind Must Win First Your Body Will Follow:
Winning Your Next SUP Race

The Mind Must Win First

“The Mind Must Win First Your Body Will Follow”: Winning Your Next SUP Race This is a slogan I’ve said for some time. Mahalo Lisa Schell for the photo above from your OC1 that you use for your mantra. Excellent.

I am going to share a couple jewels with you that are similar and derived from my book, the number one most comprehensive SUP performance training book out there, and touted as the SUP bible: How to Increase Your Stand Up Paddling Performance, Beginner to Elite.

Whether your a touring pro or average Jane or Joe, how many of you reading this article right now could admit that sometimes, YOU are your biggest obstacle when it comes to either making your race day awesome or one you’d like to forget?  Do you know HOW to get in the right mental state to become the winner on the podium or simply feel good about your outcome?

How many times can you now kick yourself for letting negative thoughts or feelings creep into your mind, causing you to blow up or bow out of your last or first race? Did you get yourself so worked up the night before of your big day that you woke up on race day with big black circles under your eyes, and a knot so big in your stomach you ended up puking in the bushes before the start?

If you answered yes to any or more of the questions above, it’s time to pull up your big boy board shorts or bitch’n babe bikini bottoms and listen up and continue reading. One of the most popular chapters in my book is Chapter 7, titled The Mental Part, talks about and teaches one How to Think and Perform Like A SUP Athlete. Here is the actual page from the book:

Winning Your Next SUP Race

Time and time again I am stoked to open emails from around the world from pros and weekend paddle hounds who tell me how much this chapter has changed not only their paddling game, but their life game. I can’t tell you how good this makes me feel to have touched on such an important element and to have such an impact to one’s outcome in a positive way.

Here is a recent one I opened two days ago from Wendell Mangibin from Long Island New York. He writes:

“Hi Suzie,

Wendell MangibinJust wanted to send a big Mahalo on your book! I did a local benefit race this past Sunday (Paddle for Life) and won the 3 mile race! Albeit it was a smaller rec. race compared to the 6 mile elite, but it was still a big PR for me and I managed to win in the overall!  I did a lot of the workouts (the ones I could do with what I had accessible) and had read and re-read Chapter 7! It all really helped me out on the water! I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the finish line! (PS Tagged you on Instagram if you want to see my smiling face with my wife at the Finish.)”

Wow, thank you Wendell for your kind words. I hope that you have many more experiences such as this. Your wife is a great support too.

Then there is my client and huge book fan, Andy Giordano from New Jersey.  He hasWinning SUP Race had an epic winning summer I just had to share his incredible story in this article

He also felt Chapter 7 and the entire book really helped him at some of his toughest moments of his races.



We as humans can spend a great deal of energy on worrying, or over analyzing or simply not believing in oneself. Sadly our perceptions of ourselves can be shaped at a very young age and reinforced by external negative dialogues or traumatic events, or by our parents for example or worse, by our own internal, unhealthy dialogues.

This in turn can be projected on how we perform not only in life but yes, on the water. If you see yourself as a loser or as not a strong paddler or as a lousy buoy turner, then guess what? That’s what you become.

Now if you see yourself as a strong, fierce fire breathing water warrior, then there is a pretty good chance you can light your paddle on fire with your mind and end up on the podium if that’s what you desire.

lisa-schellI have another dear friend and one you may know Lisa Schell. Not only is she the editor of the Distressed Mullet, but she is a fierce fire breathing water warrior and she too has hailed Chapter 7. So much so that she has written an article on how everyone who is prepping for the grueling 32 mile distance race called the Chattajack should take now on how to chill out before the big day. She has taken my advice so seriously that she included lisa-schell-mental-training-chattajackthis chapter as a must read in her recently published article  “Chattajack Anti-Freat Out Checklist.   There are her personal cue cards that she’s made to remind her of the positive mind set she must have to make it through yet another difficult race. I like the “be like Suzie” but I’d write one of my own that would read, “be like Lisa.”

I have personally witnessed her transformation this season.  She charges Maliko now and is training very very hard and has had one heck of year despite many challenges that have come her way. I’m so proud of her.  WOW. Thank you Lisa and good luck.

When I train people I am sometimes surprised and even shocked of a person’s self-perception of themselves or the language or words they use to describe themselves while they are paddling with me or performing or learning a new exercise. Immediately I will gently suggest that we redirect or rewire their brain and select a more positive or productive word or phrase that expresses the desired outcome. I often suggest to write it down and say it many times a day.

For example, when teaching someone a new surf stance balance exercise to help with their footwork transitions on land to water, I will demonstrate what I would like them to so and then I say, “okay, now it’s your turn.” I might hear things like, “my balance is terrible, I’m not sure I can do this that well.” Or sometimes they reply, “I’m really weak on this one side, I know I’m going to suck.”

It’s my job to quickly identify moments like this and immediately interject and I’ll say something back to the effect like, “well, if you say you are terrible then you will be.” How about from here forward we say “I have amazing balance and I can do this. Repeat after me out loud.” Then I ask them to repeat it one more time.  Or I might come back and suggest them to say, ” I’m really strong and this is so fun.”  Here I am taking out the emphasis of the visual or perception that they are weak or suck and don’t even choose to use those words.

By the second time they repeat their new phrase, they are smiling big and they are visualizing themselves catching a great wave or making a spectacular buoy turn. Then boom, the magic begins to transcend to one’s new and improved perception of self on to paddling greatness.

So you can see by the above example if our mind is set up to see a positive outcome we are signaling the body to follow the command of our thoughts and speech. The saying I’ve come up with as mentioned earlier, The Mind Wins First The Body Will Follow couldn’t be more true.  Would you agree?

If we have been told at some point that we are less than, or that we have no chance or that we are horrible at something, then this is a sad, sad record that must be turned over to play a much more positive song.

An example in my book is one of my own proven signals I give myself to stop a train or spiral of negative thoughts. It’s a verbal cue combined with a physical action to add to the reinforcement and production of positive thoughts and actions to move me forward.

I gave you a hint earlier. When I said the record must be turned over that was a clue. It was a visual of turning the bad, negative, unproductive record over and flipping it over to a more positive, happy song to get the mind to switch gears. You could for example even extend your arm out and turn a pretend record over and tell yourself out loud, “next song.”

We have the internal and mental power to make these important shifts. It may take some practice and experimenting but I can assure you that some of the top SUP athletes I’ve had the amazing pleasure of training, do similar exercises. They “see” themselves as winning or passing their targets. Ultimately however I try and help them not only see themselves winning but taking the time to embrace what it “feels” like as they cross that finish line first or for some, not last.

Approaching China Wall M20 Molokai to Maui Suzie Cooney

Approaching China Wall M20 Molokai to Maui Suzie Cooney

What does your body feel like after an exhausting long distance channel crossing as you paddle those few last painful strokes? What do you hear around you when you have just given it all you’ve got with sweat and sunscreen dripping down your face? How do your shoulders and legs and back and hands feel when you reach down and rip off that leash as you run down the beach?

I’ll tell you in one word, victorious. You are a champion at all levels. Your body has delivered what the mind pre-programmed days, weeks or months ago as you prepared for your big day. The body listened to the mind even when it felt it could not go on five or ten or even one more mile. Your body followed the commands of your mind.

If our brain and inner record or song that we sing is positive with verses that help us lay down the foundation necessary to paddle our best, then you too can and will
Achieve A SUPreme State of Paddling Performance. 

I hope you are inspired by this article. I hope you will please share it many times over. Please leave a comment and share with us how you prepare mentally for your big SUP race days.

How to Increase Your Stand Up Paddling PerformanceLearn so much more in my book. If you or someone you know would really enjoy a signed copy of my book from Maui ( you must live in the United States ), I can send you with extras strength and a personal special note.

get_it_on_ibooks_badge_us_1114It’s also available on ibooks for an incredible download experience.  Take me to the gym on your iPad or iPhone..


Mahalo, Suzie Cooney
Suzie Trains Maui, LLC
Also check out my new website 



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Suzie Cooney The Mind Wins First

Aloha & Welcome to our Suzie Trains Maui & The Mind Wins First Ohana! Mahalo for signing up for our private and secure email list. In strength, Suzie Cooney, CPT, CNTC

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