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The Paddling Guru: Getting in shape for paddling season

Mar 21, 2011

Do you paddle to get in shape? Or do you get in shape to go paddling?  Paddling can be a physically demanding activity, especially if you are not in some sort of “shape” before you get started for the season.  While paddling is a great way to maintain condition, generally it's advisable to prepare for the season by getting the ol' body warmed up to the thought of some serious physical activity.  Let's take a look at some easy ways to get ready for the season.

To physically prepare yourself for paddling let's look at 4 aspects of conditioning or what many refer to as “getting in shape."  Balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility are all important topics to consider when heading down this path.  Take away any one of the four and the system just won't be complete.  Balance.  Not just physical balance, but also your mental balance, spiritual balance, and the roles we balance in life. Balancing out time for work and play and even time for “getting in shape”!  Strength building and endurance go hand in hand.  The better prepared we are the better our experience can be.  No one likes the sore muscle hangover from a day of over doing it! Flexibility is a subject that is very dear to my heart and since getting older is something we all do eventually, a very important aspect of full body conditioning.

Developing a plan that rolls balance, strength, endurance and flexibility into a slick package is a rather daunting task but the rewards for this conditioning can really pay off.  Longer days on the water, more miles paddled, no more sore muscles and the ability to paddle into those golden years are but a few of the advantages!

Strength and endurance work is the easiest to define.  It can be as simple as a few sets of “burpees," a combination of a squat, a push-up, a lunge and a leap, done in rapid progression or as complicated as a full gym weight training program.  Aerobic conditioning is an important aspect of strength and endurance work as it increases the amount of oxygen to your muscles so they can work more efficiently.  This can be as simple as a half hour walk, done a few times per week.  I sometimes walk to the post office which is 3 miles away.

Flexibility work can be as easy as a good stretching program but there is probably as much controversy about stretching as there is over rudders and skegs!  Do some research and decide what's best for you!   

So how do we roll all these things into an easily digested system of pre-season preparedness?  You've probably heard this one before but here goes……YOGA.   I “discovered” Yoga a number of years ago and now use it year around to keep my body in reasonable shape, especially the balance and flexibility aspects.  There are many ways to learn good yoga technique.  I learned from a couple classes, a good book and a variety of videos.  With the video format it's possible to learn and practice with the pros in the comfort of your own home on your own schedule!  We just recently picked up “Yoga for Kayaking” by our friend Anna Levesque, a pro whitewater paddler and Joe Taft, a full time yoga instructor.  Great stuff.  I learned a few new moves (they're called postures) and love the way the progressions are laid out.  The video is good for anyone, even beginners.  It's simple, yet challenging.

Unless you want to wait around for paddling to get you “in shape” take a good look at developing a conditioning program that prepares you for the challenge and demands of paddling.  It's always a good idea to consult your physician when starting an exercise program.

One with the flow,

The Paddling Guru