Kayaking and canoeing are more than just ways to have a great time on the water, or a way to paddle out to that favorite fishing hole.
Paddling is also a wonderful workout for your upper body, and to some extent your legs and lower back as well.
Physical fitness is rapidly becoming recognized as an important side benefit to kayaking and canoeing. As anyone who’s paddled a sea kayak a couple of miles into a stiff headwind can tell you, kayaking is a great workout, and can increase both your endurance and your upper body strength.
While there are a growing number of “fitness paddlers” who canoe or kayak just for the cardio and aerobic benefits of the sport, for most paddlers the exercise is just a side benefit. Their goal is to get out on the water, first and foremost, and workout they get is just icing on the cake (and maybe a little off the waist as well).
So whether you’re a dedicated sea kayaker, or whitewater paddling is your thing, or even just paddling on a quiet lake, the act of propelling yourself through the water will exercise the muscles in your arms, upper back, abs, lower back and that most important muscle – your heart.
Just as with any vigorous exercise activity, make sure you’re ready before you hit the water in a canoe or kayak. Especially if you’ve been sitting on the couch all winter, you’re new to the sport, or you’re generally not in the best physical condition. And don’t forget that paddling is just part of the workout here – you’ll also be lifting your boat on and off your vehicle, carrying it to the water, lugging your gear, etc.
If you’ve been physically inactive for a while, it’s a good idea to get into shape before tackling a canoe or kayak for a sustained period of time. Paddling is hard work, and requires quite a bit of strength and stamina. One way to give your cardiovascular system a workout is by running. Start slowly, and build up to longer and longer sessions over time until you feel fit enough to get out on the water.
And if you’re not sure about your current state of health, it’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning any intense exercise activities.
Always Strive For The Proper Technique
The proper form and technique isn’t just for weightlifters lugging around 100 pound barbells. It’s just as important when paddling a canoe or kayak, especially when you’re doing it primarily for the workout. Serious injuries can occur when the proper techniques are not applied, especially if you’re whitewater kayaking.
Two critical areas when paddling are your posture, and your stroke. If your stroke is off, or inconsistent, this can cause undue wear and tear on the joints in your arms and shoulders. Expect to be sore after your first few paddling workouts. One way to alleviate this is to buy an exercise machine designed for paddlers, and use it during the off season to stay in shape.
And don’t forget to use good form when lifting your boat on and off your vehicle, and carrying it to and from the water. More than one paddler has suffered a serious back injury before they even got a chance to climb into their boat.
Make Sure To Have Fun Out There!
Fitness paddling doesn’t need to be a dull, repetitive chore. After all, you’re out on the water, with the sun on your face and crisp fresh air in your nostrils, so make sure to have fun in your canoe or kayak.
If you ask me, it beats the heck out of working out on a treadmill or stairmaster machine in a stuffy and crowded exercise club.