The paddling season is upon us and here are some suggestions to get your body in shape so you don’t injure yourself.
In addition to using kayaking to improve your fitness, you can also condition your body beforehand to enhance your experience. Improved physical fitness will make your paddling more enjoyable because you will feel more energetic and be able to paddle greater distances without fatigue. You will feel stronger, and be able to do routine tasks like carrying boats and dealing with unexpected difficulties like increasing winds. You will also feel more flexible and you’ll be able to use your entire body to execute your strokes strongly and efficiently.
Here are some simple torso stretches. When you do these stretches, warm up for a few minutes with some light running or paddling motions. Then stretch gently to the point where you feel the stretch. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times each direction. Stretching before each paddle helps prevent injuries like tendinitis, muscle soreness, strains, and dislocations. Stretching afterwards is most likely to improve your flexibility.
1) “C” Stretches: Bending sideways with your arm over your head. Work the lateral flexibility on each side. This helps rolling, bracing, and general edging of the boat.
2) Torso twists: Twist your chest and shoulders keeping the rest of the body pointed forward so you feel the twist low and deep in your torso. This twist is easy to do in a boat, with you hands assisting by grasping the deck, one hand in front of you, one behind.
3) Hamstring stretches. Do this while lying on your back, with your leg extended straight up. Use a towel or a short section of webbing to help pull your leg to get tension.
Tips for avoiding injuries
- Warm-up and stretch before each paddle
- Be systematic in the distance and difficulty
- Cool-down and stretch after each paddle