I recently saw an ad in a magazine for an exercise machine developed for us kayaker folk. It is designed to simulate kayaking from an easy downstream paddle to heaving a fully loaded touring kayak into wind. Personally, I would rather do the real thing than sit in my basement or backyard on this bench waving a shaft (attached to cables and pulleys) with my iPod playing ocean-side relaxation sounds in my earphones. But to each his/her own, who am I to judge? Okay, if I walk by your house and see you on one of these contraptions you will hear my not-so stifled giggling over the ocean-side soundtrack playing in your ears. I might even pick up the garden hose to simulate the ocean spray. Come on, go kayaking for crying out loud. Experience the real thrill of paddling a fully loaded touring kayak into a windy day.
But, crazy contraptions set aside there are a few things you can do to keep fit for paddling before, during and after paddling seasons. I have asked around and come up with 5 easy exercises for the kayaker. Stretching is important and I try to do some both before I get in the kayak and even when in the boat as well during a long day.
1). lay flat on the floor, bending your knees and placing your feet firmly on the floor and hands placed behind your head. Now sit up and curl your right elbow to the opposite knee. These are tough so go slow. This exercise works the abs. Put your feet up on a chair if that is more comfortable.
2). sit or stand, bend your elbows and keep your arms close to your body. Now twist your torso from side to side keeping your chest and shoulders in line. You should feel in your lower back and shoulder blades.
3). put your hands out in front of you, make a fist and stretch your arms out as far as you can, and bring them back close to your body in a circular motion, this will work the shoulders.
4). place your hands, palm-down flat on a wall with your hands about 2 feet apart. Move your feet back about a meter or more, and then lean in to put your face close to the wall, and push out.
5). With about a 5 lb weight in each hand stand with your arms out. Curl your arms at the elbows back towards your body. Stretch your arms out fully again, turn your wrists and repeat the curl.
These 5 exercises will increase your strength for paddling. Adding small amounts of weight to the #3 as well as #5 will increase your strength but be slow and careful about adding this weight and resistance. I stretch as much as I can before a paddle but also while I am in the cockpit. The torso stretch exercise is especially easy to do while sitting in your kayak waiting for your group to get on the water with you. An additional prop for that one is my paddle itself. While holding the paddle shaft behind my neck I twist slowly from side to side. This works the torso but by way of balance other muscles come into play. remember, find a pace that is good for you.