The kayak rack is off your car, your gear is packed away in the garage, and you’re scraping frost off your windshield in the mornings. Like it or not, winter is almost here, and for most, that means a few months off the river. Or perhaps you’re not yet a whitewater kayaker: you’re just looking at kayaking as a next step after that amazing rafting trip you took this past year. Either way, the season of feasting is upon us and the gym is far from most of our minds. How do you get or stay in shape for kayaking season?
Would you believe me if I recommended skiing? Many ski enthusiasts encourage kayaking in the off-season to remain in shape, and it does work the other way around. Although skiing is more “lower body” intensive than kayaking, there is a lot of crossover. Both foster an awareness of your environment and body alignment. Both sports require edge control and similar “carving” movements; both engage your core and back for stability and strength.
Speaking of that core, anyone who’s spent a few hours navigating whitewater in a kayak can tell you that your core is at the “core” of your stability on the water. Those oft-neglected abdominal and lower back muscles work together to keep you upright in the tumultuous river, and of course, they’re a necessity for a successful roll. To strengthen your core muscles, check out Pilates or Yoga. There are many effective “Yoga for Paddlers” programs that target the abdominal and upper body muscles, and all Pilates work is firmly rooted in developing a healthy core and back. With a little discipline, you can head to the river next spring in better shape than you left, or at least without as much eggnog-induced softness to overcome.