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Jackson Kayak team members, Samantha Brunner Ruppelt and Heather Herbeck, are teaming up to give you some guidance and suggestions on how your health, your fitness and your love for kayaking can affect each other and how to use these three components simultaneously to create longevity in your paddling!

This post will help get you back into the ‘paddling groove’ . . . read on!


It’s impossible to paddle 365 days a year . . . heck, some of us can’t even get out 30 days a year. There are many reasons that limit our boating opportunities and cold, winter weather is a HUGE one.

Well, winter is long gone! The sun is making its’ recognition a little more often; the temperatures are above 50; the snow is starting to melt; and, the rivers are running . . . all of which make each and everyone of us a little more motivated to paddle!


So . . . are you ready to pick up where you left off last season? Or, are you feeling a little rusty from the months of hibernation. Well, either way, we are going to give you a few suggestions on how to prepare yourself for a long, happy paddling season.

Have you ever pressed your feet into your bulkhead and felt a tingling sensation in your legs? Have you ever reached for a sweet boof and felt a sharp pull in your back? Do you have a difficult time getting the paddle blade to the surface of the water when you try to roll your kayak? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you can start improving your paddling (and fitness) right away with some simple stretches.

Before paddling hard, make sure you are nice and stretched out! It doesn’t really pay to try to stretch your muscles when they are cold, so make sure you warm them up. To warm your muscles up, they must ‘actively’ move. Good warm-up drills:
• Paddle around for at least 5 minutes at various speeds – both forwards & backwards
• A short jog at the put-in
• Jumping Jacks

“I always suggest trying to work on the flexibility of your whole body, but to be kayaking- specific I definitely suggest at least targeting the shoulders, hips, and low back/ hamstrings. I have found that the DVD by Andria Davis, Brushy Mountain Publishing, to be very helpful! “ ~ Samantha Brunner

Here are a few specific pointers from Samantha & Heather:
1. Stretching needs to become a habit, it doesn’t work to just stretch right before the river. Deep stretching should only take place after your body has been warm for at least 30 mins. Light stretching can be done before a paddle (but after you warm up a bit), but focus your time and energy to stretch AFTER your paddle or workout. If you stretch after every workout that you do, you shouldn’t have trouble on the river.
2. Hold your stretches for 30 seconds- 1 minute, do not bounce with them.
3. Use breathing to release tension in your muscles. I like to que, “Breathe into the tightness and release it out! Feel the tension subside with each exhale!” ~ Heather Herbeck

If your body feels strong, your mind feels strong, too! A strong mind & body makes us feel more confident about our paddling. I am only going to briefly touch on this topic (as I can get quite in depth, but we’ll save it for later posts). There are 5 exercises that I consider important in a paddler’s workout routine:
Pull-ups (to strengthen the muscles used when paddling)
Push-ups (to strengthen the opposite muscles used when paddling, creating balance & minimizing overuse injury)
Sit-ups (to create a strong core)
Squats (to strengthen the legs for active paddling)
Back Extensions (to complete the core training)

An easy routine to start with:
5 – 10 sets of:
5 pull-ups
10 push-ups
10 sit-ups
15 squats
10 back extensions

• Please see your doctor before starting an intense workout routine.
• Please see a personal trainer if you have any questions about executing the above moves.

If you have to dust of your boat & paddle or get the mothballs out of your spray skirt, you might want to brush up on the basics of kayaking before jumping right back into it.

Take a week or two to visit the rivers you feel comfortable on and ‘work out any kinks’ in your technique. This way you can really focus on your strokes/ concepts and figure out what you need to work on instead of finding out the hard way, like in the middle of a new class V drop 🙂 No matter your level of skill, a back to the basics run is always a great way to warm up for the exciting season ahead! Plus, it a sure confidence booster!

Okay, now go get started!

Happy Paddling,
Heather & Samantha