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There I was sitting in my kayak needing to reach forward to turn on my camera.  I kept wondering why in the world I was having such difficulty completing such a mundane and easy task.  Was I getting old?  Of course, but that wasn’t completely the reason for the difficulty.  Then it dawned on me, my physical fitness level and belly were getting in my way and making easy tasks more difficult to perform.  That’s the situation (among others) that got me to notice that even though I was aging and not the vibrant young man that I used to be, I didn’t have to be the way I was.  I chose to do something about it.  I began to eat a bit healthier and exercise frequently.

Let’s sit back and do some soul searching and relate what we like, love, and have to do to in our lives in relation to our level of physical fitness/ health.

Let’s take the family first: play with our kids or grandkids, be around to guide them and love them, and hang out with your spouse sharing special moments.  Teach a child how to do a basketball lay-up, climb a tree, or take your spouse dancing.

Work: remain a vibrant part of your profession; offering leadership, productivity, example, and stress free decision making.  Some jobs are physical in nature and some are desk jobs.  Being in shape will help you in your physical job and being in shape will sustain your fitness level if you ride a desk.

Hobbies: be able to perform at a respectable level to satisfy your own self, have fun, and be competitive.  Fishing, hunting, golf, travel, skiing, etc..

All of these daily activities are or can be enhanced by being healthier and in better physical conditioning.

Now, let’s apply this to our prowess as a kayak angler.  As a kayak angler, we must be able to perform certain tasks to get on the water, stay safe on the water, and then get off the water and back home successfully.

Get on the water: That kayak does not get any lighter as the years go by.  Have you ever unloaded your kayak at the launch and thought, “Goodness, this kayak is heavy!”  Most of us have had those same or similar thoughts.  By the time you’ve unloaded and parked your vehicle you’re breathing heavy and starting to sweat.  A successful day of kayak fishing should not ever start off with negative thoughts.  We should be thinking about our game plan or how great the day is instead of how heavy something is or how out of shape we are.  We expend a lot of energy getting our gear ready and finally launching.

Staying safe on the water: Sometimes your fishing game plan will require you to paddle a short distance or miles of waterways in search of your catch.  Have you ever been wiped out by the time you get to your fishing destination and have to take a break before fishing?  Of course you have.  We’ve all paddled against head winds, tidal currents, and through less than desirable waves.  Can you recover in a short period from an exhausting paddle?  Due to your physical fitness level and/ or health, do you ever feel unsure of yourself when fishing alone or far from others?

Let’s consider our surroundings and conditions that we may or will endure during our trip.  Heat or cold, these elements can zap you of your energy and wear on your body.  It starts to rain, wind kicks up, or a lightning storm moves in.  These elements can affect you mentally as well as physical.  You may have to quickly paddle back to the launch or to safety.

What if you turtle (flip over) or fall out of your kayak?  Can you successfully perform a shallow or deep water re-entry into your kayak?

Getting off the water: Some of our fishing trips can last a couple hours, 8 hours, or even more.  Can you make it back to the launch with energy to spare?  Once you get back to the launch you have to pack up all your gear and load your kayak back on your vehicle for the ride home.  If you’ve had a successful day and maybe kept a few fish for the dinner table, your arrival back home isn’t the end of the fishing trip.  Now you have to clean up your kayak and gear, store them, and then clean up your catch.  Can your fitness level and health sustain you until you’re finished?

I know that as we get older we develop natural limitations due to arthritis, loss of strength, past injuries, health conditions, etc.  Those limitations are surely something that you can work with.  With proper exercise and proper eating habits you can improve your quality of life and the quality of your fishing trips.

Don’t give up.  Exercising and eating healthy is not the magic pill, effects and results will not be immediate.  Stick with your routine of exercise and eating the proper foods, after a few months of change it will seem natural to you.  You will then see results, feel better, become healthier, feel stronger, and have better stamina.

Always know your limitations and plan around those limitations, always err on the side of caution.  Consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen and/ or changing your eating habits (ie…if you are diabetic or have circulatory or heart issues).  The same goes for kayak fishing, if you are not the vibrant person you once were, it is a good idea to consult your physician before beginning kayak fishing.

Do you have serious disabilities and think you couldn’t possibly kayak fish successfully?  Not true.  Consult your physician, fish with an experienced kayak angler or group, and exercise caution (PFD, float plan, etc.).  You don’t have to paddle long distances or fish in extreme locations to enjoy kayak fishing.  Take the tools that you have, your body, and improve it as best you can.

Exercise:  You may prefer weight lifting, jogging, soccer, basketball, aerobics, yoga, or any of the many physical fitness activities to stay in shape or get into shape.  Presently, I exercise six days a week for at least an hour a day.  I chose an exercise regimen that I am able to perform in lieu of my limitations.  I am getting into better shape, losing weight, and I feel overall better (not to mention feeling better when I go kayak fishing).  You can adjust your exercise schedule as you see fit for any given day, limitation, or as you progress.  Just exercise.  It’s good for your physical fitness, strength, and overall health.

Eating habits:  This is the tough part.  I love to eat good food, as we all do.  The problem is that I have a tendency to eat bigger portions than I should.  The other issue is not eating the right kinds of foods.  I am currently struggling with the process of eating in relation to fueling my body instead of how good something is.  Think about it….why do we eat?  Because it’s good?  Because it’s time to eat?  The absolute reason we eat is to fuel our bodies, to sustain us throughout the day and throughout activities.  You may want to consult your physician or dietician for further explanation and how you should eat properly.

The bottom line is:  being healthier and in better physical conditioning will improve my quality of life and my quality of kayak fishing trips, now and in the future.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, dietician, or health care professional. Consult your physician before starting an exercise program, diet change, or beginning any activity that may be strenuous. I am however, overweight, out of shape, and striving to get better.

Trey Leggett, Jackson Kayak Fishing Team Member