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Over the years, I have met many people who believe that balancing kayaking and an education is a daunting task. I would like to tell you that although challenging at times, it can be done.

I am 26 years old and in my 4th and final year of medical school. I am currently applying to medical residency programs, and yes, I am still a kayaker. In fact, I average around 100 days a year on the water, which I feel is a very respectable number. I also usually have around 25 personal first descents a year so I don’t just go out on the same local river over and over.

Below are a few simple guidelines that I have used over the years to both pursue my education as well as maintain my kayaking lifestyle and goals.

1. Don’t procrastinate your work

I have talked to many students who feel they no longer have time to do the things that they love. However, when I ask about their study habits, they are almost all procrastinators. Whether consciously or unconsciously, these students put watching their favorite TV shows over getting their work done early. I find that if I stay on top of my work, it leaves more time for paddling on days off.

2. Have a strong support system

A strong support system is key. People who are willing to help with what you’re going through. For me, this was mainly my boyfriend. When I was at my busiest, he would plan our paddling trips and even do a lot of the driving so I could study on the way to the river. Find something that works for you.

3. Never overlook opportunities to paddle

This may seem intuitive, but when you’re busy and stressed it isn’t always. When you’re especially stressed, getting out on the river is a great way to relax and reset. Exercise is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle and your brain will be better able to retain information after getting out.

4. Maintain motivation

Even when you truly don’t have time to paddle, don’t despair. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss a few paddling trips due to studying. However, when I stayed home, I took advantage of it. I studied hard and didn’t waste my time so that when the next trip came along I’d be more on top of my work and able to join.

Whether you’re just starting college or planning on going back to school for another degree, your paddling does not have to suffer. Just remember these simple guidelines and enjoy it out there! ~Diane Gaydos