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Submitted by Cashion Porter-Shirley

Though it’s nice to think it is, kayaking isn’t inherently the most athletic sport. That’s why exercising, both for personally fitness and safety, is important. Having a strong upper body and core can help with getting to where you want to be on the river and protecting yourself from injuries.

Though I, and many others, can’t access gyms with the current pandemic, I’ve figured out ways to stay in shape and I’m here to share them (I am not making a workout regiment as that varies greatly on physical condition):

1. Don’t leave out muscles.
One big thing that people do is they get stuck on one exercise they really like. For awhile I went between doing push-ups for a few weeks, and then I would switch to doing pull-ups for a few weeks. Sure I could do 20 pull-ups or 60 push-ups, but not at the same time which is the issue. Alternate training days between back and chest. The exercises I use are predominantly push-ups and pull-ups as they hit most muscles. I do various types of these exercises, and I mix it up depending on what I want to focus on (upper or lower chest, triceps, upper or lower back, lats, shoulders, etc). If you can’t do these exercises, do incline push-ups and negatives of Australian pull ups; if you don’t have a pull up bar, I greatly encourage you to buy one now.

2. Figuring out what muscles NEED to be strong for kayaking.
All muscles are important, but there are certainly some that need to be strong to avoid injury. What I’m referring to are shoulders. These are harder to hit effectively without weights, but it’s still possible. Pull-ups and arm circles are my two favorites. Arm circles are what I usually refer to as they isolate those muscles phenomenally. Now of course a shoulders aren’t the only important muscle here. When I’m training for a race, I focus on what muscles get tired first and I put emphasis on those when I train. Commonly it’s my forearms, shoulders, so I train those muscles more intensely than other muscles.

3. Watch people train for other sports.
This might seem odd, but I try to train using climbers’ workouts since they are predominantly upper body focused just like kayakers (not saying to skip leg day!!). This involves a lot of hangboard exercises like deadhangs, short half crimp deadhangs, and tons of other grip strength exercises. If you have access to a climbing wall, I encourage you to use that. Another great sport to look at is boxing as punching is pretty much what a paddle stroke is and core stability is very important in boxing. So do some looking around online and find stuff that works!

4. Don’t leave out your core.
A strong core is super super important to ever sport, so don’t think you can get away without it! I train my core more than any other muscle as they don’t need rest days. Workouts ranging from 4-10 minutes each day will greatly increase your overall strength helping with overall power throughout your body. NOTE that your core isn’t just your abs. It’s also obliques, glutes, and lower back. It’s also important to do more than just 100 sit ups. Core routines should start with your lower abs (leg raises, flutter kicks) since they end up lifting the weight of your legs therefore getting the most strain, and move up ending the workout with obliques or a final upper abs exercise (sometimes I do obliques last and sometimes I do them in between lower and upper abs). Whatever you choose to do, just don’t leave it out!

5. Stretch!!
Stretching is incredibly important. Flexible muscles are strong muscles. That’s all I have to say on that.

In conclusion, staying strong and healthy is important for everything in life, and you shouldn’t just workout to be a better athlete and competitor. Being strong has saved me from many instances where I could’ve been seriously hurt. I also suggest learning about your body; doing this helped me learn how train effectively. I refer to Jeff Cavalier / Athlean-X on YouTube and instagram for new exercises and learning about how to train to be the best athlete I can be. Another note is to eat healthy! March of 2020 I cut out most refined sugars, and within weeks, I started seeing improvements in my physical appearance without changing my workout routines.
Following these steps has helped me in every aspect of life, and I hope it works for you too, I didn’t name off all the different types of exercises I do in a workout because that doesn’t work for everyone and it would take forever, so use this information to make your own.