Hello fellow paddlers my name is Luke Prentiss, I am a 24-year fitness professional, a Veteran of the US Coast Guard, and a lover of kayaking and all things kayak related. I have always had a special love for the water, which is why I love kayaking so much and the connection it gives us being one with the water. My other reason I love kayaking is the exercise we get while kayaking using our own man-power or woman-power to propel us on the water.
My love for kayaking began when I purchased my first kayak in 2013. It was the perfect pairing of my love for the water and my love of exercise. Being on the water in a kayak is completely different from a motorized vessel. When we sit in our kayaks we are actually sitting on the water and feel the rhythm and movement of the water beneath us. We become one with the water. There’s no roaring motor, no smell of burning gasoline, only the sounds of splashing water, wildlife, and the smell of water sweet air.
When I purchased my first kayak, I thought it would be smooth paddling everywhere I went. Just gentle strokes of the paddle and I would slide through the water coasting easily between every stroke. What I soon learned was that smooth and easy paddling, (at least on the upper Texas coast where I kayak) was more the exception than the norm. The norm is 10-20 mph winds and slightly choppy to choppy water
with currents that can range from 1-5 mph with incoming and outgoing tides. I soon realized that kayaking was much more physically demanding than I had anticipated.
Paddling with the wind and or current at our back is fairly easy…sometimes very easy. Paddling against the wind and or current can be challenging to downright difficult. I quickly realized that kayaking was all the enjoyable things I hoped it would be, plus the physical challenge of negotiating the days conditions
on the water. I also realized quickly if we don’t have the physical ability to paddle or pedal through some adverse conditions, we wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy our kayaks and could even find ourselves in trouble very fast.
Kayak Strength and Fitness can be built on and off of the water. There are different exercises and training we can do while off the water to make us more prepared once we’re on the water. The great thing about building our kayak strength and fitness while off the water is we don’t have to worry about the inherent risks that come with being on the water and we don’t have to load up the kayak and drive to the water to do it. These are things we can do from our home, or our gym that take little time to do and build our health and fitness while building our Kayak Strength and Fitness at the same time. Working out is something we should all do anyway, except now we can work out with an extra purpose of making us fitter stronger kayakers at the same time. And that’s what this column is for.
Help us build a better body for kayaking to build a better body for life.
In my first article I’m going to cover how “Kayak Strength and Fitness” is a game changer for your kayaking experience. I hope you enjoy my column and please comment with any topics you would like to see covered in future articles.
Four Major Benefits of Kayak Strength & Fitness
Allows Us To Fully Enjoy Our Kayaks
I’ve seen too many people with brand new kayaks excited to get out on the water only to find they don’t have the strength and fitness required to power their plastic piece of paradise. Usually these new kayak owners realize pretty quickly they need to stay close to the launch, but others head out too far before realizing they weren’t ready and find themselves regretting it.
This just in…Kayaks aren’t cheap. While there are some less expensive models that will get us on the water and work just fine for that purpose. If we plan to spend more than an hour on the kayak at a time and travel any further than a mile the quality of the kayak starts to make a huge difference.
A high-quality kayak starts around 700 dollars and goes up easily into the thousands. I don’t know the average price of a kayak when we include all of them, but the majority of modern high-grade kayaks run anywhere from 1200 to 5000 dollars.
Of course, the more you spend on a kayak usually means you will be able to comfortably spend more time in the saddle and cover more distance easier than in a less expensive model. But no matter how a nice a kayak is there is still one component you can’t buy no matter how much you pay. And that is the manpower or woman-power needed to propel the kayak.
And therein lies the problem for a lot of new kayakers. They go out and buy the nicest kayaks and kayak accessories created by the most skilled engineers and manufacturers to make them one with the water. What they don’t think or know about is the amount of strength and fitness required to enjoy the cutting-edge marine technology they’ve purchased. It’s like going and buying a $200,000 Lamborghini and putting a $500 dollar riding lawn mower engine inside of it. You might look great sitting inside but you’ll never make it out of the neighborhood.
A lot of barely used kayaks go up for sale every year from people that don’t have the physical strength and endurance to enjoy them.
We Are Safer On The Water
One of the great things about kayaking is we get to be close with nature and one with the water. Unlike a power boat that shoots across the water with deafening sound and spews choking fumes in the air. We actually get to feel ourselves glide across and through the water while listening to the beautiful sounds of nature and breathing water sweetened air in our lungs. The downside of being so close with the water is that we can end up in it a lot easier than if we’re in a power boat. Once we’re in the water we can find ourselves in a desperate situation.
Ask anybody who has kayaked for very long and they will tell you a story of being concerned they weren’t going make it back to their launch. Usually the concerns arise being far from the launch and having to fight against wind, weather or currents to make it back. Adverse conditions can happen in the blink of an eye and can make it extremely hard to make any headway through the water or threaten to capsize our kayaks and dump us in the water. It’s times like this when kayak strength and fitness is our
biggest ally we can rely for getting back to our launch safe and sound. And unfortunately, we lose kayakers every year who never make it back to their launch at all.
There were 254 accidents involving canoes and kayaks in 2018 according to the Coast Guard. Out of those 254 accidents 120 people were injured and 128 died. And these are just the accidents that are reported to the Coast Guard. As you can see if you have a serious accident (reportable accident) in a
paddle craft there is better than a 50% chance that you will not survive. While it would be nice to think we can call for the Coast Guard to come save us like on a slowly sinking vessel, on a kayak it doesn’t usually happen that way. We end up in the water so fast there is no chance to call for help. We have to be able to rescue ourselves from immediate danger. We should always wear a life vest, but even that sometimes is not enough to save us.
Rescuing ourselves from the water means we need to have the strength to perform a kayak re-entry to get back in our kayak and out of the water. Or we need to be a strong enough swimmer to get to the shore, or stay afloat till help arrives. Each of these options require a considerable amount of strength and fitness to save ourselves.
We are Healthier
With 2020 and the pandemic there has never been a more important time to have a strong healthy body to strengthen our immune system. When our fitness level is raised our health is raised right along with it. Kayaking is the perfect way to enjoy ourselves while improving our health and fitness. While gyms are a great place to improve our health and fitness, they aren’t for everybody.
Most of the turn offs people have with gyms are removed when we go kayaking. Instead of being in an enclosed space with a bunch of sweaty people, we’re out in the open with all the space we want. Instead of feeling fluorescent light on our skin we get to feel life giving, sun on our skin which provides us with immunity building Vitamin D. Instead of hearing booming gym music we get to hear the serene sounds of nature and water. Instead of using cold steel to build our body we use cool refreshing water to work our muscles. Instead of inhaling recycled conditioned air, we inhale water sweetened oxygen into our lungs.
Kayaking and paddling increases our health in multiple ways.
- Strengthens our Heart – We know that cardiovascular exercise is good for our heart. When we paddle our kayak, we are performing cardiovascular exercise by raising our heart rate into our, “Cardio Zone” and keeping it in the zone for a duration of time.
- Relieves Stress – Stress can cause weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleeping disorders. Getting out on the water takes us away from stop lights, office meetings, and crowded streets of city life, and puts us in the serene calming environment of nature.
- Strengthens & Tones our Muscles – Strong toned muscles aren’t just for looking good at the beach. They are also very important for longevity, injury prevention and fights off early aging. 4. We Get Natural Sunlight – Natural light in moderate amounts is very healthy and helps us produce certain vitamins and hormones like Vitamin D and Melatonin that promote health and wellness.
We Lose Weight and Tone Muscles
Maybe the most important reason kayak fitness is important is how kayaking makes us look when we’re out of our kayak. Another problem we’ve seen from the pandemic is a lot of people have gained weight while being quarantined and working remotely from home. By not going to the office or a work environment anymore people are moving less and eating more than when they were getting up and driving to the office 5 days a week. Paddling or rowing burns 400 calories per hour for a 180-pound person. Why do you think there are rowing machines in every gym? Because rowing is great for weight loss and muscle toning. Rowing or Paddling works almost every muscle in our body. We use our legs, back, arms, shoulders, abdominals, and even chest when paddling. About the only muscle we don’t use paddling is our glutes because we’re sitting on them. Think of it this way, if we’re supposed to eat 1500- 2000 calories per day, we can burn off a whole day’s worth of calories in 4-5 hours of paddling. Then if you’re a weekly kayaker that paddles at least three hours per week you’re burning an extra 5000 calories per month. That’s a whole two day’s worth of calories. Do that for 12 months and we’re talking about 24 day’s worth of extra calories burned. Needless to say that will make anybody lose weight, unless they double the amount they’re eating. So if you’re looking to lose weight and tone muscles paddling is one of the best ways on earth to do that.
Thanks for reading this post. Now that we’ve established why kayak strength and fitness is so important, next article we’ll talk about exercises we can do off the water that will increase our kayak strength and fitness on the water.
Luke Prentiss, “The Healthy Paddler” or “The Fit Kayaker” or The Paddler’s Physique, or …. USCG Vet
Certified Personal Trainer