One of the things about living in the upper midwest is that paddling in the winter is not something you can count on. This past winter was different, it enabled paddlers, especially to the south to get out often. But one cannot count on paddling as a way to maintain physical fitness.
Goal of strength training is to get stronger for paddling. Weights are a good way to do that. Focusing on core fitness is important for a paddler. Pilates workshops can be found at various gyms or one can use a dvd. Using a balance ball closely resembles what one needs to do in a boat. Have the woman hold a paddle and do various strokes will stress the balance muscles even more. Finally Dubside and Greenland rope exercises are great for the core.
Goals with aerobic fitness is to get heart and lungs in shape. Living where there is snow, getting out for xc-skiing is a great way to exercise the whole body. In gyms you want to look for machines that involve the upper body. Finally swimming, that is THE best training for paddling, outside of paddling. Guiding, I found swimmers to be far less tired at the end of the day than runners or bikers who don’t use their arms at all.
Flexibility exercises are necessary as strength and aerobic training will leave muscles tight, this will allow the muscles to relax. Though tough to prove, I believe it also helps to prevent injuries. Yoga (specifically a style that emphasizes stretching) and Tai Chi both are common and will help. Anderson’s book on Stretching has really helped me. There is a section on stretches for different sports including kayaking.
Recovery is often what amateur athletes skip, often to their detriment. I do sports massage and have worked with 30-40 Olympians and 20-30 NCAA All Americans in addition to high level athletes such as marathoners, Iron Men/Women, etc. The biggest difference I see is in managing recovery. As you workout you tear down your muscles. Recovery allows your body to repair itself and get stronger. If you continue working out without recovery, your body will eventually fall apart. The first signs of this is fatigue. Not the ‘oh I’m tired’ variety, the falling asleep at work, driving, during dinner etc. Often your appetite will start decreasing too. To recover from this will take 1-2 weeks. If you don’t address fatigue, you will backslide into burn out. This will cost you the season to recover from. Burn out will make you miserable, paddling will be very unappealing. Falling into either stage can set you up for injury as well as poor decision making, something dangerous in conditions.
Recovery is how to allow you body to get stronger.
Rest is important for physically active people and expect your need for rest to increase if you are not currently active. On overnight trips where I am cranking out the miles, I’ll sleep 8-9 hours a night and nap for 20-30 minutes. This is key for me to recover.
Food is fuel. As your muscles rebuild, what you are eating is going to be used. Even if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you will need more protein than what you eat in your regular diet. Protein is what will be used to rebuild muscle.
Sport bars have come a long way. The companies listed are putting a lot of research into what bodies need while exercising. For trips, Clif in particular makes a variety of products that offers a difference not only in flavor but textures as well.
Sports drinks have come a long way since the early days of Gatorade. They not only help to hydrate, they get the sugars and electrolytes you need to keep your muscles happy and cramp free. In addition to this, they help with recovery. Some companies have drinks specifically for post exercise.
As a massage therapist I have worked with many different levels of active people, from weekend warriors to Olympians to someone just starting out. All of them talk about the above benefits. If you haven’t tried it, do. If you have and the above didn’t happen, find another massage therapist. Massage is especially important when ramping up the volume in your training. Once your training volume plateaus, you will need massage less.
Off season training will build/maintain the base level fitness to keep your body ready to go for occasional winter paddles and then to start paddling regularly in the early season.