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Preparing for kayaking expeditions

Reg's tips

Kayaker on Bathurst Harbour, Southwest TasmaniaSo you’ve booked a sea kayaking expedition into Southwest Tasmania or Flinders Island (or some other exotic location) and now you are  wondering about the best preparation for getting maximum enjoyment out of your dream sea kayaking expedition.

There are a few things to set yourself up well for that upcoming adventure. New gear – tick, read about kayaking – tick, now it’s time to get the body ready. The good news is that the single best thing to get ready for that big kayaking trip is… yep… you guessed it, go kayaking!

Start off with short distances and build up to a couple of hours of paddling. This is about the amount of time you can spend in a kayak comfortably before need a toilet break or a leg stretch.

If kayaking is new to you, sign up to a lesson if possible as well. Correct technique will decrease fatigue and increase your enjoyment.

There are also three key areas you can work that will make a huge difference to your experience:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Flexiblity

Strength

All the talk about core strength really does make a difference for kayaking. 

A great simple exercise to get that core working is sitting on the front of the couch, chair etc (not against the back rest) and using your tummy and back muscles to sit up straight. Do it for the length of an ad break when watching TV! When you’re comfortable with this, just bring in a little gentle rotation, like you’re holding a pizza tray out in line with your belly button area. This motion is what we do all day long on an expedition - sitting up straight and easily rotating our torso.

The other one I like is the book exercise for your hands. Grab a light book about 1 inch thick (like a Lonely Planet book), now hold it between your fingers and thumb and let it hang down below your wrist. Do about 20 seconds in each hand numerous times. This is the same strength needed to hold onto the paddle when kayaking.

A range of further core exercises you can do if you have the time can be found here.

Endurance

Going for an easy extended bike ride a couple times a week or daily walks along with regular kayaking sessions should be enough to get you in shape for an extended kayak trip. The endurance for sitting in the kayak is always a hard one but this is where the core strength comes in to its own. With a nice easy torso rotation, the miles will glide past because your body will be used to it and fit for purpose.

Flexibility

This one will make the day-on-day nature of an extended trip so much more pleasant.

Increased flexibility in the lower body with torso rotation makes a huge difference when paddling for multiple days. Attend yoga classes or stretch at home. Gentle sideways arch stretching and some sexy hips hoola-hoop type movements definitely help and are favourites of mine!  Giving the hamstrings and glutes some attention will also make the days on the water a lot more enjoyable. A full stretch workout for kayaking can be found here if you want more exercises.

But best of all, Go Paddling.
Reg

PS.  This site also has some great information on preparation: https://www.wildernessscotland.com/blog/getting-fit-for-sea-kayaking/

November 2019