A common New Year’s resolution goes something like, “I’ll stay fit this year.” As couch potatoes know, it’s easier said than done. But we kayakers really do keep physically active. Some paddlers kayak daily to stay in shape, which is a good idea if planning to compete in the Olympics or complete a major expedition. When first learning to sea kayak, I went paddling alone in the Santa Barbara surf 4 days a week and played handball in between. Many kayakers opt for a well-rounded exercise regimen; and I do too, partially because I live two hours from the ocean, and it’s a freezing winter here in Oregon. But even when I lived right near the beach in Half Moon Bay, I rotated my physical activities and kayaked about one day a week.
Exercise variety, aka cross training, is healthier than kayaking constantly, for at least three reasons. First, any repetitive motion, such as the forward stroke, practiced every day for years, can wear on joints. Second, kayaking done properly develops the core and the upper body, which is good, but legs don’t get a full workout. Finally, it is more interesting to engage in numerous physical activities than in only one.
Nowadays I kayak on average one day a month, except for two weeklong paddles I do every year. If that were the extent of my exercise, I’d be in big trouble. Luckily, I enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities such as walking and hiking, gardening, and swimming. I like to be outside, so I participate in seasonal activities such as skiing in the winter and backpacking in the summer.
I also do indoor activities such as jujitsu, calisthenics and some yoga. Occasionally, I’ll lift light free weights at home or just stretch. I don’t time myself or measure anything and don’t worry about whether it’s aerobic enough. My main goal is to participate fully in enjoyable physical activity, preferably outdoors, for at least an hour a day. And I don’t panic if I miss a day here and there. Here’s my typical workout schedule:
|Monday—go for a 3-mile hike in the hills behind our house for an hour
Tuesday & Thursday—do jujitsu for 3 hours and swim for 1 hour
Wednesday—play golf for 2-3 hours (my new sport—and yes, I’m terrible)
Friday—climb the hill and do tai chi for 1 hour
Saturday—work in the garden for 2 hours and swim for 1 hour
Sunday—do yoga for an hour and jujitsu for 2 hours
Since it’s winter, I’ll go alpine skiing a few times. Next week my wife Nancy and I are going to Lake Tahoe for a week of skiing. Last summer we backpacked for three days in the Steens Mountains in eastern Oregon. Each summer we camp for a week at the upper Sacramento River a few miles south of Mount Shasta and hike and swim every day.
Last Saturday I changed my routine, just for fun. I swam at the local pool for an hour and then danced at home for an hour. It was a special type of dance called Freestyle Aerobic Dancing (FAD), in which you constantly move your body any way you please to a hodgepodge of up-tempo music such as ska, zydeco, bluegrass, disco, hip hop, and hard rock. Variety keeps things interesting. Sometimes, I’ll play hacky sack in lieu of another activity. Why not?
Some aspects of my cross training are particularly appealing. First off, I’m very fortunate to share these activities with my wife Nancy. In fact, she teaches the yoga class I take. Since we are instructors, we get to do jujitsu for free. Hiking is free, and so is gardening. Swimming in creeks and rivers is free, and is low-priced at the pool. Golf should cost a lot, but I use hand-me-down clubs and play at the Bear Creek Golf Course where we live for only $9 for a day. Downhill skiing is expensive, but worth it because it gets me out into nature during the coldest part of the year. And it feels so good to S-turn down the slopes.
For a 57-year-old guy who has had three major aorta operations, I feel good. I’m in decent (not top) shape and can safely engage in just about any physical activity I choose. Cross training has been good for me.
Please share what you do to keep in shape. Do you kayak exclusively, or like me have you developed a medley of physical activities to keep you healthy and ready to paddle?