Last week I went to Alaska to go sea kayaking, hiking and camping. I was there for a whole week, and I was worried about not being able to get to the gym. Skipping an entire week of weight training had me a bit concerned! But kayaking proved to be an incredible workout, and I came back just as fit (in both my strength and endurance) as when I left.
Kayaking is fun, and provides an excellent alternative to other types of workouts. Kayaking can help break up just about any exercise program, which is great for overall fitness, strength and endurance. It works both your muscles and your cardiovascular system.
AnÂ ideal fat burning workout, kayaking is great for most people. Since your heart rate is typically within range, your body burns fat instead of muscle for this activity. You also engage your muscles consistently over a longer period of time which helps to build sleek, lean muscle instead of bulk. Total calorie burn will vary and depend upon how hard you paddle, how long you go for and whether there’s a headwind or not.
Muscles worked include your shoulders, your arms’ extendors and flexors, your chest and back muscles, as well as your abs, glutes and legs. Your arms and shoulders are obviously extensively used while paddling. However, experienced kayakers use their other muscle groups just as much as their arms and shoulders. A strong back and core is just as important as arm strength. You can get a killer core workout and increase the power of your stroke if you engage your core while kayaking. I came back from Alaska with tighter abs than when I left! Legs are actively used in kayaks for steering and stability, especially in rough water. Kayaking is also good for your glute muscles, which should be flexed to ensure good posture in the kayak.
You’d think that kayakingÂ would take a long time to learn. However, for most people, kayaks are actually pretty easy to use. Once you get the hang of it, you can start getting the fitness benefits of kayaking while continuing to improve your form and technique over time.
I had been kayaking a few times before, but had never received any tips from anyone who really knew what they were doing. While we were in Alaska, my sisterÂ gave me some pointers to help improve my speed, strength and efficiency. (My sister works as a river guide and has years of experience in river rafting, kayaking and canoeing… she’s aÂ little outdoor genius.) Here are some pointers:
- Dig your paddle in close to the side of your kayak each time take a stroke. This helps you to move in a straighter line, instead of veering a different direction each time your paddleÂ switches sides.
- Engage your core muscles to help you have more strength in each stroke. Instead of just using your upper body to paddle, use the strength from your core to give you better results.
- Use your legs! You wouldn’t think that your legs would be important when it comes to kayaking. However, your legs sit in the kayak slightly bent with your knees pointing slightly outwards. Your knees are actually touching the inner sides of the front end of your kayak. Using your legs helps to steer your kayak and maintain your balance.
Kayaking is a great workout, and is a perfect activity for most seaons. In Alaska it was pretty cold (50 degrees tops), and there was snow in the mountains, soÂ cold weatherÂ gear was a must. In these colder conditions, you will want waterproof pants and a jacket in addition to any other warm layers of clothing you may need. In the spring and summertime, you won’t need quite as much gear. You can enjoy the warmer weather and catch some sun. You may want a hat or sunglasses. Since the water will reflect extra rays, don’t forget your sunscreen! Ovearll, kayaking is something you can do almost any time of year. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there!