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Paddling Tips

by Christine Showler

n Avoid higher seat backs; they may look comfortable, but can actually impede smooth torso rotation and contribute to lower back pain.

n Maintain good posture in the kayak to allow for greater rota- tion of the torso and minimize lower back strain. Try to paddle leaning slightly forward, about five degrees.

n Keep a low profile to each paddle stroke to minimize wind deflection and help keep arms and shoulders aligned. Try to have the top paddling hand reach its highest point at eye level.

n It’s common for kayakers to develop some numbness in their feet over the course of an outing. Here are a few tricks to help eliminate the problem:

l Use an inflatable or foam cushion to hold thighs in a braced position to help alleviate pressure points.

l Ensure foot braces are cor- rectly positioned on the balls of the feet.

l Install heel pads to relieve stress and keep feet warm in cold water conditions.

l Stretch the legs and wiggle toes often while paddling.

18 Hudson County

Kayaking for Health

by Christine Showler F

or years, much media coverage of kayaking has characterized it as a young person’s adrenaline sport.

Lately, the focus has changed to encom- pass a wider audience by spreading the word on sea kayaking, day-touring and recreational paddling. Now, enthusiasts of all ages and from all walks of life are on the water, communing with nature, exploring lake systems and even kayak- ing among whales. Thus, more people are becoming aware of kayaking’s multifaceted health benefits, which typi- cally include a harmonizing effect on mind, body and spirit.

Tone and Strengthen Core Muscles

Contrary to what many believe, kayaking does not demand aggressive arm action or upper body strength. The biome- chanics of stroke efficiency are readily achieved through coordination between the paddler, paddle, boat and water. Power for propelling the kayak comes from the paddler’s core muscles and is primarily achieved through torso rota- tion; this engages the larger, more power- ful, back and abdominal muscles. It makes sense that toning the core muscles helps to alleviate lower back pain often associated with middle age. The forward stroke also draws power

from the lower body, which is why it’s important to have a firm foot brace sys- tem in the kayak; as the paddler uses his right arm to draw the right paddle blade through the water, he pushes with the corresponding foot, which transfers that energy from the lower body through the upper portion of the stroke. At the same time, his left arm bends and pushes out from the shoulder towards the bow of the kayak, providing each stroke an added kick of thrust. Thus, kayaking becomes an all-encompassing workout. Whether to help maintain a high level of fitness or indulge in more relaxed “lily dipping” on nature’s ponds, using proper techniques makes kayaking both enjoyable and physically beneficial.

Improve Bone Density and Stimulate Joints

Experience shows that the rhythmic movements of paddling help keep the joints fluid while increasing overall flex- ibility and balance. Water provides a natural resistance and paddlers make use of this basic workout principle to main- tain bone density and boost metabolism. Of course, burning extra calories func- tions as an aid to weight loss, which in turn relieves stress on joints, as well. Advances in equipment, such as lighter paddles with narrower blades and ergo-


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