Choosing a paddle for exercise

I’ve been renting kayaks for a couple of months now and I’m getting ready to buy. I think I know which kayak I want (though suggestions are welcome) but I’m not so sure about the paddle. Most of the guides I’ve read focus on choosing a paddle that allows for extended periods of paddling without fatigue.

I however kayak as much for exercise and physical development as I do for enjoyment and I would like to find a paddle where I can get a good workout in no more than an hour. Should I just get a cheap heavy paddle? I still want to be able to have control and power, I just want something that will still give my arms a workout.

The kayak I’m looking at is this one:

No reason…

– Last Updated: May-11-12 7:09 PM EST –

No reason to buy a cheap heavy paddle for fitness purposes. A heavy poorly made paddle can cause you to pick up bad habits and can be bad on joints and muscles. I'm not saying you have to buy something high end but it should be at least reasonably balanced and not feel like a boat anchor. There are lots of decent paddles with glass shafts and nylon blades that will work. Others here will recommend brand names. I've been out of the euro paddle loop for a while. Do yourself a favor and sty away from those big clumsy aluminum paddles, They are evil.

If your looking for fitness, then simply paddle a lot but use decent gear. Your experience will be more enjoyable and you will stick with it.

Perhaps I would be better off picking up a good paddle and just throwing in some sandbags for a bit of extra weight? I just don’t want to have to go out every other day for 5 hours to get a good workout.

I’d reconsider the kayak too
If cost is the main consideration on the kayak then I’d look for a better used one. If storage is an issue but not cost then a folding kayak might be better. If zero storage and a need to save money then I guess the inflatable isn’t bad.

People often talk about using heavy, slow gear for cycling, etc. when for fitness, but part of the equation is FUN because that will encourage you to do it more. The other consideration is whether you ever expect to paddle with others in which case you want to be basically in the same class as them to do similar trips.

no, just go really fast
instead of lugging extra weight

get a decent paddle
The rationale of using a cheap, heavy paddle to get a better workout is akin to the rationale of riding a heavy, rusted-out, one-speed bicycle for “better exercise”. You will be more inclined to paddle for exercise with a decent boat and paddle.

As for cardiovascular exercise, intensity is more related to stroke cadence than anything, and in my experience it takes some determination to maintain a stroke cadence that will get your heart rate up to an aerobic target zone. In addition to stroke cadence a key is to involve your torso and even lower body muscles to as great an extent as possible. Maintaining a higher cadence and involving your larger trunk muscles will both be easier with a good paddle.

For most people who do not intend to race, an hour of cardiovascular work at their aerobic target heart rate is probably enough. If you want to develop your upper body muscles, paddle for an hour and lift weights for half an hour.

Good tips, thanks
The main reason I’m looking at inflatables is both cost and ease of transportation. I’m 5’ 7’’ 135 lbs. and while I’m in reasonably good shape, I almost always go out alone, so carrying a hard-body out to the water is a daunting prospect. Not to mention I would have to get a carrier which is usually ~$100. I would also need a rack, which is a problem considering I drive a smart car. I have seen smart cars with kayak racks, but I’m not sure I can just buy one off the shelf and stick it on, and even if I could I’d be looking at another $200 or so for that.

I’ll have to take the advice I’ve been given about the paddle choice, it really wouldn’t be much fun if I have to work hard to get anywhere. I guess I’ll just have to move fast and take few breaks.

For that kayak I would not worry about
the paddle too much… With just about any paddle you will be getting a good workout in that slow inflatable…

I paddled a similarly slow sit on top for the first year of my paddling, with a relatively cheap and heavy but powerful paddle. I was getting a good workout.

Now I paddle a fast kayak with a paddle that costs more than my first kayak. I’m still getting a good work out :wink: Just not from carrying the kayak or paddle off the water, so I can cover more distance.

Also, when I paddle on white water, the workout is rather different and I think more complete compared to flat water.

The important thing is to get a kayak that you will use often. The inflatable might be problematic, if you have to assemble/disassemble/dry every time you go out. You will get tired of that so you won’t go as often as you would if you had something easier to use.


– Last Updated: May-11-12 10:45 PM EST –

faster cadence both works your upper body and ups the aerobic value of the exercise. A heavy paddle with an inefficient blade works against that.

So said, don't break the bank. You'll likely be looking for a hard shell boat after a season pushing the inflatable. For that you might need a shorter paddle.

"give my arms a workout."
That is a mistake. The power of paddling comes from your torso, even if you want to paddle fast for short distances. If you want to develop your arms safely, go to the gym.


– Last Updated: May-11-12 11:32 PM EST –

Ditto all the advice above on getting a decent paddle.

Given what you drive, an inflatable is probably the way to go. But I have to say that AE Sport looks like a problem. If you start driving that thing hard, you're going to be veering back and forth all over the place.

I would consider the AE AirFusion, it gets some good reviews and would be more amenable to fitness paddling. Sometimes you get what you pay for:
Better price here:

Wells I still have a ways to go
I guess I’ll have to take your word for it, when I’ve been out recently using the cheap rental equipment I’ve been feeling it mostly in my arms and shoulders, but I haven’t been instructed on proper technique, so perhaps that makes the difference. I kind of use kayaking as an alternative to going to the gym, much nicer to get your exercise out in the marina.

@carldelo: Well that certainly looks like a more solid model, but the price difference is pretty significant. This is clearly not a poor man’s sport. Maybe I need to find a nice big log and hollow out my own kayak. :slight_smile:

I myself
is 5’7’’ and 135 lbs. Have no difficulties lugging GF 16-footer in and out of the water and over distances of 200+ meters over paved surfaces. Just put the your shoulder where the seat curves and the yak balances perfectly. People think it’s kinda funny, me lugging that piece of plastic all by myself, but I can’t care less. I’ve paddled inflatable one or twice and can’t imagine anyone having one for a workout. You might as well paddle a cast-iron tub…

Aqua Bound Shred
I use mine for a workout. It is a big blade I would not want to use for a long day. For long paddles I use a Greenland or a Little Dipper.

Choose a different sport …
Maybe you want to look into surf ski paddling … get ready to spend some bucks.

"mostly in my arms and shoulders"
A clear sign of bad technique.

Kayaking can be expensive, it’s true. That’s why the boards here generally suggest that beginners buy used the first time around. A new boat that you don’t like drops in value by around 30-50%. A used boat can normally be resold for 80-100% of what was paid, so is a less expensive way to get into the sport.

Re: paddling, sounds like you could use a lesson on technique, I found them to be worthwhile when beginning.

Right, I am paddling for cardio work
more than muscle development.

Makes sense to me
If you paddle for the same amount of time at the same stroke rate with a heavier paddle, why wouldn’t you use up more energy and get more muscle exercise than with a lighter paddle?

In fact, this is exactly how carbon paddles are often marketed – by multiplying the weight savings of the paddle times the number of strokes per journey to produce some calculated amount of saved energy.

Finally, I don’t think paddling produces much in the way of aerobic training unless you are paddling (especially double blading) for miles at near sprint speeds. For the average cruiser, paddling just produces some mild anaerobic training in my opinion. For aerobics, go on a Stepmaster at the gym for an hour.

None of this is meant to say that I would WANT to paddle with a an intentionally over-heavy paddle just for the sake of possibly increased muscle exercise. I wouldn’t. However, I do stay mainly with good wooden paddles rather than carbon, even though I am convinced they are more tiring for long lake paddles.

Yesterday I was cursing my choice of a big blade Lutra instead of my ZRE after 10 miles, even though it was probably a good calorie burn, which is what I mainly want.

Add an hour to each workout time
For drying your folded or inflatable and putting it away. For fitness I think a hard shell boat you can keep on the roof of your car all season makes a lot more sense.

Also paddling faster gives you a much better workout and you can wear yourself out in less than an hour. Most paddlers go at the speed of a slow walk, but you’ll really put a lot of power into your kayak if you try to go faster. In fact most kayaks cannot even be paddled at the speed of a fast run for a mile.