Fitness Paddling: Why not use Rec Boat

Another post on caloric burn while kayaking got me to post this. I have read some discussion on “fitness paddling” at various places.

It seems, the posters are always in pretty hot kayaks (fast boats with carbon paddles, wing paddles, etc.).

Well, if the goal is “fitness”, wouldn’t you want to paddle in the slowest, heaviest, kayak with lots of scratches/gouges in the hull, with a a heavy paddle, maybe put some ballast in the kayak too?

Bill G.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

(I want to win that Vasa Ergometer).

Not really, you can keep a fast cadence
and get the heart rate up by doing that.

You want to look good going down the road …

Chicks don’t dig dumpy plastic.

More pleasure and satisfaction
…from wringing peak efficiency out of the entire system.

If you want true Fitness Paddling
Tie a bucket off the stern of your rec. kayak

It’s kind of difficult …

– Last Updated: Jan-17-09 1:54 AM EST –

..for me to think of a really good way to describe it; in simple terms, for me, it just seems EASIER to get a performance boat (or bike) to a higher level of output/exertion and keep it there. Might have something to do with an adrenalin/excitment "feedback loop" as well. The exhilaration and responsiveness motivate the spirit for me......easier and more responsive means less frustration for my input. It seems more rewarding getting more for your more "positive reinforcement" (remember your psychology 101 Skinner box?)

Easy Answer:

– Last Updated: Jan-17-09 1:29 AM EST –

A rec boat is one step up from an exercise machine on the excitement scale. Once it gets up to its modest top speed, it does nothing to reward further increases in propulsive power. The only result you see from your increased effort is a bigger wake and more "squat" at the stern. A boat is much more fun if it actually responds to everything you put into making it go.

Oh, before I offend anyone, there ARE boats toward the upper end of the "rec" class that have performance that isn't too bad. Still, if you are really going to put your heart into paddling, you might as well cover more ground in the process. Serious bicyclists take the same approach.

For a lot of folks, fitness workouts alone are really preparation for a race with other folks.

I lost a bunch of weight
using an Old Town Rush. However, form and efficiency improves with a skinnier boat.


by the same theory…
By the same theory, why use a boat at all? A home gym machine and street running regimen would provide a more balanced, more intense, more time-efficient fitness regimen.

Presumably the answer is, because a boat is more fun and thus you are more likely to spend more time working at it.

And that’s the same answer for why to use a better boat.

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic
Comparing cycling vs. kayaking, it’s relatively easy to get your heartrate up cycling, via using gears that enable you to spin at a faster rate, etc. -more aerobic. Compare road cycling to mountain biking, which is more anaerobic, enlisting more muscle groups at lower cadences and necessitating interval-like efforts by virtue of the terrain. In the gym, consider the difference between training for strength with heavier weights, less sets, lower reps versus circuit training with lighter weights, more reps, little rest between sets.

Using a narrower, faster boat makes it far easier to get your heartrate up and sustain it, as it becomes more of an aerobic effort, versus anaerobic. When I paddle the rec boats, one of my tandems, or even my Epic 18, I have a harder time getting my HR up, and end up using more muscle to try to drive the boat beyond the wall of its hull speed. Moving to the EFT or the surf skis allows me greater efficiency for a given power output; I can increase my cadence, my HR climbs and I’m moving faster. (Plus it’s just flat out more fun, but that’s purely subjective…) Plus, you have all those core balance requirements noted above. If you’ve attempted a K-1 or other similar boat that’s beyond your current skill level, you’ll know how difficult it is to get your HR up, as all your effort goes into attempting to stay upright (Note: some HR increase results from pure fear-smile).

The Speedstroke pretty closely replicates a fast boat in the water in terms of power output required, etc. What a great machine that is, especially for us iced in, inlanders in the NE. :wink: If you want to get your HR up AND increase power, try a Concept 2 rower. Oof.

Paul , was that skinnier boat, or butt?

What you are going to stay at.
I sea kayak. It is my passion.

If I lived on a pond I would likely have a fleet of rec boats.

It’s a mind thing more than muscle for me.

A friend used to use a Prijon cross over boat (Expedition or some other name) It was a 12 or 14 foot thing that was a barge.

This guy is as fit as anyone I have ever seen.

It worked for him fit for mortals like me it would be no joy and I would not have stayed in the sport.

Fit is not enough, I have to enjoy the trip.

I don’t work out, run or look at an exercise machine: I do enjoy dancing and having fun.

Sure, why not, if it feels good, but you
will be able to work harder in a rec boat if it has knee/thigh braces, possibly upgraded footbraces, and padding of the seat to keep you well located. Even a high performance hull is hard to paddle properly if not outfitted to suit you.

Would work fine
As you have suggested, paddling a rec-boat hard would be a fine work-out. As others have suggested, it might not be as satisfying. I heard of someone who used low pressure mountain bike tires and cheap rollerblades for the same reasons. Seems strange though.

If you are primarily interested in fitness, and want a good workout, use any boat you like, and get a heart-rate monitor to track your progress. You might also want to try one of those small speed/distance gps devices. A lower tech way would be to journal your daily distance, time, and level of perceived exertion (this could be done on a fixed distance, fixed time, or fixed time at specific LPE schedule).

Further, though, if you are primarily interested in fitness, any available equipment can be used (as we learned in Rocky IV, a log is suitable if you have the motivation to run it up and down a snowy mountain).

As a rec boat paddler myself, what a lot
of folks have already said here makes sense. One thing not mentioned, though, is if you’re paddling in current. I often park my truck, paddle upstream and then back down to my truck. Trouble is, when the current is stronger, I don’t get very far. If the current were extremely fast, it could end up like running in place.

I think what I and most here are saying, is that to establish a good fitness habit, one needs to be sure he/she is being rewarded. Loss of weight or a good workout is part of that, but so is seeing one’s ability increase, ie, the ability to paddle five, then six, then eight, etc. miles upstream before feeling the need to come back down. I can tell you it’s very difficult to achieve in MY rec boats for ME. YMMV, but I’d like to upgrade and will at some point, to something more efficient and easier to paddle longer distances against current.


why not just buy a old boat , rig up a body harness…attach said old,cheap boat to it and drag it around the yard …gives the legs,the core, the heart, and the back a workout, saves gas ( ya notice the $ is creeping up again ? )and the neighbors sumthing to video and post on utube…lol

fitness paddlers useing rec. boats
to train is like Nascar using regular cars to practice. Just doesn’t make sense. You need to be in the boat you’ll be racing to get used to it. Some gifted paddlers can just jump in a boat but most need time in a boat to get comfortable. Chaz

I don’t completely agree

– Last Updated: Jan-17-09 6:19 PM EST –

You say that with a bike, you can get more of an aerobic workout by gearing down to spin faster, and I don't agree with that. What really matters is how much *work* are you doing, which is measured by the time required to move a certain mass a certain distance. I can go up a moderate hill in the lowest gear of my mountain bike at my maximum "efficient" RPM, but the effort is nearly zero and I'd get virtually no workout at all because the rate of doing work is minimal. You need to be doing work at a significant rate, that is, "accomplishing something" to get a workout whether it's an aerobic workout or an anaerobic one. If I go up that same hill at that same RPM but in a gear that causes my body some stress, and at a rate of work which moves my mass up the hill at a much faster rate (a faster rate of doing work), THEN I'm actually getting a workout. An aerobic workout is a sustained rate of doing work such that your heart and lungs can supply oxygen to your muscles as fast as that oxygen gets used, but for the *workout* portion of "aerobic workout" to be true, you need to be doing work at a rate that is somewhat taxing to your body, and simply gearing down increases neither the rate of at which you do work nor the degree to which your body is taxed. The rate at which you do work is dependent entirely on how fast you move yourself (and your bike, boat, etc.) "from here to there".

I think perhaps what you might have been trying to say, is that with the rec boat that's a slug in the water (or when struggling up a steep hill on a bike at a less-than-ideal RPM), it becomes necessary to greatly increase the actual force applied in order to maintain a certain rate of doing work, which can tax your muscles to that point of oxygen depletion. In THAT case, reducing the force needed by gearing-down will be effective, as long as you maintain your target rate of doing work, but gearing-down only for the sake of increasing the speed at which your body moves (incereasing your cadence only to increase your cadence) is NOT what makes a workout more effective.

I think I probably disagree with the literal meaning of what you wrote but not with what you actually meant to say.

I know a guy who paddles a plastic
boat who can smoke most people in a composite. It is not a rec boat though.