Getting in shape

My wife is in terrible shape for paddling. After just 20 minutes of easy paddling, her arms begin to drop and she constantly hits the kayak with her paddle. Is there any kind of home exercises to help her build up strenght and stanima in her arms and upper body for paddling?

more torso rotation
First, she probably needs to concentrate more on torso rotation than use of the arms for her forward stroke. Make sure she is sitting with an upright posture in the boat. Slouching makes it difficult to use the torso muscles and puts more stress on the arms…

Second, she may do better with a different paddle, smaller blade, possibly shorter, or perhaps try a Greenland style paddle if she has the opportunity.

Light resistance exercises with a set of inexpensive dumbbells directed towards the shoulder girdles, arms and upper trunk will help as will abdominal crunches.

I think that a Nordic Track is excellent for developing the arm, shoulder, and torso muscles used for kayaking, not to mention providing truely excellent aerobic conditioning. Don’t buy one new, though, unless you really want to. Of the several million that have been sold, only a few thousand are actually in use.

What my wife used to do, and still does
after a long paddling layoff is use two weights, (dumbells).

She would sit on the floor with legs out in front of her and holding a weight in each hand she would simulate paddling.

She started with one pound weights and worked her way up to five pounders.

She would do a series of reps.

When I can’t paddle due to snow, ice, etc I also do the same.



Arm paddling can be very tiring
Paddling efficiency and stamina comes from the larger muscle groups of your torso. Lessons or videos to improve forward stroke should held somewhat. Also, often a big hinderance to torso rotation is a high seat back. If you have a high seat back learn to paddle without using it and eventually replace it with a backband or better yet, a foam support. It’s another one of the counterintuitive things about kayaking - leaning against the seat back is not good posture and the presence of a seat back reduces efficiency of paddling by restricting torso movement.


You could buy her
one of the old push reellawn mowers, a shovel,a pick and a wheel barrow with a sttel wheel or

…you could take her paddling more often.

This is just Saturday night humor after a nice paddle.

ps. The exercising probably won’t work unless she decides to take paddling seriously. Besides the less she paddles the stonger you become.

Have fun on the water.

when I get to Raystown
I’m gonna watch everyone and see what I’m doing wrong. I paddle for an hour or two and the only thing that is sore or tired is my backside and my legs. Never any problem with my arms. MacHubby keeps telling I must be doing something wrong!

It could be the seat
not your seat… the one in the kayak. Have youtried different pads at different locations on the seat?

I bounce around and move so much when paddling everything stays in motion.

terrible shape
assuming,and this is a BIG assumption, that she isn’t too small in a heavy kayak, that she isn’t carrying a heavy paddle, that she isn’t using too long of a paddle, that she isn’t using too large of a blade, get used to multiple 15minute paddles with a few minutes rest inbetween.

If she’s pooping out after 20minutes then the only solution is conditioning/correction for what makes 20minutes the max. Pain is not necessary for gain.

If you’re paddling singles it just may be that you’ll have to paddle slower with more breaks. If not, you’re paddling alone.

Not necessarily
If you have any back problems, they are hard to ignore while paddling. I have a herniated lower back disk, and have to take lots of breaks, or my legs go numb. Doesn’t matter if I paddle correctly or sloppily.

Home exercises
Well, it does take time and persistence to work your way up to handling longer distance paddles with stamina. Takes time, and practice. When I first paddled I couldn’t go very far without tiring. Now it’s not a problem. I guess that paddling ITSELF is akin to … exercise.

But you asked about home exercises. I assume anything aerobic will help, also stretching, and anything to build up the core/torso muscles or arms. A google search could help with specifics, but… it’s a hell of a lot more fun just to go out and paddle, even on short jaunts.

Make the paddles fun with scenery and interesting places the wife likes and then she won’t notice how long you are on the water. Just don’t turn it into boring exercise, as that’s not fun!

wall pushoffs
Find a standard hallway in your home. Place heels against baseboard and lean into opposite wall and push off. start with 5 or 10 reps and work your way up.

Thanks for all of the replies. As for size. She is 5’7" and 165lbs. We both have Tsunami 140’s.

And the same paddle. I know she is way out of shape and very weak because she doesn’t do any exercise because of a bad toe problem that makes walking painful. She is seeing a doctor for this so hopefully in the near future it will be corrected. We will try everything suggested.

Hey neighbor

– Last Updated: Oct-07-07 3:31 PM EST –

I just read all of the responses including my own. There is some good advice here and as one who leads many trip, long and short, maybe you could or should try letting he lead from the first stroke.
I noticed when leading groups I neeed to stop them and let the last ones catch up. As soon as the last paddler catches up the faster boats want to take off again which doesn't allow the slower paddlers who are struggling harder than anyone a chance to rest.
I have seen new paddlers, who never paddled before, paddle for hours non stop. Some of us I believe were born to paddle while some do it just to be with others.
You are lucky to have a wife who enjoys time on the water with you. When with her...make it her time and then she will probably be more understanding to you wanting your time.
Good luck

Frequent, short paddling trips
Paddling uses a few muscles most people aren’t used to using. Just keep the paddling sessions very short, but frequent, and she’ll get stronger. And try to carefully negotiate that line between encouraging her and pressuring her. Spouses can be the worst coaches, because there’s a whole relationship dynamic that gets in the way.

Yoga for padders DVD
When I don’t get to go paddling enough, I do this yoga routine. Afterward my muscles feel like I’ve been paddling. Arm, shoulder, stomach, and back strengthening. Stretching. Women tend to do well at yoga. My wife doesn’t paddle with me but she does yoga and does this DVD with me sometimes. She does it with more ease than me.


Try Pushing With The Top Arm …
…instead of pulling with the lower. This takes a conscious effort at first, as the natural inclination with new paddlers is to pull the blade that’s in the water towards you, using the biceps in the arm that’s lower on the shaft. The bicep is a relatively small muscle, and tires quickly because it is being contracted with each stroke.

I find it a lot less tiring and a lot more powerful to push the paddle forward with the upper hand, as this brings the large muscles in the shoulder and back into play. They’re also less prone to tiring because they’re being extended, rather than contracted - pushing forward, as opposed to pulling back. Once that starts to happen, I find that torso rotation will tend to follow, making things still easier. Just remember that it’ll take time and attention to technique to make this the ‘natural’ way to paddle! You might want to consider doing a forward stroke clinic with a local paddling club or instructor - well worth the time and money for the gains you’ll see.

It’s great that your wife is starting to paddle; it’s a wonderful sport, great exercise and something that can become a real shared interest and passion for couples who want to share thier leisure pursuits. Chris and I have paddled together for many, many years, and there’s absolutely no one I’d rather have with me on the water - or anywhere else, for that matter :>))


Pushing may be working for you but not in the way you describe.

Back muscles do not push, they are used to pull. chest muscles are used when pushing.

While a muscle is “extending” it may be helping to control a movement, but it is NOT adding force to the movement. Muscles work by contracting.

If you are interested in which muscles are actually being used when you move, there are several good books on the subject. Doesn’t really matter, unless a paddler wants to train and improve thier weak areas.

Paddle more.
I agree, just paddle more often.

I once had a person join our regular group of paddlers - he was new to the sport. This guy was ripped! Probably was born in the gym and lived there. He died on the paddle in about 45 minutes. Totally wiped out. He himself couldn’t believe it.

You can cross train until the cows come home but like all sports doing it is the best training. A fit person will adapt faster but for someone who doesn’t exercise, she just needs to do a little more paddling and some home exercise.

A bicycle

– Last Updated: Oct-08-07 12:06 PM EST –

May be less painful on her foot. And it is a great way to build up stamina in general, great for running errands, going to work.
And get he a Greenland Paddle.

Smaller paddle blade may help.
I’m not familiar with the paddle that she’s using, but I can paddle longer and with less pain with my Epic Relaxed Tour than I could with a Bending Branches Spirit with Day Blade or Werner carbon Camano or Onno Mid Tour. The Relaxed Tour is just less work for me to use than the other paddles.


I’m in terrible condition this year, so I really need the easy to use paddle.