Kayaking as Exercise

"… a 20 MPH average for a century ride down in your neck of the woods equates to a 6.0 MPH for a 6 mile kayak race."

Huh? There is no way a 6-mile kayak race is equivalent to ride a bike century at 20 mph. The century would take 5 hours of riding at a 20 mph pace, which is a fast pace.

A more appropriate comparison would be 20-25 miles in a kayak is equivalent to a cycling century.

Your right , I was just trying to goad…
Kudzu into getting into kayak racing, figuring that he could probably come close to both those averages, for those distances.

I did do a fairly flat century in a little over 20 many moons ago, but those days are gone forever.



Fit2paddle article on forward stroke…
… by Mark Zollitsch is right on – one of the clearest and, as far as I can tell, most accurate accounts. There are several elements that I’ve learned the hard way and never yet seen in print. Here’s a precise link… http://tinyurl.com/5vdp6m


Hey Jack
I’d be interested in trying to make a surfski go sometime. Have you ever tried one? I’ve never SEEN one.

Im going to have to say cycling is a bit better if you want aerobic exercise. Road cycling (high RPM spinning) would be the best bet too. Mountain biking is definitely what I would consider a full body workout.

kayaking IS a great upper body workout for me. but so far Im a newb so I dont know how much you should count my opinion :wink:

It’s really odd…
…that one of the first things I noticed “fitness kayaking” was that I could get my heart rate up without needing to breathe nearly as hard or as deeply as I do while cycling at the same HR…any theories? Maybe because I’m NOT breathing? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I do fitness paddling which is not the
same as doing a trip. For fitness, you want to work the different muscle groups and get a cardio in there as well . I paddle upstream stoping only to play in the riffles and rapids. I hold leans in turns and ferries. I find the hardest place to travel upriver and take it as far as I can go. Use your legs, calfs and feet to transfer energy from the blade to the boat. Use torso rotation and hip thrust forward in your stroke. Do a lot of backpaddling for your lats and delts. You can get a good peck pump by switching to a very high angle. Isolate the abs by taking you feet off the pegs. Spinal erectors get worked just by sitting up and working against the force of the stoke. Maybe hams and glutes get neglected kayaking but you work them in carrying the thing around and loading it on the car.

Relative fitness

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Maybe your body is trained better for cycling and therefore more efficient in moving the relevant limbs. So to make it feel like the same effort, you push harder which requires more oxygen/deeper or faster breathing.

This is interesting…
I paddle a lot and partially for fitness. I try to work out 5-6 days a week and paddling will make up at least one of those days.

My other aerobic workouts are cycling and mountain biking.

Despite the fact that when I push myself when paddling I don’t get nearly the workout as when cycling.

I have only used a heart rate monitor a few times paddling but seems I cannot get my heart rate very high. Mostly tends to stay about 65% of my max, yet I am still exerting myself.

I seem to find that I cannot maintain a fast enough pace to keep my heart rate and breathing really elevated. My muscles wear out first. When doing this I generally do it more in intervals.

I have never really fully understood this.

One thing that I did notice recently though was that when paddling a faster boat I can get a better workout.

I recently got a “truly” fast sea kayak. I find that I push myself harder in it.

I have always felt that a person naturally tends to push themselves until the boat hits the wall which will determine their max paddling effort. A boat that hits the wall sooner (a shorter / slower boat) will often result in less of a workout. Why push harder when you are not gaining any noticeable speed? I think it is subconscoius.

With a fast boat though hitting the wall occurs at a higher speed and higher level of effort…one that is a really but kicker for a lot of us. Thus the better workout.

I still find cycling to be a better workout though.

As far as muscles…I feel it in my lats, abs, obliques, and inbetween my shoulder blades (think those are the rhomboids).

I use my legs and get minimal soreness in the thighs. The legs are strong and even if you are using them when kayaking it is generally not enough to exhaust them.

If you are feeling it in your arms then I would say your form is not right.


Yes, I was on a Huki .
don’t try it. You will want one.

Sitting on it, I was shaking and thought for sure I was going to swim, but themn Greg yelled “paddle” so I did and the thing took off like a bullit.

I made one big 100 yard circle on it, and then got off feeling like I just won the lottery, (for not swimming)

I am sure I will get hopped on for this, but the only thing they are good for is racing and training?



Throw in sprints and intervals
for the aerobics, and you have the whole package.



You mentioned …
6 MPH for a kayak. Is that average for kayak racers? Are they paddling regular sea kayaks or kayaks built for speed, e.g. QCC 700, Epic 18?

The reason I’m wondering is I feel like I’m peaking in my Capella 166 RM. I can maintain about 5.2 or 5.3 MPH with sprints to 6 or a little more.



surfskis speed and muscles
I got a surfski about a month ago, moved up from a Manitou 13 with ABS paddle and aluminum shaft to Epic V10 Sport and a wing paddle. There are a number of sea kayak clubs that do day paddles around Boston, so I’ve joined up with them on paddles to get my sea legs on it. I’ve also started flatwater and protected ocean racing with it. Combining the racing with the day tours and I’ve used the surfski plenty of times. Going with the clubs has been great in getting my sea legs without the pressure of racing thrown in.

Local weekday races around here, the top folks are going 7-8 mph over 5 miles in racing boats.

I’d say 5-6mph for your plastic sea kayaks over 5-10 miles is the norm for races, and then 6-7mph for the fast sea kayaks that border on being pure racing ones. There’s mucho overlap though, since the engine is really important when you get designs that are within a few % of each other in overall speed. That and wind, current and waves can make a huge difference. Average speeds of 12+ mph are possible over a race if there’s a big downwind run and the surfskiers are, err, surfing.

As far as muscles go, delts and upper back feel it the most. Upper back is still a little more sore than my delts, telling me I need to rotate more, tsktsk.

The younger guys and a few of the …

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older ones who are at the front of the pack will beat that.
In good conditions, I can do just about 6 in my QCC-700 for a six miler.
I know you like your Capella, but it cannot compete with a Epic 18, QCC-700, chatham 18 and also a few of the newer fast sea kayaks.

For what it is worth, a QCC-700 is a regular "sea kayak". I am not sure where you got the notion that it wasn't.


…I believe the faster the boat, the more I tend to want to push it…and the same goes for my cycling. I hammer on my road bikes because I know the potential is there…they WILL respond to increased input, and my “feedback” is the thrill of feeling like I’m flying down the road on practically nothing. To me it is more of a rush pumping down a road at 20+ mph than going 80+ on a motorcycle! Maybe the thrill enhances adrenalin production and adds to my output…sure seems like it! Like some crazy feedback loop! My commuter bike with a trailer does not respond the same…drastically diminished response and return for the input.

I was interested in fitness and speed right from the get-go when I started kayaking, and bought a boat specifically targeted for the “sport/fitness” market. They are apparently designed to facilitate or enhance one’s ability to achieve certian fitness goals or objectives. There seem to be quite a few of these type boats for sale at what seem to be reasonable prices to me. (That CD Speedster on the classifieds is a beauty! Can I justify another boat?!?!???!)

Lack of a better term…
is the reason I called the QCC 700 a kayak built for speed vs. a regular kayak. I understand that they’re all sea kayaks, but with a lot of variation.

I guess I’ll have to look for another boat. I wanted something faster than my Capella for touring anyway. I like to cover some ground (water).

Anyone try
paddling backwards to work different muscles as excersize? I get a great workout on my chest by paddling backwards.

Try technique and movie for free downloads of total body workout. Huge ab workout

Late to the party, but interesting Q
Hi, I’m a few years late to this post, it came up as a googled the idea. I am an experienced kayaker, but my closest river is a class 1-II - so for me, my kayaking excursions are more about seeking opportunities to paddle 4-5 miles upriver against class I-II current. Along with the constant medium pressure of class I-ish upstream on my body, when I push through those here and there upstream class II-ish shoals sets, I feel like my lungs, arms, legs and abs are going to burst. This is in a big fat WS Pungo. I so want a swifty WW boat, but I am afraid it will lower the muscle resistance, at least on this particular activity. I love it so much, that it’s kind of my main thing now. Enjoy your exercise mate :slight_smile: