Paddling fitness

New here, and curious about any particular exercises, core, or upper body work that you’ve found helpful. I swim, bike and run, so cardio isn’t an issue.

The main trip I’m preparing for is from the head of the St. Croix in Wisconsin, over to the Mississippi, and down to Prairie Du Chein. It will be solo in a canoe(which is yet to be purchased)so more questions will follow. Thanks.

Start canoeing a lot when you get the boat. The other cardio will help but there is a big difference between running/bicycling and paddling. For upper body you can do stuff like push-ups, pull-ups, etc. or if you have access to the equipment - bench press, lat rows, lat pulldowns, tricep extension machine, abs exercises, etc.

Strength in muscle groups gained by weight work etc doesn’t necessarily beef up the tendons around joints to support what those muscles can do over a long trip, much repetition in motion. It might be worth picking up a rowing machine, or spending time on one in a local gym, to get closer to the effect of paddling many strokes over a continuous time period.

In the end though, you may just have to paddle a lot too. Similar to prepping for a Century ride on a bike - somewhere above that 70 mile mark you start getting to distances where you have to do other long distances to be really ready.

balance, flexibility, cardio
Just my $0.02 but I find that in the off season if I keep my abdominal area in shape, use core exercises, stretch or yoga to maintain flexibility and cardio work, I’m a step ahead when the season gets here.

paddling fitness
I’d recommend paddling for paddling fitness. What I would also recommend is not to engage in arm wrestling contest with ones younger brother. Especially if he is proudly showing off his new gym honed physique. My brother is left handed, now my arm aches like you wouldnt beleive, after a few minutes of paddling. Its been 5 days since the match.Ive tried ‘deep heat’but now I am getting used to the idea of ’ resting up’. Sad, but I did win both arms hands down!

2nd this
if you have an indoor climbing gym near you, i’ve found that climbing a few times a week will really help with the flexibility and strength.

Are you an experienced paddler?

– Last Updated: Feb-07-07 5:42 PM EST –

And just as important, are you experienced in a solo canoe? If not, your most important goal should be to learn and refine your technique as early as you can, because you will find that lack of good technique is a bigger handicap than lack of strength. If you are an experienced paddler, you already know which muscles tend to feel the strain after a long day on the water (othewise, listen to those other folks). If you are lucky enough to have access to a gym with a variety of weight machines, concentrate on those machines targeting the proper muscles. Don't neglect your abs and back, and if you like to paddle while kneeling, lateral, forward, and backward leg-raises will help strengthen those muscles that "anchor" you to the boat. Oh, and never underestimate the value of flexibility training as well!

No, very inexperienced.
Other then splashing around in a lake occasionally, the only paddling experience I have is a 9 day paddle raft trip from Phantom Ranch down the Colorado, which was a few years ago. I have the time this spring/summer, and while on a solo cross country cycling trip this past summer I rode along side the Mississippi for a couple days, and got the idea I’d like to get back on the water.

I have most of the gear I need other than the canoe specific items.

The key is…
To work those abs. And this is true for most sports out there. Without a solid and flexible torso you are using smaller muscle groups which fatigue easily. Having said that, any exercise is good but to really excel in the paddle sports world, you have to have the core. I train in Ju Jutsu in the winter months which I know seems like a stretch in cross training but it is great for teaching what muscle groups to use and what to avoid.