The Beauty of Kayaking – Take Your Fitness to the Next Level

By: ARIANA HERNANDEZ

Edited by: CHRISTINA COLAVECCHIA

Imagine gliding across glassy water at sunrise on a crisp summer morning. You feel the wind in your face and your muscles working at full force. The sound of morning chirps stirs with the whooshing of your paddles dipping ever so smoothly into the waves beneath you. Kayaking is not only a sport, but it’s also a lifestyle. There are many water sports that people participate in for outdoor recreation, but kayaking offers both the calming feeling of a relaxing evening as well as a spontaneous rush.

There are many reasons why kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports. It offers outdoor enjoyment, healthy exercise, a connection with friends, solitude, fishing, challenge, adventure or just a peaceful escape. By kayaking, you can still achieve a full-body workout without inflicting the same amount of pounding on your body that happens in most fitness regimens.

Kayaks consist of a floating hull that you either sit on top of or inside and a two-bladed paddle to propel you across the water. Kayak enthusiast, Dominic Vellucci, started kayaking because he was generally interested in outdoor sports and became hooked on the feeling of being in a boat and on the water. “Kayaking is a unique way to be in nature and a unique way to use your body.” Dominic has been kayaking for three years now and enjoys sharing his passion with others.

Kayaking is typically done on flat water, such as rivers or lakes, but you can also kayak out at sea or down white water rapids. I work with many people, like Dominic, who take on the Puget Sound in the beautiful state of Washington. Some spend summer after summer knee-deep in freezing water teaching teenagers how to kayak. Why? Because it is a truly addicting sport.

For a teenager, kayaking is one of those activities that is both impressive and intimidating. It is rare for young individuals to be given the opportunity to try something that requires a lot of money and skill and it’s nice to give teens a chance to get out of their comfort zone. “Teenagers can be very shapeable and when a group learns something very intimidating and challenging, you can learn a lot about yourself and each other,” says Dominic, as he thinks back to the groups he instructed in the past.

Kayaking has a considerable amount of aerobic and weight loss benefits. Since the strength to power a kayak comes mainly from rotating the torso and applying pressure with your legs, you are working your core muscles. Regular kayaking works large muscle groups and elevates your heart rate, making for great cardiovascular fitness. Also, it is a low-impact activity, which means that you are able to get a full body workout without the added pressure on your joints.

Many fitness enthusiasts determine that kayaking is a great complement to other workouts such as cycling and running, putting most of the focus on your arm, shoulder and back strength. “Because your body is going through specific motions that you wouldn’t normally do while walking, kayaking gives you an increased awareness of what your body can do. It improves less obvious parts of your body, focusing on how you twist and how you position your legs,” says Connor O’Leary. Connor is a current kayak instructor in the Pacific Northwest.

There are many programs around the world that offer you a chance to participate in a kayak program or even teach people how to kayak. Some programs ask that you have some experience but others will teach you all of the skills you need to know in the training process. So whether you are looking for a fun summer activity, or wanting to take your love of outdoor sports to the next level, it is easy to find opportunities for kayaking.

When asking Dominic for advice for beginners, he simply said, “Like anything, don’t worry about becoming a master on the first day. Being nervous is a good thing. Practice the paddling motions off the water sitting on the ground and sitting on the beach. Try to get the motions down before going on water.”

You can do what I did and ask other kayakers for tips on what they are doing with their bodies – different paddle strokes, things that might help get you started or how to improve your technique. If tipping in the water scares you, do it over and over again until it doesn’t, because it will only make you more prepared for kayaking. A small taste might even be just what you need to get started.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Fitness, Your Lifestyle

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