In the excitement of getting ready to kayak and the rush to get into the water, many paddlers forget or bypass stretching. This usually proves to be a mistake, especially for taller paddlers as we tend to get sore and stiff cramped in the cockpits of our kayaks. Not to mention that as paddlers get older the likelihood of sore muscles, cramps, and repetitive strain injury
increases. Stretching before kayaking is therefore an often overlooked but vital step in the paddling process. Here are some stretching tips for kayaking to help you develop a routine that doesn’t take too long but helps you keep your body flexible for kayaking.
Why Stretch when going Kayaking?Stretching your muscles is essential
to maintaining and increasing flexibility, reducing pain, and avoiding injuring when kayaking. When muscles aren’t used they contract and give the feeling of tightness. This causes an imbalance and stress on your joints. Rushing out to kayak while muscles are still tight increases the potential to strain, pull, and tear your muscles. By stretching your muscles prior to, during, and after kayaking you decrease muscle warm up time, reduce the likelihood of injury, enhance flexibility, and shorten the duration of soreness after paddling.
Stretching is accomplished when you extend muscles slightly past their limits through the application of force in the direction of muscle extension for a duration of time. As a general rule of thumb you will want to hold stretches for about 10 seconds. Don’t bounce or pump your stretches, but rather, stretch, hold, and then relax. Breath deeply through your stretches to help the oxygen circulate to your muscles. Don’t overdue it, especially when your muscles are cold. Think head to toe when stretching so that you don’t miss any muscles. This means start at your neck and work your way down your body. Here are a number of good stretches for kayakers
Get Creative When Stretching for Kayaking
In order to stretch your muscles you will need to apply reasonable force against them. There are a number of ways to do this. You can use your weight and gravity to pull your body down, thereby stretching your muscles. You can grab onto a part of your body such as your foot, shoulder, or elbow and pull to stretch a particular muscle. You can use an external object such as your kayak paddle, a a tree trunk, or your kayak cockpit (while in it) for balance or leverage while stretching. There are even a number of stretches kayakers can do with a towel
as an aid.
Stretches to do Before Kayaking
As kayaking works all the muscles
in your body, you should really stretch your entire body. There are, of course, areas to pay more attention to such as your lower back, your hip flexors, your shoulders and arms, and your hamstrings. Learn the proper technique for all of these stretches
so as not to injure yourself while performing them.
Stretching While in Your KayakThat’s right, you can stretch while in your kayak. Focus on your core, shoulders, and lower back. You can use your kayak cockpit to provide the leverage you need. For your lower back, grab the cockpit combing and pull your body down to the deck. For your core, lay all the way to the rear onto the back deck of the kayak. Next, sit up and rotate your body to the back of the kayak, grab the cockpit combing, and pull your body around. To stretch your arms, put your arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing up. Grab your fingers with your other hand and pull your fingers down while pushing your bicep up. For your shoulders, reach your arm across your chest and bring the other arm up from underneath it and push against your arm. Repeat all of these for both sides.
Stretching When You Get Out of Your Kayak
You should stretch when you get out of your kayak at the end of a trip or during a break while on your kayaking trip. Repeat the stretches you performed before you went kayaking. Pay special attention to those areas where you are noticeably sore. Also focus on your IT Band
and your hamstrings and quads which tend to get cramped while in the kayak.