I’ve recently just completed a two-day sponsored kayak journey from Wallingford to Windsor, UK.
There were about 50 kayakers, travelling 46 miles through 18 bridges and 16 locks camping in Henley overnight. It was the second time I’ve completed the challenge successfully, and I’ve picked up a few tips in training preparation and for surviving out on the water, I’ll share them with you now.
How can you train for long distance kayaking/canoeing?
There’s no better training that actually getting out in the kayaks and replicating the arm movements you will be doing on the day, but for some that’s not reasonable in a lunch-break or evenings. So, what kind of strength training exercises can you do to train for kayaking or canoeing?
In the gym, using a rowing machine is a great warm up exercise. Any kind of pulling movement with the arms and shoulders is useful in replicating the paddling. Exercises like the lat pull down machine, dumbbell upward rows and seated bicep pull cable machine. Keep the reps high and the weight low as we are building muscular endurance, and not power.
Other training to do is swimming lengths as this will get you used to the resistance the water provides.
Listen to music
Be it a podcast, an album or your favourite mix, music can really help you enjoy your time during a long-distance kayak.
The first year I didn’t have any, and regretted it. This year, with a portable speaker in between my legs, the time between locks seemed to fly by. Music boosts team moral and enabled me to enjoy the scenery more.
It also helped mask the aching in the shoulders and arms. There was more than one occasion where I only noticed just how tired I was in the downtime between songs, where you can hear yourself breathing heavily! Get yourself an album mix or a music podcast to help with this!
I can highly recommend downloading a few episodes of the Hospital Records podcast. .
Food to eat the day before kayaking
In order to prepare for a long-distance kayak challenge, you should eat complex carbohydrates 24 hours before.
This will give you slow-burning fuel for your muscles to call upon during the day of the event. Bowls of pasta and rice, or dishes served with bread are all forms of complex carbs.
Food for energy whilst kayaking
The snacks you should pack in your dry bag for on the river are foods with simple carbohydrates, or sugars. These foods will replenish your fast-burning fuel stores to help you go further on the day.
Foods that contain simple carbohydrates are sweet fruits like apples and bananas, sweets like Jelly Babies and some sports energy drinks like Lucozade Sport (which are also good to replenish electrolytes). These foods were great for an extra boost during the longer stretches of the challenge.
Don’t worry about putting on weight if you’re consuming sugar, your body should burn the energy off with that paddling!
Food for recovery after kayaking
After the event, your muscles will be aching and sore . This is because during the exertion of the kayaking your shoulders and arms will have little tears in the muscle fibres. In order for them to repair stronger, you need to consume foods high in protein.
Foods that are high in protein are meats like chicken and beef, beans, lentils and pulses. However, you can also take protein in powder form or in a bar form. The bars are useful as they often contain sugars for energy, as mentioned above. For more information, read my beginner's guide to protein .
Stay near the front of the pack
It may be a tall order, but staying near the front of the pack can really help out. Psychologically it can make you feel better, but if you arrive at the locks or break points first, you get the longest rest!
Plus, there’s no other feeling like being the first one out of the lock gates to enjoy the picturesque riverside scenery without other kayakers spoiling the view.
Bring a muscle roller
I found, I was putting a lot of strain on my lower back. It could have been my posture or a weak core, nevertheless the foam rumble roller was a god-send at the end of day one.
I used to iron out all the little knots in my back, but also can be used on your shoulders and neck which will also be tight.
Holly has written a beginner’s guide to using a foam muscle roller with some useful movements to try.
So, there you have it, my tips for survival on a long-distance kayak challenge. When you do arrive at your end goal, be sure to take a piping hot bath and an early night to recover. Good luck out there!