How do I prepare for 350+ hours in a kayak?  

The Objective

I’ll be kayaking 1500 miles from the west fork of the White River in Broad Ripple (just north of Indianapolis) through Indiana for about 206 miles and roughly 60 hours of paddle time (probably less if the river levels stay so high). Eventually the White River will put me in the Wabash River for a short stint along the western border of Indiana/Illinois. I will then arrive at the Ohio River which runs along the border of Illinois and Kentucky. In Cairo, Illinois, I will meet the Great Mississippi. The next 910 miles will be on the Mississippi River through Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi all the way to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Then hitchhike for 807 miles back home to Indianapolis.

Preparation

Meditation: I’m not going to do this trip without finding ways to explore self-improvement. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of successful people. I’d say 80% of the successful people that I am interested in meditate. Personally, prayer is very important to me, but a concentrated effort in focused breathing and thought-elimination seems to be a common denominator of successful people. Currently I am spending between five and ten minutes once or twice a day sitting quietly with focus on regulating my breathing, dropping my heart rate, and actively non-thinking. I’ll post more about this experience and practice later, but briefly: it’s not easy, but certainly has a rejuvenating effect even from my worst practice. I hope to increase frequency and intensity while on the River.

Posture: I’ll be sitting on my butt for 10-12 hours per day paddling. That requires training. Put your earmuffs on if you’re adverse to slightly graphic stuff… I’ve found that if you ever so slightly spread your butt cheeks apart, sit up straight and either lean forward or backward a few degrees then you can sit more comfortably for longer periods of time. That’s top-notch, life-hack, insider information – free of charge. You’re welcome. Comfortably maintaining posture will be key to long days on the water.

Kettlebell: Most of the work that I will be doing while paddling in my kayak will be rubber band-esque. Basically as I hold the paddle and submerge one blade into the water, I will be twisting my torso, winding up and uncoiling my body against the resistance of the river. Generally speaking in sports and weightlifting, the more that you can incorporate big-muscle movement, the more efficient and less work output you will expend. Kettlebell workouts are excellent for big muscle (pex vs. bicep, butt vs. hips, back muscles vs. triceps) and training for power moves like thrusting through water, balanced with the marathon-like quality of sustaining pace for 1500 miles. Within three weeks of kettlebell training, I’ve noticed improvement in balance and power. The swinging of the kettlebell requires the smaller, stabilizing muscles to work, while the big, sweeping motion of the workout requires the big muscles to crank out some work too. These workouts literally should not last more than 30 minutes (my endurance for even that long is not there yet). I am sticking with the kettlebell method for several reasons: A) I own all the equipment I need and don’t need a gym membership, B) It is a tight, concise workout that satisfies every need that I have going into this kayak trip, C) These workouts are respectful of my time. The 20 minutes that I spend in this workout brings my heart rate from a normal 71 BPM to 158 BPM, opens the floodgates of my sweat pores, and it’s a full body workout with only one weight. One hour of workouts per week and I’m on track for accomplishing what I need from my workouts.

Stretching: Again, sitting with my legs at full extension may not be very comfortable. I’m mitigating the uncomfortableness by proactively adapting to these situations. My goal has been to do a routine of stretching calisthenics once every morning. The greater the rotation of my torso will allow me to have longer, more efficient strokes through the water and will thus minimize my overall workload. Having a flexible lower body will make sitting for long periods of time infinitely easier and more comfortable.

Yoga: Similar to meditation, but yoga has been designed over thousands of years to achieve the control of breath through and in physical engagement. Just the same as a swimmer wants to maximize breathing practices while gliding through the water with each stroke, or how a runner wants to achieve a breathing pace that is aligned to her movement on land, or how the martial artist must always control his breath even under duress – I want to maximize every movement of my body, lungs especially. If I can get to the point where I can dictate the oxygen levels of my body and muscles while efficiently performing at a high caliber, I will be in much better shape than if I was laboring every breath while paddling for 350+ hours.

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