You’ve decided it’s just too dang cold to paddle, and you’re not the only one. You know you’re going to get right back to it when it warms up, right? If you’ve done this before, you know that your first paddle or two is going to leave you with some sore arms, shoulders, back and legs. It doesnt’ have to be that way! With a little bit of training, you can slip right back into paddling as if you’d never stopped.
Years ago I found out all the European sprint kayakers spend their winters cross-country skiing. Since they’re all faster than me, and we don’t have much snow here, I bought a Nordic Track ski machine and started using it. On the plus side, it helps me stay in shape. Unfortunately, all the European sprint kayakers are still faster.
We do get some snow, and if you can find some cross-country skis (thrift stores, craigslist), you can take advantage of it and get in a real workout. Locally my favorite cross-country ski spot is First Landing State Park. It is the most used state park in Virginia, but you’ll find it empty on a snowy day. With over 20 miles of trails through the park, you can ski as much as you want! Most cross-country skiiers never get the opportunity to paddle through swamps with bald cypress trees that are draped in Spanish Moss.
The second best place to ski locally is right on the sand at the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean or Chesapeake Bay. Sand skiing is unusual, but not unheard of. The best conditions are on an outgoing tide when you can find wet, coarse sand. Feels just like snow!
Other ways to maintain your paddling fitness include rowing machines, treadmills, elliptical machines and stair climbers. These are great for your cardio-vascular fitness. You can also run, bike or swim to do this.
Maintaining your core strength is probably the most important component of your winter fitness program. Your forward stroke depends primarily on a strong core above everything else. You should do all the standard core exercise such as sit-ups and planks, and even some yoga. For a really intense core workout, try a TRX.