Paddling for Core Fitness

Last year I went to a massage therapist who also happened to be a fitness trainer and a super elite athlete… the kind of extreme athlete that does week long races by foot, kayak and bicycle. He had such a wealth of fitness knowledge and over the course of several sessions I learned a lot about my own fitness level.

As someone who has always been physically active I thought I was in decent shape. I am definitely not an elite athlete but then most of us aren’t, nor want to be. My massage therapist told me that I was weak (he was very blunt). I argued that I was not weak at all and that I hiked, kayaked and did some weight training.

However even though I did have some muscles it was my core that was weak and consequently I had no “real strength” as he put it. At that point I got a major lesson in the importance of core fitness and learned that lucky for all of us kayakers, paddling is an excellent way to really work out the core muscles.

What is the Core?

Your core is between your ribcage and your hips and contains about thirty different muscles. These muscles bridge the gap between your upper and lower body and work together with every single move you make.

If your core is strong it will support your entire body. A strong core will give you strength as well as stability, balance and support for your back, hips and joints.

If however your core is weak, your body will not function at its best and it is quite likely that you may suffer from all sorts of different aches and pains.

Although the overall fitness of the entire body is important, it is the core that takes first place as the single most important muscles to work out.

Core Workouts Do Not Have to be Boring

The core does get a slight workout from doing aerobic type exercises but from what I have learned it is imperative to do other exercises that focus specifically on the core muscles.

Normally when you think of working out your mid section boring sit-ups and crunches come to mind. However there are numerous other activities that you can do that are way more fun and still provide a major core workout. Paddling happens to be a great way to build your core strength.

Paddling for Core Strength

If your exercise is not fun then you will not likely stick with it. If you enjoy the water and love being outdoors then paddling such as kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddling are excellent recreational activities that mainly work the core muscles.

It may seem like paddling works mainly your arms, shoulders and back but in truth if you are doing it properly the major strength with each stroke comes from your core. Certain types of paddling such as whitewater kayaking and stand-up paddling offer extreme core workouts. However it is just as possible to really work those muscles from easy flat water kayaking across a lake.

One thing I like best about kayaking or other types of paddling is that you can work hard and then take breaks. You can paddle at a steady pace and really work your muscles then when you feel exhausted take a break (assuming you are not in the midst of a raging river or rocky ocean swells). Then you can start up again and continue your workout. This type of interval training is known to be an excellent way to build up your strength.

For the warmer months of the year, kayaking is an exceptionally fun activity that greatly benefits your core muscles and if you really love it you may even continue well into the colder months.

Tip: It is easy to get lazy while doing flat water kayaking and let your arm and shoulder muscles take over the strength of the stroke. I was famous for this which I think was why my core was not as strong as it should have been. It is important to learn the proper stroke and really stay focused on keeping your core engaged with every paddle stroke you take.

With consistent core training you will find as time goes on that your core will become much stronger, your muscles will become tighter, and your waist will become leaner. Every move you make in your normal day to day life will become stronger and more balanced.

Other Types of Core Workouts

Besides paddling there are other options as well that focus on your core muscles. Each of the below activities will also help to strengthen your middle muscles and keep you fit and healthy:

  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Exercise ball training
  • And many specific core training exercises

If you like the water and enjoy being outside, try to make paddling a part of your regular fitness routine for improved core strength. By combining a core workout with your regular aerobic type exercise you will notice great results very quickly. Besides feeling stronger and more balanced, the numerous physical and mental health benefits are 100% worth it.

Make the Core a Priority

All too often the core muscles get neglected because it can seem very difficult to build them up. However with numerous different activities to choose from that engage the core muscles, any person of any age can benefit from a stronger mid section, more balance as well as greater overall stability.

As I have now learned it is the key focus for most athletes and needs to be a priority for all of us “regular” people as well if we want to stay young, healthy and strong. Lucky for us, paddling is a great core fitness workout.

Learn more great kayaking tips and advice.

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