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Training During the Off-Season prepares you for Rafting Season!

October 20, 2015

Fall in East Tennessee means cooler weather, getting out warm sweaters and boots, and beautiful fall color changes sweeping the mountains. What it also means for us is a little less time out on the water, but even though we aren’t rafting as much, we aren’t letting all our hard work from this past summer go to waste! When tackling the whitewater courses with a raft or kayak, having the strength and flexibility to control your craft through the rapids is essential, and having the stamina to take on long courses is necessary to progress in the sport. Of course, the physical gains will also build your confidence on the water, which doesn’t just make you more prepared, it will help you have more fun!

For kayakers and rafters, strength, stamina, and flexibility are essential for getting through a tough river course. We’ll be discussing all of those below. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise regimen, but once you’re cleared for exercise, try out a few of these to get ready for a spring and summer full of paddling!

To Build Strength

When building up strength in your upper and lower body, remember to start small, and have a spotter when you move up to heavier weights. Also, it’s good to remember that we’re training for functional fitness, not aesthetic. It’s great to look good, but the goal here is to have muscles that we can actually use for paddling and kayaking.

Upper Body

  • Bench Presses and Pull-Ups: Bench presses and pull-ups help increase overall strength. Developing strength in your upper body will help protect your shoulders and decrease the likelihood of injury.
  • Dips and Rows: These two exercises develop two of the kayaker or rower’s go-to strokes. Dips are great for developing the strength and flexibility you’ll need for moving backwards and rows are an essential kayaker or paddler move for the forward stroke.
  • Curls and Overhead Presses: Again, these will help increase your overall strength.


Having a strong core will help you twist and turn with the rapids. You’ll need these muscles well developed to be able to control your craft! This is more than just doing sit ups, though, for a strong core, the entire trunk - front and back - needs to be well developed. Overtraining your abs could cause your lower back to be weak, and vice versa.

For strengthening your core, planks, supermans and other stability exercises are great for building muscles throughout the core. Try out this workout for all-around strengthening.

To Build Stamina

Because getting out on the water just isn’t feasible during the winter, cardiovascular exercises are a great way to keep your legs strong, your stamina up, and your mind focused on an activity for longer periods of time.

We recommend:

  • Running: Besides getting out on the water everyday, running and cycling are great ways to keep your legs in shape and your stamina up. Runs don’t have to be very long, just 20 to 30 minutes of solid effort a few times a week are enough to maintain fitness, and they can be fun! If you have a sport you particularly enjoy, like basketball, flag football, or disc golf, that’s a great way to get some running into your day. Try to run on trails or grass for an added challenge, and to help prevent some of the pounding on your joints that concrete can cause.
  • Cycling: If you really hate running, cycling is a great alternative, and better for those with knee or running injuries. You’ll still get your heart rate up, and if it’s possible to replace your car with your bike some days when running errands or commuting to work, you’ll be in great shape come summer.
  • Skiing and Skating: Both are fun winter activities, and both are great for strengthening your legs and lower back! These don’t feel like a typical ‘workout’ and are also great family activities.

To Build Flexibility

Stretching is an important part of the recovery process, and the recovery is what really drives muscle growth. Yoga, while included in this section, really does build strength, stamina, and flexibility all at the same time! If you’re new to yoga, be careful to not over-extend yourself. Use modifications when possible and listen to your body. If it tells you you’re going too deep into a pose- listen to it! Here is a great routine that is specifically designed to help prevent common kayaking injuries.

Prioritizing fitness this winter will really pay off during the rafting season, but please be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. We’ll see you on the water!


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