I am currently living in snowy Sun River, Oregon where the closest paddling is a three- hour drive. I will be able to get in my boat during the winter months but a good bit of my kayaking will be replaced with skiing for the next three months. Therefore, I have decided to concentrate on an off-season training plan that will help keep me in shape for paddling. Off-season training is great because it improves performance when one is able to go paddling, reduce the time it takes one to get into paddling shape and helps reduce the chance of injury. An off-season training program can also be used as a supplemental activity during the week for a "weekend warrior."
I plan to do a series of blog entries on off-season training the next couple of months showcasing some exercises I feel are beneficial to kayakers. In no shape or form are these blog entries to be used as a rehab program. My exercise background includes a B.S. in Exercise Science/ Health and Physical Education. I am not a doctor or physical therapist. If at anytime one feels any discomfort or pain one should immediately stop and seek professional assistance.
In the future I will concentrate these, off-season training, blog entries to a particular muscle group that is used in kayaking. First off, I feel the most important aspect is to stay active. Do not be a couch potato. If one is not able to paddle, one should pick other activities that allow him/her to stay in shape and have fun. When I am not in my boat I like to ski, rollerblade, rock climb, cycle, and mountain bike. Running is a great activity to stay in shape because all one needs is a good pair of shoes. Recently I have been chopping lots of wood to prepare for the cold winter. Chopping wood is great for the core!
In session one I will talk about the shoulder because the shoulder is the most common injury amongst whitewater kayakers. I would like to introduce all kayakers to the, Bodyblade. I was introduced to the Bodyblade by a physical therapist about four years ago during rehab training. Shortly after, I was given a Bodyblade by my good German friend Sanne, and I have been using it every since. I like the Bodyblade because it is simple, compact, and easy to travel with. I will also use the Bodyblade to warm up before boating.
How does a Bodyblade work? Bodyblade is unlike any other piece of exercise equipment on the market today. Most other systems work on the principle of the user attempting to lift a weighted item or stretch an elastic band. The Bodyblade, however, works on the opposite premise: Once the ends begin to move, inertia wants to keep them in motion and it's up to you to resist. Thus, the risk of injury through overexertion is greatly reduced. This is from the Bodyblade website and you can find lots more info at www.bodyblade.com.
Bodyblade recommends using the Bodyblade 3-5 times a week. Their website has a wide range of workouts. I use a modified plan that concentrates on isolating the rotator cuff muscles that are important in stabilizing the shoulder joint. I use the Bodyblade in conjunction with a rubber band routine that I will show in my next blog entry. My daily routine takes less than thirty minutes to complete. I will do each set for a time of one minute. One can customize his/her workout by how much inertia one makes with the Bodyblade. My goal is to have a good burn at about one minute. I will do three sets of each exercise for one minute each. I alternate my right and left side. This allows one side to rest and recover while the other side is working.
If you have never seen or used a Bodyblade I will explain how to use it but I suggest going to the website and reading the manufacturer’s recommendations. The goal is to use the small muscles in the shoulder. I think of this by holding my arm straight, with no bend in the elbow. One should start with small movements from one direction to the other. The movement is a rapid, small range of motion exercise. One can pretend they are shaking a martini with a "locked" arm. To keep things simple I will explain these exercises for the right side of the body.
For my warm-up I will start with the Bodyblade down by my side. I start the rapid, small movements trying to isolate my shoulder joint muscles. I will slowly move my arm out in front of me and out to the side while continuing the small, rapid movement. I will go until I feel a slight burn then switch arms. After I feel a slight burn in both shoulders I will get into the exercises.
One's arm position should be at shoulder height out to the side of the body. One's pointer finger should be pointing directly to ones right. One's thumb should be pointing straight ahead and the Bodyblade should be parallel to the ground. Now make small, rapid movements while holding the arm straight. In this exercise the arm movements will be an up and down motion. If one is doing this right, one will feel a burn in the rotator cuff muscles. Remember the movements are small and rapid. I do this for one minute on my right arm then my left arm. I do a total of three minutes per arm.
One's arm position will be the same as exercise #1, straight out to the side with one's index finger pointing directly to the right. The difference in this exercise the thumb will be pointing towards the sky. This makes the position of the Bodyblade perpendicular to the ground. The arm movement will be a front to back motion in exercise #2. Again, complete three one-minute sets per arm.
One's arm position will be at shoulder height and the index finger should be pointing straight ahead. The thumb should be pointing to the left and the Bodyblade should be parallel to the floor. The arm movement will be an up and down motion. I will complete three one-minute sets per arm.
The arm position will be the same for exercise #3, straight out and in front of the body. The pointer finger should be pointing straight ahead and the thumb should be pointing straight up. The Bodyblade should be perpendicular to the floor. The movement will be a sideways, rapid, small range of motion movement.
In conclusion, I will say that form is everything. To strengthen the shoulder joint one must concentrate on isolating the rotator cuff muscles. The bottom line is one must isolate the shoulder joint while doing the exercise and move the arm in every range of motion. For variations I will do these exercises with my arm in varying angles. The Bodyblade is one of the best shoulder joint strengthening tools. Give it a try and you will find it will help reduce your chance for injury. If you are interested in learning more about the Bodyblade, check out www.bodyblade.com. For the record I am not sponsored by Bodyblade, I simply feel it is a great tool for whitewater kayakers.
If this blog entry was helpful and you would like to see more training blogs in the future please leave a comment.