The Off Season: Cross Training for Kayaking


During the long winter months, many of us aren’t out there kayaking nearly as much, if at all. So what are you doing to keep engaged and keep your body and mind in the sport? While it may be too cold for some of us to venture out, there is plenty out there that can provide cross training for kayaking and help us be ready when the season starts again this spring. Being mindful in all aspects of our health not only can help us perform better when it’s time to get back on the water, but can also improve our well being in the rest of our lives. Below are some activities that can address both our minds and our bodies, which are interconnected. The health of one depends on the health of the other. Each of us has individual considerations and so the following are ideas and I encourage you to listen to your body’s needs. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about introducing any of these activities into your life.


Yoga is an ancient Hindu art that aims to bring into balance the mind, body and spirit. The practice focuses on harmonizing the breath, bringing the mind to the present moment and moving the body. A consistent yoga practice will allow the body and and mind to be strong, flexible and stable, which are all critical when navigating the currents and rapids of the river, as well as life. Check out more on the Mind Body Paddle yoga page.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is ancient Chinese martial art that is “meditation in motion.” It is a gentle, flowing physical exercise that focuses on slow, intentional movement and deep breathing. The health benefits are numerous, including reducing stress, anxiety, depression and increased positive mood, agility and stamina.


There are many types of meditation and most focus on bringing the mind to awareness of the present moment. Often this is done through focusing on the sensation of breathing in and breathing out. Through meditation, you learn to stay with your experiences in the moment and see your thoughts as if they were passing clouds in the sky. Often times, we are caught up in the mindless “chatter” in our heads, which is constantly offering commentary on our experiences. This prevents us from truly being present for the moment. Meditation brings our awareness to the here and now, freeing us to truly present with our experience. If you’ve never meditated before, there are numerous apps, books and websites on the subject that are easily found on the internet.

Strength Training

Strength or resistance training at least two times per week helps to build and maintain lean muscle mass, which provides many health benefits. As women, we tend to lose muscle mass as we age and can be at risk for conditions like osteoporosis (weakened bones). Consistent strength training can help prevent this as well as help us manage or lose weight through increased metabolism. Other benefits include improved balance, increased core strength and increased stamina, all of which helps to prevent injury and improve our paddling performance. Options to include strength training into your routine include yoga, body weight exercises, free weight and weight machines. If you’ve never done strength training, I recommend scheduling time with a personal trainer so that you know the correct form and best exercises for your fitness level to prevent injury and maximize the benefits.


Getting regular cardiovascular exercise can do wonders for your physical and emotional wellbeing. It can also give you more endurance and energy for those long and demanding days on the water. Need more convincing? Regular cardiovascular exercise also improves mood and sleep, can manage and prevent chronic health conditions and manage weight. Cardio isn’t just confined to treadmill or stationary bike. Make it social by joining a sports team or get a group of your friends together and go trail running, mountain biking, hiking, or swimming. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for adults.

Flat Water Drills

Regularly practicing flat water drills for whitewater kayaking helps build muscle memory and improves your performance on the water. Flat water training helps you develop good stroke technique, strong edge control and fluidity in your paddling. Check out Anna’s Flatwater Drills for Improving your Whitewater Kayaking Technique.