Any river runner knows that moment. That time of the year when the water starts to get just a little too cold, when the air is more than just a little crisp, and when the sun spends less and less time in the sky. Yes, it’s the start of off-season for paddlers and rafters, and it’s one that many mourn.
But just because you can’t get out on the rivers comfortably doesn’t mean you have to say good-bye to all of the hard work and progress you made during the spring, summer, and fall. In fact, the off-season is the best time to capitalize on those gains and add to them. Staying rafting ready is actually easier than it sounds and can offer huge benefits to you when you get back on the water next summer. Here are some easy ways to help you stay in shape.
We’ve all hit that stretch of river that’s constantly in a headwind. At first, the breeze might be nice, but after a few minutes, and then a few miles, it starts to get a little taxing. Fortunately, you did endurance training through the off-season, and now you can cut through these winds like a hot knife through butter.
To develop your endurance, we suggest activities like long bike rides, swimming laps, or taking long hikes or frequent runs. While doing endurance exercises, make sure you maintain your heart rate at its maximum. To build the cardiovascular endurance you need for your rafting, you need to elevate your heart rate by upping the intensity of your exercises. You can achieve this by adding an incline to your treadmill, or by increasing the resistance on your stationary bike.
Another great way to build your endurance is through HIIT or high-intensity interval training. Essentially, it’s short bursts of hard workouts performed in sets. Your circuit should be about 20 minutes without stopping and repeated three to four times.
Due to the nature of the activity, rafting and kayaking require a lot of flexibility. After all, you’re engaging entire muscle groups at the same time in order to manipulate the paddles and oars. Staying flexible is critical to enjoying your rafting season.
Yoga is a great way to enhance your flexibility while also improving your endurance and strength. Since yoga is a series of precise and targeted stretches, you can do yoga before and after your river trips to limber up and to relieve your tight, aching muscles.
You can perform a variety of poses throughout the off-season to help keep your muscles smooth and strong. We’re fans of poses like Thread the Needle Lumbar Twist which can be performed when you are waking up in the morning. When you climb out of bed, you can then perform poses like Eagle Arms and Seated Arm Stretch. Follow up with poses like Bridge and Childs pose to stretch all of the major muscle groups in your body.
Crafting Core Strength
When you execute your paddling and rowing motions properly, it’s not your sculpted arms that are doing all the work, it’s that powerful core of yours that’s moving your boat around. A strong core is the key to being able to maneuver through rapids deftly.
But your core isn’t just your abs and stomach. It’s also your lower and mid-back. All parts of your entire trunk need to be trained and toned to ensure that you’re not weaker in one area, potentially opening yourself up to injury. To build a strong core, practice exercises like decline and cable crunches to work your upper abs. For your lower abs, try scissor kicks, hanging leg raises, and reverse crunches. You can target your obliques with seated barbell twists, oblique crunches, and more cable crunches.
Don’t Skip Leg Day
A common joke among regular gym-goers, but just as important for rafters to remember. Your legs are responsible for keeping you upright in the raft. Make sure these are strong and capable by performing targeted exercises like weighted leg lifts, calf stretches, and more.
See Some of Idaho’s Best Whitewater Rafting
After working out and getting stronger in the off-season, on that first day back on the water, you’ll be prepped and ready to go. If you’re looking for an unforgettable trip, checking out the multi-day whitewater rafting trips we offer at Killgore Adventures! You’ll go through some of the best rapids in Hells Canyon, and see sections of the river that few others get to see!