Paddling Into Old Age
With a few adaptations and some extra planning, paddling is truly a lifelong sport.
One of the best recommendations we can give you is to stay fit all year long, both during the paddle season and during the off-season. Light strength training and stretching will make a considerable difference in both your ability to stay on the water longer and paddle injury-free. This is true for paddlers of any age, but it’s especially true the older we get.
Paddling is a relaxing, low-impact activity. Spending time in nature is good for all ages, but there are a few items to consider when it comes to paddling in your golden years.
Don't Stop Paddling
If you have times of the year you can’t paddle, lift light weights to keep the shoulders and arms strong, stretch to maintain flexibility, and focus on your posture. Posture helps improve both your comfort in the boat, as well as, efficiency of your paddling strokes.
Stretching assists with flexibility and balance. This is especially key for getting in and out of your boat. Recreate actions on land by "getting
in and out" using a chair or
couch as a proxy.
Take shoulders through their entire range of motion. Controlled Articular rotation is a sophisticated way of saying that the goal is to use the whole range of motion of a single joint in a controlled and mindful manner. This helps facilitate pain-free movement in everyday life
Lifting a boat on and off the car or just the beach can be a deterrent to getting out as much as you'd like. This can also restrict when you can go due to not having help. All of this puts a strain on your body, taking away from the energy needed for paddling. Light boats made of composite materials
are worth the investment.
The easier the boat is to get off your car and onto the water the more likely you are to use it. If you regularly move a boat a distance over land, a boat cart may also be a great investment to reduce strain on your body.
Invest in a good lightweight paddle. Lighter materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber are more expensive, but worth it. You will lift your paddle approximately 1000 times per mile. A lighter paddle is easier to lift and swing through the air, as well as movel through the water.
The difference may not seem like much in the morning, but by the late afternoon, it's all too evident when you're tired and can't stay out any longer. This is also important if you have any pre-existing injuries such as
shoulder, wrist, or hand issues.
If you plan on kayaking or canoeing
for a prolonged period of time, it is important to ensure that you are comfortable. Before you make a purchase, try sitting in the boat
and, if possible, take it for a test run.
Your back needs proper support too.
A seat with a high back that is
strong enough to support your
weight is essential.
Pay attention to your feet to ensure
that you have the correct posture
in the boat. This usually involves
adjusting the foot pegs or foot plates
for the ideal setting. Finding the right setting is crucial for maximum performance. It will allow you to have proper leg drive, to the extent that is possible with your anatomy and the particular boat.
Most boats have adjustable foot
bars or foot pegs. You should adjust
your foot position so that your feet
are pushing your butt back into the
seat with your knees slightly bent. This will provide support to your back,
enhance your overall control of the
boat, and engage your entire
body while paddling.
When paddling, it is essential to have proper footwear with good traction to navigate rough or rocky terrain,
both on land and in the water.
This will ensure safe entry and exit
from your boat and prevent damage
to your boat by avoiding running
it into shore.
Be mindful of your surroundings
& take your time, especially when carrying your boat, to prevent accidents while on land.
Safety planning is as important as ever, as you get older. Be mindful of the forecast, file a float plan with a trusted individual detailing your planned route and expected return time.
Ensure all necessary safety equipment is on board: a marine radio; a cell phone in a waterproof case; a life jacket; a whistle; a bailer; a flashlight; a throw rope. In colder conditions, a wetsuit or dry suit is essential, as well as signal flares, a dry bag with extra warm clothing, a first aid kit, a spare breakdown paddle, a hand pump,
and a repair kit. It is also wise to
pack extra food and water.
Be sure to manage your expectations and inform your paddling companion of any limitations. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance and allow for extra time on your usual route.
If you're planning on longer canoe trips, consider hiring a guide or inviting a younger friend who can lend a hand with camp duties and portaging, which can be challenging for seniors.
And for a more comfortable
camping experience, pack an additional sleeping pad or bring
along some Tylenol.
Another important tip is to be sure to use proper paddling technique. Many people assume it’s just about your shoulders and arms. In reality, your entire body—starting with your feet—should be engaged in your paddling strokes.
Think "use larger muscles vs smaller ones"
Your abs and chest are much stronger than your biceps.
Not only does the correct technique give you more power with every stroke, it’s easier on your body and less likely to contribute to shoulder and wrist issues.