All posts by Matt McKnight

Fitness for Kayaking – How can we help minimise injuries?

The dreaded hike in is an awesome way to raise the heart rate. Photo, Kev England.

With Daylight Savings kicking in and the weather starting to warm up, now is the ideal time for all of us to get out in a boat after work or during the weekend for our white water fix.

Continuing on from our previous posts which focused on improving core strength, stability and developing the ABC’s of movement this week we are looking at how we can warm up effectively to help we can help minimise injuries and spend more time on the water this summer.

How can we minimise injuries?

Over this next section we will talk through some key concepts that when introduced should help to minimise the likelihood that an injury may occur.

Effective Warm Ups

How many times have you got on a river and made a mistake right at the start of the trip?! Well a warm-up prepares the body and mind for exercise and is thought to decrease the risk of injury during training and performance. A warm-up increases blood flow to the active tissues, increases body temperature, and allows the cardiovascular system to gradually increase from a resting to an active state.

A warm-up should be specific to the sport, and should include a progression in exercise intensity, and mobilisation of the muscles that will be used during the activity. If you have a paddle into the main white water this is an ideal time to use to warm up or if you are straight into it then maybe you might need to do a land based warm up

Warming Up using the “RAMP” Principle

The “ RAMP” principle was developed as a framework to effectively plan warm-ups that would lead to the outlined objectives above. This is as follows

R – Raise

A – Activate

M – Mobilise

P – Potentiate

Raise – This phase has the aim of elevating body temperature, hear rate and blood flow via low intensity activities

Activate – This phase has the aim of stimulating or activating key muscle groups that will be used within the sport.

Mobilise – This phase has the aim of actively working through a muscle through its range of motion

Potentiate – This phase has the aim of improving effectiveness of the subsequent performance.

What does a Generic On-Water Warm Up Look Like?

Step 1 – 5 Minutes paddle easy on flat water
Step 2 – 3 x 360 Circles on sweeps going left/ 3 x 360 Circles on sweeps going right

Step 3 – Offside Edge 360 Circle Left/ Offside Edge 360 Circle Right

Step 4 – 5 Minutes paddle medium to hard through gates

Step 5 – Specific White Water Moves – Crossing Flow/ Surfing etc

What does a Generic Off-Water Warm Up Look Like?

Step 1 – 5 Minutes Gentle Run

Step 2 – 4-6 Repetitions of 3 or 4 Full Body Activation Exercise  (Examples: Double Leg Bridge, Superman, Dynamic Plank or Single Leg Windmill)

Step 3 – 6-8 Reptations of each Rotator Cuff Muscles using Theraband (Theraband Exercises)

If you are getting on the water and only have an eddy to sit in before you go for it, trying some static edging exercises to feel connected to the boat before eddying out.

Make sure to fully warm up before trying anything as stylish as Zac. Penman in this photo! Photo, Blake Hornblow

Important Notes to remember:

– The older you are, the longer it takes to warm up

– The better shape you’re in, the longer it takes to warm up

– The higher the intensity and technical requirement of the river, the better the warm up needed

– The earlier in the morning, the better the warm up needed

– The colder the weather or the water, the better the warm up needed

These paddling fitness articles have been put together by Matt McKnight, Matt is professional Canoe Slalom coach and a keen whitewater paddler. 

Fitness for Kayaking – Developing the ABC’s of Movement

Our collective efforts during the Alert Level 4 Lockdown period have led to some easing of restrictions. For lucky paddlers they have been able to get their white water fix since moving to Alert Level 3 but for many this will only occur after the shift to Alert Level 2.

Continuing on from our previous post which focused on improving core strength and stability this week we will be focusing on developing the ABC’s of movement which are Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination.

Why do I want to develop my Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination?

Research has shown that the athletic ability of any individual is based on their foundational development of their Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination. These three things are the cornerstones of athletic development and physical literacy. If we want to do anything from catch a ball to run our local river with style we have to develop the basics to do so.

Photo of Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River by Mike Robertson. Showing all of the ABC’s in action.

What does Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination mean?

Agility is defined as the ability to move in multiple directions at speed. To be able to change direction and also having the ability to accelerate and decelerate as quickly and efficiently as possible. We know as a white water kayakers that when moving from one place to another we need to be agile. The stop, start and change of direction for the body is critical for paddlers to move into different positions. This could be going from a bow rudder into a forward paddle stroke, from stern rudder into draw. The ability to stop moving to hold position and then move again is critical for us to be agile.

Balance is defined as the ability to control your body in its own space. We could go more scientific, but for me, it’s better to keep things simple. When on a river being able manage your balance while paddling will undoubtedly aid you in your development, as the water changes we need to be able to stay upright whilst being able to move through a range of movements. By being able to change how we sit then we can work to have our centre of gravity over the base or by use of the paddle or more importantly using the stability that we get from moving and by adding in positive connection points we maintain our balance throughout a manoeuvre.

Coordination is when all parts of the body are in agreement to perform a skill or a task. We are continually using multiple parts of our body to help achieve / maintain our balance. Think back to the critical move that you must make on your local river and how you must coordinate upper and lower body movements. If these movements are correctly coordinated with the necessary agility then we can maintain our balance and will normally have a successful outcome.

How can we develop our ABC’s?

This may all seem very complicated and you mightn’t be sure exactly what how you can develop it but it is pretty easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young up and coming white water kayaker or seasoned pro you can still work on developing these skills following the programme below:

Start out with a gentle run for about 5-10 minutes to get yourself warmed up:

Sled Pull

Push Up

Squat

Lunge

Single Leg Deadlift

Medicine Ball Rotations

To complete these exercises you don’t need any fancy equipment, instead of using a sled just hook your kayak up to a throw rope and drag it across your garden and if you don’t have a medicine ball a stone will work just as well just throw it across your garden instead of against a wall.

How many how long?

Depending on your level of base fitness you may want to start off slow aiming to complete around 6-10 repetitions of each exercise or between 20-30 seconds and aim for 1-3 rounds depending on how it feels.

Once you start to feel more comfortable with the circuit you can start increase the reps by 2-4 of each exercise or increase the length by 10-20 seconds or aim to complete more rounds.

You want to try and complete this circuit anywhere from 1-3 times per week to really try and improve your agility, balance and co-ordination for when it is time to get back in a boat!

Make sure to check in next week when we will be releasing an article looking at how you can brush up on your safety skills during this Lockdown.

These paddling fitness articles have been put together by Matt McKnight, Matt is professional Canoe Slalom coach and a keen whitewater paddler. 

Fitness for Kayaking – Core Strength

Paddlers: Kenny Mutton and Seth Ashworth
Photo: Redwood Photos

We are currently experiencing a time of great uncertainty due to COVID-19. Our current landscape has been dramatically changed with alterations to how we work, play, exercise, socialise and live. Over the coming weeks’ WWNZ are putting together a number of articles covering things that we can do during this Lockdown Period to improve ourselves so that when we can return to the water we will return stronger.

Our first article will be focusing on improving Core Strength and Stability

Many people think that paddling is all having a strong upper body, think back to the conversations where people say oh you must have massive arms or shoulders to do that.  When in fact the most fundamental body part involved in kayaking is having a strong core. When you can unlock the power within your core muscles you will be able to generate more speed or drive in the boat, be able to paddle for longer, improve your balance and posture within the boat and this may even lead to advances in your technique.

What is the Core?

When people think of their core muscles they often think about that perfect 6-pack but your abs are so much more than that. They are made up of many muscles, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think “abs”), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (a set of muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen).

Exercises

Below we have outlined a circuit style workout that can be done using minimum resources all you need is some space.

Exercise 1 – Side Plank Right

Exercise 2 – Side Plank Left

Exercise 3 – Double Leg Bridge

Exercise 4 – Leg Raises

Exercise 5 – Russian Twists

Exercise 6 – Superman

Exercise 7 – Window Wipers

Exercise 8 – Dynamic Plank

How Many? How Long?

Depending on your level of base fitness you may want to start off slow aiming to complete around 6-10 repetitions of each exercise or between 20-30 seconds and aim for 1-3 rounds depending on how it feels.

Once you start to feel more comfortable with the circuit you can start increase the reps by 2-4 of each exercise or increase the length by 10-20 seconds or aim to complete more rounds.

You want to try and complete this circuit anywhere from 2-4 times per week to really try and strengthen that core for when it is time to get back in a boat!

Make sure to check in next week when we will be releasing an article looking at how to increase your balance and co-ordination on during this Lockdown.