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    Getting Fit for Sea Kayaking

    By Zoe Newsam
    More by Zoe

    Shape Up for Sea Kayaking

    So you’ve booked your dream sea kayaking holiday, and can’t wait for the day to come.

    Sandy beaches, calm seas, blue skies…  You’ve bought some new gear, read up on the area… But how best to prepare for the most important part, the kayaking itself?

    The good news is, it’s not rocket science!  As with any sport, a good level of basic fitness helps and contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to develop muscles the size of Popeyes’ to be able to paddle a sea kayak.  However, it pays to be prepared, so I’ll do my best in this blog post to give you some basic tips on getting fit for sea kayaking.

    To get you started

    NHS guidelines say that to stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day, and should include in their routine:

    • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and
    • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

    You can find more information on these guidelines on the NHS website.

    Including this in your weekly routine will ensure that you’re well prepared for your trip. Below I’ll suggest a few ways you can make this sport-specific to sea kayaking.


    The best exercise for kayaking is… you guessed it: kayaking! 

    Aerobic/ general fitness

    If you’re unable to get on the water before your trip though, moderate aerobic exercise such as walking or cycling will help enormously.  A reasonable level of fitness and endurance will help you enjoy your trip and get the most from those days on the water.  You don’t need to train for a marathon, but perhaps walking the dog, walking to and from work, or fitting in a regular cycle ride.  You can even count mowing the lawn, unless you own a ride-on lawnmower!

    If you want to keep track of your progress, why not try one of the many exercise tracking apps, perhaps mapmywalk, runkeeper, strava or S Health. You can also invest in a fitness band such as a fitbit to help motivate you.  Aiming for the recommended 10,000 steps a day is a great way of fitting in all of that activity.

    Getting Fit for Sea Kayaking

    Core stability/ strength

    Contrary to all the myths, the most important part of your body to strengthen for sea kayaking is your core. 

    In the modern world many of us spend more time than we care to admit sitting down, often with appalling posture.

    For stability and control in a sea kayak, good posture is vital, and to achieve that a strong core is key.  A simple exercise to try is the Plank, working from perhaps a ten-second hold to begin with and adding a few seconds each day.  To try this, rest face down on toes and elbows, holding your body in a straight line- the plank- using your abdominal muscles.  The ’30 day fitness challenge’ smartphone apps are great for suggesting this and other exercises, and helping to build time or repetitions over a 30-day period.

    Getting Fit for Sea Kayaking

    Team work


    ‘So if it’s all about core strength, I don’t need to work on my arms then?’. 

    Not so fast…  Those new to sea kayaking are often surprised at how much effort is involved in carrying boats and kit to and from the trailer or shore.  We have to do this every day, so it’s worth working on strength not just for kayaking, but to be able to lift and carry your boat!  Again, check out the ’30 day fitness challenge’ app or something similar for plenty of suggestions; tricep dips combined with bicep curls can be very helpful. You can achieve a useful result by carrying heavy shopping bags home from the supermarket (and fit in a few of those 10,000 steps as well!).

    Getting Fit for Sea Kayaking

    Sunset yoga on our Summer Isles expedition


    And last but definitely not least, the more flexible you are, the more able you will be to control that kayak. 

    Try a local yoga or pilates class for the best results.  Kayaking really is an all-over-body sport, so don’t skip the exercises for stretching hamstrings or core rotation: these are both vital.

    People are also struggling being confined to the same position for extended periods of time. Wilderness Scotland guide and sea kayaking legend Howard Jeffs suggests, “If anyone coming on a sea kayaking holiday spent every evening for a couple of weeks before their trip, sat upright on the floor with their feet out in front of them, their lives would be made way easier when they come to sit in a kayak for a week. Hell, they could even watch TV at the same time.”

    So for the best results, book that yoga class, take a brisk walk to the venue, work on your plank before you leave, and carry your shopping home!


    If You Haven't Booked Already...

    Then have a look at our range of sea kayaking tours around the Scottish coastline, and let our expert guides show you the ropes. Our guided tours take sea kayaking holidays to another level with and to prove we do the best tours you can checkout reviews here.

    We run sea kayaking holidays at different difficulty levels for varied fitness levels. Here is a taster of some of the trips we run at different levels. Whichever kayaking holiday you are interested in it is advised that you have a good fitness for any of our levels:

    • Our Sea Kayaking Introduction Course is aimed at beginners and so is classed on the ‘easy’ difficulty with a 1 out of 10 (green grade).
    • Ranging on the medium level  (4 out of 10 blue grade) is our sea kayaking holiday of the Gaelic Coast perfect for those looking for a tougher challenge than easy, but not too intense at the same time.
    • Verging on our most difficult levels (7 – 10 red grade) is the Summer Isles sea kayaking holiday (scoring a 6 out of 10).

    For more information on our grading levels please visit our grading page which explains our grades for all the activities we run and includes a few helpful videos.

    Meet the Author: Zoe Newsam

    “During a varied career in, amongst other things, Air Traffic Control and Theatre, the single constant has been a love for the outdoors and for exploration. This has taken me to Europe, North Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and most recently Greenland.”

    View profileMore by Zoe

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