This is repost of a blog submission I had on jacksonkayak.com (video at the bottom)
Let’s be real, most kayakers don’t stretch before they hit the river. Is this wise? As a PE teacher who instructs my athletes to do a dynamic stretch and a static stretch, I prefer to lead by example and at least do something before I get into my kayak.
Why is stretching even important? You were possibly taught from a young age that stretching decreases injury. Practices change but presently we are being instructed to do a dynamic stretch before static stretches to help warm up our muscles as it increasing blood flow, stimulates the nervous system, and increases joint mobility. No matter your sport, a dynamic stretch begins slowly and progressively becomes faster.
I want to talk about the importance of warming up and stretching our lower half as a kayaker. Most kayakers tend to mostly think in terms of their upper body when kayaking but our lower half is certainly active. Especially if you are playboating. Regardless, if you are sitting for an extended period of time at awkward angles, stretching is vital to longevity.
Here is the sequence I go through before hitting the river:
While walking forward, keep your shoulders back, chest up, and out. Pull the right knee up to your chest as high as possible and hold with your hands. At the same time, lift your left heel. Repeat with the left leg.
Muscles targeted: Glutes, Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas), Hip Adductors
Heel to glute:
Bend your right knee and grab your ankle behind you with your right hand and rise up onto the ball of your left foot and push your hip forward. Pushing your hip forward will take the strain off your knee. Repeat.
Muscles targeted: Quads, Hip Flexors
Knee to elbow:
While walking, raise your right knee to your left elbow. Repeat.
Muscles targeted: Hip flexors, glutes, obliques
Over the fence:
Facing in the opposite direction of the way you want to travel, raise your left knee as high as possible and rotate it behind you as if you were trying to walk backward and step over an imaginary fence. Repeat on the right leg and continue with alternate legs.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, Groins, Hip Flexors
Toy soldier (AKA Franeinteins):
Keeping your left leg straight, kick it up as high as you can, trying to touch the fingertips of the opposite arm – Your arm motions is like you are swimming.
Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, Shoulders
Lunge with twist:
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward, taking an over-exaggerated step with your right leg to initiate the lunge. Keep your shoulders back, chest up & out, while bending the right knee 90 degrees. Do NOT allow your right knee to pass in front of your toes and your left knee should not touch the ground! While in this lunge position, keep your core engaged and twist at your waist to your right. It is vital that you maintain your balance before you initiate the twist.
Muscle targeted: Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Glutes, Quads, Core
This is where we speed things up to really increase our core temperature and get our blood flowing. Lift your knee above your waist while keeping your back leg straight as you push off with your toes. Repeat this motion with the other leg and hit the ground with your mid-foot while swinging your opposite arm. Keep your foot dorsiflexed as you drive your knee up.
This performed the same way as A skips except once your driving knee reaches 90˚, extend your knee and foot out. You want to extend out and then snap your leg back down.
Of course, there are several other exercises you could do and I encourage you to do your own research and start to figure out which routine works for you.