Flatwater Kayaking!

two kayaks on the riverbankI’m not much of a “workout in the gym” kind of guy. I mean, I go through spurts, where I’ll get on a kick for a while, but it just doesn’t hold my interest enough to keep me there long-term.

At my last job there was a big fitness center on location, which I did use a lot. I could manage it into my work day, and most of the time the place was dead so I had it all to myself. I don’t have that luxury anymore. So, I need to find other ways to get some exercise!

One day I was out walking around Cedar Lake here in Minneapolis, and was crossing a little bridge over a small channel that connects it with Lake of the Isles. As I was walking across the bridge I looked down and saw a couple of guys kayaking through the channel and thought it looked really intriguing.

When I got back home I wanted to at least do some research on kayaking lessons in the area. I found a place called Paddle Masters that offers a series of lessons over a couple of days for flatwater kayaking. I decided that it would be worth my time and the class fees to try it out and see if it was something I liked enough to invest in.

There were three courses split out over two days. Flatwater 1 & 2 on a Saturday, and Flatwater 3 on a Sunday a few weeks later. The classes ran pretty much all day on both days. I didn’t think much of that until it got to be about 2:00pm on that first Saturday, and my body was completely exhausted!! I was (and still am) in pretty poor shape, not doing much of anything on a regular basis, and here I go jumping in a kayak for 8 hours! What the hell was I thinking?!

The first half of the day went well – I capsized (tipped over) a couple of times, and can proudly say that I was the first in the class to get wet. The second half of the day was torture. There were only two other people (both triathelets) and the instructor. I felt like I was working my tail off just to keep up with them, and felt kind of bad for slowing them down. I also kept capsizing – I mean like 5 or 6 more times!! I was getting very frustrated, and thinking “man, I don’t know if this kayaking stuff is for me!”.

I made it to the end of the day, and on shore when the instructor and I picked up the kayak I had been using we almost doubled over because it was so heavy! He got this confused look on his face (I wasn’t confused, I thought I was just so damn tired) and we put the boat back down. He opened up the storage hatches in the front and back, and BOTH WERE COMPLETELY FULL OF WATER!!! He said “that explains everything!”. Water weighs something like 8 pounds per gallon, and I had at the very least 12-15 gallons of water in those compartments. So here I am paddling around with an extra 100-120 pounds of water in the boat, sloshing around from side to side, front to back.

I tell you what, I was SO relieved to see that there was a reason for me being so tired and unstable! I thought I was just a big puss and was ready to throw the whole kayaking idea down the tubes!

As we were cleaning the boats up and helping the instructor load them onto the trailer, one of the triathletes, who was also signed up for the next class with me, asked me if I planned on renting a kayak and going out to practice before our next class (in a few weeks). I thought about it, but decided it would be a bad idea. Specifically because we had not learned how to get back in our boat if we capsized out on a lake by ourselves!! And based on how many times I capsized, I thought I might need to know that technique before venturing out on my own…

A few weeks later rolls around and I did the Flatwater 3 class, which again was an all day thing. I was tired, but did a much better job of staying hydrated and feeding my body with a good mix of carbs & proteins to help pull me through (BG’s stayed pretty good all day long). I did capsize a couple of times, but was not to the point where I was so frustrated with the whole thing. It was very windy and there was a lot of boat traffic (which means lots of big waves!).

I was also able to pull off the single rescue, getting myself back in my boat on my own. That was a huge confidence boost, and to the point where I feel like I could do it on my own if I need to. I also had to keep in mind that on both days I was in boats that may not have been the best for me. They were the official touring kayaks, made for multi-day trips, etc. The ones I had been looking at were more the big giant cockpit size and made for tooling around local lakes, etc.

After going through the classes I decided to buy my own boat, and got a big recreational one. I’ve had it out a few times since I got it, and it feels very nice and stable. It’s got room in the cockpit for me to take the kids with me (one at a time, with proper life jacket apparel of course!).

It’s really interesting to me that my blood sugar really seems to drop while I’m doing it. It’s a slow and steady kind of thing, kind of like walking I guess, but more with your arms. Nothing real vigorous, but I do build up a sweat. That alone tells me it must be good exercise! I do have a bottle of glucose tablets stashed right next to my seat as well as a testing kit in a waterproof box.

Hopefully I can go tour some of the beautiful lakes around here, getting wet only if and when I choose…

Stay tuned!

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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