Paddling injuries often occur from poor training, poor technique, and inadequate rest. It’s important to find the right balance.
Tip 1: Warm Up
Before jumping in the canoe and paddling, you can do your own warm up to get the right muscle groups ready to paddle. Mimic what you will be doing. You can do a light jog to get the blood flowing through your whole body. Then get your arms moving. Take your paddle and do some air strokes, or do some strokes at the waters edge. Remember to get your legs going too; alternating lunges are a great way to get ready for paddling. Then combine your arms and legs. Try holding your lunge and doing some paddles– about 15 on one side, then switch legs, repeat 3 times each.
Tip 2: Check Your Technique
Ask your coach for feedback as often as you can. Your teammates can also give you feedback. Keep in mind, as you fatigue, to really focus on technique. Go back to the basics in your head and talk yourself through them. Try to relax through your neck, relax your jaw, keep your wrists neutral and make sure you are not having a death grip on your paddle. Really reach and pull through the water using not just your arms but your core and legs.
Tip 3: Cool Down
This is often the most overlooked part of training. It is so important to let your heart rate come down gradually. Do an easy paddle, and you can even walk it off after you get out of the canoe. This is when you can do your static stretches, the ones that you hold for at least 30 seconds. Once you get home after practice, try some foam rolling. Really focus on loosening up your spine where all of your paddling muscles connect.
Start with the foam roller perpendicular to your spine. Place the roller on the ground and roll by supporting your neck and using your legs to move your body up and down on the foam roller. Repeat for a couple of minutes. Then pick a level just below your shoulder blades and place your hips on the ground. Take a deep breath and bend backwards over the foam roller. Repeat 10 times, move up and repeat at the next level. Pick a few levels to stretch. Finally, you can do a nice long stretch for your chest by lying on the foam roller parallel to your spine and moving your arms to the side. Stay in that stretch for a couple of minutes.
by Amanda Witko PT, MPT