Whether you're cruising along a lake sightseeing or preparing for a race, flatwater kayaking can be a fun -- or competitive -- way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise at the same time. Stretching before and after kayaking will increase your flexibility and prevent common injuries related to kayaking. The more you stretch, the longer you'll be able to kayak without the interference of tight or sore muscles. Perform each stretch before and after kayaking as well as on the days you don't paddle for the best results.
With the amount of sitting that most people do in a day, as well as the sitting involved in a long kayak ride, it's extremely important to stretch the hip flexor muscles before and after a kayak session to loosen up those muscles and keep them mobile for future kayaking. A low lunge will open up your hips to stretch your hip flexors. Start by stretching your left leg back with the top of your foot lying on the ground and your heel up. Bend your front (right) knee and make sure your ankle and knee are in line. Place your hands on the ground, one hand on each side of your front foot, and hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Switch your legs, stretching your right leg back and bending your left knee to stretch the other side of your hips. Hold the stretch for another 20 seconds.
Most people know this common stretch because it is used with many sports and stretches the quadriceps, but it's also a great stretch after kayaking because it stretches the hip flexors as well. Stand with your knees as close together as possible. Bend your right knee and hold your ankle with your right hand. Balance on your left leg during this stretch. Tuck your tailbone in and lift your chest up to feel the stretch in your lower back, but don't pull on your ankle -- just rest it in your hand. Once you start to feel the stretch in your hip flexor muscles, hold it for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
Posterior Shoulder Stretch
Shoulder muscles help drive a kayaker's speed and power. Stretch your shoulders with this exercise recommended by certified kayak and yoga instructor Anna Bruno. Start with your hands and knees on the ground, your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Inhale and rotate your left arm until your fingers are pointing directly up at the ceiling. Open your chest up to the left and look up as well. While exhaling, bring your left arm down through the gap between your knees and other arm. Continue until your left shoulder, the length of your left arm, and your ear are pressed on the ground. Inhale and bring your right arm off the ground and point it at the ceiling. Hold this stretch for a few deep breaths, then lower your right hand back to the ground, and lift your left arm back up toward the ceiling for a final time. To complete the stretch, lower your left arm to the ground and stretch the other side.
Upper Spinal Floor Twist
A lot of the power in your strokes, sweeps and draws come from the rotation of your torso. You probably don't use your torso for exercise on a daily basis, so it is probably stiff, and without stretching, your rotations may be uncomfortable or even painful. Loosen up your torso with an upper spinal floor twist exercise. Lie on the ground on your side with your knees together. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle so your position looks like you're sitting in a chair. Rotate your waist the opposite direction that your knees are facing so your back is flat on the ground. Keep your legs in their same position and hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then stretch the other side.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.