Tips to Get Fit For Trip

Stretching after a long day

Today, Woody shares with us some simple tips to help get in shape for trip.

From time to time I’m asked “Should I get in shape for my canoe trip at camp”?  In my opinion the answer is yes.  The question that follows is typically “HOW should I get in shape?”

Many campers already lead active lives through sports at school or extracurriculars such as dance, hockey, gymnastics etc.   Being active is certainly great – however, there are some things that you can do that will help get your body get ready for the challenges of canoe tripping in particular, with the added bonus of helping you improve your performance in the other activities you pursue.  If you are someone who considers themselves less active during the non-summer months, then doing some of the following will help you as well.  Here are some simple things to do: they don’t require a lot of time and no equipment other than your own body – straight forward and good common sense.

Let’s start with some simple push-ups.  Push-ups are great for your upper body – your shoulders, triceps, chest and core muscles.  These are the muscles you work most while paddling and that get a good work out on a portage.  Start with a manageable number, say three sets of 5 to 10 push-ups per set.  Start with your arms in the extended position (the top of the push-up), lower yourself down and push your arms back into the extended position.  Count like such… “down 1, down 2, down 3” etc.  Every time you say the number you are back in the arms extended position (your starting position).  This counting method forces you to actually count each full push up because you can’t say the number until you have completed the full down-up motion.  It also creates a good rhythm for you.

Do some basic crunches.  Start in the “sit-up” position lying on your back, hands down beside you or on your chest, or touching the back of your head – whatever way is more comfortable.  Try to lift your upper body off the ground slightly, but not all the way like you would a sit-up.  Start with a small number and work your way up.  Be careful to not just move your head toward your knees by simply moving your neck. You’ll feel it in your abdominal muscles if you are doing it right.

Personally, I run a fair bit.  Running is great for cardio as well as strengthening your core and legs.  If you’re not interested in running, you can roller blade, bike, cross country ski etc.   Again start small, don’t focus on distance, focus on time and endurance instead.  Be sure to finish any cardio activity by walking for 5 minutes to cool your body down.  There are loads of apps out there that can help you if you feel like you need to rely on technology to get you moving.  The apps help you start slowly and build from there.

Lastly is stretching.   Try 15-20 minutes while watching a show or while cooling down after a cardio session.  Stretching helps increase your flexibility, increases your energy levels and helps your muscles to recover after a workout.

You will find that many of the things you do a on trip will become easier with a little physical preparation, such as carrying a canoe, a wanigan, packs, paddling (especially against the wind or pulling lots of water in a set of rapids), hiking etc.  For those of you on especially long trips try walking your neighbourhood with a heavy pack for a few minutes, again start slow and expand, stuff that pack with some weight.  The VII packs in particular are going to be HEAVY.

Of course all campers are “young” and can often handle physical challenges much more easily than us older folks, but doing as I have suggested above will make things even easier.  Lots of staff run at camp, so for any of you who love to run let us know and we’ll happily get out there with you.  Until then, happy trails and stay warm.

– Woody