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Exercise: More Water Sports

I am a firm believer in learning new things no matter what, so when I visited a friend who summers on an island off of Washington state, she suggested that we all go kayaking. Now, I had been sailing and canoeing as well as row boating and crewing, but kayaking was new to me and to tell the truth, carrying the shell down the rocky hill from her home to the shore was not a good beginning, but once in the water it was difficult to get me back to shore.

This is a wonderful sport that combines outdoor adventure with good muscle toning. If you like canoeing, this is a sport for you. It is almost luxurious in its quiet and vistas. This is not whitewater kayaking. I have done whitewater rafting, but leave the leadership to someone who knows how to finish the course. This is flat-water kayaking so you don’t have to worry about unseen jagged rocks hitting your body. Instead you paddle, and that movement builds muscles from your waist line to your upper body.

Sea or flat-water kayaking is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the US. It is more popular than mountain biking and snowboarding combined. Now, let’s look at what you will need. Kayaks come in two major styles. Sit-on-tops, which are ideal if you want to combine the activity with snorkeling or swimming (see last months article). And cockpit kayaks – you slip your legs under the deck, fit a neoprene spray skirt over the hole to keep water out, and paddle for speed, distance, endurance-or just for pleasure. Sea kayaks are longer and much more stable than whitewater kayaks. In the case of ocean swells, you simply use your blade and body weight to help balance the boat.

We, here at are firm believers in taking classes when we start something new, so of course we are going to suggest that you take a short class on safety before taking a kayak out on an open body of water.Make sure that your instructor is accredited by the American Canoeing Association. As with any other sport, we also suggest that you know your blood glucose level before you start and take appropriate interventions if needed. Once again, we share that you should boat with others in sight so that if you get into trouble, there will be someone near by. Now, if you like this sport and want to purchase a kayak, expect to pay between $500.00 and $1000.00 for entry-level models.

Crewing is in the blood of this Philadelphia born person. If you’ve ever been to that city, you have seen the boat houses along the river and know of races like Skimmer that usher in the end of the school year. There is nothing so beautiful as watching these boats skim the water and once you get into a shell, you will enjoy a quiet workout that uses your legs as well as your upper body and back. One word to the wise. When our daughter was a freshman in college she went out for crew and didn’t do body sculpting exercises so she bulked up.

We always suggest that you do cross training using all muscles and lengthening muscles to keep you looking slim. There are shells for one and those for teams. If you are one of the latter, you will have a coxswain if you get into racing. He or she is a light weight individual who is your coach because as a rower you will need to concentrate on what you are doing. When you stroke the water, your instructor will show how to do this with no splashing of the water. If you are part of a crew, even of beginners, you will all need to work in unison to glide, as if with little effort, over the water. The stroke that you will be taught should be a long one and you won’t see the boat bobbing nor will you see water coming off oars when they enter or exit the water.

Most modern shells are built of carbon-fiber material and kevlar. The best oars are hollow with wooden handles and made of carbon fiber. They are 12 1/2 feet long and can cost as much as $250.00. Those long shells for teams can cost as much as $30,000.00 so if you own a camp or school and want to start up a team, you’ll need substantial money, plus a coach who knows the sport. All that being said, the next time you are at a resort that has single or small shells to rent, get some friends together, take a few lessons, and learn the beauty of this sport. Once in Texas as we went down a river without splashing, (easier said than done with the 6 of us), we wondered at the birds, trees, and wild flowers that we had undoubtedly passed many times and never noted.

We docked and decided that we had just experienced something special, exercise and extreme beauty at the same time. Think about the last time you experienced that in the gym. If your city has a river, call around and see if you have a club in town. Here in the middle of America, we have one and it’s easy to join. Again, we give you the same warnings about a new sport. See your physician and find out if you can do this sport. Never go out alone and do check your blood glucose levels before you start. If you are out on the water for more than an hour, do continue to check your blood glucose level and never exercise without taking extra carbohydrates with you.

What’s next? Finally, I get to tell you about my most favorite water sport from my childhood — sailing. I suggested that you take lessons before you crew or kayak, but I tell you, you need lessons before you sail alone. This is an intimidating sport. Many of us know people who will volunteer to teach us. Sailors are interesting lot especially in their own boats. They often buy into the “myth” of yachting and that can be difficult for the first time sailor. If you really want to know how to sail and be safe doing it go to an accredited school. When our children were young we spent a week at the Annapolis Sailing School, not because we didn’t know how to sail, but because we wanted our children to understand the importance of safety on the water. We needed to know that they could “pass the test” and that their teacher knew how to teach. So what will you learn?

You will need to learn how to change direction in the water, tacking, which moves the sail from one side to the other, catching the wind. Changing direction means that the boom swings across the deck with frightening regularity. My first reason for lessons is that this boom can be a menace, so when your teacher says, “coming about” get ready to duck. Before long, you’ll be the one shouting those two words, and it will be you who is maneuvering the sail boat in the channel.

When raising or lowering sails make sure of two things: First, the sail is on the correct way. Once while sailing in Annapolis, we saw first year Annapolis cadets try to raise a sail which was up-side down. You could hear their instructors across the water, but what they said, I will not print. And second, is that both ends of the line you are using are secured in some fashion. Both ends can be in your hands, both ends attached to something else, or one end in hand, one attached. You can imagine how very important this is and it is a very common mistake with beginning sailors. If you are not in control, the line can slip through its fittings and effectively de-rig the boat.

If you are using a winch with a handle make sure to hold the handle at all times, These handles are only inserted into the winch when it is necessary to adjust the line’s tension. Once the line is at satisfactory tension, an unused handle left on the deck where it can be lost makes it impossible to make any more adjustments. Finally, a word about getting sea sick. The more worried you are about getting sea sick, the more likely you are to get ill, the less likely you are to like this new skill you are learning. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and rich foods before you sail. If you do start to get squeamish, try to stay above deck.

Going below may exacerbate your condition. Lay down and relax. From our experience, keeping busy onboard is one way to keep your mind off of any complications of sea sickness. Sailing is one of those sports that stays with you your whole life. It takes brains to read the charts and to plan a route and how to tack so you are not just sitting there and looking at the scenery. If that’s what you want, go with a motor boat. Once you fall in love with your sail boat whether it’s a single sailfish or a yacht that sleeps 8, you’ll become a member of a special group of water people who will regale you with stories at night at a local restaurant or yacht club.

Our last sport is water-skiing, a sport that many of us are willing to don a swim suit for even when we have reservations about this for other sports. The rules for learning this sport are the same as with the other sports we have discussed. Take lessons and know the operator of the motor boat. Learn hand signals to signal the operator if you need to. Always wear a personal floatation device. Have someone in the boat other than the operator as a spotter.

Remember that the operator needs to watch the water, not you. Always have someone check the tow line before each timea skier skies. Maintain a safe speed at all times and keep an eye out for other boats and skiers. Steer clear of docks and away from other boats and people who are fishing. Be alert to cross-wakes, submerged objects, swimmers, rafters or anything that can come between you and the boat that is pulling you. Check your equipment before you start each time. Make sure that your boat operator is aware of where to go and where not to go on the water.

Let’s go over rules again. Never go on the water without sun screen, a hat when feasible, and proper attire. If you’re going to be out on the water for more than 1 hour, take your monitor and diabetic supplies in a water-proof container in case you need more medication or carbs. Never go alone and make sure someone knows how to treat the short term complications of diabetes, especially hypoglycemia. Each of these sports can be strenuous so go for a check up before enrolling in classes. You don’t want to make plans and have to cancel them. Tell your instructor that you have diabetes and watch his or her face. If they have blank expressions or look very frightened, ask the owner of the school for another person who can help you if you need it. Now, get out on the water and enjoy the joys of nature. You’ll love it.