Running rivers is one of the best ways to spend a day. From excitement at the put-in to battling butterflies before a challenging new feature to laughing with your friends at the evening campfire, engaging with these waterways is life-enriching. If you’re new to river running, here are some river kayaking tips to supercharge your run and have longer, stronger and happier days in your kayak.
Tip 1: Eat breakfast
There are so many details involved in getting to the river—ideally with all your gear—that its easy to feel too rushed for breakfast. Skip the first meal of the day however, and you will not only have low energy but will also be less equipped to handle cold conditions. Make the time to prepare a breakfast with protein, complex carbohydrates and some fruit. Think an egg and bacon sandwich on whole wheat toast and a smoothie or oatmeal with peanut butter and blueberries.
Tip 2: Take rest days
When you have the time and freedom to paddle, it’s tempting to want to be on the river every day. Like any other sport however, your body needs rest days. If you’ve been paddling for so many consecutive days you can’t recall your last time on land, schedule a day to take it easy. Sleep in, stretch and eat nutritious food. Taking care of your body will allow you to be a better paddler and push your limits further.
Tip 3: Avoid (or at least limit) hangovers
Having beers with paddling friends is a great way to celebrate an awesome day on the river. If you want to amp up your river running, try to avoid going too wild and getting into your boat the next day with a hangover. Hangovers can limit our cognitive functioning, reaction time and memory, all factors that can affect your performance on the river (or at the very worst compromise safety). Your body on a hangover is also seriously dehydrated, so a day of strenuous activity will feel much tougher than it should.
Tip 4: Foam roll after kayaking
When you return from the river, resist the urge to sink into the couch and instead spend 20 minutes using a foam roller. These inexpensive tools smooth and lengthen your muscles and can increase your paddling performance. Foam rollers are also a great tool to use when recovering from muscle injuries, although you should be sure to consult a physiotherapist or other professional for advice specific to your ailment. Using them before stretching is a great routine to adopt to supercharge your river running.
Tip 5: Use visualization
Visualization is a powerful tool that helps prepare for challenging or new situations. Athletes like Tiger Woods uses mental rehearsal to prepare for high stakes situations. Whitewater kayaker Nouria Newman likes to sit in her boat before a race, close her eyes and visualize each gate she will go through on the run. Next time you come to a rapid, try sitting on the shore after you’ve scouted and visualize every move you want to make.
Tip 6: Bring the right snacks
Being hungry on the river is an easy way to lose focus. Take time to pack filling and nutrient dense snacks and a lunch to keep you satisfied and full of energy. Snacks that offer complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber are good choices. Think beef jerky, cheese strings, fruit, nuts and energy bars. Make sure you pack things that you will actually eat and keep them in an accessible place so you don’t put off eating until you are weak, cold and cranky.
Putting these tips into practice
Whitewater kayaking can be a blast, but the physical and mental exertion means that you may feel depleted during your trip. With a bit of planning and some careful consideration you can get the most out of the experience. Keep these six river kayaking tips in mind when you next hit the swifts and your run will be one to remember.