Five reasons to love Canoecopia

Last weekend marked another outstanding Canoecopia. While some might just consider this a consumer trade show, it’s much more than that to me. Here are my top 5 reasons to love Canoecopia:

  1. It’s the annual early season family reunion for paddlers . Friends you haven’t seen in months and some that you only see once a year come together to celebrate a new season on the water.
  2. The speakers are amazing. More than 180 presentations from over 100 speakers showcase a vast knowledge base. The experiences they share from stunning destinations around the globe are mind-blowing. Greek Islands, the Kongakut River emptying out in the Arctic Ocean, 50 plus foot tidal range in the Bay of Fundy, and South Haven, Michigan…each has it’s own beauty and a story to tell.
  3. While we’re on the topic, I am truly honored to have been selected as a speaker again this year. Personally, the event becomes more fun each time I attend. This year was my fifth year presenting. Friday I shared exercises from Power to the Paddle and Sunday introduced guests to ideas to perfectly pack their kayak for a multi-day trip.
  4. Clubs, not-for-profits, symposium organizers, National Parks, small grassroots companies, and others are featured in the lobby and have a free opportunity to meet the public and spread their mission. One of the newer booths in the lobby was The Outdoor Kind. John and Jan Van Barriger founded the company whose products and programs help support safety education and provide funding to North America’s first responders in rural areas.
  5. It’s a 250,000 square feet paddler’s toy store. Whitewater, sea kayaks, canoes, surf skis, SUPs, and all the accessories you need, and a few that you did know you needed can be found here. Because all the inventory is Rutabaga’s own and repped by the manufacturers (like Werner), every dollar spent helps keep a small, local shop in business. Online shopping is great for some things, but try stopping in at Amazon’s warehouse to check out a product or ask them to do a repair.  Support your local shop, wherever they are.

If you’ve attended Canoecopia, I’m sure you will agree. If you haven’t attended yet, I hope to see you in 2019!


Meet me at Canoecopia – March 9-11, 2018

I am pleased to be speaking on two different topics at this year’s Canoecopia event (March 9-11, 2018).

Power to the Paddle: Exercises to Improve your Canoe and Kayak Paddling

Join my fun hands-on session where you’ll learn and practice functional exercises to help you paddle longer, faster, and stronger. Learn simple exercises requiring little or no equipment and targeting crucial muscles to be a better paddler, build endurance,and prevent injury. You’ll improve your outdoor experience and become the best paddler you can be!

Immediately following the presentation, I will be signing books and DVDs in the Authors Corner in the Main Lobby under the stairway.

Perfectly Pack your Kayak for a Multi-Day Trip

Loading your personal and shared group gear in your boat is part art and part science. This hands-on workshop will equip you with tips and tricks to pack your kit for a dry, safe and enjoyable multi-day journey without having to cut the handle off your toothbrush.

In addition to my presentations, you’ll find more than 180 presentations and pool demos and a 250,000 square foot show floor packed full of all the boats, boards, and paddling gear you could ever want.  Learn more about the show at


Use indoor rowing to stay strong for outdoor paddling

The water here in the US Midwest is crunchy this time of year, making paddling a bit challenging. Sure, it’s ridiculously cold, but unfortunately here in the Chicago area we don’t have enough snow to break out the snowshoes or cross country skis and too much for anything other than a fat bike. For now, that leaves indoor workouts.

Fortunately one of the best pieces of equipment in your local fitness center is probably also one of the most lightly used in the room. The Concept 2 rower, or my new favorite flavor, the Water Rower, engages more than 80% of the body’s muscles, working them in a similar fashion to paddling.

A few keys to success:

  • Roughly half the work should come from the upper body and half from the lower body. Focus on using both rather than relying on the upper body.
  • Set the foot straps up so they come across your foot right at the base of your toes.
  • If you’re using the Concept 2, avoid the temptation to set the damper too high. Most people set it at the highest setting (10) because they’re not rowing properly and lower setting don’t feel challenging enough. A setting between 3-5 simulates the resistance of water and puts much less stress on the upper body while creating a smoother stroke.
  • Think Legs, Core, Arms…Arms, Core, Legs. When you start your drive, move the legs first. As the legs begin to straighten, engage the lats and lean the core back slightly, followed by pulling with the arms. Keep the wrists straight through the pull and have your hands meet the body right at the base of your rib cage. Begin your recovery in reverse: Straighten the arms out first. As they begin to reach your knees lean forward while keeping the core tight, and lastly bend the knees to finish.

Concept 2 has produced a few excellent videos and descriptions on proper form. Check them out and get the most from your indoor row.


Power to the Paddle Companion DVD is here!

Thank you to those who have read and benefited from my book, Power to the Paddle: Exercises to Improve your Canoe and Kayak paddling”.  I have loved hearing the feedback and your stories of how it’s helped create better paddlers.

I am very excited to announce that the long-awaited companion DVD, bringing life to the exercises in the book, is now available. Each year at Canoecopia and other venues where the book has been sold, you’ve been asking me to create a DVD. It’s been quite a project and this year, everything came together to make it happen.

The DVD includes videos of more than 50 exercise demonstrations from the book to help you perform each with proper form.

Get your copy now!



It’s you or your gear

Paddlers are gearheads. No question about it. We all love adding a new piece of equipment to our arsenal or a new boat to the fleet. Each fancy geegaw brings the promise of new adventures and sometimes new capabilities.

Some things are truly technological advances that will help us get to places we might not otherwise be able to go. Think you’re going to throw that aluminum Grumman on your head and trot on down the trail? Probably not. But that high tech model you’ve had your eye on… the one that could survive a fall off an apartment building without a crack and still be light enough to easily portage? Now that’s what we’re talking about.

The titanium handleless spork that shaved three ounces off your kit while lightening your wallet by $30 might be a different story. I have a friend who constantly picks up the latest whiz bang product to promise him a lighter load.

He’s got great gear. It’s really light. He’s not.

We spend a lot of time making lighter and stronger versions of our kit, but we frequently neglect creating lighter stronger versions of ourselves.  Could your next $300 be better spent on improving you vs. your gear?


Don’t miss Canoecopia March 11-13

Power to the Paddle at CanoecopiaI’ll be speaking at this year’s Canoecopia event.

Join my fun hands-on session where you’ll learn and practice functional exercises to help you paddle longer, faster, and stronger. Learn simple exercises requiring little or no equipment and targeting crucial muscles to be a better paddler, build endurance,and prevent injury. You’ll improve your outdoor experience and become the best paddler you can be!

If you’re planning to come to the show, I’ll be speaking Friday, March 11 at 6:30 pm in the Atrium.

In addition to my presentation, you’ll find more than 175 presentations and pool demos and a show floor packed full of all the boats, boards, and paddling gear you could ever want.  Learn more about the show at

I hope to see you there this weekend.



Balance for paddlers

Paddling is always unstable (some say the same about many paddlers). Just getting in the boat can be a balancing act of it’s own. Once you’re in the boat you’re always mindful of your positioning to keep the hairy side up.

I am not a big proponent of combining a lot of weight with balance exercises. Search the Internet and you’re sure to find someone juggling dumbbells while standing on a stability ball. That’s just an ER visit waiting to happen. Today’s post is about simple ways to train our bodies to adapt to everyday balance challenges.

Our bodies more in three planes of motion:

  • The sagittal plane is characterised by forward and back movement.
  • The frontal plane includes movement to your right and left.
  • The transverse plane involves rotation around the spine.

If we fail to include movement in all three planes in our training program, we leave ourselves open to the possibility of injury and imbalance.

We can quickly and easily progress, or regress, our training to account for balance.

The simplest position requiring the least compensation for balance is seated on a bench or chair. In this position, we can focus solely on the task at hand and not worry about falling.

Next is standing on two feet with the feet approximately hip width apart. This is our most stable standing position.

From here we progress to standing with our feet next to each other, parallel to one another but close to each other, staggered and far apart, and finally to single legged.

Fabio Comana does an excellent job describing these balance positions and showing progression through positions and planes of movement in this video.



What is torso rotation?

Torso rotation is critical to paddling success.  As instructors, we talk about it all the time. But what does it really mean, what causes it to happen, and most importantly how do you train for it?

Let’s start by defining where torso rotation comes from.  When most people hear “the core” in relation to their bodies, they instantly think of the abs.  While your abs are one part of your core, they’re just one part.  The core of your body is composed of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and all of the muscles that attach to it.  That means you’re dealing with muscles including the abs (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and obliques), spinal erectors, chest, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, glutes, and more.  You’re using all of the muscles of the midsection of your body with exception of the extremities.  These muscles are responsible for support all basic movement of your body.  They keep you sitting upright in your seat. They keep you from collapsing as your walk.  They’re responsible for bending, flexing, extending, and yes, rotating.

Now, let’s talk about what torso rotation looks like in a paddling situation.  Picture yourself in your boat, eyes fixed forward and shoulders solidly positioned remaining perpendicular to your boat.  You’re paddling hard, but all the power is coming from your arms.  Now, picture yourself in the boat and placing the right side blade in the water at the 2 o’clock position.  Rather than leaning forward to dip the blade to the water, you turn your body, from the waist up to increase your range of motion.  The blade sinks into the water, but instead of just pulling with your arms you keep a slight bend at the elbow and rotate your right shoulder toward the stern while the left shoulder moves toward the bow.

That’s torso rotation in action. You’re using the power of the large muscles of your midsection to create your paddle stroke rather than the small muscles of your arms.  Training for more efficient torso rotation involves a combination of activities to improve flexibility and exercises that load the body when performing that type of movement.

Here’s a quick and easy test.  Grab a broomstick for this test.

1. Start by sitting cross legged on the floor inside an open door frame and facing the frame

2. Place the broomstick across your shoulders with your arms draped over the stick

3. Without moving your legs, rotate your shoulders as far as you can with your goal being to get the stick to hit the door frame

If you can get to the door frame, you have pretty decent trunk flexibility and mobility. If not, you’ll want to work on improving your these areas to help you use your core effectively.  A strong core without good flexibility and mobility will always limit your movement.


Resistance Band Exercises for Paddlers

Resistance bands are a great tool.  They’re portable, they don’t limit you to the indoor world, and they’re progressive, meaning the more load you place on the band the more resistance it provides to you.

Today’s post will introduce you to a few of the ways you can use a resistance band to develop better stability and strength through the core, shoulders, back, and chest.


Energy Balance

Without balance, it all falls apart

The advice I’m going to give you today doesn’t involve diet pills or potions or any other crazy things you’ll find in your local drug store.  It’s not even directly related to exercise, but it is important to help you be a better paddler.

It’s rare that I meet someone who isn’t interested in shedding a few pounds from their frame and canoe and kayak paddlers are no exception.  As a paddler, losing a few pounds will help you move more efficiently, improve your endurance, and help you be more comfortable in your boat.

The secret to successful weight loss is energy balance.  Weight loss is based on a very simple equation.

Calories in – calories out = excess or deficit

It sounds simple, and in reality, it is.  If you eat more calories than your body uses, you gain weight.  If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you lose weight.  Just like paddling, weight loss is a balancing act too.

There are factors that complicate this and can affect your results, but ultimately that equation is the most important part.  We tend to want to complicate this too much by talking about which specific foods to eat and when, glycemic indexes, supplements, and other stuff. Do a quick Google search and you’ll come across endless arguments on why this approach won’t work and this diet or that diet is the solution.

Ultimately though, mess up that equation and it’s guaranteed that you’ll fail.

The question that’s probably on your mind is “how do I determine the amount of calories I need to eat and what I need to burn to lose weight”.

There are many wearable trackers on the market today.  One tool I have used is the BodyMedia FIT.  The Body Media FIT gives you a body monitoring device that will track your activity minute by minute to tell you how many calories you’re using.  You’ll have access to a website to log your food intake and match that to your calorie expenditure as measured by the monitoring device.  I’ve been wearing one for awhile and find the data and results to be very accurate.

An alternative is to use a web-based calculator to determine how many calories you need to eat and then use a web-based service like or measure and track your intake and expenditure manually. While not nearly as accurate as tracking with something like the Body Media FIT, you’ll have much better information than nothing at all.

Finally, keep a record of what’s going in and what you’re expending.  When logging your food, keep in mind that on average we underestimate the amount of calories we eat by 30-50% and overestimate the amount of activity we perform by 20-30%.  The more truthful you are with yourself and your logging, the better your results.

Here’s a great infographic that describes the process very well.

Whichever method you use, the key is to make sure you track what’s going in and the energy that’s going out.  Yes, it takes time and effort. But anything worth doing is worth doing right, correct?