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.


Power to the Paddle is now in print

The long-awaited print version of Power to the Paddle: Exercises to Improve your Canoe and Kayak Paddling is now available.

Power to the Paddle Book Cover

This comprehensive manual will show you more than 50 exercises to help you be a stronger, lighter, and more confident paddler. Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, Power to the Paddle will take you to the next level.

* Learn exercises to develop core stability and strength
* Develop a personal fitness program
* Maintain better posture in your boat
* Gain endurance to handle long days in the boat
* Reduce tension in your shoulders and low back
* Protect your body against common paddling injuries
* Improve your balance and agility

Praise for Power to the Paddle:

With a minimum of equipment, Power to the Paddle provides a total body workout with clear and concise instructions on how to develop the flexibility, strength and endurance for paddlers. – John Browning-ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor Trainer

As a popular speaker at Canoecopia, John always packs the room with folks wanting to learn more about how to get and stay fit for their next on-water adventure. This book is sure to be a great help to paddlers of any experience level. – Nancy Saulsbury, Rutabaga Paddlesports

The best way to get in shape for paddling is to paddle”. Reality, or an excuse to neglect off-water training?  In “Power to Paddle: Exercises to Improve your Canoe and Kayak Paddling” John presents a solid case for off-water training for everyone from the casual paddler to professionals. Not only is the case convincing, but John gives you the tools to improve your fitness for paddling and overall fitness. Solid step-by-step exercises will help develop flexibility, endurance and strength. I will be taking this book with me to the gym and in my kayak on expeditions. – Ryan Rushton, Owner, Geneva Kayak Center and ACA Level 5 Advanced Open Water Instructor Trainer

Get it here! Tell your friends too!


Do your feet fall asleep in your kayak?

Man, my feet are tired!

I’ve had many people tell me that their feet fall asleep when they’re kayaking.  For many people, the cause of this isn’t actually at the feet, but it’s a result of tight hamstrings and glutes.

If the hamstrings and glutes are overly stressed or inflamed, additional pressure is placed on the nerves causing pins and needles in your feet.   One of the most effective ways to release tension on the glutes and hamstrings is through use of a foam roller.

Watch the view below where I show you how a few ways to use the foam roller to help restore your body to it’s optimal level of function.