Healthy Paddling: Cross-Training for Success

Swimming can provide beneficial cross-training for paddlers. 

Swimming can provide beneficial cross-training for paddlers. 

Although we might like to, we cannot be in a kayak or on a paddleboard all day every day, but we can do certain things to improve our strength and efficiency as paddlers even when we’re stuck on land. Cross-training will boost your abilities and can also help you avoid paddling related injuries. 

It’s easy to understand the desire to spend long days paddling in Southwest Florida. Aerobics and endurance training can make that possible. Swimming is an aerobic cross-training activity that will directly augment your paddling. It offers an added bonus of working key core and shoulder muscles that are – you guessed it – also used in paddling. Plus, swimming in the pool or in open water helps prepare one for those occasional mishaps that take us from aboard to overboard.

When paddling, one should always use big muscles much more than small muscles. This means that efficient paddling is powered by the core, and exercises that target the abs are incredibly beneficial. Also consider the benefits of yoga for major paddling muscles. Yoga combines core strength benefits with breathing and awareness, which can help you to better evaluate and understand your form on the water. 

Because the shoulders take a beating while paddling, it is also important to strengthen the muscles around your rotator cuff to avoid serious and possibly long-term injury. Keeping your elbows below your shoulders whenever possible while paddling is also sound advice for injury prevention.  

A well-executed cross-training program will help you see an improvement in your paddling in no time. Much of this exercise can also be completed outdoors, in the sunshine. Have fun, stay safe, and happy paddling!

Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.