The Inland Paddler: My Covid-19 Non-Paddling Life

Perhaps I need to change the title of my posts here to “The Inside Paddler” since the Stay At Home Orders where I am have closed the lakes where I would normally be training. So, like many of you, I have turned to other forms of exercise. Reluctantly.

I have recently found that getting into some sort of routine and having a schedule has made a huge impact on my mental outlook as well as how I am feeling physically.  The routine I have established – pollen be damned – is at least one if not two hour-long walks through the neighborhood daily.  I try to time them so that I am out when there fewer people on the sidewalks, or when the 20-30 somethings who live in the adjacent apartment complexes are not having a “U Honk, We Drink” party in one of the common areas leading into my subdivision.  So, that means a sunrise walk with my black lab Cooper and usually a post-sunset evening walk as well.

One thing I have found immensely helpful during these sessions, especially since the options for varying routes are slim and the potential for boredom high, is to listen to a walking meditation program.  The Calm app has one that allows you to set the meditation time up to 30 minutes. The Headspace meditation app has several shorter options, and the Meditation Oasis app has the largest selection to choose from.  Using one of these programs helps me tune into the present during my walk, so I get the added benefit of physical as well as helpful mental exercise as well.

Many yoga and fitness studios have tapped into technology and have been offering classes online and this has been a godsend for me.  My favorite local studio is tailoring their schedule to yoga classes especially designed for getting through this difficult time and it’s been great to reconnect with my favorite instructors. Likewise, I have been able to sample classes in other studios, both locally and out of state, in conjunction with being able to take advantage of Paddle Monster’s offerings on the Facebook page. In one recent session, as we did some great should stretches, I was reminded how important this kind of work is to paddling and that I have been neglecting it.  Note to self: keep the yoga going even after quarantine is over!!!!

But the one thing that has been lacking in my Covid Quarantine strategy has been the higher intensity cardio. So, in addition to breaking out all my balance toys (Indo board, bosu, Goof board, etc) I dusted off the rowing machine.  Now, it’s nothing special – a relatively inexpensive BodyTrac Glider from Amazon. It was under $200 when I bought it a couple of years ago and I’ve used it maybe twice heretofore. It’s foldable and doesn’t take up much space.

Let it be known that, first of all, I detest working out inside. I am a paddler who paddles year round. But, given our current situation, which for me is exacerbated by respiratory issues associated with extreme pollen, using some sort of indoor trainer seems to be the best option for me to get my heart rate up. The bike trainer – meh. Nothing bores me more. So, in the interest of trying something new, I moved the little used rowing machine into the the living room and set it up so I could at least row whilst watching CNN.  Maybe at least get some benefit to my blood boiling during the afternoon press briefings.

Desperate Times Deserve Desperate Actions.

So, first session, I strapped myself in and put on my favorite paddle workout playlist. My Empowered playlist on Spotify, to be exact. I start out nice and easy, with the intention of doing just 20 minutes.  Give myself a doable goal and work into this easy-like.

The music definitely helped.  The resistant in my arms definitely helped.  While the motion is not at all like SUP paddling, it wasn’t hard to feel a bit of a relationship to surfski paddling, especially in my legs, and especially if I used my imagination.  Engage the imagination and I could visualize being on the water.  I was getting into a paddle rhythm that was not unfamiliar. That felt good. Better than I expected it too.

The easy warm up was quickly over and my playlist launched into a series of kickass Stevie Nicks songs – “Stand Back”, “Rooms on Fire”, “I can’t Wait”. Next thing I know my Level Two heart rate session has become a Level Three Session.  Next thing I know, I’ve done 30 minutes, not 20. And, I may or may not have jumped out of the seat, grabbed my near-by OC paddle and performed one heck of a guitar solo, followed by a perfect Stevie lace shawl twirl using a down blanket.

All of that to say, I had fun.

Inside.  On a repetitive gym machine. And I am actually looking forward to doing it again.

To help stave off monotony, I have made a YouTube playlist of OC 6 races and channel crossing and what not so that I can perhaps match the cadence of the paddlers as I row. At least that will help with the creative visualization part.  And there is no reason why I cannot do my Paddle Monster workouts this way. I can even move the machine out on my deck when weather and pollen permits if I so choose.

The last thing I will say about all of this is that key to my positive experience, I think, was giving myself permission to just do an easy workout at first. Or permission to just walk around the neighborhood, or take that yoga class. I think the pressure I put on myself to keep up regular paddle training even though I really cannot, was making me feel guilty and that guilt was keeping my butt on the couch. Funny how that works, huh? But once I realized that response to the pandemic was not sustainable, for any number of reasons, and once I let go of my own preconceptions about what I SHOULD be doing, I felt better. Once I realized it is okay to do something other than paddling and only for 20 minutes or so, it was easier to get going.  And I had fun.

If there’s one thing we all need now, it’s fun.