Kayaking for Beginners: Getting a Life

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The adventure continues.

Getting a Life

A white kayak.

Actually, I do also still have a life that isn't centred around kayaking. Although it does sometimes seem that even that is being subsumed into the kayaking world, and the whole kayaking thing does seem to be becoming more and more predominant.

As previously mentioned, due to staff shortages at my old firm I was requested to do a few days work for them. Those few days have now turned into almost a month that will finish in in mid October. Unfortunately that means curtailed paddling time leaving only a couple of weekdays and weekends to get out on the water, so I have to use whatever time I have productively.

I found that I could still work on the body rotation problem even during slack times at work by simply carrying out the twist at the hips, then at the waist and again at the shoulders while simply standing with my arms folded. However, this does seem to raise the odd eyebrow and quizzical look as I perform these motion, and it also still seems to slightly unnerve those that I'm talking to at the same time. Of course I do try to explain why I'm twisting backwards and forwards while I'm talking to them, but the 'Ah... yes' reply doesn't seem that they are entirely convinced that I should have been brought back out of retirement. Nevertheless, it seems to be a quite useful exercise and shows up the minimal rotation at the shoulders. There isn't very much.

Weirdly enough, I found some old videos of a club, long-distance, kayak race on the Thames that I took about eighteen months ago. It involved about a hundred competitors of all different ages and abilities racing around one of the islands near Walton-on-Thames. It was one of the national 'Hasler' races, so named after 'Blondie' Hasler, the leader of the kayak raid on shipping, in the port of Bordeaux in 1942, other wise known as the 'Cockleshell Heroes'. Just out of interest I went through my film to look at the styles and techniques of the participants, and the awful thing was that I could see only two of them that had any discernible body rotation at all. Almost all of them, experienced and novice alike, seemed transfixed in a bolt-upright posture using arms like flails. On the whole I'm beginning to wonder if I'm trying to achieve the impossible as far as technique is concerned.

Just before getting the request from work I had made the mistake of undertaking to replace the garden shed that is quietly mouldering and now falling down at the bottom of the garden. Initially I was just going to replace it like for like, size for size, which should have been a straightforward enough task. Mrs Deke however, decreed that we needed a 'bigger' one. Eventually we found and bought a reasonably priced, larger affair of the 'potting-shed' variety, and what was to have been a fairly simple weekend exercise turned into a major source of 'core' exercises.

First there was the extending of the concrete base. This involved digging out the bed to about six inches deep, lots of twisting while lifting there. Then wheel-barrowing the spoil to the other end of the garden, involving more lifting and pushing. Then breaking up bricks for hardcore and tamping that down into place with a lump hammer . Next, wheel-barrowing in twenty, 25kg bags of concrete mix and mixing with water to lay the base. Finally, demolishing the old shed, and clearing away the debris to the skip in the road in the front of the house, provided enough lifting, twisting and humping for a real fun weekend.

In fact it was quite a weekend work-out, and quite shattering. With any luck it will have made some sort difference to overall fitness, but it was back-breaking work for the whole weekend and certainly substituted for any exercise regime that I could have dreamed up. I've felt the after-effects for the last week but the stiffness is beginning to ease and stretching exercises are helping somewhat. Despite all this however, my weight isn't decreasing as much as I would like, and Mr Buddha still lives. My weight sticks resolutely at just under the fourteen stone mark, which is almost the same as that which I started with. Neither have I yet started to develop that characteristic shape of the competitive kayaker, like Olympians Ed McKeever or Tim Brabants, which looks like a triangle stood on its apex, broad of shoulder and snaky of hip.

But then, I still have the new shed to erect over the coming weekend.

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