Contributing writer, JD Desrosiers, shares with us some great tools to help transform yourself into a stronger and better kayak angler using cross training as a tool. Using cross training and flexibility can increase your performance and safeguard against injury.
I have been paddling for over 8 years now, and I wish I had found this amazing community and lifestyle earlier. Before paddling I was a sponsored snowboarder for 10 years, and rode hard a few times a week, but the stress to always compete well drove me out of the sport. While I was snowboarding I used my mountain bike to crosstrain, and to help keep me in peak performance. After leaving the snow life, I made the choice to step deeper and further into mountain biking. I enjoyed free riding, and racing downhill with my crew. After landing a few sponsors and riding to my limit for another 8 years, I was back in the hole of having to always stay at the top of the sport regionally. After a two year break, I landed into my first serious fishing kayak, and I fell deeply in love with our sport.
I can remember walking along the South Carolina mountain river banks of the Eastatoe fishing with my grandpa at a very young age. So fishing has always been in my blood, and now that I am fishing from top performing kayaks I love this community even more. I am usually talking about kayaking, fishing, rigging, or hanging out with fellow kayak anglers. But up until last year there were two things I did not ever think of and that was Cross Training and Injury. Over the last two years I have began to work more and more on Cross Training, and think about how this tool can push me to the next level. There are many ways to Cross Train, but the key is to train properly and to learn how to use your body for the way it was designed. Until just recently I never knew or understood how or why flexibility is so important to not only your work out, but to your daily life.
I live in the foothills of South Carolina, and I have been raised in the mountains. So naturally one of my methods for Cross Training is hiking. Now I know a lot of folks that go out and casually walk around in the woods, but I am not talking about this. I am referring to packing my Granite Gear backpack with +10lbs and striding out at a faster pace scaling up and down 7-13 mile trails, smack dab in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. By carrying a load you are forcing your legs, lungs and core to work harder to get you to the summit. I feed on steep and long climbs that twist their way through the forest. At times your legs and lungs are screaming for relief, but you have to push through, and push to that next level. There is something about trudging up and down 3600 feet of elevation gain and loss on a 13.5 mile trail in one day. Without a doubt hiking will help your cardio immensely for paddling!
As I mentioned before, I used to racing downhill mountain bikes, just recently I have started working cycling back into my Cross Training regime. The reasons I enjoy being on the bike is freedom, hearing the wind in my ears. I feel like a kid again. I can set goals to try and achieve and conquer, and cardio/core strength. These two go hand in hand while cycling, because you have to learn how to breathe properly in order to maintain a stronger core to dig deep through the longer rides. The bike I have chosen to help elevate my kayak fishing to an entirely new level is the Leader Cure single speed. This machine is a fast, simple, and nimble road bike with flat bars similar to a mountain bike. I have only had my Leader a few weeks, but I can already tell a big difference in my overall breathing, and core strength.
I am very blessed and fortunate that I live on Lake Cunningham in the upstate of Palmetto State, so another fantastic way to Cross Train is slipping into my Wilderness Systems Zepher 160 and ripping out the miles in my backyard. This is probably the best core Cross Training exercises that I do. The bonus to this method of training is that I can concentrate on my paddle stroke, and form. Keeping a high cadence I can keep my core extremely tight, breathing comes naturally, and I can hammer down and watch the blades of my paddle pierce the water as I glide through the miles. Back on October 24th in 2016, I woke up at 5:30am to start my day and go to work, but when my feet hit the floor I instantly doubled over with pain. A few days later I figured out that I severely pitched a few nerves in my lower back area. I took me just over a month to get over this injury, which was odd because I never get sick, and I have always bounced back quickly from injuries.
On December the 2nd,2016 I was at Confluence Watersports hanging out with the crew, and when I went to get in my truck to leave it felt like someone had shot me in my back. I could not sit down, I could not straighten my legs, and all I could do was roll out of my truck and gasp for air in the parking lot. After trying to stretch for over 20 minutes, I finally made the decision to crawl back in my truck and try to get back home. After having excruciating pain and muscle spasm in my lower back, and having my right leg go completely numb I made the choice to go to the doctor. 3 x-rays and 2 shots in my lower back I found out that I had severely pulled a handful of nerves in my lower back, plus severely pitched my sciatic nerve. As I laid around the house for 4 days I all I could think about was how and the heck did I get so badly injured? Well I soon would have my answer…
After a ton of hesitation I decide to take my amazing wife’s advice and go see Dr. David Carter at Apogee Therapy Center. I was nervous and skeptic, but I can tell you first hand this is one of the best moves I have ever made at staying healthy. Dr. Carter took his time examining my injuries, and then explained thoroughly what caused all of my pain. Until David explained how important flexibility is I never knew or understood how being flexible can really change your life. Dr. Carter explained to me how extremely tight my hamstrings and Achilles tendons were. David put me on an epic plan to full recovery, I was set to twice a week for 6 weeks. While being at Physical Therapy I would complete various stretches and movements to help me fully heal and to stretch my hamstrings and Achilles tendons like they have never been stretched before. While he worked me out and stretched me like a rubber band I started asking him more and more questions about what motivates him, and pushes him to want to help people. I quickly learned that David really enjoys his hand on approach, and forming a bond with each patient that walks into his practice. Dr. Carter’s father also practiced Physical Therapy, so it was natural for David to follow suit in his father’s footsteps. He believes in healing from the inside and correcting what is functionally wrong with the body, and not medicate an injury.
“You have to be functionally sound, we have to use our bodies for the way they were designed. If not you will get injured or you will not use your body to its fullest potential. You have to educate your clients on why they are injured and how to maintain themselves for the rest of their lives in order to get the most out of their bodies.”-Dr. David Carter
After a ton of hard work at home and with the help of David I was discharged from PT in 4 weeks, 2 weeks early. Since starting and going regularly to PT I have not had any issues at all with my back or sciatic nerve. I can proudly say that for the first time in my life I can easily touch my toes, almost place my palms flat on the ground, and I am back harder than ever on my daily push up routine. Cross Training, Flexibility, Core Strength and Cardio will for sure help you push to the next level and beyond. I do throw a few weight work outs in for overall strength, but I firmly believe I getting out in nature for some serious Cross Training, maintaining your Core Strength, and staying flexible. I hope this sheds light on how you can paddle harder, further, and land more fish than you ever thought you could.
About the Author
JD Desrosiers currently paddles for the Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Adventure Technology, SPY Optics, and Astral Pro Staffs, and is truly honored to be able to represent all these amazing teams. JD enjoys paddling smaller waters, rivers, swamps in South Carolina and intercoastal creeks of the Southeast. JD has a strong passion for writing, photography, conservation, and teaching others about the outdoors. Hope to see you on the water and stay safe.