Mind set

Beating the Covid-19 Blues as a Kayaker

As a kayaker and an outdoors enthusiast, I completely understand how important exercise, adventuring and being outdoors is for people’s mental health. Since starting kayaking, getting out on the water has played a fundamental role in my happiness and well being. Part of the reason I enjoy my sport is because it helps me to manage the stresses in my life. We are currently in a stressful situation and just as everybody’s personal circumstances are different, their coping mechanisms will also be different. But for those of us who use sports to regulate our emotions, the fact that we are currently unable to engage in that sport can leave us feeling particularly blue. Rather than letting it get to me, I have tried to refocus my energies during this time on other things which are helping me to stay positive. As many of these are specific to me as a a kayaker, I thought I would share some with others. Whether you are a fellow paddler, an outdoors lover or just someone who is feeling a little sad right now, please feel free to read on if you think it may help you.

1. Getting in shape

Something I have really enjoyed over these last weeks is being able to have a refocus on my physical health. In kayaking, people are often looking for quick fixes in order to improve. Improving your fitness, strength and flexibility can massively help with your kayaking and is often underrated. Life is busy and having a regular exercise routine doesn’t always take priority but now it can! We have been given an opportunity to finally do that daily workout, take up yoga or complete those recommended conditioning exercises. Personally I already ran for fitness but it has been really nice to get back into yoga again. Increased flexibility is something that I hope will help me for when this is over and it’s time to get in the playboat! Perhaps what I lack in skill can be made up for my increased bendiness! (I am pretty sure that is not a word but I have said flexibility a lot so fancied a change).

Trying to relive my gymnastics days during my yoga sessions!

2. Going through old media

I am very lucky in that I spend a lot of my time on the water with people who are very good at taking photos. As I am out on the water so frequently, I have a huge store of photos that have been shared with me but I have yet to use. It has been really nice to go through old media and to be able to share previously unseen photos and videos. It has been equally nice to see the old media of friends who have done the same. Realising that once upon a time, your friend was as much of a beater as you is a wonderful thing.

I am old school in that I also like to have physical photo albums. I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed making these. The reason why is because with every photo I can relive the adventure/story behind it. Whilst I don’t own a Gopro, I imagine that now would be an excellent time to edit old footage and make some memorabilia videos for yourself for similar reasons. You will be surprised by how much you can lift your mood by reliving some old adventures.

3. Planning future trips

Just because you can’t go on any trips at the moment, does not mean that you can’t plan them for the future! I am the kind of girl who does things pretty last minute. I always know that I will be going on adventures come the weekend, the details just tend to be added later on. (Deciding at 10pm on a Friday to go to Wales for the weekend is a common occurrence.) However, the bigger trips usually need a little more thought. I think something that puts people off going on big trips can be all the effort that is needed to pull it off. A lot of that effort comes from having to research the trip in the first place. Well, we have the time now!

There is a chance to talk to people about their past trips and gain inspiration or discuss new ideas with friends. Make lists of places you would be interested in going to and then do the research to see which ones are viable. I am sure we must be running out of online group quizzes to complete. Why not have a video chat one night with your normal paddling buddies and come up with some ideas together. You do not need to book anything, but having something to look forward to is always a good thing to stay motivated.

Screenshot of the google page when  you type in 'best places to go white water kayaking'
If in doubt, google has your back!

4. Practice makes perfect

Have you ever thrown a throw line and missed? I have. Most recently on an advanced white water and safety course. An entire rafting group had waited to watch whilst I threw the first line. When I missed, I was met with a chorus of ‘wheyyyy!’ from the group and a mental note that I needed to brush up on my throw line skills. Whilst we may not be able to practice on the water, practicing on land can still be a good use of time. Those of you who have children, spouses or housemates to aim for – even better!

It’s also a good time to brush up on your rope work. Whilst the chances of pinning a boat in the garden are slim, the opportunity to work on z-drags and using mechanical advantage are yours for the taking. Chris Brain has written an excellent summary called Safety and Rescue Essentials. As the chances of us all swimming are going to be higher after a long break from kayaking, let’s at least make sure we are ready for dealing with it!

Photo of 30 kayakers stood in a line and all throwing throw bags towards the camera.
The chance to win Palm’s Throwbag Olympics should be motivation enough to work on your skills! Photo from this event at T-Fest, 2019, taken by Tom Clare.

5. Enjoying the little things

This one is a little more applicable to non-kayakers as well. Take the time to enjoy the small things in life. It is not the life most people would choose right now, but we can still enjoy it. From day one, I have tried to find something positive from each day and share it with others online. I’ve baked cakes, read books, found new local walking routes, video called my loved ones and started a blog. Normally I would be so busy fitting in my adventures with my everyday life, I would not do a lot of these things. So I am going to enjoy it. There are days I may feel sad that I cannot get out in my boat and that’s okay. Remembering how lucky I am in so many other ways helps those feelings to go away.

A girl stood in a field at dusk , wearing a dark green coat and black jeans.
Sunset walks: Tom Clare

If you are still reading, I hope that helped in some way. Just remember, this isn’t forever. And I look forward to seeing you all on the water!

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