I can’t kayak right now: I miss it but I will be back soon!

I originally called this article ‘I can’t kayak and it sucks’ but figured that wasn’t a positive frame of mind to be writing under. I’ve experienced some health issues recently that have meant I’ve not been able to paddle or live my usual active lifestyle. I wanted to update people on why I have been absent from the water and social media. As someone who always has a lot of words, I thought it was easier to share via a blog post.

I also thought this would be a good opportunity to share the things about paddling that I am missing the most. The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is definitely appropriate here. Over the last couple of months there are certain things that paddling gives me that I have been missing. In some ways not been able to paddle has given me a fresh perspective on my motivations for paddling and I wanted to share those.

Why I have been absent

I have had poor health since about mid January of this year. For a month I just seemed to have endless viral infections consisting of colds, headaches and general feelings of exhaustion. I work in a school and come into contact with hundreds to thousands of people every day and therefore being unwell is not unusual. Some winters you get unlucky and just seem to pick up a lot of ‘winter bugs’ so I wasn’t too concerned. By about mid February I seemed to have gotten over the worst of it and was no longer ill but was feeling extremely tired.

Unfortunately this tiredness then seemed to extend into dizziness and I had a week of feeling increasingly light headed and weak. This ended rather dramatically with me fainting in front of 30 fifteen year olds and then being admitted into hospital for a weekend. This happened 5 weeks ago and I am (albeit quite slowly) getting better. I am still very tired and have daily dizzy spells so I am not there quite yet, but I am getting there which is a relief.

Enjoying a gentle walk to see the snow in March.

The general conclusion that the doctors have come to is that I have some kind of post viral fatigue. With dizziness being my most overwhelming symptom, it is quite likely that at some point I had Covid and what I am currently experiencing is a form of long Covid. I never tested for Covid at the time however and so will not know for sure. Whether it was Covid or another virus – my body didn’t like it!

Whilst it is frustrating, there is some comfort that if I do have post viral fatigue, then it is quite a common diagnosis. I remind myself that there are many people who are far worse off than me health wise and I am lucky that this is hopefully a temporary condition. I will get better and I will be back to paddling again soon. I just need to be patient and take the rest that is needed – annoyingly two things that I have never been particularly good at!

Photo from a lovely river day in early January. The river is my happy place and I am missing it a lot!

The things I miss the most about paddling

Paddling and being physically active are such a big part of my life that not being able to paddle for two months has really made me reflect on what it means to me and why I miss it. So here are some of the things I have been missing.

1. Physical fitness

When you do a lot of activities/sports, you take for granted the level of physical fitness that you gain from it. Starting off with the new year – I had a fitness plan. I wanted to prioritise my runs and strength/conditioning sessions as well as water time in order to help me feel stronger on the water. I had looked at getting a personal trainer for some gym sessions and was feeling motivated to work on my fitness.

I am no athlete but have always had a reasonably good baseline of fitness. I love walks and runs and will average 15,000-20,000 steps a day. Even in my most unfit state, I can easily go for a 5km run or hike to the river get on with a 20kg boat on my shoulder. To go from this to thinking I was going to pass out on the 5-minute walk from my house to my GP surgery was quite a shock.

Feeling good in your body leads to feeling good in your mind. I miss being fit and am eager to start exercising properly again to build it back up. At the moment I am limited to gentle walks but at this moment I will take what I can. So if anyone around Nottingham fancies a walk – do let me know!

Definitely couldn’t lift the 12R (or any boat) over my head at the moment!
2. Social time with friends

When all of your friendships are based around activities, not being able to do those activities suddenly means you lose a lot of that social time. I am lucky to have lots of kind caring friends who have gone out of their way to check in on me over the last couple of months. I am grateful to all the people who have popped in for a cup of tea and a chat, sent caring messages and even turned up at my house with flowers or biscuits.

Lucky to have so many fab friends around Notts! Lots of cups of tea with Sam recently!

I miss the water fun I have with those friends though. Considering I post a lot on social media, I don’t spend as much time on it as you might think. My average daily screen time in February was 11 minutes a day. I enjoy creating content but am quite strict with myself about time spent scrolling. This hasn’t been the case over the last weeks however and I have found myself spending more time on my phone than I have in a long time. Watching friends post about their adventures – Galway festival, wet adventure weekends, HPP jam sessions – has brought out a lot of feelings of sadness. I want to be there with them having fun and enjoying our sport. I miss making memories with friends and am eager to join them again!

On the flip side, I have had more time to think about all the future adventures that I want to have. I am excited about when I can put those into place again! One thing I would really like to do is a coaching session in my new Ozone so that I can learn to ‘slice’ better. If anyone fancies joining me for a future tailee jam session, do let me know!

My new Minion Ozone! I have yet to take it on white water so something to look forward to! Photo: Tom Clare
3. Having adventures/time outdoors

I am so grateful to be able to go on walks again. Moving off my sofa and getting outside again has really helped lift my mood. Annoyingly my dizziness has become a sort of constant but low-level interference in my head. It is there more often than it’s not, but no longer so bad that it stops me from being able to stand or hold a conversation. It is still enough that I am hesitant to do anything too adventurous though.

I am lucky to have quite a few nice walks around where I live. I am even hopeful that it will not be too long before I can get back out for gentle paddles. But the idea of a whole river day or a whole day out hiking is just too much for now. I really miss it. I miss the good night’s sleep you get on a Sunday night because I spent the weekend chasing the rain and living my best life. I miss the adventures and being out in the wilderness. I know that it will come again but right now I miss it.

My last adventure friend’s weekend. Miss the adventure life!
4. Using paddling for my mental health

Part of the reason that I paddle is to look after my mental health. I wrote an article on this a while back if you want to read more. When I am feeling overwhelmed, sad or stressed – I have always used paddling and the outdoors to help me to deal with those negative feelings. Not being able to rely on paddling to self soothe has been quite challenging.

I am not someone who enjoys sitting on their sofa for hours at a time watching TV. Trying to find ‘relaxing’ hobbies which I don’t find completely boring has been a challenge. I am lucky that my symptoms have reduced enough that I can read books and write this blog again. For the early weeks of March, I was having big issues concentrating and trying to read or focus on words was just too much so those activities were sadly not feasible.

Had this book with me in hospital – one of the nurses said it looked interesting! It was!

I am trying to find other ways to look after my mental health which isn’t exercise but I’ll admit it has been challenging. My mood over March has been low and the effort of just getting through the day has been so great that I have often been quite tearful in the evenings. Normally if I felt like this, I would force myself out for a paddle or a run and come home feeling so much better. Not being able to do that and instead having to find other ways to deal with my negative emotions has been a bit of a learning curve.

On a brighter note, I am feeling far more positive as we move into April. The days are longer and whilst I might not be able to paddle in the evenings – a walk in the sunshine is still pretty great. At the time of writing this, I’ve just had a lovely sunny walk with family and have come home feeling so much more positive for it.

Local walks are still great!

Final words

I now have two weeks off work for Easter and I am hopeful that this will speed my recovery! I had to cancel my Easter adventure plans but instead am trying to look at that as a positive as it allows me to give myself as much time to rest as possible. I am hoping to get outdoors for as many walks as I can, prioritise sleep and catch up with friends. I would love to build up to gentle paddles in these two weeks but I don’t want to get my hopes up too high in case it doesn’t work out.

I am grateful to friends and family that love me and have supported me over the last couple of months. I really hope I will be back to 100% me soon! Paddling is such a core part of my life and I know that I will really cherish that time on the water again when it comes.

Hopefully, see you all again soon!

My last paddle. Enjoying the Tees Greta & Tees with friends in January. Can’t wait to get back to this! Photo: Tom Clare

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