Kayaking attracting attention internationally and here at home

With the Summer Olympics beginning this week, I continue my focus on the training and fitness of athletes participating in the international competition.

As the algae begins to clear in Bejing, boating events are attracting a lot of attention.

Boating sports include kayaking, canoeing and rowing. All require tremendous stamina and strength. Both aerobic and resistive training are imperative to compete in these events at a high level.

Rowing includes races with one, two, four, or eight rowers. Coordination is crucial among the rowers to achieve maximum speed. A coxswain is responsible for steering and managing an eight-person boat. The Olympic level races are short, sprint events.

Rowers are positioned with their backs to the front of the boat. They sit on seats that slide and their feet are secured to the boat. The motion involved requires utilizing many muscles including those in the upper and lower extremities and the torso. Since it requires the use of many large muscles, an efficient aerobic workout can be attained in a short period of time.

Typical injuries involve the spine due to repetitive flexion and extension against resistance. Stress fractures and muscular injuries involving the ribs are also common.

Olympic canoeing and kayaking consists of 16 different events on both flat water and whitewater. Racing is both sprint and slalom. Canoeists typically kneel and use a single-bladed paddle while kayakers sit and use a double- bladed paddle.

These sports primarily utilize the upper extremities. Shoulder injuries and repetitive use injuries to the hands are most common.

Many communities have started local rowing and kayaking programs. Norwich is no exception.

Louis Depina is director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Norwich where a program has been established with the Chelsea Boat Club.

“All participants must review a safety video, pass a swim test and a dry test of their boating skills before being allowed on the water,” Depina said.

Rowing and kayaking lessons are available. A steady group of 25 will go out 2-3 times per week. They range in age from teens to over 70 years old.

Information regarding this program can be obtained by calling the Norwich Parks and Recreation Department at 860-823-3791 or logging on to chelseaboatclub.org

Programs like this will hopefully foster future Olympians, but a consistent enjoyable workout is a good alternative.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and a neurologist in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. You can email Alessi at aalessi@wwbh.org, listen to his podcast or comment on his blog at backushospital.org.

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