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Can’t Run or Jump? Paddle and Drink Up!

Can’t Run or Jump? Paddle and Drink Up!

Outrigger canoe on sandHave you had to make a bunch of adjustments in order to stay active in midlife? Or cut things out that you used to enjoy because they hurt too much or put too much wear and tear on your baby boomer body? I sure have. From joint issues to knee surgery to menopot weight gain, the last few years have created physical changes that threaten to limit and redefine me.

This year has been a particularly challenging and painful one as I have not been able to teach my beloved step classes for four months now. Since tearing menisci in my right knee just after Christmas, I have been rehabbing and unable to return to activities I’ve loved for decades. Soccer and running had to go after my first knee surgery (the left knee) back in the day. And as I age, it’s been so long to impact workouts; sayonara snowboarding; say good-bye to ……..  screeeccchhhh. Enough of the “loss” talk. The point of this post is to share with you two key points:

  1. Some physical issues cannot be turned around despite training, positive mental attitude, good biomechanics, anti-inflammatory foods, and great products. Denying knee and foot pain does not make joint problems such as osteoarthritis go away. (I tried this approach for way too long).
  2. When one activity no longer works, other options do exist. I am determined to be as active in my 50s and 60s as I was in my younger, jump around days — just differently. But getting to that phase of “different” was not easy or obvious.

My life has always included some combination of competitive sports, dance, or teaching group fitness classes. As my sister has written and claimed, we need to rechannel our focus on what we can do, as we move on from what we can’t.  To figure out what I could do to replace step, high intensity cardio workouts, kickboxing, mountain climbing, and power walking, I had to reframe the criteria.

Novice Women Padding

Photo courtesy of Dan Seibert. The views from Seat 4 are breathtaking!

Instead of “if I take out the power moves, turns, and plyometric jumps, will I be able to get through this step class?,” I had to ask myself “what do the exercise modes I love(d) had in common:

  • usually with others  (team stuff and group classes are for me! Basically I like people, unless you jack with me, then look out!)
  • medium to high intensity (I want to sweat during, after, and maybe even before I work out just thinking about the movement ahead)
  • a competitive or performance aspect (explains why yoga and I never really meshed)
  • medium to high energy (while I happily strength train, I prefer cardio and heavy breathing)
  • follow a beat or rhythm
  • have an intellectual component or learning aspect

Then I added what I DON’T want or the criteria of omission:

  • does not hurt my knees
  • does not hurt my feet
  • ok, ok, let’s just say “does not hurt”  — although muscle soreness is totally acceptable

Factor in that I live in a coastal city with warm weather, stunning vistas, and a seductive harbor and I finally found the PERFECT solution: Did you guess it? Outrigger paddling. Shout out big time to the Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club and my novice women teammies! Hut ho!

Paddling in at Sunset

Photo courtesy of Dan Seibert. Ending on a beautiful note!

Since I don’t like being cold and wet (seriously, who does?) I had not been considering going into our ocean waters.  Brrr. Fortunately one of the women who took my step classes talked me into giving the sport a try. Love at first sight is true. One dip of my paddle and I knew I could get past grieving for what I could no longer do. And we don’t get that wet unless we “huli,” which is fancy talk for capsizing. Haven’t done that yet!

I love everything about outrigger paddling. It’s a team sport;  The technique is precise with a steep learning curve, so I have to work hard and focus each and every minute; Our coaches are very positive with high standards; Paddling uses a ton of the major muscles, but not the knee joints; Our goal is to win races; And who can’t enjoy seeing seals, dolphins, pelicans, sunrises, sunsets, and the Channel Islands when working out?

Learning a new sport is good for my body and brain in so many ways. But the bottom line is I found a replacement activity I radically enjoy. I count the minutes until practice time. I visualize improving my paddle stroke. I get a kick out of my teammates, who range from their 20s to 60s. And when I exit the canoe and get out of the water after practice, I am exhausted. But not in pain. I am happy. Just happy.

Coconut Almond MIlk and Paddling

Combine one delish drink, one new water sport, and my fave car cup and you get: Happy!

Almond Breeze Coconut Almond Milk Unsweetened“This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk.” You might wonder what Unsweetened Almond Breeze CoconutMilk and outrigger paddling have in common. Well, they do both make me happy. More practically, my go-to drink as I drive down our mountain to the ocean is a Chai Tea/ Almond Milk iced drink combo. I pack a water bottle in the canoe. But that pre-workout Blue Diamond almond coconut milk – chai tea – ice cube indulgence sits right in my car’s cup holder motivating me as I jam-a-lam to practice. Sweet, but not cloying; cool, though not cold; fulfilling while healthy. Hey, kind of like me! Ah aha haha aha Actually, it’s also describing my new, midlife love–outrigger paddling. Drinking in this new water sport and my liquid concoction are new, good habits that were easy to make!

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

 

 

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