Health Benefits Of Kayaking With A Trolling Motor For That Added Push

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By Brad Pickering-Dunn

I have been an avid adventurer and sports junky for many years.  Despite having less than five percent vision left, I have never let it stop me from getting close to nature.  I was involved in a car accident a few years back and it put me out of commission for months.  No running, windsurfing, cycling or even gentle walks in the countryside.

My river to recovery

Just before the accident I had started my sport and adventure site Global Aventure, which is dedicated to providing information and resources for the avid adventurer.  A client heard about my accident and limited opportunity for exercise and rehabilitation.  Very kindly they sent me a kayak to try along with a trolling motor.

Kayaking is a fantastic sport and regardless of your level of fitness has the following benefits

  • Improves cardiovascular fitness.
  • Helps to increase muscle strength, especially in the back, arms and shoulders, (Areas affected by my accident)
  • Engages your core 

Although you may not think it by watching kayakers, but the exercise works your whole body, including your legs.  Propulsion involves the rotation of your torso, moving the paddle and providing power by exerting pressure, using your legs for extra support and stabilisation.  You are able to set the pace and level of resistance by how fast you move or deep you place the paddle in the water.  If you are as fortunate as I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world, it is an awesome way to see the sights and wildlife while stretching, training, or in my case, rehabilitating injuries..

One thing, though.  If you are caught up in the sights, or as I often was, overconfident with the amount of distance I could cover in one session, then getting back to your launching site can be a bit of a chore.  An added danger is if you are injured and using kayaking as rehabilitation rather than just exercise, then that extra physical exertion needed to get home can actually undo months of rehab and put you back at square one.  Not to worry, Trolling motors to the rescue!

Getting that extra push

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a trolling motor is, it’s an electric engine that you can connect easily to kayaks, boats or other types of watercraft.  It doesn’t use any gas, but good old-fashioned electricity.  If you have a great trolling motor battery, you can go for miles without much noise or polluting the environment around you.  These aren’t designed for speed, but rather to push your craft through the water at the steady pace of up to 5mph.  Predominantly the motor is designed for those who want to use their vessels for fishing, but fantastic for those paddlers who run out of elbow grease or in my case don’t want to exacerbate injuries.

Usually any motor on a boat is noisy and smelly, but with trolling motors you hardly notice they are there.  Thanks to my client along with the fantastic sit on top kayak also sent me a  

Minn Kota Riptide Terrova with built in GPS and remote controlled steering.  This may sound like a MASIVE overkill, but in my case it was perfect.  Most kayak trolling motors are connected at the back and then manually steered with one arm.  Usually this means you have to twist around to operate the engine.  At the beginning of my rehab, this was a movement I was not able to do.  With the remote I could simply turn the motor on when I needed It.  Se the different speeds for a gentle assist while I paddled, or full on power for when I wanted to get back to shore.  

With the help from some friendly people at the marina, I could launch my kayak and settle myself in for the ride.  When I first started kayaking after my accident, I was able to paddle at a gentle pace for a hundred meters or so before I needed to take a break.  So I could keep way on the kayak and prevent myself from drifting, I used the motor constantly but at a low speed.  Then when I felt able, I added a few strokes to gain some speed.

In the first few weeks, I could keep this up for an hour or so, resting and paddling when I had recovered.  When it came time to get back. I could simply fire up my trolling motor and cruise gently back to port.  As I have less, then five percent vision left, I found the GPS invaluable.  I could set the waypoint for home and then just let the motor do the work without fear I would get lost.

Don’t get the wrong impression.  Trolling motors are powerful but not designed to speed you through the water.  They can push against strong currents but usually have their speeds capped at about 5mph.  The speed restriction is in place so you don’t scare fish off when you are trolling through the water after the big one.  

In my case I didn’t care about the fish underneath me so much as getting back to shore after some good exercise and not having to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get back home when my fitness or injuries prevented me from paddling under my own steam.

The journey forward

Nearly eighteen months later I have fully recovered from my accident and able to resume my running, cycling and other water sports, however I have now become an avid kayaker.  Thanks to the generosity of Minn Kota, I was able to keep my motor and still use it frequently despite being able to paddle under my own steam.  It’s great to know that I can exhaust myself out on the water and still be able to get home safely.

To anyone starting rehab for a physical injury, I would highly recommend kayaking as part of your recovery program.

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