Shoulder Pain [31]

By Doug Taylor

This year I started paddling progressively longer distances. I have managed to avoid repetitive strain injuries. This I attribute to discussing in detail with the staff at my local fitness centre my paddling goals and concerns, especially repetitive stress injuries associated with the shoulder. They set up a good stretching and exercise program which focuses on preventing repetitive strain in the shoulder area encountered when paddling. Of most concern is the rotator cuff.

Secondly I went to a physio because my muscles on the top of my shoulders were sore and stiff after paddling. The physio advised me that I was using incorrect muscles groups while paddling. So with some tape placed on my back to remind me to use the muscles in the shoulder blades area and between, a belt (not tight) which I pull my abdomen away from, a slight arch in my lower back, and try to keep my chin in, the soreness and stiffness decreased. The soreness no longer occurs after my training sessions. So the paddling I started out with needed a major adjustment which I wished I had caught earlier. But according to the physio the problem I encountered is one the general population has a problem with and has to be monitored more and more as one gets older.

Now I am getting the fitness people to help me adjust my fitness program based on the physio’s findings and support the changes in back muscles movements needed to paddle better. If I could go back and start again I would have seen the physio at the start to review my paddling stroke and get it right from the start. Now I plan to look for a paddling coach to review my paddling style. Does anyone know of any recreational paddling clubs in Sydney using coaches?

In all this I am not talking about using up a lot of time and effort. Fitness stuff averages about 3 hours a week for me. Paddling time is allocated to about every other weekend if I am lucky except for a three week period prior to a paddling race. Some how I hope to schedule in a weekly evening paddle.What really left me smiling as a result of this little bit of training was being able to paddle the 111Km Hawkesbury Classic without a hitch. If there was a time to feel an oncoming Repetitive Strain Injury this was going to be the time. Also the information and tips in the Hawkesbury Classic Paddling Guide was very helpful. The process of using rubbing alcohol and olive oil on ones hands really worked to toughen up my hands. Nary a blister after 111Km and foolishly in hindsight I didn’t use any gloves. The only extra preparation I did prior to the race was in a three week period when a colleague and I went out paddling for a couple of hours.

Rather than throwing up all the individual exercise routines I used from time to time I will try to give you the flavour of the approach. In my early days of paddling all I sought was improved general fitness and performance. Sea kayaking was a recreational activity I was trying to do every other weekend. I did not want to injure myself from overdoing the paddling. In the early days a 15 to 20 Km kayak trip felt very fatiguing and I was often very stiff the next day. The most important thing I have learned to do out of this whole process is to set a fitness goal for myself and with the help of fitness staff set up a program. From time to time I would review the program, especially when things don’t seem to be happening. No one magical formula, but I found it useful to be able to lay out ones goals to someone who is in the business of setting up a realistic program and guard against injury.The big plus about the fitness centre is it is a modest suburban one with a casual friendly atmosphere. The centre abounds with people with different levels of fitness. A lot of people go there not only for the fitness but to a have a bit of a chat.

My initial fitness program was a cafeteria of options including seven weight training stations, Keiser Circuit, cardio machines ( 10 minute tread, 10 minute bike, 10 minute rower), stretching and a myriad of fitness classes to plug into. All I had to do was fill my time in with options from various parts of my menu. More importantly I was able to get the staff to review a training station or fitness class I was having doubts about. The staff were aware of the concerns for a paddling repetitive strain injury. Some of the fitness staff had suffered rotator cuff injuries which had taken years to treat. So this was a potential problem they were personally aware of. They made sure that the prevention of repetitive strain injury, especially the shoulder figured into the mix of personal training options.Not much was apparent after months of participating in the program except realising how poor my general fitness was. The fitness staff advised me that I might not see much of an effect until well after six weeks. This problem was offset by the centre’s friendly atmosphere and the staff’s patience in making adjustments to my program.

It was easy to feel frustrated by the little improvement encountered in the early days. Finally at long last, many months had gone by, my general fitness did start to pick up noticeably. Hooray.One night in early October a friend and I persuaded ourselves to enter the Hawkesbury Classic Paddle. We had less than three weeks to train. The Paddling Guide recommends three months. We roped our wives into being our landcrew coordinators and set about training. I called the fitness centre for advice on how to adjust my training program to meet this challenge. They were unfazed by my new found yet still shaky ambition to paddle a 111Km race. The staff member advising me was not only supportive and helpful but went to the trouble to check out the training approach with her own coach. The upshot of the approach was to spend my training time paddling as much as possible and to rest two to four days prior to the race. The paddle training turned out to be the most interesting part of the whole process.

My colleague and I ended up training many mornings (4am wake ups) and sometimes at night (thanks to the NSW Sea Kayak Club’s night paddles). Our final training day was paddling ! a !!long stretch of Sydney harbour early in the morning. Sydney harbour is beautiful, but that day it really looked good. We were now confident that we were going to be able to complete the 111Km paddle. And we did.Now that I am back to my normal pre-race routines again I have readjusted my personal fitness centre training program to try to improve my paddling as well as protect me from repetitive strain injuries. I attempt to go to the fitness centre three times a week for one hour. But lets get real, this doesn’t always happen.

I am trying a weight training program which includes Bench Press, Seated Row, Lateral Raise, Post Deltoid, Tricep Pushdown, Bicep Curl, Leg Curl, and Hamstring Curl. I do 3 x 15 reps at each station with a short rest (30-45 sec rest) in between sets unless I need to save time, then I do one set of 20 – 25 reps at each station. Cardio exercise is twenty minutes or so on a rower unless I am paddling the next day in which case I may use the tread or bike. I am trying to schedule in a weekly evening paddle of 18 Km. which takes about 2 hours. I do stretching before and after each session. Now this sounds all very organised and laid out but things often don’t work that way. I don’t hesitate to turn everything upside and do something else. I often select another training option or get a bothersome station checked out or both. If I find some other activity on the weekend I prefer like hiking or skiing I give paddling the flick. In the end the way I am doing things seems to work a lot better than I expected.

Kayaking has become a much more interesting and safe activity.My interest has been sparked by my experience in the body dynamics when paddling. Gradually I have been picking up tit bits about the kinesiology (parameters of body movement?) with respect to paddling. It would be good to see what other information people can post.One aspect I have been tossing around about in the kayak is whether I like my knees braced under the deck (traditional style I believe) or together and moving a bit in front of you as the sprint paddlers do, at least the one I see on a TV commercial. A Phys. Ed. teacher has indicated if one is turning ones back while paddling one needs to move ones hips to make the movement stable. Thus this requires knee, leg and foot movement such as the sprint paddlers seen to execute. So I have from time to time while paddling brought my knees out from under the deck and attempted the alternate movement. I must admit I like the feel of it. It seems to require a bit of adjustment to my foot braces.

Throughout the whole process my wife and I have been able to meet a lot of good new people and kayaks. Wayne Langmaid, who has been a contributor to this list, was one of the first people I kayaked with here. I enjoyed his half day trip around Patonga. It went a long way in persuading me to get my own sea kayak. I now paddle a Mirage 22 (boy does it go fast) and my wife paddles a Mirage 19 (which I also like paddling).

Mirages were mentioned on this list a few weeks ago. Paul Hewitson is the designer/manufacturer has provided us with high quality kayak renown around here for having no leaks, not even a drop. He also provides outstanding after sales service.

The Hawkesbury Classic Paddling Guide suggests if one is worried about hand blisters to pre-toughen them with a mixture of metho (rubbing alcohol) and a dash of olive oil. The Guide goes on to suggest breaking in a good pair of fingerless gloves available from canoe/marine shops. They warn that the gloves will chafe, especially where the paddle shaft rotates on your hand, so break them in well. I went into the Hawkesbury Classic without gloves after toughening them up during my three week training period using the metho/olive oil combo during the latter part of the period. My hands withstood the whole race.

By the end of the race I had developed a couple of very small hot spots which disappeared overnight after putting on some hand cream.Most of the veteran Hawkesbury Classic competitors seem to use gloves. Since I might be paddling a lot harder next time to improve my time I plan to break down and purchase some paddling gloves.