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03/04/2021 07:23AM  
I was wondering if anyone does any specific exercises to get in shape for their boundary waters trips. I know people have talked about getting in shape for paddling in the past, and how the best training is to get out and paddle, but what about preparing for long portages or heavy travel days? Do you focus on core muscles, legs, or shoulders? I know that you need all three, but if you were to focus on one group more than others, which muscle group would you focus on and what exercise do you do use?
 
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Bearpath9
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03/04/2021 08:02AM  
Well, I do go for a morning hike at a local park. Been doing it since I got back last June after doing the lovely portage from Mudro to Sandpit. The trails are a lot of up and down hills, some pretty steep, and for a real workout I go on the mountain bike trails, which are narrower and more root and rock covered. Right now, in the snow with my Sorels on (which probably go about 3 lbs. apiece) I get a good workout. Come spring, I plan on loading the pack with about 20 lbs. of gear and going. It takes about an hour to roundtrip, depending on which route I take. This summer I will work the upper body, along with going on the hikes. Haven't figured out just what I will do for shoulders and core, since I am retired and no longer lift heavy sh*t through the good graces of my former employer, but I will figure something out.
 
OMGitsKa
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03/04/2021 08:46AM  
Squats and Lunges. Hike some hills for the calves.
 
treehorn
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03/04/2021 09:20AM  
I have a normal jogging/lifting routine that I stick to all year round to just keep in general decent shape, which translates fine to portaging/paddling.

If I were to pick one muscle group to focus on for portaging specifically, I think it would be shoulders. Especially if you're going to carry a boat, but likewise if you're doing big packs. That's the one muscle that will make me want to take breaks...on the second half of a mile long portage, the burn is real.
 
03/04/2021 09:28AM  
I can't imagine a scenario where you are forced to train improperly/badly for a canoe trip. Imbalanced training is bad training. If I had to choose between core, legs or shoulders I would skip the training altogether and focus on nutrition and tobacco/alcohol reduction. 80% of how you feel is nutrition.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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03/04/2021 09:44AM  
I'm a big fan of the two handed kettle bell swing for decent whole body exercise. I do three sets of 21.
 
JWilder
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03/04/2021 09:46AM  
I have never trained at all. But, I will be this year.

Not everyone has the access or privilege. But I will be throwing my boat on my shoulders and walking up and down my road and throughout my property periodically, while slowlyincreasing my time. It is all uneven and plenty of obstacles to create a real portage scenario.

Also, I am blessed to have 5 acres of woods in need of some tlc, and a brand new chain saw....
 
treehorn
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03/04/2021 09:53AM  
MidwestFirecraft: "I'm a big fan of the two handed kettle bell swing for decent whole body exercise. I do three sets of 21.
"


Great exercise. I would definitely try to get more of a squat in than the picture depicts though.
 
03/04/2021 10:05AM  
I would probably do that wrongly and end up groaning on the ground, cradling the wounded parts...
 
nofish
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03/04/2021 10:13AM  
Lately I've been embracing the fact that round is a shape.

Typically I don't do anything new for a BWCA trip but then again I'm also usually not in this bad of shape. Covid really killed a lot of my previous exercise routines. Before the next trip I'll need to focus more on getting in shape. The main things I'll focus on are my core, shoulders, and leg strength. I want my core strong and stable as its the building block for everything, I want my shoulders to hold up under the weight, and I don't want my legs to give out when trying to step over that last long at the end of a long portage.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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03/04/2021 10:19AM  
treehorn: "MidwestFirecraft: "I'm a big fan of the two handed kettle bell swing for decent whole body exercise. I do three sets of 21.
"



Great exercise. I would definitely try to get more of a squat in than the picture depicts though."


I agree, but if people don't squat or dead lift I don't want them to get hurt, thus the picture shows a pretty safe exercise if done correctly.
 
03/04/2021 10:52AM  
I think I'll add the kettlebell swing, but unsure what weight to start with . . .

My usual sand bag lifts would work a lot of the same muscle groups and the sand bag is almost the same weight as a pack. I just stand one up on end and every once in a while semi-squat, grab the "ears" and lift as high as I can. Simulates lifting pack and canoe pretty well.

Planks are quick, simple, and effective for core strength. Do front, back, and both sides.

Aerobic strength and stamina is important also for portaging. Walking is good, uphill better, uphill with a load best.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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03/04/2021 11:06AM  
boonie: "I think I'll add the kettlebell swing, but unsure what weight to start with . . . "
I would start with a 25#. Even if it is easy after the 3 sets of 21, you can get the form down and move up from there. I don't do any specific aerobic activity outside of work like running, etc, but I have never fell behind on a portage. I think you will be impressed as you work up to the 53 # kettle bell how much cardio you get :)
 
03/04/2021 11:27AM  
OMGitsKa: "Squats and Lunges. Hike some hills for the calves." These work
 
THEGrandRapids
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03/04/2021 11:43AM  
The subject is vexing and I think I've finally found the edge... Be in shape so you can continue to do what you enjoy, how you enjoy it. I've never understood gym rats that workout just to workout, there's no appeal to me. But there is appeal to enjoy and not suffer the common activities I do.

As someone else alluded to- nutrition will play a bigger role then specific exercise. From my peak 2 years ago, I've lost the equivalent of my souris river Q17 canoe... its liberating.
 
HayRiverDrifter
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03/04/2021 11:58AM  
I 'practice' portaging. This uses the exact muscles I will be using. Not sure of any better way to simulate all that weight on your shoulders.

I start about a month out with hikes with a 30 lb pack, then add my canoe. I have two 1/2 mile loops in my woods that include some good up and down sections. My goal is to be able to do a mile without resting before the trip.

After the initial trip, I try to do additional trips to stay in shape :-)
 
03/04/2021 12:16PM  
If possible start carrying your boat. I am fortunate to be able to go to a local nature center and carry one of their boats on the trails.
 
mgraber
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03/04/2021 12:45PM  
Nothing specific, just the normal squat, deadlift, leg curl, calf raise, bench press, overhead press, row, chin-up, crunch, cardio and stretching routine. If you have bleachers or stairs available, walking them up and down with a loaded backpack is an excellent portage specific exercise.
 
PineKnot
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03/04/2021 01:31PM  
Unlike some of you who seem to "enjoy" portaging, I do not enjoy portaging, except the short ones with good landings and easy trails. Portaging for me is a means to an end....usually a good campsite and fishing destination.

So there's no way I will practice portaging at home....no way, uh uh!!

But I do cross-training workouts almost everyday so I'm ready when the season starts...portaging be damned....
 
03/04/2021 03:06PM  
My buddy that grew up on a hobby farm and is comfortable carrying twice as much as I can, always encourages building muscle in the shoulders to prepare for portaging. He says it's to "give you a little padding so the weight isn't sitting right on the bone". I completely get were he's coming from but have always wondered if that's really the best focus if I'm trying to make the whole trip more enjoyable.

I'm going to have to give the kettle ball swing a try though, as long as I don't hit myself in the sensitive bits. That looks like a really efficient work out that I can see myself sticking to. I was never much of a fan of the "practice portages". The yard is too small, flat, and visible for that. I also don't think that sort of exercise is too healthy for the back and joints. I'm looking to build muscle to support my joints, bearing weight repeatedly like that to build the muscle doesn't sound like a great idea.
 
ScottL
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03/04/2021 03:43PM  
Best plan for getting in shape for those portages is to get a gym membership for your traveling partner(s) and make sure they are working out regularly! (Work smarter, not harder.) :)
 
03/04/2021 05:37PM  
Good God! You're only, like, 34 years old!! You ARE in shape!
 
03/04/2021 06:13PM  
12 oz curls.
 
03/04/2021 06:38PM  
bobbernumber3: "Good God! You're only, like, 34 years old!! You ARE in shape!" I taught PE for 33 years. Believe me, there's teenagers not in shape let alone thirty year olds.
 
03/04/2021 06:40PM  



As someone else alluded to- nutrition will play a bigger role then specific exercise. From my peak 2 years ago, I've lost the equivalent of my souris river Q17 canoe... its liberating. "
Although proper nutrition is important( Not fad diets) Physical, muscular training or exercise will pay off big time for portaging. As you get older you basically loss muscle. Doing resistance exercise can help push that back. My experience has been people who diet (like Keto) without exercising usually gain the weight back because they neglected the all important physical exercise component
 
GopherAdventure
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03/04/2021 07:48PM  
I started a self-written training program for building portage and paddling strength and stamina a few years ago when I started feeling a little weaker then I used to be. I made this video of the workout last week. It may seem a little intense at first, but it’s really not too tough, just start little and work your way up. I’ve been blown away with the results, I can portage and paddle better now then ever before.
Here it is: Canoe Trip Workout Routine: How to Become a Portage Monster

Tony
 
mschi772
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03/04/2021 08:08PM  
The most I do is just get out and do stuff. I find "work-outs" to be utterly mind-numbing and lonely (though very little in life isn't lonely for me these days). Just lifting some arbitrary heavy thing or repeating a motion over and over in a gym or at home is intolerable to me. I wish it wasn't, but I just can't stand the useless monotony of it. My old job kept me in better shape, so I'm going to have to find some way of taking better care of myself, but nothing about work-out culture appeals to me even the slightest. I genuinely envy people who commit to such things especially when they manage to enjoy it alone. I don't need to get into shape for canoe trips; I need to do it for my health in general, but since I changed jobs and have lost just about all friends I used to have, it is such a struggle to bother doing anything that would improve or maintain my fitness.

bobbernumber3: "Good God! You're only, like, 34 years old!! You ARE in shape!"

I turn 35 this month, and age/youth is most definitely not any guarantee of fitness. So far, my peak fitness was from 17-27, and I've been on a fairly swift downfall over the last 3 years.
 
03/04/2021 08:20PM  
Biking is great(use to average about 120 miles a week), when I was younger I did a lot of squats with moderate to heavy weight. I had such strong calves and leg muscles it seemed like I could go straight up a cliff with pack and canoe and no problem. Now I am over weight, muscles flabby and getting older(better than the alternative).

You see above-everything is I use to.
 
jillpine
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03/04/2021 09:11PM  
I park the car far from the entrance. I use stairs, not elevator. I happily carry 40# bags of salt to the basement water softener, do curls with kitty litter containers, scrape snow from the roof, hoe the garden and walk the old dog up and down hills. I portage the canoe around the neighborhood. While the fancy French press is sitting, I use those five minutes to do kitchen yoga, usually standing on one foot with the other tucked up as high as the hip will go, like an old walnut, emphasis on nut. I stretch in the morning, exercise all day and sock away the gym membership fees into retirement savings so I can spend even more time doing all this in the woods rather than the city. Anything to be there, not here, for as long as life lets me. Truth to the nutrition and lean body. Makes a big difference for balance, flexibility and activity as one ages.
 
03/04/2021 09:25PM  
Honestly, I figure that the trip will tune me in. I'm 55 and do zero exercise programs. I suppose I get a little exercise taking my dog out to the field every night. Rain / Snow / or Shine.
 
OMGitsKa
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03/04/2021 09:34PM  
Another good tip would be just general stretching.
 
straighthairedcurly
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03/04/2021 10:36PM  
We just set up a training plan for this year...a spreadsheet with suggestions of exercises and activities. Then we created a sheet for each person to track their workouts. We are taking my son's girlfriend on a more physically demanding trip than last year and thought this would be a good way for all of us to be better prepared.

Our plan includes a mix of paddling (once the ice is out), aerobic (brisk walks or trail runs or rollerblading), pack/canoe carrying, and weights (arms/shoulders/core/legs).

We are fortunate to live near a lake and paddling after work is the best stress relief of all time, IMO. We also have 2 locations for portaging: a wooded area with rough footing, and our backyard where we are building a simple obstacle course in with balance beams, step ups, and step overs, since as I age my balance is taking a dive. I have a solo planned with notoriously rocky portages and steep climbs so portage workouts are key this year.
 
03/05/2021 05:44AM  
A1t2o: "... but if you were to focus on one group more than others..."

To answer the OP question, I would focus on core... as you would get some leg and shoulder benefit at the same time.
 
03/05/2021 08:02AM  
I like cross country skiing and mountain biking. I'm not fond of running and try to avoid it. Exercising isn't a chore if you find something you like to do anyway. I make sure to get in about 10 rides on the singletrack in the couple weeks before a trip and I know I'll be good.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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03/05/2021 08:13AM  
 
MidwestFirecraft
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03/05/2021 08:15AM  
GopherAdventure: "I started a self-written training program for building portage and paddling strength and stamina a few years ago when I started feeling a little weaker then I used to be. I made this video of the workout last week. It may seem a little intense at first, but it’s really not too tough, just start little and work your way up. I’ve been blown away with the results, I can portage and paddle better now then ever before.
Here it is: Canoe Trip Workout Routine: How to Become a Portage Monster


Tony"


That looks like a great all around workout!
 
03/05/2021 08:21AM  
The last time i did a long trip , i walked up and down 2 flights of stairs , and going down and pausing for a moment is as important as going up, On a down slope portage your lower leg/foot hold are everything. not much for the chest and arms , paddling can become more a motion than work , with the exception of wind of course , some times you do need to dig ;)
 
woodsandwater
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03/05/2021 08:37AM  
I walk the neighborhood and State Park trails with a full Duluth Pack as the snow melts and weather warms.
 
03/05/2021 08:52AM  
mschi772: "The most I do is just get out and do stuff. I find "work-outs" to be utterly mind-numbing and lonely (though very little in life isn't lonely for me these days). Just lifting some arbitrary heavy thing or repeating a motion over and over in a gym or at home is intolerable to me. I wish it wasn't, but I just can't stand the useless monotony of it."

I know the feeling but it's hard to justify going and doing something by myself while my wife stays home to watch the kids. Taking them with me isn't a great option either because they are 4 and 6 so they can't keep up long enough to give me a decent workout. That's why I'm looking for a decent workout that will target the right areas and isn't hard to work into my daily routine.

I did try the kettle ball swing exercise last night though. I can definitely feel it in my legs today. The nice thing about whole body workouts like this is the feedback you get from your body telling you which areas you need to work on more. Just working on those weak areas is going to make a big difference on longer portage days.
 
THEGrandRapids
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03/05/2021 09:35AM  
Blatz: "



As someone else alluded to- nutrition will play a bigger role then specific exercise. From my peak 2 years ago, I've lost the equivalent of my souris river Q17 canoe... its liberating. "
Although proper nutrition is important( Not fad diets) Physical, muscular training or exercise will pay off big time for portaging. As you get older you basically loss muscle. Doing resistance exercise can help push that back. My experience has been people who diet (like Keto) without exercising usually gain the weight back because they neglected the all important physical exercise component "


Without a doubt. They both play a key role. Every fad diet works if it comes down to CICO.. calories in and calories out. Its the unrealistic after shock of losing too quickly that you gain more back. I find it hard to maintain a neutral if I don't exercise. My appetite is just too big, unfortunately. Weight bearing is also key to keeping bone health up. Balanced approach.
 
WIMike
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03/05/2021 10:34AM  
A solid core is crucial to just about every physical activity; it's your foundation for all movements so definitely work your core. Before I do a trip where I will be toting a load on my back, like a BW or backpacking trip, I ride my bike a little more than normal. Quad strength with a solid core will make carrying a load a lot easier. If I were to do a gym workout I would do squats and box steps (I call them step ups), deadlifts and some cardio. Deadlifts are probably the single best lift for overall strength but proper form is crucial. Amazing how a person can power up those steep portages when the quads and core are strong. Overall, good sleep, good nutrition, resistance training, cardio and stretching will make canoe trips a lot more enjoyable.
 
BearBurrito
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03/05/2021 10:53AM  
I am a firm proponent of the idea that round is a shape, so I am already in "shape". ;)
 
papalambeau
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03/05/2021 11:57AM  
Hit the elliptical for 3.5 miles first thing in the morning before showering for work. Bench press and squat 3 sets of 10 during lunch (I work at a school). Fast paced walk after work in the park for 25 minutes. Do this March - May and I'm ready for our summer BW trips. Add in canoe trips for trout and smallies in May and June and all the muscles are primed. We still single portage after almost 30 years but it doesn't hurt to have two young bulls for sons in their 30's and the grandkids are all starting to carry their weight on the portages too.
 
03/05/2021 12:05PM  
Some things to avoid:

(1) Getting old - 70 is a lot different than 35.

(2) Heart attack

And remember this: Exercise is not a heart healthy diet.
 
Chieflonewatie
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03/05/2021 02:27PM  
Why does getting in shape at 53 feel like I'm killing myself?
 
03/05/2021 02:34PM  
Chieflonewatie: "Why does getting in shape at 53 feel like I'm killing myself?
"
Your just a young pup still
 
03/05/2021 04:08PM  
Chieflonewatie: "Why does getting in shape at 53 feel like I'm killing myself?
"


It's going to keep getting harder to get in shape, so when you do, try to stay in shape. That's a lot easier than getting in shape.
 
outsidethebox
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03/05/2021 04:25PM  
You are getting a lot of okay advice. My brother and I went to the BWCA for the first time last September. I was 67 and my brother is 9 years younger. My brother is a pediatrician who danced ballet professionally and was a college football strength and conditioning coach. But, ha, I am stronger and more athletic-a retired pediatric oncology nurse...played, coached and officiated college sports as well...was also a physical education major. I made no special preparation for our trip. The caveat being that I walk 18 holes of golf 3-5 times a week and monthly my wife and I will take 5 -8 miles hikes a the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve-and we have a small working farm. The most important preparation you can do is walk-a lot...on natural paths that are uneven and will develop, strength, balance and endurance. You can add in all the other things that are being suggested but if you don't walk you will remain behind the 8-ball. You can come to our place and I can teach you how to run the chain saw, load the logs, run the splitter, reload and stack the split wood, load and unload the feed for our livestock....run the rototiller...and whatever else...tend the garden...and you will be all set to make that Ensign to Vera portage with no problem.

Edit: Friday my wife and I walked 18 holes of golf. Yesterday we hiked nearly 7 miles at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve...feel free to find my face book post at "Warren Yoder". The best way to stay healthy and in shape is to make it your way of life-not an "on again-off again" affair. A month of self-discipline...of setting and following a routine of behavior can change your way of being-your life.
 
03/06/2021 11:01AM  
In general just being more physically fit is the best answer walk, run, swim, bike whatever you like or can tolerate but just plain moving around no a lot is the best thing you can do.

I know that is not what you asked though :)

I’d say it depends on what your issue is on a trip? Do your upper traps and shoulders ache while paddling? I’d work on upper back and shoulder strengthening higher reps lighter weight going until failure.

Do portages feel too hard...legs...legs...and more legs...see my initial message plus do squats, high step ups, single leg squats or the many varied version of these.

Finally...you get many varied answers because there really isn’t one answer...we can’t possibly know what your weak spot is...

If I had to pick one exercise and be a quick workout I’d choose pushups. You have to use your CORE to keep your back/hips straight. You use your shoulders and upper back to stabilize as you develop your chest/shoulders. 2-3 sets until failure. Goal is to be able to do 100 in a row. Anything over 40-50 is good though.

Once again just another opinion.

T
 
03/06/2021 02:10PM  
A1t2o: "mschi772: "The most I do is just get out and do stuff. I find "work-outs" to be utterly mind-numbing and lonely (though very little in life isn't lonely for me these days). Just lifting some arbitrary heavy thing or repeating a motion over and over in a gym or at home is intolerable to me. I wish it wasn't, but I just can't stand the useless monotony of it."


I know the feeling but it's hard to justify going and doing something by myself while my wife stays home to watch the kids. Taking them with me isn't a great option either because they are 4 and 6 so they can't keep up long enough to give me a decent workout. That's why I'm looking for a decent workout that will target the right areas and isn't hard to work into my daily routine.


I did try the kettle ball swing exercise last night though. I can definitely feel it in my legs today. The nice thing about whole body workouts like this is the feedback you get from your body telling you which areas you need to work on more. Just working on those weak areas is going to make a big difference on longer portage days."


Put the kids in your portage pack?
 
03/07/2021 12:31PM  
Chieflonewatie: "Why does getting in shape at 53 feel like I'm killing myself?
"


Just wait until you are in your 70’s. As previously mentioned it is best to maintain your conditioning.
 
Kampynkate
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03/17/2021 08:51PM  
Squats absolutely. Deadlifts and one of the best - clean and jerks. Reps? Oh 8...12 times? Push-ups, few abs, daily stretching, up downs. Mix it up. Keep the heart beating. Have fun.
 
jdrocks
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03/18/2021 10:30PM  
I hike 4 miles each day with a 40# pack, it's just two 20# bags of charcoal, convenient. Don't hike on any kind of improved surface, and elevation changes are great. You won't be trail hardened for a number of days into your trip, but you can ease yourself into that zone.

By far the worst case scenario for a trip is to show up in pretty damn good shape, only to find the rest of the crew still fat ass lazy, they didn't prepare for even one minute despite detailed trip protocols. Seeing grown men whine while paddling or portaging is not something you can un-see.

I nearly had one fellow paddler drown when he fell into standing water beside an overturned tree along a portage, his legs were so weak he couldn't keep his feet underneath himself. He was pinned down in the water underneath a pack, if I hadn't been close enough to pull him out, he would now be residing under a heavy piece of granite.

He was ill prepared for any kind of trip, and it nearly cost him his life.
 
Savage Voyageur
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03/19/2021 02:20PM  
Is round a shape? Just asking for a friend.
 
mschi772
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03/20/2021 06:23PM  
jdrocks: By far the worst case scenario for a trip is to show up in pretty damn good shape, only to find the rest of the crew still fat ass lazy, they didn't prepare for even one minute despite detailed trip protocols. "

I've been there....in mid-May....and their ONLY footwear was a pair of old Nikes. Sigh.
 
muddyfeet
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03/23/2021 02:02PM  
MidwestFirecraft: "boonie: "I think I'll add the kettlebell swing, but unsure what weight to start with . . . "
I would start with a 25#. Even if it is easy after the 3 sets of 21, you can get the form down and move up from there. I don't do any specific aerobic activity outside of work like running, etc, but I have never fell behind on a portage. I think you will be impressed as you work up to the 53 # kettle bell how much cardio you get :)"


Agreed.
I'm a summer paddler/runner and winter nordic skier, so I try to stay fit year round. All endurance sports, but strength is important to build power and prevent injury.

Like many I invested in the home gym this year, and have come to love combined movement exercises. With a couple kettlebells and some gym rings, you can really work most major muscle groups quickly. I have a 20-minute circuit that I use when I need to "squeeze-in" a quick strength workout of: ring pushups, inverted rows, kettle swings, goblet squats, pull-ups, and Turkish get-ups. There is so much more you can do with only the minimal equipment, but those are my favorites.

 
03/23/2021 06:20PM  
I'm envious of you younger guys. Gravity is a much more formidable foe than it was 25-30 years ago. Kettlebell swings with 53 lbs. . . . ? I'm working on a 60-lb. deadlift ;). The older I get the better I was . . .
 
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