By Alex Guimont
Spring is on the horizon and as such, many of us are sitting at our desks daydreaming about getting back outside doing the sport we love. But after a winter curled up inside watching the eight hours of daylight speed by, it’s easy to find ourselves lacking the physical fitness we had when we last hung up our bikes or our kayaks. Don’t fear, it’s not too late to get back into shape to spend long days out on the trails once the snow finally melts just enough for the water to turn back to liquid and the trails free of deathly ice.
Last month we caught up with Ben Marr to talk about just this. Not only is Benny one of the world’s best kayakers and avid yogi, he was also the host of our Full Send Friday event last year at OAFF 2019. We caught Benny in the middle of his busy travel schedule while he was home just long enough to drop off the truck and the garage before he headed off the Pacific Northwest for some more epic kayaking. In January, Benny and two other kayakers laid down a descent of one of kayaking for prestigious river’s at its highest recorded flow, the Little White Salmon. He’s hoping to catch again at this level or even higher this March or April.
Watch Benny run Little Salmon at 5.6ft:
Needless to stay, being such a high-level kayaker, Benny has his preferred ways of staying in shape for kayak season. Here are Benny’s five tips to stay in shape over the winter or get in shape for spring whatever your sport may be.
Benny Running Double Drop Rapid on a high water Truss lap
1. Stay doing your sport as much as possible
Now, this goes without saying and is obviously easier said than done. Between life activities and feet of snow on the ground it can be hard to keep running, or kayaking, or biking, or whatever it may be. For Benny, when he is home here in the Ottawa Valley, he braves the cold and heads out on the Ottawa River for a winter Lap.
Many sports have a winter version which can make getting out a lot easier, for example, if you’re a mountain biker, you can look into fat biking.
Benny also travels to where the good kayaking is. Which is not always possible but a nice goal to have for the winter months. At the beginning of winter, Benny made it out to Ecuador for five weeks to catch the good flows.
Then he was in Hood River for January and is headed back out there for March and the beginning of April.
2. Stay Fit with Yoga
Benny is what one may consider as a yogi. He describes this as one of the best ways to stay fit both during the offseason and throughout the season itself. There are two different kinds of Yoga that Benny does that both contribute to his fitness in different ways.
Yoga that seems boring
Although said in a joking tone, Benny means by this a type of yoga that is slow and peaceful yoga. This type of yoga, although challenging because your mind wants to wander, allows you to focus on connecting your breath to the movements and get better at the basics of yoga. Benny says the only way to start to appreciate this type of yoga is to do it a lot until you are able to enjoy the process of connecting your breath to your movements.
Yoga that is hard
This type of yoga focuses on muscle strain, core workouts, and holding poses for a little bit longer than is comfortable. This type of yoga takes the challenge of connecting your breath to movement to a whole new level. Benny said this type of yoga has been super helpful for him and kayaking because the ability to control muscles and movements through breaths is super important for both the physical and mental components of kayaking.
3. Cardiovascular workouts
Most sports involve some sort of cardio exertion and endurance. For Benny’s kayaking, pushing the limits of hard whitewater means long sections of continuous, physically demanding paddling. Benny said he tries to get out on a run or a hard hike at two or three times per week. When asked if he tried to set his cardio workouts on a schedule, he said he normally just tacks it onto a day where he feels like he hasn’t done much. The example he gave is when he’s hanging around in Squamish and has had a fairly low effort day, he’ll go hike up the chief.
For most of us, a busy schedule can keep us away from cardio workouts but there are often ways to sneak in a cheeky cardio session at least once or twice per week. Which segways nicely into tip number 4 for staying in top shape.
4. Everyone’s favourite workout, BURPEES!
“Burpees are great because they suck, and they are just a sufferfest” – Benny Marr
On top of going for a run or hike, Benny said he feels like he really needs to whip into shape, he’ll bang out some sets of burpees. His tried and tested method, 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 8 reps, then a 2-minute break and repeat as many times as you need. My first reaction was that these just must suck, Benny said that “yeah, workouts should be hard and this one definitely is”.
5. Good eating
It almost goes without saying but a good diet goes a long way to keep your body ready to shred. Benny says that although not a strict diet, the biggest thing he does is simply pay attention to his energy output in a day and match his diet with that. Simply matching your caloric input to your output is the key he says.
So there you have it, Ben Marr’s tips for making sure you’re in top shape come time to get back out there and ripping it up doing whatever sport you enjoy.