Into the Woods … and the Water

sf-me-in-kayakWe live in a beautiful place.  And no, Charleston, it’s not “sour grapes,” you former city of my dreams.

I’ve been a Northern Virginian my entire life, a rarity in this place of transience. Once I left the Government job, moving somewhere else seemed a real possibility. We even did reconnaissance trips to check out the contenders: Savannah, GA; Asheville and Wilmington, NC; and the top pick—beautiful, historic, watery Charleston, SC.

And then came grandchildren. Not just any grandchildren, mind you, but the sweetest grandchildren in the entire world, and the cutest. They call me J-Ma, a name I coined because I wasn’t ready for grandma, grams, nana, or “granny gram-grams,” as my son has mockingly called me . And so, we stayed.

sf-kayaks sceneAnd then we bought kayaks.

You’d think that since I grew up here, I’d be intimate with all the amazing waterways in these parts. Although I’ve hiked through many of the beautiful parks that surround us, taking to the water was a bold new adventure—and a GREAT workout.

Indeed, few activities work the core and upper body like paddling a kayak (well, maybe sculling but that’s for the youngbloods). Kayaking is within reach of anyone willing to expend some energy and build upper body strength—and maybe get a little wet. But if you want a strong upper body and shapely arms and shoulders, then check it out. Every stroke provides a compound biceps-triceps move (biceps when you pull with the lower arm, triceps when you push with the upper) while core muscles work to stabilize. Even the legs come into play as you push against the foot rests when propelling the boat forward. Weight loss, stress loss, and strength gain are just some of the benefits of kayaking.

Kayaking Benefits
Improved cardiovascular fitness and increased endurance
Calorie burn of roughly 400 calories an hour
Great upper-body workout—back, arms, shoulders, chest
Increased torso and leg strength
Less wear and tear on joints (kayaking is low-impact)
Peaceful and meditative or exhilarating and awe-inspiring
Great way to enjoy our waterways


You know you want to try it. OK then, here’s a list of places in the greater metropolitan area that rent kayaks. If you get hooked like my husband and me, you can look for a starter kayak at Costco. We paid $300 apiece for ours and they work great, even though we’ve had to replace a few screws here and there. If you’re thinking of sharing the activity with a spouse or partner whom you currently like (even a little), avoid the tandem kayaks, otherwise known as “divorce kayaks” . Having separate boats is critical (in my view), and you can still paddle alongside or in line with each other. I don’t know what it is about the joint responsibility of paddling a boat, but it always leads to bickering!

sf-heronIn addition to getting a great workout, we’ve become inspired sf-dragonfly“naturalists,” exploring the local rivers, creeks, and bays* around here and seeing my totem bird, the Great Blue Heron, and other natural wonders in a way we never could from land.  It puts you in a different head altogether. Since we still love to hike, we’ve started thinking of strategies to combine the two.

Paddle an hour and walk for 20 minutes for a one-two punch: calorie burn + all-over-body strengthening and better cardiovascular health!




So go outside and experience the majesty of the woods and the water, from either side or both.  Good for the body, great for the soul.


–Keep moving, Jen

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