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Prepare for a Demanding Whitewater Rapids Trip With These Exercises and Tips

Undertaking a whitewater rafting trip can be a fun and thrilling adventure. Planning is important here, as you should desire to be as physically fit as possible for this activity.

In general, this article is geared more towards people who love a good challenge and are up to taking on some of the more formidable -– but certainly doable for fit beginners -- rapids that are out there. This article's focus will be on exercises and stretches one should undertake in preparation for navigating a stretch of the river such as a class III or IV rapid –- defined as "advanced" and involving turbulent waters that are intense but predictable.

Whether your undertaking a day trip or a weeklong excursion -- on the Colorado River or the much more distant Zambezi in Zimbabwe -- these pre-rafting workout tips are meant to encourage and prepare you for what will likely turn out to be an epic and thrilling adventure.

Read on for some helpful pre-rafting exercise tips to help build your endurance, upper-body, core and leg strength.

Always stretch for five minutes before and after each bout of exercise.

Many people injure or strain their shoulders when rafting. To keep all your muscles strong, flexible and limber, it is recommended to stretch for five minutes before and after every training session. Shoulders are easily strained out on the water, so focus especially on keeping these joints loose by stretching your arms up and across your body and holding this position for 60 seconds for each arm.

Stretching is actually beneficial for people to do every day, even when not exercising. Qigong, the ancient Chinese stretching and wellness discipline, also clearly demonstrates the powerful self-healing and wellness effects of routine stretching. Be sure to stretch your back, arms, hamstrings and glutes as well before and after each workout, always breathing deeply and holding each pose for 30 or more seconds.

Build your upper-body and core muscle groups.

Your upper-body is the area you will be exerting the most on a whitewater rafting trip. You should perform push-ups, pull-ups and chest presses frequently in the time leading up to your trip. Push-ups in particular are a great exercise because you can do them almost anywhere. Correct push-up form, however, is crucial. This site offers a 7-step checklist for proper push-up form. Succinctly put, when on the ground place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and picture your body as a straight line going up and down.

Another important exercise to strengthen your core is called a plank. This exercise will help keep you stabilized in your seat while leaning into your paddle when on demanding class III and IV river stretches. A proper plank is similar to a push-up, except here your forearms are in contact with the ground and your elbow will make a 90-degree angle. You should look straight down and your body should form a straight line.

Build endurance, stamina and leg strength.

Though not, perhaps, training for a marathon, building up your stamina and endurance with some robust cardio exercises will serve you well when you're out on the water. Try not to underestimate the level of sustained and rigorous exertion you will be undertaking for even shorter rafting trips.

Mixing up your running, swimming and bicycling exercises with periodic sprints, hill climbs and obstacles will help you develop your stamina and endurance. Interval training can be very helpful here as well.

Your legs amount to your most powerful base of muscle power used when paddling. Squats and lunging are some simple but effective exercises to strengthen your legs. To perform lunges, keep your shoulders relaxed, your body straight and your chin level. Make as if to take a step with one leg, lowering your hips towards the ground, until your both knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold weights in each hand for more effect.

Always remember to have a highly nutritious pre- and post- workout snack for more optimal results.

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