Have you been considering kayaking adventures? In 2017, I moved to a new neighborhood located on the river within the Chattahoochee National Recreational Area. I was depressed and suicidal and in need of deep healing. My neighbors here encouraged me to try adventures through kayaking, and I’ve been adventuring ever since! Today, I want to invite you to start a self-care challenge and commit to weekly kayaking.
Sometimes we think self-care means going shopping or getting your nails done or paying for an expensive massage or going abroad to stay at an expensive hotel… None of these is what I advocate for as self-care ideas and strategies.
From my perspective, self-care is a consistent time you take to care for your needs. Your needs are quiet time, relaxation, positive knowledge for the brain, something new and exciting to think about, physical activity, and fresh air.
That’s why I recommend such self-care challenges as walking 10000 steps or taking a road trip for a day with the purpose of traveling for adventure, or even a simple picnicking self-care challenge. I believe in reading as a self-care tool, so I encourage you to read 12 books in 12 months. And of course, I am a huge fan of keeping a thanksgiving journal to capture your gratitude daily. One of the ways in which I practice self-care is kayaking.
I had only one encounter with a kayak prior to 2017. It was in Bali when I went rafting with my then fiancé. It was scary but fun. There were many people in the boat, and I didn’t give it too much thought at the time. Everything was filmed and photographed, so I got some good memories of that day. It was fun but I wasn’t in charge of anything.
That was the end of my experience.
Hint: kayaking alone with no one around but water and woods definitely puts me in charge of everything!
In 2017, as I was going through narcissistic abuse recovery, I moved to where I live now. The river is right outside my front door. I eat on the river. I read on the river. I work out on the river. I host parties on the river. I write poetry on the river. Basically, I do almost everything on the river.
There’s Shoot The Hooch across the water where many people rent kayaks and tubes. Plus, our floating dock here is public. So, there’s a lot of traffic here on the water often. And watching people having kayaking adventures was how my own kayaking adventure had begun.
Here’s my story…
My Kayaking Adventures
I remember sitting on the floating dock outside my front door and crying. My neighbor Lisa was unloading her paddleboard, turning on the music, and getting ready to go on the water all by herself. I saw a single and joy-filled woman who was healthy, independent, and excited about her self-care time! I wanted to be like that someday…
She shared with me how she was also married in her 30s but then got divorced and has been enjoying a peaceful and joyful single life full of adventure ever since.
I didn’t believe adventure was possible for me: I was so heart-broken from all the narcissistic relationship abuse imposed on me by my third husband. My suffering felt endless. My future seemed dull. My life appeared to be so miserable that I preferred to die. Depression feels like darkness.
Lisa asked if she could bring a tube and hook me up to her paddleboard or kayak and take me on the river. I declined. In fact, I was covered in a blanket to warm me up as I was shaking and tears were running and I was cold from physical exhaustion. I had my journal where I wrote about my grief day and night. It was a season of confusion, darkness, and hopelessness. I was learning how to be fully human.
I told Lisa that I would never go kayaking.
Two weeks later, I bought a kayak and was paddling up and down the river: healing, recovering, and rejoicing again. It’s been over three years of adventures through kayaking. I have only great things to say about this unique self-care challenge, which I embarked on while still depressed and which helped my depression recovery big time.
My kayak is stored right outside my front door. I try to go on the water at least once a week but often I go every day. My only challenge has been the weight of my kayak, which is 38 lb. It’s 10 ft long, so it’s pretty heavy.
Considering my weight of 120 lb, carrying this boat up and down the stairs alone to the floating dock is a laborious task. So, I typically depend on my neighbors to help me carry the kayak to and from the water.
That’s all. No other obstacles.
In my community, there’s an option to rent a kayak for $20 and when guests visit, we do that. But after I did it twice for myself, I realized that investing $269 into the kayak and gear was a better financial decision long term. So, I asked my neighbor to help. We went to Dicks Sporting Goods, and I bought me a kayak, a paddle, a waterproof box for my phone and keys, a jacket, a whistle, and a ton of happiness.
Kayaking has been wonderful and benefited me in many ways. I want to share some of the benefits of kayaking adventures when it comes to all aspects of my wellness: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Benefits of Kayaking
Spending time in nature, breathing fresh air, and being physically active – all these have incredible long-term health rewards. I do know now, three years later, that taking my boat on the river and going up and down the stream, listening to the water and wind, seeing the birds having family outings, watching mister beaver swim loudly, witnessing turtles taking sunbaths, and enjoying the solitude while exercising my body – all these helped me recover from suicidal depression and promoted my healing. Of course, my arms toned, too! Let me tell you more…
Paddling against the current is hard and requires a lot of effort. Naturally, it challenges arm muscles, so having strong and toned arms is a great benefit of kayaking which I experienced.
If you have a proper form, meaning your back is straight all the time, your abs are activated, your belly button is glued to your spine, your shoulders are back, and your neck is tension-free, you definitely can build abs.
However, many people don’t have the paddle of the right length and, consequently, they have a bad form with their neck tension through the roof, their shoulders lifted up and exhausted, and their belly sticking out, so all their pressure is on the low back, neck, and shoulders.
If you have an improper form, you may end up with injuries and a huge chiropractic bill. If you have a proper form, you can end up with strong six-pack abs and nice toned arms. So, to experience the benefits of kayaking, learn to have a proper paddling form.
If you challenge yourself go against the current up the stream regularly, you will get your heart rate up, sweat, and lose fat, unless of course you’re eating crap and drinking alcohol while paddling. So, kayaking is an excellent cardio if you do it right.
Parking your car up the river and casually floating with the current down the stream, then taking Uber back to your car, won’t do you any good physically. So, challenge yourself and go up the stream.
I always start against the current.
Last week, my neighbor Ariana and I went up the stream for a long time. My arms were on fire and I was definitely working my abs and obliques for hours, which is visible. Doing this regularly flattened my belly and helped define my muscles. Considering that I’m almost 40 years old, I think it’s a great benefit of kayaking!
Below is a picture from my trip with Ariana.
Of course, you know about Vitamin D, which is not a vitamin but a hormone, which we are able to produce so taking it from a pill is unnecessary. How do we produce sufficient Vitamin D amounts, which help prevent depression and a host of mental issues and ensure our health overall? The sun is the answer.
We need to be in the sun outside to be able to produce this important hormone naturally. I never take any supplements. Instead, I eat a colorful and nutrient-rich plant-based diet. And I get a ton of Vitamin D from my kayaking adventures outside my front door on the Chattahoochee River, all resulting in my beautiful skin and natural glow!
Doing any activity in nature is transformative for our sedentary bodies. So, kayaking helped me get active and feel healthy, strong, and alive. If you look at my pictures and consider that I’m nearing 40, know that staying fit is what my little boat helps me do. I’m grateful!
One hour of kayaking a day three times a week, and I have no worries about gaining weight or having body aches and pains. I am completely healthy, don’t spend any money on doctors, and definitely kayaking helped me get to this level of physical wellbeing.
I was depressed and suicidal when I began my kayaking adventures. Having quiet time with God in nature and listening to the water (swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh…) helped my brain pain melt away.
One day at a time, I regained my mental clarity, zeal for life, and ability to be productive. During my depression peak, I was unable to work. Kayaking helped me normalize my mental health and go back to working. After work, to relax and recharge, I was kayaking in the evenings.
Kayaking with friends brought a new level of excitement and adventure into my life. The benefits of this experience for my mental health have been tremendous. I am healthy, alive, productive, excited about my future, and not on any drugs. All this is the result of being physically active and spending quality self-care time outside with God in the sun consistently.
No pill can restore true zeal for life or give any human genuine enthusiasm for the future. Yet, kayaking can do just that. It is such a healing and restorative activity for our modern urban brains damaged by the social media and TV addictions. Ditching my phone and being quiet with God while kayaking on the river and listening to the water, birds, and wind – this has been the best contribution to my mental health.
Taking new routes and going longer distances also challenges my brain and spikes my creativity. One afternoon, while I was kayaking, a poem was born.
It’s called Self-Care.
"Self-Care" #PoemsFromGod Practicing self-care brings inner peace As trials and challenges you daily bear. Your satisfaction with life to increase, You for yourself must proactively care. Intentional self-care includes healthy sleep, Nutrition and fitness and time outside, Practicing mindfulness and breathing deep, Helping your mind in peace to abide. Self-care requires also remembering Who you are, whose you are, and why you are here. When life gets too tough and when you are trembling, Focus on prayer and God who is near. Self-care includes the things you love doing: Cooking and reading, applying a hair mask, Writing and journaling, comedy viewing, Or simply completing a homemaking task. Going to church, talking with friends, Getting your nails done, visiting spa, Kayaking, hiking ... list never ends! You deserve YOU-time to sharpen your saw. You deserve quietness. You deserve peace. You deserve space for mindful awareness. Your overall health will surely increase As your mental health has an impact tremendous. Practicing self-care, you can recharge. You can regroup and attend to your heart. Of your mental health you are in charge. Make a self-care plan and practicing start. 7/20/17 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
The benefits of kayaking to the mental health of a modern human – who’s normally overwhelmed by the phone addictions and the comparison traps of social media – are significant, positive, and lasting.
The kayaking adventure is a great challenge to take on if you want to increase your mindfulness, awareness, joy, peace, alertness, gratitude, and satisfaction with life. Of course, being still and quiet will also help you to hear God’s voice. It happened to me, and my whole life changed! I became a poet, blogger, and artist as the result of my time in nature, alone with God, listening for His voice, paying attention, and following His guidance.
The way I can describe this benefit is this: I was able to feel divine oneness with God and His creation by being out there on the water consistently, still and quiet, paying attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and realizing the work God was doing in me and through me.
My faith grew. This Christian ministry for women was born. It’s been rewarding and exciting. Paddling up and down the river helped my fellowship with God become stronger. Being in nature and away from distractions drew me close to my creator. Our communion produced fruit. My life improved in every aspect. I wake up every day with God’s divine purpose dwelling in my heart. I am fully alive!
Kayaking Self-Care Challenge
I want you to try my kayaking adventure self-care challenge. You may not live on the water like I do but you can get a kayak and go at least for a little bit up the stream against the current and see how you’ll feel.
You’ll enjoy it, I promise!
At the time when I began my journey of healing, I had Bruno still with me, my Red-White rescue Cocker Spaniel who was my forever-puppy. Bruno was my best friend and companion. We walked 10000 steps, kayaked, and hiked together. Our picture from 2017 is below.
Bruno didn’t like being wet, so I bought him a life jacket. It took some getting used to but, eventually, he was fine wearing it and being in the boat. He was the star on the river: people would see him from afar and paddle up to me to pet Bruno! He passed away last year at ten years old from heart failure. I cherish our memories.
If you have a dog, take him with you!
If you do go on the river and commit to kayaking regularly, holding a proper form, and letting your abs and arms work, let me know in the comments below about the benefits of your experience.
I want to cheer you on!
You deserve quiet time with God.
You deserve self-care.
Why not take this kayaking challenge and explore?
FAQs About Kayaking
There were many questions I had when I was getting started on my kayaking adventures. So, I thought I’d use my experience to help you out in case you have a million questions, too.
One thing to remember is this: there are many types of kayaking. River paddling is different from kayaking in the open ocean. The current I get to conquer here in Atlanta, GA is nothing compared to the current you’d endure in the mountains.
Also, I’m 120 lb and my size is zero at 5’10” so I had never flipped my kayak. I did hear horror stories about flipping from people who are on a heavy side of weight. So, consider all these variables and take anyone’s advice with a grain of salt, including mine. You need to experience kayaking for yourself and be mindful of the exact environment, in which you plan to kayak, as well as the state where you are doing it.
It’s important to know your local law. All that’s required in GA is that I have a life jacket present on the boat. Many states require a special license and that you actually wear the life jacket.
Having a whistle is helpful when you want to attract attention in case of an emergency. I do carry two whistles: one in my waterproof box and another one attached to my life jacket. I did use it once and I was glad I had it. If there’s danger, you’ll be thankful for the whistle, so have it.
Kayaks can flip over but in my three years of kayaking, I have never flipped a kayak or seen someone else flip it. Yet, I did hear some stories from people who did, and I know it’s scary. To mitigate the risks, ensure you know how to get in and out of the kayak properly, as well as how to properly sit inside your kayak. I believe that your form while paddling is what gives you security and a positive fitness experience.
A few weeks ago, my friend Maria visited me and brought an inflatable kayak. We paddled against the current for hours, and Maria enjoyed her boat. From what I witnessed, I’d say yes, inflatable kayaks are great: easy to get in and out of the car, easy to carry to the dock, and easy to paddle.
Inflatable kayaks are easy to paddle, based on my three years of experience kayaking, I believe this type of kayaks is convenient.
Inflatable kayaks are not slower. How fast you go depends on your level of endurance and physical fitness, the direction of the current, the speed of the wind, the length of your paddle which must match your hight, and, of course, your form. If you have an improper form, you’ll be tired, worn out, and in pain very quickly. So, straighten your back, suck in your abs, relax your neck, shoulders back, and enjoy!
The best life jacket is the one that matches your size, doesn’t scratch your underarms, has pockets for the whistle etc, doesn’t make you hot when you actually wear it, and has adjustable belts in case you change in size or add/remove layers of clothing.
Wearing a bathing suit when kayaking is great when the weather is warm and you want some suntan. Yet, it can make you uncomfortable if that is all you’re wearing. When kayaking, your form requires you to use legs. In a kayak, you push yourself against the footrests with your feet. Your legs are open, your knees are spread. If all you’re wearing is swimwear panties, this may create discomfort when talking to people as they stare down there, if you know what I mean…
Kayaking can be hard for beginners. To make it easy, learn how to get in and out of the kayak properly, how to have a proper form when paddling, how to not rock your boat, and remember that it’s wise to go first against the current up the stream while you have energy, then, when tired, float down the river with the current effortlessly.
Wear sunscreen for sure and sunglasses. Wear some sort on a bottom that doesn’t make you uncomfortable spreading your legs wide open. I personally don’t like clothing imprinted on my chest so I wear a special strapless blouse: here’s the tube blouse I wear. I also wear old $10 black jeans from which I cut off the bottom. I typically wear underwear and not swimwear. But if you’re in an open ocean or in cold mountains, you may wear a wet suit and layer your clothing.
Kayaking definitely tones your arms if you have a proper form. If your effort is on your abs and arms while your back is straight and relaxed and your neck as well as shoulders are pressure-free, you will tone your arms. Kayaking helped me tone my arms.
Kayaking can burn belly fat but only under three conditions: you must be in a caloric deficit and in a fasting state, you must activate your abs while kayaking by sucking your belly button in and releasing pressure off your lower back, and you must go fast against the current. A flat belly is made in the kitchen. Here’s my story of plant-based weight loss. Your abs depend 80% on your diet and 20% on your fitness.
It’s a blessing to go kayaking alone. You’ll experience peace, get to know yourself, and hear from God. You’ll discover divine oneness with nature. You’ll love your solo kayaking adventures. I kayak alone 99% of the time and have done so for three years. I love it! The community where I live is filled with singles. Many men and women here go kayaking alone every day. My neighbor Brian, who is also single, spends all day every day on the river and runs his entire marketing business from his kayak. He’s there even at night! So, nothing is weird about kayaking alone. It’s a privilege to be independent!
Yes, I wear jeans kayaking and it’s fine, as long as they are black. If your jeans are not black, they will get dirty and wet from unavoidable water in your boat, and it may look like you peed on yourself.
Kayaking is a great core workout but only if you actually activate your core. If you use your shoulders, neck, and low back to kayak, your core is completely uninvolved, and kayaking will make no difference. To activate your core, sit straight, suck your belly in, glue your bellybutton to your spine, relax your neck and shoulders, and go. That will work your core and build your abs. You’ll only see the result if you are in a state of caloric deficit and have a low body fat percentage.
Kayaking can help you lose weight if you remain in caloric deficit, paddle fast, and go against the current up the stream. If you go with the flow, you expand no energy, so you won’t burn calories. If you drink alcohol and eat crappy junk while kayaking, you won’t outwork your mouth, so you won’t lose weight in that case. If you are in a state of caloric deficit, go up the stream, but don’t work hard, you’re unlikely to burn too many calories and lose any weight. So, you can lose weight kayaking if you are in a fasted state and work hard.
Yes, you definitely will get somewhat wet while kayaking. I typically don’t get too wet but even from moving my paddle in and out, I can get some water into the boat and on my seat. If you have an improper form or your paddle is the wrong size for your hight, kayaking will be a hustle and you’ll be really wet and in pain, probably.
The benefits of kayaking are physical wellbeing, healthy levels of natural Vitamin D, glowing skin, strong arms and abs if you have a proper form, increased endurance, optimized mental health, greater creativity, quiet time with God and stillness, oneness with nature, genuine joy and peace, and enhanced satisfaction with life.
Remember to go up the stream first, then when tired, float down the river. Have a whistle, wear a life jacket, practice getting in and out of the kayak properly, maintain a good form with shoulders back, belly sucked in, and neck relaxed. Take a waterproof box for your phone and keys. Hook that box to your kayak in case you flip, so you won’t love your valuables. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburns.
Have fun and enjoy your self-care time!
I shared with you my story of healing through embarking on a kayaking adventure three years ago. Since then, I recovered from suicidal depression, returned to work, improved my physical health and mental wellbeing, grew closer to God, became a poet, artist, and blogger, and stopped being sick.
I’ve enjoyed a great quality of life and genuine peace. This journey of healing started for me by learning what God says about me: that I am valuable, I am worthy, and I am loved; that I matter and make a difference. Discovering my identity as a child of God enticed me to practice self-care. Today, I help women see themselves the way God sees them.
I’ve specifically been focusing on identity in Christ. From the Bible, I discovered 52 incredibly-positive things God says about us as His daughters. Those 52 precious discoveries turned into 52 Biblical affirmations I created to encourage and empower Christian women.
My free ebook helps you understand who God says you are. Don’t be vulnerable to identity attacks from the mainstream media, relatives, coworkers, your boss, society, culture, and the voices in your head.
Stand firm and know what God says about you.
Other self-care challenges for you:
- 100 Squats a Day Self-Care Challenge
- 10000 Steps Self-Care Challenge
- Healthy at Home: Self-Care Ideas
- Hiking Self-Care Challenge
- Hula Hoop Workout Self-Care Challenge
- Kayaking Self-Care Challenge
- Meditation Self-Care Challenge
- Picnicking Self-Care Challenge
- Self-Care Tips
- Travel Adventure Self-Care Challenge
Embark on a kayaking adventure to explore the nearby waters and experience new challenges! Get excited about life! Improve your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing!
Anna Szabo is the founder of Online Discipleship For Women, a Christian ministry committed to alleviating suicide among women globally by sharing hope in Christ. Anna teaches how to create a joyful life by embracing God’s word based on her own journey of faith and fortitude.
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