Serendipity often occurs when I kayak, whether on a river or the ocean. Kayaking allows me to focus in on the microcosm of the water/land interface, where so much beauty lies. It also teaches me again how to relax in nature.

Recently I was kayaking on the Contoocook River early in the morning, heading upriver. I caught sight of the red cardinal flower and slid in to get a closer look, only to discover a mass of blue gentians. I couldn’t get over how beautiful they were, and how many there were. I pulled in to the shore, and just rested there. Then I watched a bumble bee land and climb into a blue gentian, head first, until it was hidden deep inside. It eventually came out (rear first) and flew around a bit, only to come back to the same flower. This scene, along with the old roots of a tree reaching to the water and the shimmering light reflecting on them, made for a lovely moment.

Transverse abdominals engaged, good timing on foot rests with the paddle, gentle turning of my torso with each motion.

But I had places to go upriver. As I settled into a steady paddling rhythm, I pulled in my transverse abdominals (one of the core muscles you tighten up and in around the belly button and across the lower pelvis). Once again I felt how wonderfully they work to give me that extra power per stroke, while of course supporting my lower back, too. Then, thinking of my favorite women’s health colleague, I pulled my pelvic floor muscles up and in (that is, the Kegel exercise, but held continuously). The transverse abs and pelvic floor muscles teamed together and I paddled on with increased awareness of both. But soon the water lilies caught my attention and the pelvic floor receded, the transverse abdominals holding on a bit longer.

As I paddled on, I saw turtles basking on an old tree that had fallen into the water; I floated by. Then I saw preening ducks on another log; I floated by them as well. I then paddled into a lagoon, with my core once again engaged, looking for great blue herons. This was not to be, at least with my eyes. As we all know they are very stealthy, and great fisherwomen as well.

By now, it was time for the steady paddling rhythm heading back downriver. Transverse abdominals engaged, good timing on foot rests with the paddle, gentle turning of my torso with each motion. I stopped on Daisy Beach, which is so rarely empty, to stretch my legs. For a change, I felt no back strain or sciatica issues. It was the most enjoyable use of my abdominals I could remember, and so clearly a part of the experience.

That of gentians, kayaking and my core.

Martha Torrey, PT

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