The Kayaking Incident

I said in my last post that I haven’t yet found myself on dialysis in a foreign hospital. What I didn’t say was that there was a very brief moment where I thought I might.

Since the fateful half marathon over a year ago, I have not done a whole lot of exercise. When I have, it’s been walking. Safe to say, therefore, my arm muscles are not what they used to be. If I’m being honest, they were never much to begin with.

When, in New Zealand, I decided to spend a whole day sea kayaking around Abel Tasman National Park, I probably should have realised that it was going to be hard. But I didn’t.

For all my worrying about how my legs would cope with exercise, I didn’t give my arms a second thought. It was only as we paddled off from the beach, against the current, aiming for a little island – Fisherman’s Island – that I remembered kayaking is tiring.

The island was further away than we first thought, and if we stopped paddling we drifted away in the wrong direction. It seemed like it didn’t matter how hard we worked, the island just wasn’t getting any closer.

Rhabdo to Fabdo, The kayaking incident
When we finally arrived at Fisherman’s island.

Once we finally made it to Fisherman’s island, things got a bit easier. We could make short hops to other islands, and the going was much easier if we hugged the coast. The views were incredible. We saw a stingray and lots of friendly seals, and even stopped for a boozy picnic on a remote beach.

By the time we turned around to head for home, we were getting tired, and the tide had come in, making the final stretch even further.

We also had to have the kayak back by 4.30pm, and we were running a little late. That last slog was where it got really difficult. My arms were exhausted, but there was no choice but to push on a get back to shore.

Obviously, we made it in the end, but that night, I was shattered, dehydrated and in pain.

My shoulders and neck were stiff, and I could barely move my arms enough to eat my pizza (well-deserved if I say so myself).

Throughout the whole day, exercising in the 30-degree heat with hardly any shade available, I had only drunk about a litre of water. And the beer I’d had with lunch wouldn’t have helped.

For the first time, I thought I might really be in some trouble.

Rhabdo to Fabdo, The Kayaking Incident
The beer I would come to regret.

I almost panicked. But, when I had heatstroke last year, I couldn’t eat or drink anything. When I had rhabdo, the pain got gradually worse rather than better.

After kayaking, I had no trouble at all with the pizza. In fact, I devoured it in a matter of minutes. I also wasn’t feeling nauseous and I didn’t have a headache.

I decided to sleep on it, and I slept better in the back of our little camper than I ever had before.

The next day, my arms were still achy, but a normal amount of achy. I could move them again. All in all, I felt a lot better than I had the night before.

It seems obvious now. When you haven’t used your arm muscles for months, and then you spend a whole day kayaking, you can expect to know about it.

I did not have what we coined ‘arm rhabdo’. All I had was a good old-fashioned case of overdoing it.

I learnt a couple of things from the kayaking incident. First of all, I don’t have to be scared of a bit of muscle pain – it’s normal to ache after a big day of exercise, and it will pass.

Secondly – on the other hand – exercise that doesn’t involve my legs is still exercise.

I had been so focused on not pushing myself too far when hiking, I forgot to take it easy when doing other activities, too. I pushed myself beyond my limit on that day, and I regretted it. It took me more than a week to feel back to normal again.

That said, we had a great day – one I remember more for the beaches, seals and beauty than I do for the difficulty and the aftermath.

Kayaking in Abel Tasman was something I wanted to tick off my bucket list. Now I’ve done it, I want to go back, go further into the park, see even more remote areas and spend a couple of nights camping in the wilderness.

Next time, maybe I’ll be a little bit fitter. And if not, at least I’ll be a lot more prepared.

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