When I was younger, I always enjoyed canoeing on holiday. We usually went to the South of France with Eurocamp in the big tents and I have many fond memories of canoeing on lakes and rivers especially the ones with rapids to go down.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do outdoor adventure residential trips at high school and running and basketball were my sports.
On a tour around New Zealand in 2007, one of my favourite days was climbing the Franz Josef Glacier then kayaking across Lake Mapourika. The views were absolutely spectacular. I have never forgotten that day.
Fast forward 20 years and I was given the opportunity to join the Outdoor Adventure Team on a permanent basis. Physical activity, exercise, and sport was my background but I had always loved the outdoors.
Working in the team now has given me the opportunity to do more water activities and undertake some informal training with members of the team and external training. In January this year, I volunteered to be a student for three of the team who were doing their Paddlesport qualification assessment. We had two days in the Lake District in freezing temperatures and rain canoeing and kayaking on Lake Windermere and although it was physically challenging, it was great fun. All of this has given me a greater understanding and appreciation of the benefits of being on the water both physically and mentally.
Unlike most other parts of my life with a husband and two young sons, whenever I do outdoor activities, it is for me. Whether it is walking, running, kayaking, or paddleboarding, I try to take time out for myself, to switch off from work, home life, or whatever is buzzing around my head at the time.
I’ve recently organised for ladies from my running group to come over the Scotman’s Flash to do an evening of activities. Over two evening, 60 women came. Some have done the activities before and were confident and others were out of their comfort zone and anxious. Everyone loved it, the staff, the beautiful surroundings, the gorgeous sunset we were lucky enough to enjoy themselves and having time for them. They all felt mentally and physically stronger for coming as well.
For me, being on the water brings a sense of calm, space and a chance to clear my head of all the stresses of life. For me, being on the water is my mental exercise rather than physical. I can focus on the moment, take in the beautiful surroundings, absorb the natural sounds, watch the different birds flying around me, and relax. Unlike when I run, being on the water is not about how far or fast I paddle.
I love being outside in the fresh air, boosting my vitamin D levels, and exercising in a ‘blue gym’. I come off the water genuinely feeling less stressed, less anxious, calmer, and fulfilled in a different way to any other form of exercise. Physically I can tell I have used all of my body to propel myself through the water and I get a sense of achievement from how far I have paddled. Whenever I have been on the water, I always get a better night’s sleep.
I will never get out on the water as much as I would like to. But every time I do, I appreciate how much better I feel afterward both mentally and physically.