If you think that your paddling days are gone along with the warm weather, think again!

All things paddling (i.e., canoeing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding) are great water sports. I use paddle sports all the time in the summer for cross-training on my off-days. The motion works my lungs and gets my arms tired in a way that running definitely doesn't. If you're on the scrawny-arm side like me, you don't even have to move that fast to get your heart rate up!

But as the temperatures drop, I usually say goodbye to this form of exercise. My standup paddleboard starts to collect dust (or frost) on the back deck, and I miss squinting my eyes as the sun glints off Spa Creek. So I decided to research whether or not I could continue paddling even in the cold. And here's what I found:

YES! But it's not necessarily for the faint of heart ...

Gear, gear, gear!

Getting a little wet is inevitable when you're paddling, right? You don't want to catch hypothermia out there, and you don't want to lose your toes to frostbite when you push off the shore. Get good, waterproof boots: ones with a little bit of height to them. Wetsuit boots are designed specifically for water sports, and there are a bunch of different kinds. Depending on the brand, they can range drastically in price. To be safe, buy them during the summer when they'll be on sale.

You may also want to invest in a wetsuit, too. Depending on how wet you'll get (if you're clumsy like me, this may be pretty wet!), a wetsuit will insulate the water to your body temperature. But add a few, easy-to-move-in layers on top -- wetsuits won't protect you from the wind or cold air temperatures. 

And don't forget your gloves and hat!

Plan!

This means know the temperature, the wind chill, the route, and even when the sun is going to set.

You'll want to make absolutely sure you're wearing enough, but also not too much. Also, keep an eye on the wind: when the wind makes the water too choppy, you'll just get wetter than you want to be. You also don't want to risk capsizing. But if you do, make sure you're closer to the shore than you would usually venture in the summer months -- that way you won't get too cold if you find yourself unexpectedly in the water and swimming to shore.

So, yes, winter paddling takes a little more brain work than it does in the summer, but it is possible! Seeing the fall leaves on Spa Creek or the first frost of the season from a different perspective may even be worth the cold ... I'll let you know!

The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.

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