Great XC Ski & Paddle Trainer: Theraband Tubing
For the past 20 years I've been using Theraband products to train for XC skiing and canoe/kayak paddling. It's great stuff. I'm not superfit but I stay in the game to a sizable extent thanks to this stuff.
I started way back with inner tubes that I'd tie to a tree trunk and pull on. Or I'd have them hooked to bolts up in some basement ceiling joists. But inner tubes gathered water outside where I preferred to do my exercising. I then discovered Theraband and ended up buying a bunch of their flat banding. For some reason it took me awhile to figure out all their levels of resistance and what it all really meant. Possibly they were expanding their product lines at this same time. Basically, I needed their strongest stuff. But then their flat banding would fail after a couple years. I kept looking around.
Then I discovered their TUBING.
The tubing comes in 7 grades of resistance. Again, I wanted the strongest, which is SILVER.
I bought a bunch of it and have been using it nonstop for the past 10 years. It's very strong stuff. Max resistant. Just right. Also, it's fine when wet. Also, it lasts a long time. Doesn't degrade fast in the sun, though I keep mine attached to a shady tree so maybe sun would be a factor. I'd say my tubes now last me at least 5 years.
I tie them around a strap which I in turn tie to a tree to hang over a low branch. I'm sure many set-ups would work. I find it key, though, to tie it higher than I am by a few feet. I personally like pulling down and back on the tubes -- this motion VERY closely imitates poling and paddling.
I tie up one length of 10 feet in the middle to give 2 5-foot strands hanging down. I put knots into these strands. Then I do single-stick diagonal ski pole training with them.
I also tie up two other 10-foot lengths and tie together two sets of two strands to give me double-strength tubes. I pull on these to train for doublepoling.
With the Silver tubing every pull feels like poling up a steep hill. Just right!
With both types of strands I can stand closer to or farther from the tree to change the tension even more.
I like to stand far back with the double-strands and do ab-crunches with fixed arm angles. With the Silver tubing these crunches feel as hard as the ones on the ground.
That's not all, no way! I also stand sideways and do chop-down diagonal motions with the doubles. I bend my legs alternating, too, adding a sideways lunge motion to this high-low exercise. I also stand sideways and do inner and outer rotation pulls using just my shoulders with fixed elbow angle -- I think this helps a lot for reducing rotational injury, as with kayak bracing and rolling.
The chopping and ab-crunches are massively good core exercises.
But that's not all! I also tie a 10-foot loop to the base of the tree. I stand inside that and stretch it out then do pole-arm recoveries, lifting up and forward against resistance.
For my last hurrah I get trickiest of all: I've nailed two long gutter-spikes into the base of the tree thru two 4" pulleys, one on each side of the tree. Another tree stands 10 feet beyond my tube-tree. I tied a 20-foot loop of tubing around the base of the far tree and the base of my tube-tree. When I then lift the tube-loop it pops into the pulley grooves under high tension already. I take the knot at that location and grab it and pull up and away diagonally. This gives a great low-to-high diagonal resistance core exercise, with leg-lunging.
Ta-dah! That's the set-up. It's all-weather. And costs only a nominal amount in high quality materials suitable to last at least 5 years outdoors.
So, if you don't want to get tricky and do the pulley-thing, I'll sell you 40 feet -- enough for the 4 main routines -- for $50, including postage. All it takes is a place to tie 3 double sets of tubes up high and one looped set down low. Then you can go to town. Just let me know and I'll send you the PayPal bill.
So, I do each exercise 10-20 times and I'm done. A whole routine takes 5 minutes. Total upper body and core blasted.
'Course you can skip the sweet tubes and go for bike inner tubes and do the trick for free. But inner tubes, in addition to being real splashy outdoors, are also noisy (indoors and out) -- though I used to get into the thunderous slappage they'd generate.
I'm pretty sure this routine helps with all manner of outdoor activity, including the key ingredients of lawnmowing, raking, hoeing and snowshoveling. Plus axwork, chainsawing and log-splitting. Ha...all of which are their own great workouts. But you MUST be in great shape BEFORE you start these things! Year-round base fitness is key.
But in summer it can be easy to just drop into a biking-only mode. And in autumn drear it can be easy to drop everything entirely for a month -- of fitness-loss and 10 lbs weight gain.
Being able to grab some tubes and yank 'em will keep you in the game!
Now, when I'm on the ball, I use the tubes as warmups. I do a little trail run and tubes session followed by yard-weights and my outdoor Total Gym slider-rig. (A little lube-spray keeps the rain rust away.) I'd like to add more heavy-bag whacking but that's not often -- I have to haul it outta the garage and pulley it up into a tree. I used to do it when I talked myself into thinking that carrying it out was good exercise, too, but now I slack. I wish I could figure out how to weather-protect it and just let it hang for 3x1-min whack sessions. I suppose some kind of big squirrel dish hung on the rope above it might work. But who has time...
Which reminds me... A Total Gym is the real deal and I'm sure is worth the price for those with jobs. One can also be gotten at Craigslist garage sales for $20-100. It works just like the rollerboards that XC skiers have created plans for. Rollerboards have long been used for max doublepole training. The materials for the plan would cost more than a garage sale TG. I figured I'd skip the construction step. If you're lucky, your Gym will come with the cool leg-curl, pull-up, inverted-situp accessories and the slider that lets you add weight-disks. Oh yeah!
Anyway, feel free to order your own 12-foot chunks of Monster Silver Tube from me here, postpaid Priority in the USA.
I'm also becoming a dealer-retailer for this stuff and can soon get it in different resistances.