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Preparing physically for rafting is an investment in your adventure, ensuring that every paddle stroke brings you closer to the unforgettable experiences waiting on the river. So, let’s gear up, get ready, and look forward to the incredible shared adventure that lies ahead.


Understanding the Physical Demands of Rafting

White water rafting is an adventure that engages the whole body, combining the excitement of navigating rapids with the physicality of paddling and balancing in a dynamic environment. Understanding these physical demands is key to preparing effectively, and ensuring that your rafting experience is exhilarating, enjoyable, and safe. Let’s break down the main components of what your body will be doing on the river and why each aspect is crucial to the rafting experience.

Paddling Power

  • Upper Body and Arm Strength: Paddling is the heart of the rafting experience. It requires sustained upper body strength and endurance, as you’ll be using paddles to navigate and propel the raft forward. This doesn’t just involve your arms; your shoulders, back, and chest also play significant roles.
  • Technique Over Muscle: While strength is important, efficient paddling technique can significantly reduce physical strain. Proper technique allows you to leverage your whole body, not just your arms, making paddling more effective and less tiring.

Core Stability and Balance

  • Engaging Your Core: The unpredictable waters and sudden movements of the raft necessitate a strong core. Your abdominal and lower back muscles help you maintain balance, adjust to shifts in the raft’s movement, and prevent falls.
  • Flexibility and Agility: Rapid changes in direction and speed require you to quickly adjust your position. Flexibility and agility help you respond swiftly to your guide’s commands and the river’s challenges, ensuring you stay safely in the raft.

Swimming Skills

  • Comfort in Water: While not everyone who goes rafting will end up in the water, the possibility exists. Comfort and basic swimming skills are essential for safety. Being able to swim or at least stay calm in water can make unexpected swims less intimidating and more manageable.
  • Safety Techniques: Understanding basic water safety and rescue techniques, such as the defensive swimming position, can be invaluable. These skills are often covered in the safety briefing before your trip.

Stamina and Endurance

  • Cardiovascular Fitness: Rafting can be a physically demanding activity, especially on longer trips or in higher-grade rapids. Good cardiovascular health helps you maintain energy levels throughout the adventure, ensuring you can paddle effectively and enjoy every moment.
  • Mental Stamina: Physical endurance goes hand in hand with mental stamina. The ability to maintain focus, stay positive, and keep going, even when tired, enhances your resilience on the river.


Specific Exercises for Rafters

To fully enjoy the thrills of white water rafting and to handle the physical demands it entails, incorporating specific exercises into your preparation can make all the difference. These exercises are designed to enhance your paddling power, improve your core stability and balance, boost your swimming skills, and increase your overall stamina and endurance. Here’s a tailored workout plan that will get you and your family river-ready.

Paddling Strength and Endurance

  • Kayak or Canoe Simulation: Using a gym rowing machine or a kayak ergometer, practice paddling motions to build up your upper body and mimic the actions you’ll perform on the river. If you don’t have access to equipment, simulate paddling with resistance bands attached to a fixed point.
  • Push-Ups: An excellent exercise for building upper body strength, push-ups target your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Incorporating variations, such as wide-grip or incline push-ups, can engage different muscle groups.
  • Plank Rows: Start in a plank position with a weight in each hand. Row one weight up towards your waist, return it to the ground, and repeat with the other arm. This exercise strengthens your back, arms, and core simultaneously.

Core Stability and Balance

  • Planks: A fundamental exercise for core stability, planks engage your entire core, including your abdominals and lower back. Variations such as side planks or adding leg lifts can increase the challenge.
  • Stability Ball Exercises: Exercises like ball passes, where you lie on your back and pass the ball from your hands to your feet, target your core, and improve balance. Using a stability ball for sit-ups or push-ups adds an extra balance challenge.
  • Yoga: Yoga practices that focus on balance and core strength, such as poses in the Warrior series or Tree pose, are excellent for enhancing stability and flexibility, and beneficial for navigating the dynamic environment of a raft.

Swimming Skills and Comfort in Water

  • Swimming Laps: Regular swimming builds endurance and strengthens the muscles used in paddling. Practice different strokes to engage various muscle groups and improve overall water comfort.
  • Treading Water: Practicing treading water increases endurance and helps you become more comfortable staying afloat in deep water. Try treading water for increasing intervals to build stamina.
  • Water Safety Drills: Familiarize yourself with safety positions, like the defensive swimming position (lying on your back, feet downstream), and practice them in a pool. Knowing these positions can increase confidence in water.

Stamina and Cardiovascular Fitness

  • Cycling or Running: Both activities are excellent for building cardiovascular endurance. Engaging in regular runs or bike rides increases your stamina, ensuring you have the energy for a day of paddling and adventure.
  • Interval Training: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance rapidly. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief recovery periods mimic the sporadic, intense effort required in rafting.


Incorporating Rafting Preparation into Daily Life

Preparing for a white water rafting adventure doesn’t have to mean spending hours isolated in a gym or on solo runs. Getting ready for the physical demands of rafting can be seamlessly integrated into your family’s daily life, making the preparation process enjoyable and something that brings everyone closer together. Here are practical tips to incorporate rafting preparation into your routine, turning it into an opportunity for fun, bonding, and anticipation for the adventure ahead.

Make Fitness a Family Activity

  • Family Fitness Challenges: Set up weekly fitness challenges that everyone can participate in, like who can do the most push-ups or hold a plank the longest. Celebrate with small rewards to keep motivation high.
  • Active Family Outings: Swap a sedentary weekend activity for something more active. Hiking, biking, or even a day at the pool swimming can be great fun and excellent preparation for your rafting trip.
  • Paddle Together: If possible, rent a canoe or a kayak and spend a day on the water. It’s a great way to practice paddling, get a feel for water dynamics, and enjoy time together as a family.

Integrate Exercise into Daily Routines

  • Walk or Bike for Errands: Choose walking or biking over driving for short errands. It’s a great way to build stamina and promote a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise Breaks: Incorporate short exercise breaks into your day. A few minutes of stretching, jumping jacks, or a brisk walk can be invigorating and add up to significant fitness gains over time.
  • Family Yoga Sessions: Start or end the day with a family yoga session to improve balance and flexibility. There are many online classes designed for all ages and skill levels.

Use Everyday Moments as Opportunities

  • Commercial Break Workouts: Turn TV time into fitness time by doing simple exercises like squats, lunges, or sit-ups during commercial breaks.
  • Dance Parties: Crank up the music and have impromptu dance parties. Dancing is a fun way to get everyone moving, laughing, and improving their fitness.
  • Gardening and Outdoor Chores: Engage in gardening or outdoor chores together. Activities like digging, raking, and sweeping can be surprisingly good exercise and productive, too.

Emphasize Nutrition and Hydration

  • Healthy Family Meals: Prepare healthy meals together, focusing on nutrients that fuel the body for exercise, like lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay Hydrated: Encourage everyone to drink water throughout the day. Staying hydrated is crucial for physical activity and overall health. Make it fun by having personalized water bottles for each family member.

Reflect and Adjust

  • Track Progress: Keep a simple log of your activities and progress. Reflecting on what you’ve accomplished can be incredibly satisfying and motivating.
  • Adjust as Needed: Be flexible and adjust your activities based on what the family enjoys and benefits from the most. The goal is to find sustainable, enjoyable ways to prepare for rafting.


Integrating rafting physical preparation into your daily life not only gets your family ready for the physical demands of the adventure but also strengthens your bond and increases the excitement for the trip.

By making fitness fun and part of your routine, you’ll arrive at Colorado Adventure Center prepared, confident, and ready to embrace the thrilling experience of white water rafting together.