Today, 2009-03-25, at and around 43°38'26"N, 72°8'39"W (i.e., Enfield, NH) the water is still too hard to paddle, at least covered in that cold, hard stuff, that is! So what is the impatient paddler to do? Off-season conditioning, of course! Apart from the good old calisthenics routine that immediately follows rolling out of bed, I have been using a simple line-and-pulley set-up for many years to reasonably good effect, apparently.
Thirty repetitions pulling while facing the pulley alternate with thirty reps pushing, with my back towards the pulley. Usually I do five or more sets of this per session. Even that short five minute work-out once, twice or three times per day (as a change of pace from endless email, and incessant talking on the phone) has quite a noticeable effect. Of course you don't get fit by this method alone, but it does provide some useful muscle conditioning prior to and alongside the real work-out routine, and functions as low investment maintenance work. (More about that in some future blog entry.)
A "lifetime lubricated" hardware store pulley (420 lb, "not for overhead use or use in athletic equipment") has served me well. Add to that about 12 foot of 1/2-inch line with a stop-knot at both ends. A thinner piece of line attaches to the pulley at the non-moving end and forms a convenient loop there.
I attach the pulley by that loop to a convenient bedpost, door handle, desk leg, or similar, and I'm ready to go. That's it!
I have been experimenting with a wide choice of positions over the years and I like to vary them quite a lot, both during a particular work-out and from one session to the next, too! To begin with, I can either sit or stand, which uses quite different sets of muscles, although both always involve your paddling muscles in some form or other. Standing allows much easier control of the amount of force that I put into the work-out. It also allows me to change my stance to vary the load: I can bend my legs and hold a squat at various heights, raise or lower my body slowly while performing the pulling and pushing reps. I can rise up on my toes, either standing up or squatting. Or I can combine squats and toe-raises while working the torso, shoulders and arms!
I even carry this with me in my carry-on luggage when I travel, especially when forced to travel with no prospect of paddling! Some airport security officers have asked serious questions about my intentions with this strange device that has obviously seen a lot of use, but all thought it was a pretty good idea when I explained what I do with it.