FLORENCE, S.C. – Even though they faced winds and the threat of rain, several contestants from the United Way of Florence County’s Florence’s Biggest Loser competition hit the water for the final physical event of the 2019 competition on March 31.
Led by Naturally Outdoors owner Hunter Morgan, the challenge took place at the Florence Soccer Complex pond and was used to show the contestants how to use a fun activity such as kayaking as a way to incorporate physical activity in their lives.
“Getting regular exercise has numerous benefits from preventing heart disease to reducing stress to just generally helping you feel better,” Morgan said. “Exercising outdoors can feel even better because most of us are living in a digital world today, so 30 minutes to a few hours outdoors will make you feel like a new person, and there’s no limit to what you can do.
“You can take a brisk walk, a long run, a neighborhood bike ride or feel the glide of a kayak or canoe as you paddle across the water. All of these can be experiences that are so rewarding and so refreshing.”
Before the contestants got in the kayaks, Morgan first demonstrated how to properly hold a paddle and how to angle it in the water. He also instructed the contestants on how to effectively paddle by taking one end of the paddle at the toes and then pulling it back to the hip before performing the same movement on the opposite side. Although many people think paddling works just the arms and shoulders, Morgan explained that is also takes core strength, because the body should be twisting side to side with the paddle.
After the demonstration, the contestants put on life vests and got into kayaks to warm up while practicing the paddling and turning techniques they had learned during Morgan’s demonstration.
Once the contestants felt confident in being able to travel through the water, they were divided into a women’s team and a men’s team to face off against each other in kayak races. The contestants in each heat first started at one end of the pond together before paddling as hard as they could to a buoy set up at the midway point of the pond.
Once the contestants reached the buoy, they had to use strength and coordination to try to turn as close to the buoy as possible before racing back to the shore.
Kenneth Lupo was the overall winner for the men’s heat, and Jennifer Brault was the overall winner for the women’s heat. At the end of the event, the winners and several of the other contestants from both the women’s heat and men’s heat as well as student volunteers from Naturally Outdoors faced off against each other for one overall race. Kenneth Lupo beat out the other contestants and the Naturally Outdoors volunteers to be the overall winner of the whole event.
For several returning contestants, this was the second time they had a chance to participate in a kayak event with Naturally Outdoors and Florence’s Biggest Loser, but that did not make the workout any less challenging.
“I’ve only been kayaking three times, and my first time was actually when I did Florence’s Biggest Loser for the first time in 2016,” contestant Jennifer Brault said. “It doesn’t look like it would be that hard when you’re just watching others do it, but when you get out there yourself, it is much harder, and you definitely use your arm muscles.”
Even though the skies stayed cloudy and the contestants paddled hard, the event ended with everyone staying dry and avoiding the threat of rain or falling into the pond.
For those interested in outdoor physical activities, Naturally Outdoors soon will be hosting free kayak demonstrations and Phil’s Bicycle World will be hosting free group bicycle rides to the public. Keep an eye on their websites (naturallyoutdoors.com and philsbicycleworld.com) for dates and more information.