It’s 6.45am and I’m kayaking against the tide of the Thames. When I signed up for this early morning session with Kayaking London, I knew that my upper body, legs and core strength would be challenged – but this doesn’t feel like a gentle cruise down the river, more like an expedition.
Ten minutes in and my arms are pumped. But the current (and my guide) takes no prisoners, and I struggle to keep up. Approximately 14,475 gallons a second is discharged in the central London section of the river, meaning if caught by a nasty rip, I could get swept away into oncoming boat traffic or, worse, capsize.
Taking a drink of the Thames’ sewage-infested water could potentially give me a bunch of nasty diseases, including Wiles disease and leptospirosis. Such thoughts are a welcome distraction from the tough workout. “Don’t fall in, don’t fall in,” I repeat to myself.
On the banks, there’s a similar atmosphere to a marathon crowd, with people waving and cheering, attracted by our flotilla of colourful little boats and their captains with death wishes.
Each time I try to give up ploughing through the brown juice, one of London’s epic landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, lures me in for a closer look.
“Paddling against the tide develops skill, increases stamina and finer boat control,” instructor Harry Whelan says, urging me on.
However, Whelan’s been paddling nearly as long as he’s been walking – he’s circuited the UK in his canoe, and makes this exigent morning paddle look effortless.
On the way back, it’s even harder as the wind pushes against me. “You’re lucky; you get to see the Thames in its ever-changing moods,” Whelan says.
“It’s even better in the dead of winter, there are more challenges like the crisp cold, and you get to see the sun as it rises on the water.”
I’m not convinced, and think Whelan’s possibly a bit bonkers, but one thing’s for sure: I’ve had the workout of my life.
Othere early morning workouts
Beach Body Blitz
What: Drop into this all-round cardio shape and tone class for spinning, step, circuits, aerobics and dance. Routines are tailored
to focus on legs, abs, arms, bottoms.
Cost: £10 per session.
When and where: Wednesdays, 6.45am. West Health Yard, 174 Mill Lane, NW6 1TB.
What: Push through your hangover on Sunday morning with an early morning long-distance run in Richmond Park. The circuit is seven miles and there are plenty of running groups for different speeds.
When and where: Sunday, 9am sharp.
Meet at the information point in Richmond Park, TW10 5HS.
What: Start the day by getting wet. Finchley Lido is open super-early so you can get a few lengths in before work in their 25m outdoor pool. Freezing cold? Jump into their 29°C indoor pool to warm up.
Cost: £5.50 per session.
When and where: Mon-Fri from 6.45am. Finchley Lido Leisure Centre, Great North Leisure Park, Chaplin Square, N12 0GL.
Kayak London sessions, Wed 6.45am and Sat 8.15am. £15.
Leaving from Cremorne Riverside, Cremorne Gardens, Lots Road, SW10 0QH
Photos: Kayak London; Thinkstock