I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of going whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole. I'm not the strongest of swimmers,and I kept having visions of myself falling into the rapids and splitting my head open on a rock. Some of my friends had gone before and they insisted that sitting toward the back of the boat would keep me safe. That I wouldn't get too wet, and that my chances of falling out would be slim to none. Course, then someone at work told me that sitting in the back of the boat would get me bucked out. I had no idea who to believe, but I went into it with an open mind. And my fingers crossed.
The river itself was actually quite calm. At least at the beginning. We rafted past a bald eagle perched atop a branch in a pine tree. We rafted by some cliff divers, which we encouraged with shouting requests to see them jump (they did). And we even rowed hard enough to raft by some other whitewater boats. Feeling a bit sure of myself, I moved to the front of the boat. (Can you spot me in the photo above? I'm the second oar on the left side of the boat.) Of course, that's when the river kicked it up a notch.
And then it kicked it up a few more notches. Technically speaking, the Snake River is a Class III river with eight to ten sections of medium-intensity rapids. (Class VI is the highest rating, and that means the river would be virtually impassable and you wouldn't launch a boat anyway.) And we sure did hit those rapids, almost one right after the other! I survived the first one, and that pretty much wiped out any fears I had.
In fact, it literally wiped out my fears because we essentially went underwater (see photo at right). Amazingly enough, not one of us fell out of the boat. Good times—and a good workout—had by all! If you ever get the chance to do some rafting, I highly recommend it. If it's not an option, you can recreate the physical benefits in the comforts of your (dry) gym.
Grab a body bar and an exercise ball, take a seat on the ball and grasp the bar much the same way you would a paddle. Palm the top end with one hand, grab two thirds of the way down the bar with the other. Then, proceed to row as you would if you were actually in a boat on the water. Try 30 seconds per side to begin with, and increase as you see fit. Squeeze your abs for balance and call upon your arm and back muscles to move the body bar. And use that imagination of yours, too! Pretend you are floating down the Snake River with a group of your best friends—it makes the exercise even more fun!