Q & A With Guy Kuo, M.D. -”Happy Vasa Kayak Erg User”

“Despite that our only kayak training is done on our Vasa Kayak Erg, we fly across the water and go 20 times farther than everyone else. That is really fun when you’re nearly twice their age. Our Vasa Kayak Erg is key.”

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Guy Kuo is a full-time practicing physician, medical director, business owner, software and hardware designer. He discovered the Vasa Kayak Ergometer during his journey from sedentary life to a physically active one. After decades of neglecting his own health while caring for patients and working in technical ventures, he found himself overweight, out of shape, and even out of breath within a few flights of stairs. However, that began to change when he purchased a Vasa Kayak Ergometer. Below, find Guy’s Q & A success story.

Q: Why did you purchase a Vasa Kayak Ergometer?

Guy Kuo:  About three years ago we purchased a Vasa Kayak Ergometer to condition us for our paddle across the Aitutaki lagoon. We vacation there regularly.  

Q: Would you tell us more about that paddling adventure?

GK: It’s a 24 km paddle, done on a terribly inefficient, sit on top, tandem resort kayak.   It’s a tough go that is very rarely accomplished by visitors to the atoll.  When we first did it, (before purchasing a Vasa Kayak Erg), we managed it — barely.  We’re middle aged, but in good condition.   Evidently, there had been a young couple that succeeded several years prior. For our next trip we wanted to do it comfortably, so we purchased a Vasa Kayak Ergometer.

Q: How did training on a Vasa Kayak Erg help you and your wife prepare?

GK: After training on the Vasa, we could not only manage to paddle the entire distance, we did it several times and against the winds, 12 inch waves and rain. Those might be small waves, but we were on a really lousy sit on top kayak. Other resort visitors were reporting us as “caught in the storm.”  The Vasa Kayak Ergometer training had made us strong enough to succeed despite bad conditions.  Most people weren’t even venturing onto the water.

(BTW there is NO helicopter rescue. You’re on your own)

Q: You mentioned making modifications to the stock Vasa Kayak Erg.  Would you tell us more about that?

GK: While the Vasa Kayak Ergometer, as designed, was key to our doing the route, we wanted to be in even better form for the next year.  We rebuilt our Vasa Kayak Erg so it now has a cradle that  holds the seat and foot brace and that allows simulation of the side to side instability of a kayak.  The center of gravity and pendulum lengths were adjusted to match a moderately tippy kayak.  Even my white water kayaking brother-in-law had trouble balancing on our modified erg.

We are now totally stable on it because we have trained our core stability and can paddle vigorously while maintaining balance. That wasn’t something possible with the original stock production design. Here is a picture of the rebuilt ergometer (shown below).

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Because we trained primarily on our modified Vasa ergometer, on our latest outing we not only had strength and endurance,  but our core stability was definitely improved. We were immediately stable on the resort sit-on-top kayak despite the waves. The cradle we used on our Vasa Kayak Erg made a huge difference in our ability. On a windy day, we could blast across the lagoon. Others, who saw how easily we paddled, tried to do the same, yet they were blown backwards.

Finally, here we are on an unusually calm day after our third paddle across the lagoon.

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Q: In training with your Vasa Kayak Erg, did you experience any unexpected benefits or advantages?

GK:  We got the Vasa Kayak Ergometer to improve our paddling but along the way, we discovered some unexpected benefits.

  1. Nothing changes the shape of our physiques faster and in a more positive manner than some sessions on the Vasa erg.  We run and lift, but the erg works the entire body, leaves you better proportioned and sculpts your abdomen.
  2. The Vasa Kayak Ergometer is not just a paddling machine. It is vital for recovery from long runs. For us, it does a far better job of making sore, tired legs feel better than a “recovery run.”

After a 15 to 20 mile long run, we can’t do a recovery run the same day, but we can do 30 or 60 minutes on the Vasa erg. That little erg session allows us to have almost normal feeling legs the next day instead of pain with each step down the stairs.

Q: Your modifications to re-engineer the stock production Vasa Kayak Erg sound great…and elaborate.  Would you tell us more on that?

GK: We decided the cost of a full rebuild was a worthwhile experiment.  We didn’t know if it would work out, but at worst, we could return to stock configuration.

I used the righting force graphs in multiple kayak reviews to find a reasonable value for the lateral righting force at 15 degrees tilt. Given the paddler center of gravity and seat height, I could calculate the pendulum length to recreate the same lateral force as the kayaks. For safety’s sake, I also added an adjustable angle stop to keep the cradle from swinging wildly out. The final touch was drilling the paddling pole so the two halves can be twisted to emulate the feathering of real paddles. As supplied, the Vasa paddle shaft has zero twist, so wrist stress isn’t quite right for each half the stroke. Ours now locks in either the feathered position or the neutral twist.

All the modifications work better than we had hoped. I can’t see us ever being satisfied again with a stock unit. The simulation is good enough that we don’t discover “new” sore muscles after paddling on the real kayak.

Q: Clearly, you understand the hectic life of a business owner, physician, and athlete. What 3 tips would you give busy people to stay in great physical condition?

GK: While hardly a fitness expert, I would list…

  1. Create a time for exercise. You won’t be given a time. You won’t find a time. You have to make a time.
  1. Be patient. Results come slowly. It ‘s not overnight, a few months, and possibly even years to rebuild yourself. You will be discouraged, but remember that nobody can exercise for you. It took four years to rebuild my overweight, middle aged, sedentary body. I couldn’t run two minutes. I started walking, then walking up hill, added lifting, paddling, started little runs. Took baby steps, each building on the last. Now I can enjoy a 5 hour kayak and have even completed a marathon in my mid 50’s (see photo below of Guy finishing the Portland Marathon).
  1. An exercise program needs to become part of your lifestyle, not something done until you reach the next goal. You’re never done. Set your next challenge and keep going.

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Q: It’s been said that everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. How do you deal with that fear and transform it into action?  What would you advise others in this regard?

GK: Don’t count on courage. Fear is much more reliable. Use your fear.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration and motivation?

GK:  My wife Sonja is without a doubt the greatest inspiration. She’s a thirty year runner who has done multiple marathons, is amazingly fit and is the best coach, advisor, manager, support, and cheering section one could have. It’s so much more fun working together.

Q: What would you say to someone reading this who may be on the fence about getting the Vasa Kayak Erg for their training program?

GK:  We can both highly recommend the Vasa Kayak Erg. It is a significant investment, but worth every penny. Even after doubling our initial cost by re-engineering ours, we still say it was totally worth having. If you are paddling, the off season erg training really does get your ready. You’ll see your core strength improve and your power output grow with regular use of the Vasa kayak erg. We would never have been able to prep for our kayak adventure without the erg.

We started out merely wanting to keep our “kayak” body shape and strength, but discovered it is also the best cross training and post run recovery tool we have. The amount of muscle and joint pain relief from 30 – 60 minutes of paddling on the erg easily outdoes ibuprofen. The combination of resistance and strength training is fantastic. Your entire body appearance changes when you kayak. We really like that shape and the Vasa kayak erg lets us keep that shape. If you are on the fence, do yourself a favor and get the erg. Our workout routine would be incomplete without it.

Learn More About Guy Kuo, MD:

“All too often people my age simply give up. They accept that they will never be fit again and resign themselves to getting older, fatter, and weaker. They excuse themselves as too old or too busy. I was in my middle fifties and deep in that trap. The difference is that I tried and kept at it. It took four years, but if I can do it, so can others.”

With the coaching, encouragement, management, and support of his wife Sonja, he rebuilt his middle aged body. Working together and adding new activities they could enjoy together like kayaking, lifting, and running they have both enjoyed the journey.

“Kayaking together is one of the most fun things we do. Getting ready for the big paddle is a top priority. The Vasa Kayak Ergometer makes it not only possible, but gets us strong enough to enjoy our adventures across Aitutaki lagoon. We don’t kayak on water except during our long paddles. Despite kayak training only on our erg, we fly across the water and go 20 times farther than everyone else. That is really fun when you’re nearly twice their age. Our Vasa Kayak Erg is key.”

Interested in learning more about the Vasa Kayak Ergometer? To view Workouts, Circuits, Rehab Exercises and Tips from Vasa Customers on the Paddle-Specific Training materials needed for both the Vasa Trainer & Vasa Ergometer, please click here.

We want to thank Guy for sharing his story with us! Do you have an inspirational story that you would like to be published?  If so, please send it to us at [email protected]