What helped you get faster?

1 week 5 days ago - 1 week 3 days ago #31760 by d0uglass
Hi all,

I'm pretty new to surfski but I'm working hard at it. My speeds went up quickly as my stability went from terrible to OK, but now I've kind of hit a plateau (see figure).



What do you all remember from your surfski learning experiences about things that helped you get faster? Was it a gradual thing that came with time, or were there specific breakthroughs in technique, training, or gear that helped a lot? And how fast are you, if you don't mind me asking? I'm trying to figure out what's a good benchmark flatwater speed for a 39 year old prospective amateur racer to aspire to.

Thanks,
James

2009 Epic v12
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1 week 5 days ago #31761 by LakeMan
When an obese individual starts to eat right and exercise they lose weight very fast. Over time that rate slows down until its at a crawl. Progress till occurs but it's almost unnoticeable yet it's still there.

Same with surfskiing. You are improving, you just aren't noticing the small changes.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill
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1 week 5 days ago #31762 by RedBack
As you spend more time in the ski you'll find you plateau at different levels as you gradually "fix" one element of your technique, then move on addressing other aspects.

It's a process and it will take time. There'll be periods where the improvement is slow and as Lakeman said, almost imperceptible. There'll also be "eureka" moments when a technique change will just "click" and your speed increases almost overnight.

Spend time watching videos of paddlers who have excellent technique. In particular, watch the videos immediately before going to bed and again before every paddling session.

Using "visualisation" like this is surprisingly powerful as your mind will subconsciously try to get your body to emulate the techniques you've seen.

Get a good coach. Not just enthusiastic and well meaning peers, but someone who knows about paddling theory, muscle recruitment sequences and practical application of bio-mechanics and training periodisation.

In terms of speed, it depends on the distance over which you intend to measure it. It's common in my part of the world to measure the speed you can maintain over a 10km flat water course and use that as your base-line.

A "more than occasional" paddler might average 10km/h; a "regular" paddler around 11, an "enthusiast" maybe 12, a good sub-elite 13 and of course the elites are doing 14+. That's in your age category (<40 years).

Not sure if that helps...
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1 week 5 days ago #31763 by Bitemekaos
I increased my speed by paddling slower trying to get that every elusive perfect stroke. I haven't found it but it has helped me racing at a greater pace over longer distances which for someone who has limited time to train is very satisfying. Best tip given to me is pull the paddle out early!
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1 week 5 days ago #31764 by PSwitzer
Short answer: Paddle with people faster than you, but not so much faster that you give up trying to hang in there.

Long answer:

I still don't know what my flatwater speed is because don't have a harbor/lake to time trial in, so I gauge my speed as a percentage of the winning race time. In my fastest years (92-95% winner time) I did an 8 mile time trial that was a mix of canal/ ocean, up against the wind then downwind home but against current. I was around 7.3-7.5 mph average on that course. I was doing probably 6-8 hours/week paddling, much of it either really slow easy or really damn hard trying to hang onto the wake of my training partner who was faster on the flat/upwind. (Ed Joy for anyone who knows him). Trying to not get dropped all the time will do wonders for your speed, because left to its own devices your brain will always try and trick you into slowing down. 2 minutes into an 8 min interval I felt like I was going to die and was certain I could not keep going. But that's just the brain lying to you.

Another observation is that around here all the really quick guys have had some kind of formal training in K1. Of course you have to learn the downwind to succeed, but that's so fun that no one with an intact reward center in their brain has any problem getting good at downwind, right?
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1 week 5 days ago #31766 by nell
We all probably have a speed potential based on our VO2, and not VO2max, so if you're an average runner/cyclist, generally speaking, you're probably not going to end up at elite level pace in a ski. So, knowing what the general ceiling should be, it will put things in perspective and keep us from being too frustrated when we're not getting faster, but at the same time, it can hopefully encourage us to keep working on improving if we aren't going as fast as we should be.

Once your improvements become lesser and lesser, it helps to start thinking more and more about efficiency and muscle recruitment patterns so as to shift the power to more central and larger muscle groups and to really start thinking about your microsecond arm/paddle movement patterns. I think many of us learn first to paddle and then spend the next 10+ years unlearning what we have been doing so that we can start making micro-alterations in every phase of everything we do in the boat. Realize that you paddle in a single gear, but you can alter the size of that gear throughout the stroke by a little bit. You can also radically and continually change directional forces on the paddle with each arm during the stroke.

I find that it's really difficult to focus hard on improving by slightly altering technique or force patterns unless I limit those bouts to 1-2 minutes in length, and during those intervals, I paddle at just above my 10k pace so that I can work on improving efficiency at that speed.

The neat thing about paddling surfski for masters paddlers, from what I've read, is that you can potentially gain efficiency at about the same rate that you lose VO2 until sometime in your late 50's or 60's, so we can all have a long plateau if we keep working at it.
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1 week 4 days ago - 1 week 4 days ago #31771 by feeny
Gosh, I think in order:

1. Relaxing, I was so tense my first few times in a ski I all but tore leg muscles trying to stay stable
2. Top hand, learning what to do with it, I'm still learning. Stupid thing.
3. Where, when and in what position to catch. I'm still not certain.
4. Early exits and wrist position, still learning...
5. Pulling with my whole body ... yep, still learning
6. Making those legs actually do something rather than look like they're doing something (still learning)
7. Rotating meaningfully (still learning that one too)
8. And now, trying to apply 1-7 consistently, whilst being relaxed
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1 week 3 days ago #31774 by LakeMan
I'd like to know how to paddle faster then a horse fly can fly. I was bitten yesterday so bad I'm still hurting today. Man I hate those things!

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

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1 week 2 days ago - 1 week 2 days ago #31786 by Impala
As I do not like training through winter, each spring I have the need to get faster quickly. What works best are intervals. Lots of them ... 20x1min at 95 %, 1 min pause. Half of sessions with a resistance tennis ball under the boat. Do at least as many interval sessions per week as you do endurance sessions.

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1 week 2 days ago #31789 by manta
Here is my take on the speed thing.

I am also a novice and became pretty obsessed with speed. Here's the thing though almost anyone can be fast at a high heart rate. You put in effort and even if it is ugly you can be doing 10 - 11km/h on the flats easily.

The trick is to be fast at a low heart rate. This helps you do the 20 - 30km at a high average speed without bonking. So my training is now all heart rate based. I can paddle 20km+ without feeling it and my speed stays consistent.

I do intervals as well and those are where I will target a higher heart rate and invariably my speed over those intervals is pretty high. I can easily see 12-13km\h on the gps but at present I am unable to maintain those speeds for long.

The best test is to do 10km time trials at a specific heart rate. Every week you can evaluate if your average is actually improving over the distance at the same heart rate or if you must push your heart rate to increase speed. In my mind that puts a far better perspective on improvement as opposed to speed only.

I used to SUP and those races are invariably between 6 - 10km. That is not even a warm up on a ski so it pays to have endurance and be able to do the long paddles at a high average speed.

M

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1 week 2 days ago #31791 by zachhandler
Everyone will have their own take on this; here is mine:

Most people come to surfski from a different aerobic sport such as cycling/running/rowing/swimming and already have enough aerobic fitness that cardiovascular output is not a limiting factor.

The limiting factors for new paddlers (and most experienced paddlers too) are technique and kayak-specific strength (the relatively small muscles of the core, back, shoulders, arms).

Like impala I don't paddle in the winter (water is frozen) and I need to get back into paddle form quickly in the spring. Like Impala I also do the 1 minute sprint with 1 minute rest workout, usually 10 - 20 of them. These are really helpful in building speed because they are short enough that I can go really hard. They build specific strength quite quickly, in a way that longer intervals don't. I also find that sprinting really helps my technique. In a longer interval I can slouch and get sloppy secondary to fatigue whereas if the effort is limited to one minute I can maintain the best form I am capable of the whole time. It is VERY important in these 95% efforts to maintain good technique. As I fatigue in these intervals, I focus even more intensely on maintaining good technique. If your technique is falling apart because of fatigue it is best to stop the work out, as you will begin to ingrain bad technique in your muscle memory.
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1 week 1 day ago #31804 by mcnye1
Start Racing!!! There really is no substitute for actually getting out there and doing it. You will learn a bunch by watching, listening and asking questions. IIRC you are in Florida? Join the FCPA. We have about 14 races per year.

Three upcoming races:

"FCPA WASCISSA RIVER RACE
Join the Florida Competition Paddlers Association for our annual Wascissa River Race near Tallahassee Florida on Saturday, June 23, 2018. This free race has long and short course options and is open to all paddle craft. Registration begins at 9:00 am at the county park near the Wascissa Spring head, and the race will start promptly at 10:00 am. Short course racers will head downstream to a turnaround and back to the start for a total distance of approximately 6 miles. Long course racers will continue downstream to the small dam and back for a total distance of approximately 11 miles. Do not go through the dam opening or you will have trouble coming back! The Wascissa is one of Florida’s lessor know springs, but it is still a pretty paddle. The river is clear, relatively wide and straight with a light/moderate current. Due to shallow water with significant vegetation, shallow rudders/fins are suggested. More info on the spring can be found at www.flsprings.com/content/wacissa-springs-group ."

The 16th Great Loxahatchee River Race, 30 June in Hobe Sound Florida. Info at loxriverrace.com/events .

FCPA Mere Mortals Race, 28 July at Suwanee River State Park, Live Oak Florida. While the really fast guys are at the USCA Nationals, us mere mortal race 12 miles on the Suwanee River. This is a free race.

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6 days 19 hours ago #31826 by davgdavg
Surfski and sprint kayak paddling are interesting sports. In fact, almost all water sports are the same:

Bigger guys are not penalized, and actually do better due to the negation of body weight penalty, so a mix of strength and aerobics tend to favor athletes that are bigger and have a higher overall VO2 Max (not adjusted for body weight, as is the normal practice.)

In cycling, running, etc. the big thing is output per bodyweight. In paddling or swimming that is not so, its just power over time.

If you want to get faster, you need to get stronger. Just increasing aerobic ability won't do much unless a race is really long. The best way I have found is to do max effort intervals on flat water. Cross training also helps....and of course, balance and technique to get the most out of that strength.

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6 days 8 hours ago #31831 by d0uglass
Thank you for all the advice. Seems like there's some consensus that sprint intervals are a good bet, both for the kayak-specific muscle building effect, and for the short enough to practice good form the whole time effect.

Yesterday I tried to apply that advice to a 10x200m/60s rest intervals workout. I definitely felt challenged in the right kind of ways, and I have some good soreness today that suggests the muscles got worked. I had super speed for the first one or two of the intervals based on unsustainable use of my arms, I think. Then that wore off and I had to search for speed in other ways on the remaining intervals.

Do you find that gym work is really helpful, or is more time on the water a better bet if time is limited?

2009 Epic v12

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6 days 8 hours ago #31832 by LakeMan
Do you find that gym work is really helpful, or is more time on the water a better bet if time is limited?[/quote]

If you paddle just for fun and exercise then stay on the water. If you want to race and win then you'll have to hit the gym.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

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6 days 7 hours ago #31833 by kwolfe
I would say time training on the water is far more important. I listened to an interview with Sean Rice who said he really doesn't enjoy spending time in a gym so her doesn't. He spends time to long paddles, sprints, tennis ball bungeed around the hull.

Make your stroke efficient seems so much more important that just using brute force. Days when I have my GPS on, I trying going for a while and tracking my speed, then I try to lean a little forward and concentrate on getting a good catch every stroke. Funny enough how you can gain .1-.2 mph just by improving your technique.

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6 days 7 hours ago #31834 by LakeMan
I used to do competition long distance running and spent a lot of time in the gym. If you don't crosstrain you'll never reach your full potential and you'll have a higher chance of injury. Yes, being on the water is more important but it isn't the full package.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

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5 days 13 hours ago - 5 days 13 hours ago #31845 by Impala

d0uglass wrote: Do you find that gym work is really helpful, or is more time on the water a better bet if time is limited?


Generally, in swimming, kayaking and rowing, the water tends to not provide the proper hard resistance to help you generate the power you need. So gym is almost unavoidable, but how much and what you do there depends on what (genetic) type you are.

If you are a lean endurance type who does not naturally and easily develop muscles, you should do more gym. That is the case with me, as I just cannot develop the muscles needed for paddling by paddling itself. If I have not done enough power exercises during winter (like last winter), I will be at my power limit during a race (can't go faster) without fully using my cardiovascular capacity. In such an instance I can chat with my competitors, but cannot pass them.

I might be that Sean Rice is someone who more easily develops and maintains muscle mass. It is self-evident that such guys need less gym.

Moreover, I can only train three to four times per week on the water, so doing gym exercises at home helps me sustain my training effort under time constraints.

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5 days 9 hours ago #31846 by kwolfe
All good advice here. I focused on technique as you said you were just beginning is surfski and having started paddling 3 years ago, and having been in good shape before I started, I noticed my biggest gains from refining my technique.

Cross training is important for sure. It helps recruit other muscles and muscle types that will improve your overall fitness level.

How many times a week do you get on the water. I see you are running a 6.5k course. Have you tried throwing in some longer distance paddles, say 10k-20k? Also, try tossing in some short interval sprints next time you are on the water.

I'm 43 (close to your age), 6ft 196lbs and I go to the gym at lunch about 4 times per week and paddle in the mornings 4 times per week. In my Nelo 550 I average about 11.2 kph on a 10k course.

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5 days 7 hours ago - 5 days 7 hours ago #31850 by PeteCress
At the risk of stating something that everybody already knows....

What helped me the most was knowing exactly how fast I was going from moment-to-moment.

My Garmin ForeTrex 301 is useless in that respect because of the several-second delay in speed updates.

So I got something called a "SpeedPuck" from Velocitek.com - which updates multiple times per second.

Dunno how accurate it is in the absolute sense, but relatively it shows the slightest deviation and seems quite consistant.

With one eye on the SpeedPuck, I can see the effects of things like sitting up straighter, more complete rotation, more vertical paddle entry, and "Gearing" (i.e. how far from the blade I grip the shaft).

My technique still sucks and, being older than dirt, I'm still slow... but since the SpeedPuck I think my technique sucks less and I am somewhat less slow.

I have reservations about that particular device, but I think the concept of a device that updates multiple times per second is rock solid.

I still use the Garmin too - because another of my measures is quarter-mile time. Once I can link a couple of 10-minute miles, I know I've "Arrived" season-condition-wise.

But the SpeedPuck is what helps me improve technique-wise.

Finally, just to ramble a bit: I suspect there is also a place for a heart-rate monitor (which the Garmin can read).... With the heart rate monitor, theoretically I can work on maximizing quarter-mile speed while minimizing average heart rate. Italics because, although it sounds completely logical, and I do use a monitor, I have yet to do that.

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