Training for the Intermediate Paddler

Thursday, 18 May 2006 13:45 | Written by  Mark Lewin
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The category "intermediate paddler" I take to be the working (5-6days a week) guy, certainly the amateur paddler, not the likes of Hank McGregor and Dawid Mocke etc.


A couple of guidelines outside of an actual training routine I think the paddler must embrace first. Do not try and fit your lifestyle or commitments around your paddling and training. It will not work. You have to fit your paddling into your lifestyle. You only have so many hours in the day. To increase training you cannot sleep less, you will burn out, get sick or get injuries. You probably cannot work less, you will get fired. You therefore have to adapt your training accordingly.

Separate in your mind the difference between TRAINING and PRACTICING. I see a lot of paddlers doing the same thing every day, weekdays and weekends. 1.5 hours with a group of friends as often as possible. End result, they get dropped at the start of a race or get milked in the surf (no speed) and they battle to manage going over 2 hours. Their bodies go into a no mans land that they have not been in before.


To train for the World Cup, which for most intermediate paddlers is going to be a 2.5 - 3 hour paddle you should TRAIN in the week to make your engine bigger. This is manageable with a difficult time schedule because you can limit sessions to 1 hour. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere an added difficulty is that it gets dark very early and not that easy to get time on the water. You can still do cross training, running, gym in the dark.


On weekends you should assimilate as much as possible the distance and the conditions you can expect to race in the World Cup. These PRACTICE sessions do not have to be intense or flat out. You need to condition your body for a 2.5 - 3 hour period, in the seat, the sun, on your hands etc. Sort out all the small stuff.  Right cap to wear, right length of drinking tube so that it does not hang in the water and pull out of your mouth. Right position for your drinking system. Work out how you can tell how much you are drinking. Do this over long paddles of about 2.5 hours at a pace that will allow you to come back on Sunday and do it again if there is no races on the weekend. You can get by on one of these a weekend if you do it right. A bit of a catch in KZN is that most of you will be reluctant to do a 2.5 - 3 hour paddle on a Saturday and then race in the series races on Sunday for fear of losing to a few buddies. Unfortunately this could be one of the sacrifices. I think you will find though that you will get fit quickly and will not do that badly on Sunday anyway. Remember the PRACTICE sessions do not have to be done hard.


The theme should be train hard, smart, not too often.  Do not start sessions tired, you will be training your body to paddle slowly. The golfers say "How you practice is how you will play"


A typical week could be:



Rest if you have had good practice sessions or raced on the weekend.



Paddle 1 - 1.5 hours max preferably on flat water in a ski or a K1 canoe (break this down into, warm up 20minutes, then 500m = 2minute sprints with a full 8 minute slow cruise in between each sprint.) Do these sprints from a standing start. You can do this with a group of buddies of different ability levels, regroup after each sprint and carry on with your slow paddle together till the 8 minute rest period is over and do another sprint. Quite pleasant. The only time you are working hard is during the sprint. On each separate sprint concentrate on one of the aspects of the stroke. It is hard for the intermediate paddler to concentrate on everything. Eg; Sprint 1 - concentrate on your breathing. Sprint 2 - concentrate on getting a full arm extension.  Sprint 3 - concentrate on pumping your feet. Sprint 4 - concentrate on getting a full shoulder turn etc. etc. etc.  



Run, aerobics, gym, whatever suites you. I think it is good in preparation for any type of distance event to do some running or high intensity aerobic leg exercise (squash). Leg exercise makes you use your big muscle groups, builds lung capacity and generally helps to control your weight by sweating out toxins and it improves your digestive system. You do not sweat enough when you are paddling. Dehydration from paddling training often takes the form of constipation. Running sorts that out.



Club dices are good. Lots of high intensity, not longer than an hour or do the sprint session again.



Rest, or if you have missed Wednesdays run you can go for a run



Long slow distance, trip for 2.5 hours in similar conditions to your race conditions (PRACTICE) as I described above.



Same again or Race Discovery Men's Health series if you are in KZN. If the event is one hour or less and you have not done anything on Saturday then try and force yourself back in the water and do some more. It is hard I know. All the more reason to get in your long session on Saturday.





Try and find somebody or a group that has the same time constraints as you have even if they are of a different ability level. You will work out ways to push one another as you go along, but it will help you to keep committed.


Lastly - Do not forget to have fun out there.



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