Training for the Intermediate Paddler Part II

Sunday, 03 September 2006 10:17 | Written by  Mark Lewin
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ImageIn this follow-up to his first article Mark Lewin shares his thoughts on training - specifically for non-elite paddlers.


There should be a different approach to getting fit if the main event you are training for is a one day or a multi day event. (Scottburgh to Brighton), as opposed to a 4 day event (PE to East London).


For a one day event you want to get through the event in the best possible time for your capability. For a multi day event a lot of your training should be based on recovery and being able to perform as well on subsequent days.


To start with I often find it is easy to fool yourself that there is plenty of time in which to prepare. A Race might say be in mid December in the Southern Hemisphere and you really only get underway with training in spring in September. It is easy to say, "I have over three months in which to prepare"

If you pull out a year planner from a diary you will find that you have 14 weeks. The last week before an event is not a training week. Lose a week along the way for flu, sickness or injury. The working paddler will also probably lose a further week to work commitments, travel, family commitments etc. You can also bank on losing some days to extreme weather conditions. You are now looking at about 10 - 11 training weeks. (a very different perspective when you break it down into weeks).


Training from Monday to Friday should not change much from my earlier article, but a good thing to do to plan your peaking and tapering for a specific event is to use a year planner and break it down into weeks. If the event you are preparing for is say a two day, four hour (per day) event then a simplistic way of setting out a basic plan is to write down the weekend dates along a straight horizontal line for the 14 weeks you have in which to prepare. Using the straight line as a base draw a lopsided pyramid with the peak at about 9 - 10 weeks. At the top of this peak you can write "4 hours x 2" tapering down in the last 4 weeks to the big event. You can cross reference this line with vertical lines indicating races on weekends that give you similar distances building up to the peak point and down again. 


You have to simulate on weekends near the top of the pyramid the recovery issue by doing back to back training sessions (Sat and Sun) over a long distance. It is shattering in the beginning but the body toughens and you get used to it. To prepare for long periods in the seat like the PE - EL race  it is better to do a couple of long back to back paddles (easy pace) 4-5 hours each day and have a good three day break on either side, than to just plod along with regular sessions. With this type of training and we go through periods when our bodies are rejecting the long sustained effort and we do badly against our friends and competitors. Be patient. When we are breaking through to the next level of fitness you get these lows. It is part of the process.


A good saying I heard once was " The only way to appreciate improvement is to measure it" Find a piece of flat water that will give you an out and back  course which gives you no advantage from one day to the next, that will give you a 10km paddle or sufficient laps to give you about a 10km paddle. A GPS makes this easy but is not imperative. Once a month or whenever you feel like it, time trial (no wave riding) this course and record this time taking note of whether it was windy, choppy or not. Do this on a day after at least one days rest. With the modern technology of the GPS you can also record your heart rate, which will also give you a further fitness indication.


There is no way of knowing before a big race how fit you are for a 4-5 hour day, in particular, back to back days. If in the height of the pyramid period you have gone through the motions of paddling these distances even at a leisurely pace you will not be taking your body into a no mans land it has not gone through before. Simply by being able to maintain the pace you have paddled all along for an additional hour can make a huge difference in your time.


In the last 4 weeks of training you can wind this down slowly but surely to faster 2 hour and eventually 1 hour paddles in the second last week.


Always respect the course. Until you have conquered the course, you have not beaten anybody. I have huge admiration for the paddler who I can see has lifted his game to finish a tough day knowing that on that particular day finishing the course is the best he is going to achieve. I love Lance Armstrong's comment " the only easy day was yesterday"


Lastly, and all important. "Don't forget to have fun out there"

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