Since 2005 or so I have been increasingly structuring my early season paddles to build fitness and skills to accommodate increasingly higher goals during the paddling season. Below is what I currently do in the early season.
These are the areas I think about getting ready for heading into the season.
Make sure to make the first paddles fun. It is a time to enjoy getting back to paddling regularly on the water. Get use to paddling again and sort out the equipment issues you need to.
This is the heart of early season training for me, this is what gets me into shape physically. Jim Tibensky, a kayak racer out of the Chicago area provide some of the back ground and inspiration for this area.
This is what I end up doing the most, getting out and paddling to raise my heart rate. The variable is time with shorter sessions early on that build into longer sessions.
Paddling out of Marquette near Presque Isle gives me a choice of routes. Having a variety of lengths locally allows me to paddle various distances (I plan for 4 miles in an hour) and not cover the same territory. Paddle different routes keeps the paddling interesting.
Intervals, Jim really likes these. They are tough but they do build aerobic capacity. Fun thing is, there are various ways to do them.
You can add variety easily.
You can share the fun when out paddling with friends.
One of the exercises that helps me transition to paddling longer distances. Important to emphasize slow, going fast is not the goal. I find just being in the boat and paddling for a longer amount of time than the usual training session, helps me to transition my fitness to a longer distance. Without this, my pace and other skills to cover a long distance is not working.
These are the courses that work out to covering 25 miles, the distance I eventually aim my long slow distance paddles to cover (I expect to cover 20 miles a day on a trip). Leaving from Marquettes Presque Isle I head up to Little Presque Isle ten cross out to Granite Island and return. Going around Grand Island near Munising and cutting off the bays, allows me to cover 25 miles as well. Having a place that is nearby and different from the daily paddling helps to keep things interesting.
This is how I structure a week of training.
This is how to structure multiple weeks of paddling and schedule time for recovery. This I learned from working with Olympians, NCAA All Americans and high level athletes in my massage practice. Recovery helps your body to repair itself as you tear it down during workout sessions. This is what makes you strong and avoids the pitfalls or fatigue and burnout. Click here to read more about recovery.
Changing up the size of blades and types of paddles helps. Jim liked it because you used different muscles. I like it because my cadence (number of strokes per minute) increases. The Lendal Nordkapp on the bottom is what I use most of the year. The Kinetic Touring is what I carry as a spare. It is smaller and my cadence goes up when paddling with it. The top paddle is a Greenland paddle and to maintain the same speed, ones cadence is roughly doubles compared to the other blades. all this adds up to my cadence going up with the Nordkapp blade just by switching around paddles.
Setting up a schedule, even a perfect one, will rarely go by without having to adjust for the weather. Interval training is great on a day with surf. Going out against the wind then coming back does help to build strength. Whatever you get, work with it as this is what will happen during the regular season as well.
Navigation skills stay current when they are practiced. After a winter of skiing around in the woods, practicing in a boat is needed. These are the areas I work on.
Developing a working knowledge of speed is an important navigation skill. GPS can tell you that and your precise position, but that assumes you have enough batteries to be running it all the time and that the marine environment (ie salt) hasn’t damaged it.
I’ve got two routes that I know the distance traveled. Early in the season I work to be able to meet my time goals 4 miles in 60 minutes and 3 miles in 45 minutes. After a while I put the watch away and start estimating my speed given the winds, waves and perceived effort.
This is what I do when out paddling. I will have established a fix (ie known) position then paddling along an area with few landmarks, I use the equation:
Distance = Speed * Time
I know the time and by estimating my speed, I can establish a deduced (guessed) postion on my chart. This is called ded reckoning.
Using a deck compass, I’ll start making crossings, going from land across a body of water to another piece of land. By using a compass I get (re) use to paddling a course heading. It also gets me use to course planning – plotting a course out, getting the magnetic heading and measuring the distance. This also lets me practice with speed and predicting the time when I will arrive at my destination.
Another run in the Marquette area, I can use buoys which are where the arrowheads are located. Most areas, even inland lakes, have landmarks you can use in this type of exercise.
Not shown is practicing these same compass exercises in conditions. Wind and waves will require you to compensate further testing your boat handling but for this exercise, test your navigation. You hit the jackpot with fog, nothings tests you navigation skills better than fog. Having wind, waves and fog to practice on your home waters, gives you a confidence boost when/if you actually need these when paddling on a trip.
Getting out into the wind and waves in the early season complements the skill base built in the early season. Here is Nancy out in some small surf click here. Braces, sweeps rudders and more get practiced in these conditions. Sometimes the surf is too small, but one can go look for areas where the wave energy is focused that builds up the wave size click here.
Doing this gets one ready for when the waves are at a good size for playing or a bigger size for building skills.
Every Memorial Day I head out for a paddling trip. This does several things. Allows me to test out my fitness level; allows me to get familiar again with packing boats and setting up camp. It also allows for testing out any new paddling partners. Later in the season when I actually do head out, the practice in packing, setting up camp, etc is all there giving a level of comfort and familiarity.
This is also a good time to test out any new menu additions. One yer I found out the mac and cheese I was using was not filling at all. Fortunately I didn’t have it on the menu for a 2-3 week long trip.
These exercises helps to rebuild fitness and navigation skills. Building fitness using this structure allows you to efficiently use your time and maximize your paddling time during the summer. Having current navigation skills allows you to have confidence and accurately navigate on strange waters/coastlines during a trip.
This has worked well for me over the years…