I’ve just spent two and a half weeks on holiday with my family, relaxing in the sun in Sardinia. This was the longest time I’ve spent off the water for well over a year, and a stark contrast to the previous few months when I was able to put in a solid training block that included paddling 3 -  4 times a week. Although I ran, swam or did body weight circuits most days on holiday, I certainly don’t yet feel sharp on the water now I’ve resumed slalom training. In fact I’ve struggled. It’s a clear reminder of the principle of training specificity; nothing beats padding on whitewater for getting you fit for paddling on whitewater.

But does this mean it’s a waste of time doing non specific training for kayaking?

Not necessarily. There are many good reasons for complementing your on-water preparation with other forms of dry land training.

For a start, unless you’re a full time athlete or live next to a river, it’s pretty hard to get on the water every day. Whereas it’s often more feasible to fit in a gym visit or a run amongst life’s other demands. So doing something has got to be better than doing nothing! Lifting weights (properly) is a time effective way of developing core strength as well as building up paddling specific muscles like the rotator cuff in your shoulders. This reduces the risk of shoulder dislocations and other nasties. Flexibility is also important in preventing paddling injuries, and easier to develop through regular stretching, yoga or Pilates. And it’s much easier to work your heart and lungs if you’re using your big leg muscles running, rowing or cycling.

The main reason for including off-water training is that it builds base fitness for the time you do spend on the water: the coaching principle known as “training to train.“  A reasonable level of base physical fitness means you can stay fresher for longer on the water, which is especially important if you’re developing technical skills in slalom or freestyle.  On-water time can then focus on “training to race” and then “training to win.” That’s why even elite, full time athletes train off the water as well as on it.

Racing again

I travel to Scotland later this week for a double header slalom at Grand Tully. Although it would have been nice to have a more solid training phase going into it, I’m thinking of my family holiday as my active rest for the year. I’ll have two chances to secure a top 8 finish, which should be enough to secure promotion to Premier Division.  At my last race at Bala I was, in hindsight, too conservative. I produced two clean and consistent runs, but was a little bit off the pace. Let’s see what I can do this time. It would be neat to race in the final round of Premier races for the year, and I’m particularly keen to compete at the British Open at Lee Valley in early November.

What do you do to stay fit for paddling? It would be good to hear other people’s experience, so please comment here or on the Facebook page