- BIG ENGINE.
Every race starts with a finely tuned engine.
- Relative body strength is important for speed, agility, flexibility, mobility, power and explosiveness. Bodyweight exercises such as box jumps and burpees simulate mounting the board and should form the foundation of your interval training followed by low rep, heavy, free weight unilateral and compound lifts such as squat, deadlift and bench. Limit the use of barbells as much as possible and use dumbells to maintain good shoulder mechanics. This will strengthen not only your muscles but also connecting tissue and increase bone density greatly minimising risk of injury and muscular imbalance ( If you spend a lot of time paddling limit the volume of your overhead pressing exercises to avoid over training the shoulder). The classic powerlifting 5 set, 5rep, @80% of 1 rep max 2 days a week works well. Have someone check your form with only a bar to see if you have full mobility. If not, practice with only the bar until you can achieve perfect form and maintain it under load. Train your muscles not your ego. Rep speed is another key factor commonly overlooked. A study on 'Velocity specificity of weight training for kayak sprint performance' found slow weight training is likely to be more effective than explosive training for improving the acceleration phase of sprinting, when force is high throughout the length of the stroke. Explosive weight training may be more effective in speed maintenance when forces are developed rapidly over a short period at the start of the stroke. Remember, correct form is essential especially at speed.
An increase in your VO2max through aerobic activity will greatly increase the amount of oxygen your body can not only hold in your lungs but shuttle to where it's needed efficiently between breaths. This should form the bulk of your program. To increase your aerobic threshold any activity should put your heart rate at between 75-85% of your max heart rate for 20-60 min.
- Dynamic stretching and flexibility drills
Don't do static stretching before a race. It's not the same as warming up and could do damage. Imagine your tendons as cold toffee ... it doesn't stretch well. Warm toffee however can stretch without breaking. Dynamic stretching is what you should focus on. Moving a joint at controlled speed through its complete range of motion improves flexibility, balance and coordination. Flexibility warm up exercises that mimic the movements of racing should be used to prime the body prior to a race. ( Such as shoulder dislocators using a paddle with wrist weights attached,windmills, leg kicks, lunge walks and scorpion push ups ).
Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep timing are essential for optimal performance. If your thinking about it on race day it might be too late. Top up your muscle glycogen stores a few days prior to race day by increasing your carb intake and getting plenty of rest.
- CAFFEINE TACTICS
Caffeine is widely used in sport drinks for its ability to improve athletic performance but overuse can have the opposite effect so time it wisely. If you're on a paleo or ketogenic diet take a look at our 'How to become a bullet proof stand up paddler' article.
- IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BASE.
Make sure the bottom of your board is super clean. This will improve your glide and feet per stroke. Don't use a wax based polish, it might look sparkly but may actually cause drag. Polymer coatings may work but some are speed dependent.
Choose the right fin for the location.
Open ocean, flat water, shallow with weed debris? Fin size and shape are the board's fine tuning so choose wisely. Bigger fins give more stability and track well but turn slower. Smaller fins are faster but don't track as well. Your ability to use your paddle to go straight will also determine what type of fin to use.
- PADDLE LENGTH
If it's a sprint race you could benefit from a shorter paddle to increase cadence and reduce wind drag due to body posture. A longer paddle suits slower cadence, open ocean and longer races.
- KNOW YOUR LOCATION
If the first time you see your location is on race day you're at a disadvantage. It may not always be possible due to location or distance to visit prior to a race so pay attention to the small things to gain advantage. Look for wind shadows and darker water which could indicate gusts and a change of wind direction. If it's a B.O.P. style beach start, how steep does the sand slope under the water line and will it still be there when you return? Jumping off a board and expecting 1ft when it's 3ft can knock you on your ass. Time your white-water punch through. Situational awareness - where have the local riders positioned themselves ? Where are the places to draft?
- HEADS UP.
Learning any board sport you're always told to look where you want to go because that's where you'll end up. This is just as important in your minds eye. Visualisation techniques are an established part of sport science for a reason. Visualising your course, paddle technique and strategy will prepare the brain for what you expect to happen.
Pay attention to your breathing. Your body will sense shallow breathing or mouth breathing as a stress response and as you will be full of adrenaline you want to keep your heart rate in the sweet spot. Pick a breathing drill that suits you and practice it.
Most of all take in the atmosphere and enjoy the stoke and always wear a leash.
Grier T1, Canham-Chervak M, Anderson MK, Bushman TT, Jones BH.
1US Army Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.
Liow DK1, Hopkins WG.
1Sport, Fitness and Recreation Department, Wellington Institute of Technology, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University.