I strongly believe that you can train pretty much anything with some patience, whether that’s a physical or mental attribute. You might not manage to be a world champion Scrabble player, or runner, but unless you’ve been trying hard to improve it for a long time already you’ll have the capacity to improve.
While I was training for competitive kayaking, I knew on some level that it was building my mental toughness. We even used to do sessions that were mainly for the mental side. I remember doing ‘minute challenge’ once - 1 min bench pull, 1min rest, 1 min bench press, all times 6 (or 10 if you’re totally nuts) and finishing a couple of reps behind (from 500+) and that was certainly a mental exercise.
The whole point of that session was to hang on the edge for as long as possible. Not once in a session like that would I feel sorry for myself. The pain was never a bad thing, sure it was painful but it wasn’t suffering; it was something to be relished, experienced and embraced. We even did stupid things like swimming across the river in January (not a good idea, don’t do it, I now see how people can drown so quickly in cold water) purely to keep feeling the edge of our comfort zones.
Having had to pull out of DW this year, the obvious question that people have asked is “are you doing DW next year?”. Maybe… A good part of the reason I planned to do DW was to push me into training again. That worked, but now it’s time to have a reassess
It's fairly rare to get papers looking at paddlers and it’s also rare to get papers looking at very highly trained international athletes, so when you get both together it’s worth having a look. I came across four papers by Jesús García-Pallarés (plus various other collaborators) which all look at the training of the Spanish National Team from 2006 to 2008 (the '06/'07 and '07/'08 seasons). The focus varies between them but I thought they were worth looking at together. The first paper looks at the whole two year period and the others look at particular sections within those two years. All with the same group of paddlers.
I see plenty of discussions about training sessions and programs but there's some important subtitles of training that I don’t think get the time they always deserve. One of these is how much focus and concentration is put into sessions.
I paddled for a year or two when I was nine/ten ish and raced a few Div 9 races and things but not very much. I restarted paddling when I was 16 just before Easter, I know it was just before Easter because I remember wanting to do the Wey to Elmbridge half marathon, but I was too old. Inevitably, I heard about DW, it’s hard not to hear about DW if you’re down a canoe club at Easter! I was intrigued (and blissfully ignorant of what it actually took to race).
One of the many issues and discussion points in doping is the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) by athletes. It’s been more of a talking point after the Fancy Bears’ leaks though so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the topic and discuss its impact on canoeing / kayaking.
You’ve trained for months for a race, putting in hours of hard work and you want to deliver your best on the day; but what's the optimal way to do it? Everyone has their own opinions and approaches but here are our thoughts. Backed up with copious amounts of trial and error and a sprinkling of science! The type of race you’re doing will make a difference to your preparation but the general principles are the same, and hopefully you will get some help from coaches and other experienced paddlers. When thinking about the build up to a race, you can break it down into several phases, possibly starting a year or more before the race, but here we are going to look at the last week
The International Canoe Federation (ICF) have approved a race program with some striking changes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. These changes still need to be ratified by the International Olympic Association (IOC) but it is hard to see why they would reject them. However, it is easy to see why the paddlesport community is divided over these changes. This is a very controversial subject so we will try and break down what the changes are, who they affect and whether the sport needed to take this action.
I’ve been posting a training blog / log but haven’t really covered any of the why behind the choices of sessions etc, but whenever I see someone’s training program (and I’ve got loads of snippets from various programs saved away) I always want to work backwards to what is driving the choices and overall structure, although it's often nice to steal a session or two to add some new variations to your training. So here’s my best shot at breaking down the aims and thinking behind what I’m doing.
People seem to be happy to talk about drugs in athletics and cycling these days, people like Gatlin get derided and left out in the cold and people refuse to forgive them for their failed drug tests in the past. Anyone winning the tour de France is given some healthy suspicion. The competitors and governing bodies of these sports point to their drugs testing programs, which without a doubt are making big improvements, alongside WADA. Improvements include the biological passport, increased awareness and media pressure and new more sophisticated tests, which all make it harder to cheat. But what about canoeing? What are we doing? Canoeing is a smaller sport with less of a media spotlight, despite its presence in the Olympics, but little is ever mentioned about testing and drugs within the sport.
Clearly we all want a clean and fair sport for everyone to enjoy, but in order to get that everyone needs to be engaged. There isn't a huge amount of testing within canoe / kayak, especially within certain disciplines, and a lot of the time there isn't much discussion about the potential that there could be athletes who aren't clean. It's taboo to suggest that the sport isn't perfect, but doing so isn't to cast aspersions on individuals, it is merely to point out that more can always be done to keep drugs out.
It's been around for a while now but the Nelo Cinco is still getting comments about its strange looks so we thought we should have a dig in to the ideas behind the changes. Obviously we can't speak for Nelo and their designers but it is interesting to look at some general boat design and learn about the thinking behind the design of the Cinco. The main change to the hull is the upside-down nose / inverted bow but in addition there are changes to the rudder, rudder hatch, the stern and some cosmetic alterations.
Training hard is great, and necessary to improve your paddling to a good level but its not the only thing you need to get dialed in. You need to be able to recover from the sessions you do, then you'll come back stronger and fitter and able to train even more. We've compiled a top tips list of the key things to consider.
Quite a few people take part in the Devises to Westminster International Canoe Marathon (DW) every year, with competitors ranging from existing kayak world medalists to people with only a few months paddling experience. Lots of people complete the Waterside and Thameside series and then DW but don't have another canoeing target lined up, and we think that's a shame so Paul put together a list of races we think would be worth a try. Over the years I've heard of quite a few interesting races, though I should confess I haven't taken part in all of them yet! (At the time of writing I've done five of the races, and although I've done DW as the four day stage race I haven't done it straight through – maybe some time…)
Diet. It's all rather confusing isn't it? There's so much conflicting advice out there. High carb or low carb? Red meat or no red meat? Gluten or gluten free? To a large extent it depends on your personal goals, whether you're an avid athlete training for greatness or someone who just want to keep healthy. Here at Gentoo we've been lucky enough to train at a reasonably elite level so have picked up a few tricks and tips along the way. The most important thing is to not get too bogged down in the details, however there are some key tips you can follow to maintain a healthy diet (and improve performance!) no matter what your goals are.