Cross Training for Kayakers

By Jim on Sunday, May 30, 2010

As Jake mentioned in his 'Science of Kayaking' blog, Kayaking is not the best way to improve your Cardio Vascular system.  Running, swimming and Bike riding are more effective.  Kayakers will however benefit greatly from having an improved cardio vascular system.


Increased training affect:

By cross training you can swap from one activity when one set of muscles get tired. This allows you to work on your Cardio Vascular system for longer periods.  For example if you run for 5kms and begin to tire you can go for a swim and continue to improve your cardio vascular system.  You could then get out, go for a bike ride, get off then try some sprints.  Each time using different muscles and resting tired ones.

Another problem comes in with the body's ability to adapt.  No matter what sort of paddling you do, if you do similar training continually your body will adapt to that type of exercise, it will become efficient, burn fewer and fewer calories and give you less of a training effect from that same exercise. 

You can increase the training effect by increasing the intensity, but a continuation of high intensity and repetitive training can lead to repetitive strain injuries, burnout etc.   By adding variety to your program and including other activities, your body will be forced to work differently and a training benefit can be found.

Cross training is training that involves several different forms of exercise; it is a simple solution that can offer many benefits. 

At Jimsquad we build in a cross training routine that includes strength training, distance and sprint cardio work, agility and flexibility exercises.  This routine is designed to work the entire body yet also relates to race conditions for paddlers.

Injury prevention:

An additional benefit of cross training is that your body will be stronger and more flexible.  This will result in less injury.  It will also help you to recover faster should you get an injury.  Should you pick up an injury, for example to a wrist from over use or strain then cross training will help you to maintain your fitness level until you are ready to get back into your paddling. You could, for example work on your breathing through running, do some legwork in the gym or even ride a bike machine one handed.

Paddling can lead to a weakness in lower body strength.  Walking or running is will strengthen your legs and will improve the cardiovascular system.  Swimming strengthens the upper body and will also and will improve the cardiovascular system. When you combine them all your total body fitness improves, as does your ability to compete or paddler for longer.

By allowing some muscles to rest and by putting different pressures on joints and limbs cross training keeps your fitness levels up without putting constant pressure on the same joints etc This prevents injury.  Cross-training also helps prevents muscle strength imbalances that come from concentrating on one area such as the shoulders in paddling.  Bike riding takes pressure off your twisting muscles and shoulders but strengthens the legs and cardio.

Cross training helps you to strengthen other muscles to give you a better more rounded fitness capability.

Benefits of Cross Training

  • Works different muscles and whilst resting others
  • Allows you to maintain fitness through injury periods
  • Promotes teamwork, and motivation
  • Works entire body creating muscle balance
  • Allows you to train no matter the conditions
  • Builds fitness (particularly with Cardio Vascular work)
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Improves your skill, agility and balance