Many paddlers consider a warm up something they only do when they have the extra time, but don’t treat it as a necessary part of their training (or even their race). A proper warm up should not be considered an “extra” that gets fit into a training plan inconsistently, rather, it should be treated as a key component of a training paddle. When performed consistently and properly it can help a paddler become faster, stronger, and less injury prone. But how long should you dedicate to a warm up?
When it comes to stretching, there are two major types: static and dynamic. In research where endurance athletes performed static stretching before working out, they became 5% less efficient and reduced distance covered by 3%. The same study reported no decrease in performance when dynamic stretching was performed before training. Rather, dynamic, repetitive, sports-specific movements that replicate how your muscles work during padding helps to prep your muscles and connective tissues for the training paddle you are about to complete. Furthermore, the warm up will help to “wake up” your neuromuscular system, which lets your body know what its about to endure. Turning on the communication between your brain and body prepares you for safe, injury-free paddling.
Which dynamic stretches you do before your training paddle will depend on which areas you need to improve on as well as selecting some favorites. Be sure to select stretches that address hip opening, torso rotation, shoulder mobility, as well as stretches that reach your triceps, lats, and hamstrings.
Although your warmup may differ, here is an example:
- Side to side leg swing
- Body Weight Squats, full depth
- Torso Twist w/ arm reach
- Lunges with Lat extension
- Arm Circles
- Shoulder pass throughs with your paddle
- Tricep Stretch
When including dynamic stretches that get to all of the muscle groups you will incorporate while paddling, you can expect to warm up for at least 8-10 minutes. Be sure to spend extra time on any muscle group that needs extra attention or mobility. Once on the water, you should do some light paddling to get started. After a few weeks, you should start to notice a difference both on the water and after your paddle as your mobility improves. Look forward to a faster and stronger session!