As paddlers prepare for the 2015 Race Season, and as we near the release of our National Race Schedule, everyone wants to make the most out of their training and get faster. Everyone wants to paddle faster, but actually paddling faster still tends to be elusive. Lets review a few things that can help you either increase, or keep up, the speed while you’re on the water stand up paddling.
The #1 thing you can do to improve your speeds is to focus. All-to-often people tend to zone out on longer paddles. Look… a bird, a plane, a fish… a decrease in our technique! Even on shorter paddles, people are prone to thinking about what others are doing around them instead of focusing on their own technique. When you zone out or stop focusing on your cadence and reach, form breaks down and you start moving slower. Even if you’re trying to match someone else’s cadence around you, it may not be what’s right for you. Relax, rely on your training, and focus on yourself.
If you have the ability to focus, you can pay attention to your cadence. All else being equal, a slight increase in cadence can help you move quicker. There is a point of diminishing returns, however, where a faster cadence will not move you quicker if form breaks down. A few ways to practice increasing your cadence are switching to a smaller blade and using a metronome or music. Switching to a smaller blade can help you get the feel of paddling at a higher stroke rate and hone in your fast twitch muscle fibers. You don’t have to switch to a smaller blade permanently, especially if the blade is too small for your body size and strength, but once you’ve got the feeling of the faster cadence you can practice using your larger blade. (Be sure to not use a blade that is too large, which could cause injury.) If you can’t borrow a smaller bladed paddle, try singing a song (or using a metronome) and paddle in time with that.
You’re focused and you have a solid cadence, now you want to really reach. When paddling, you want to get every inch of reach you can to propel yourself forward. Further reach gives you a longer pull, this means your blade is in the water for more time. In theory you keep your board moving, as opposed to when you’re recovering the blade and your board is decelerating.
The last thing on our list today that can help you paddle faster is cross training. Whether it is strength exercise at the gym to increase your power output, or adding in swimming or prone, switching up your exercise routine has benefits. Cross training can help prevent injuries, and an injury-free paddler is faster than an injured one, for the most part. The other benefit is increased speed. By cross training properly, a paddler can get faster than they could just by paddling alone. Not only does cross training increase power, but it can also improve endurance and lead to increases in training volume.