In the winter and early spring most of time I spend in my city – Wrocław. I'm still studying, so it is hard to travel far and it's too cold for paddling in my area. I want to keep my kayak skills on a high level all the time, so a couple days per week in the afternoons I go to the swimming pool. On flat water I learn how to do new moves and practice tricks which I already know, and later they are easier to do it in the hole. That’s why I think pool sessions are very important. So here's my advice on how to make flat water sessions more effective and very useful.
Have plan for your session. That makes practice more effective. Every time when you get into your kayak you should know what do you want to practice in this session. It depends how much time you have, but my aim in normally to focus on one or two moves separately. Mostly I'm planning my train for an hour, or hour and a half. Paddling too long when I'm tired is pointless, keep good form in your practice.
Before you start, remind yourself how exactly how the move looks which you would like to learn. Run through it in your mind and imagine doing the move. Imagine all the important details of the move.
It's very important is to warm up your body before you start making acrobatic moves. Warm up and your training session will be more effective and you will be less likely to injure yourself.
I start with a warm up without kayak and continue in my boat. First I paddle forward and back. Then I move onto some basic moves like carthweels and splitweels. If your not yet cartweheeling try paddling forward and backward on edge, keeping the long left and right edge of the boat under the water for as many strokes as you can. It helps you develop balance in your kayak and makes your muscles stronger that will help in learning vertical moves.
Now if you've worked hard enough to break a sweat then you're warmed up and ready for the main part of your training session. Remind yourself how to do the move and try to visualise yourself doing that move. After every attempt think what you did well and what, if anything, went wrong. Recognise when your move is working good and when you feel it was not OK. It's good to have someone watching to help you as it's often difficult to see your own mistakes. Video from your sessions, which will help to compare your good and bad performances later.
Be sure to do moves on both sides. I know it's more fun to do moves for better side because it works, but don’t forget about the other side. If you do moves only on one side, it will become more difficult to learn tricks on the other side and your body will be conditioned badly and more injury prone. My advice is to start to learn new things on your better side but as soon as possible start attempting and practicing it also on the other side to keep your muscles on both sides working in harmony and that will keep your spine straight.
Before you finish remember to keep some time left for fun. Just whatever you want to do. During the fun time I’m doing moves which I like the most and play with combo moves.
After every session it's good to do at least some stretching. Stretch your arms, shoulders and back a few second with deep breaths. Stretching out for ten minutes after your session will help your mobility and help your muscles recover faster.
Much of this advice also applies also to training outdoors in the hole or on the wave. So go try something new now. Have fun and enjoy your paddling! ;)