I have had an awesome summer paddling in Canada and Plattling, Germany. It has been my first time training abroad and I have loved every minute of it – the feeling that I have progressed in my paddling. To make progress and learn new things in your boating, it’s a good idea to train smart. In my mind training smartly is about having as much fun as you can on the water, but still optimising your time to learn as much as possible. Here are my top tips:

Set goals

Having a goal, or target, is always a great way to motivate yourself to train hard. I find that having something to work towards pushes me in training. It’s wise to set outcome goals and process goals. My outcome goal is to make the final in the Europeans next year, however, it can be something as simple as catching a wave for the first time or learning how to cartwheel.

Process goals are small goals that you need to achieve to get to your outcome goal. I know that if I want to make the final at the Europeans then I need to be more consistent with my left side tricks; so one of my process goals is to throw as many if not more left tricks each training session as I do right tricks.

Process goals are great because sometimes, especially in freestyle kayaking, you can struggle to see your progress if you are just working towards one big goal. Process goals constantly motivate you in your training sessions and show you how you are progressing.

Paddle with people better than you

This may not always be possible but it is a good idea to paddle with someone who is better than you. In Canada I improved a huge amount because I was paddling with world renowned paddlers such as Bren Orton and Dane Jackson. Paddling with people who are better than you can inspire you to try things that you may not have thought  possible. It’s just incredible watching good paddlers throw down moves that you may have never imagined possible.

Look at your strengths (and weaknesses)

If you are paddling with good paddlers then hopefully you will receive some tips and pointers. I always take a notebook with me when I go on training camps, when I get off the water I write down things I have learnt in the session. I normally do this in a SWOT format:

Strength – things that have gone well in the session. When using self-analysis it is always important to look at things that have gone well as well as parts that may need improving.

Weakness – Something that maybe was not as good as expected that you might need to work on.

Opportunity- this could be a tip given to you by someone else or just an idea that you have thought off that could be used to improve your paddling.

Threat- This could be something that was limiting your performance that needs to be adjusted before your next training session. For example eating too much before the session, causing you to be slow.

Doing a SWOT analysis will allow you to recap your session and will also give you something to look back at before your next session. It is a good idea to do your SWOT or take general notes as soon as you get off the water. Once I’m changed I take five minutes to briefly jot down notes that I can later put into a SWOT format. If SWOTs don’t work for you there are lots of other methods of reviewing your training such as mind maps and lists.

Watch yourself

Another great way of reviewing your training is taking videos. Video analysis is a great tool to use if you are trying to change something in your paddling technique or a part of a freestyle move you are trying to learn. I have used video feedback in freestyle when learning new moves and marathon paddling to adjust my technique.  When you re-watch your video, take notes on the three Bs: boat, body and blade. You should compare where your boat, body and blade are in relation to each other and then watch a video of someone achieving what you are trying to do. Compare the position of their boat, body and blade. When you can see what they are doing differently then try to make those changes in your own paddling.

Time on the water

Find time to practice! The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is very true. The key to developing new skills in your boat is spending as much time on the water as possible.  But the most important thing is having fun.

These tips may work well for some people and not so well for others. It is good to adjust them to what suits you.  If this kind of training is not enjoyable then it isn’t for you. Thank you for reading and see you on the water! Harry