As whitewater evolves paddlers are looking for ways to improve their performance on the water – so here are some ways to get you feeling better out on the river. Recently I wrote posts about diet for athlete performance and strength training. This third post is about fitness training …


The number one mistake people make when starting a new fitness program is going too hard too soon. The fallout is strong; carbohydrate cravings, lack lusting results, quick burnout and risk for injuries. So when starting, keep your effort level at challenging but not grueling! When you start conservatively you probably will see bigger, better and faster results. On top of that, it is easier to maintain your plan and keep it fun and exciting!

So it is attempting to go all out at the start and wanting to exercise everyday to try form a habit. However, if you not used to an intense training plan it will be more beneficial to intensity workout no more than three to four times a week, mixing up fitness, strength (and kayak specific technique) – go for quality over quantity. When just beginning to train your body requires more time to recover. Once your body gets more used to the intensity of your training and you are feeling good, you can start adding more sessions. But once you are in a regular training flow it is important to still alternate hard workout days with more mellow days to ensure proper recovery. Be realistic and don’t push yourself too hard, too fast. Fitness is a lifetime commitment, not a sprint to a finish line.

A way to measure the intensity of your exercise is to check your heart rate during physical activity. These should be within a target range during levels of intensity. Start at a light intensity if you’re new to exercising. Gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity. For moderate-intensity physical activity, your heart rate should be 50% to 70% of your max heart rate. Vigorous exercise intensity: 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate.

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, here is an easy guide;

Moderate exercise intensity

  • Your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath.
  • You develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity.
  • You can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing.

Vigorous exercise intensity

  • Your breathing is deep and rapid.
  • You develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity.
  • You can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Goals and motivation

Once again don’t set goals that are too high, as if it’s too hard to reach your goal, you will easily get discouraged, injured or stop at all. A good way is by shifting your focus onto spending more time doing activities you love, rather than having fixed goals. If you like being outside in nature, build more opportunities for workouts there! It’s hard to get stuck in a rut when you take your workout outdoors, because there’s always something different to see! Go somewhere new that offers hiking, bike riding, surfing, long walking tracks, rock climbing or something similar.

If you a person who does need clear goals to exercise, signing up for a race could do the trick! Make sure your goals are clear, realistic and written down. Get yourself a calendar that you can hang up in a visible place, on the fridge or a pin board. Something you can look at every day!

What you really want is to develop some new habits that you can stick with. Building powerful habits can set you up for success and create the foundations. Habits are the reasons you are wildly successful in some areas of your life but not in others. We are all built very differently. People respond differently to exercise due to their genetics, their metabolism, and their hormones. Try a variety of things to find out how your body responds, what works best for you and what you can stick with.

Buddy up; Exercising with someone else can help keep you motivated, just make sure you choose the right person. Find a friend who can keep a similar timetable to you and who is reliable and make sure it is someone who won’t let you off the hook easily when you lose your motivation.