It took me a pretty long time to understand what my goals were and how to stay motivated when training freestyle. Here are a few quick pointers I’d like to share with you.

Understand your goals

Deciding what you want is key staying motivated. Goals will drive you to wake up earlier to train, or push it a bit harder on the river. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to be able to throw a new move? Be in the top five at the next competition? Get more than 1,000 points at an event? Martina Wegman defines the different types of goals really well in her article: Life, river, balance: mind. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people, both more and less experienced paddlers. See what drives them to train, and to paddle. Ask them not only about how they train, but why they train.

Understand your limits

What’s stopping you achieving that goal? There will always be things that you can’t control or change, and you should be aware of them. Then there are all the things you can control like college, work, family, etc. During a training camp in Galway, David McClure asked us to rank the five most important things in our life. Some of us had family first, others had kayaking, or their job. Some goals take priority over others. You can’t be ashamed of missing a training session because you spent the day with your family or friends, if that’s what you really want.

Plan ahead

How much time do you have? You do not have to plan every training session for the next six months, because you know things never go as planned. Planning means realising what you have to do to achieve what you want, and setting milestones. For example, if you want to score 1,000 points during a ride, and you usually score 950, you know you might need to learn a new trick – or go higher on one moves – or link more moves together. Talk to people that have achieved what you want to achieve and see how they did it. Maybe you need to spend more time on the water to practice? Maybe you need to get fitter or stronger to throw that move? Figure out what you have to do and try to imagine how long it will take to do it. Write down your plan, however rough, so you have a point of reference every week or month toward achieving your goal.

Keep going

I feel like keeping yourself motivated can be hard, especially when kayaking is not on top of your list of priorities. You know your plan? Something that works for me, is to not always stick to it. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed, you force yourself, but at the end of the day, you’re glad you did. I often woke up at 6-6:30 am to go paddling on flat water before college and I was super glad I did it. But some days I didn’t feel like it, and I stayed in bed. Instead, I went to the gym later or did double sessions another day. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t necessarily have to respect your plan. Don’t cancel a trip to a river because you planned on a gym session, you know you’ll regret it. Keep yourself happy. Training shouldn’t be a nightmare, you should be smiling on your way to training, and afterward too.

Mix it up

Paddle flat water at least twice a week, no matter what your main discipline is. I’ve started going for long distance and sprint sessions in K1 racers on the flat and have tried many different boats – it’s all helped me so much. My paddling strokes got better, I am stronger and more confident. Each session was different, and it was fun, and it helped me improve my freestyle.

Try different sports. I personally don’t believe that having a strict routine will help you stay motivated and focused. They are so many other sports that will help you; it could be climbing, swimming or running. Maybe they’ll make you stronger, fitter, more flexible or mentally tougher.Varying everything will make you a better paddler and will make training more fun.

I hope my approach to training will help you become a better paddler. Not everyone agree with me, and if you don’t, I’d love to hear your perspective on training, feel free to send me a message! – Lucien