Kayak Heart Rate Interval Workouts

What intervals/workouts do you use for those of you that race?

I’ve signed up a for the New River Trial Challenge this year. It’s a 40 mile bike ride, 12 mile paddle on the New River, and a half marathon. I’m good on the bike and run training but I’ve never raced my kayak.

I’ve been kayaking recreationally for years. I have an old Seda Glider I’ll be using for the race. That should be an advantage, from the pictures of the kayaks I’ve seen in last years race pictures.

It will be interesting getting off the bike, not using your legs for a couple hours and then having to run. I’ll probably want to do some Kayak to run bricks just to get used to that.

12 miles
Is about 2-2.5 hours on still water in that boat. There are a ton of opinions regarding training for distance. I would do quarter and half mile sprints plus longer paddles with varied levels of intensity. Kayaking is an interesting blend between strength and aerobic ability.

Plus you can’t under estimate the importance of being comfortable in the boat for that long.

Agree with Radio. Do a version of the Fartlik workouts. Spend a brief amount of time going way faster than you will in the race. build up to say 10—30 sec.sprints where a great white shark is “chasing” you.

After a while blend that into 4 or so longer intervals at a race pace level. Taylor this so it suits you. These #,s aint written in stone.

Also do a few LSD paddles. I.E. long slow distance padles to mix it up and recover.

Good Luck

I used to do what the above guys said
but now I do a half mile warm up, and then a mile all out. Stop for a second or two and take a swig of water, and then repeat. I’ll do that for the entire race distance if it is twelve miles or less.

Naturally don’t do that immediately - Work up to it by increasing it a few miles each day.

Most of the racers that I know race all out for a twelve miler, and then if you have competition right with you sprint it out at the finish. Just don’t start the sprint too soon!

Jack L

Agree with Jack on the sprint. Knowing when to do itiskey. Knowing how manymatches you have burnt during the race is also key.

Ive done many a race ( mostly bikes) where I sprinted for the finish line way to soon. Although it seemed I could make up ground on another competitor much easier in cycling than kayaking.


– Last Updated: Jul-16-14 4:12 PM EST –

I would try to get out 3-4x a week. 1 long and steady, 1 technique, 1 interval, 1 tempo or planned race pace. Typical workouts besides technique and distance are: 5x1km-2min rest, 5x2km-3min rest.
However, you will gain most by improving your forward stroke technique. Better efficiency is FREE SPEED. Since this is a time trial and the second leg of 3, sprint at the end is a REALLY bad idea. You would be much better off easing of the gas a little at the end as your HR will spike as you exit the boat and start running.
For a race that long a camel back on your or under the bungees is your best bet. Stopping to drink is a huge waste of effort.
If you get a drafting opportunity, you can get your heart rate down 10-15 beats by drafting either 6-12 inches behind someone or off to the side with your bow at their cockpit, just give them enough room to get their paddle out.
That's also going to be the middle 2 hrs of a 5-6 hr effort, so think about fueling and hydration for the run. It would ideal to start the run fueled up and not dehydrated. I would tape a couple of gels to the deck.

Thanks for the suggestions. I think I can put a training plan together from what I have here. There will be no sprint finish in the boat for me as there will be close to another 2 hrs left on the run. I’ll try and keep a steady HR throughout the paddle.

Are there any specific stroke drills I should be doing? I’m sure there are. I was thinking maybe pulling my wife in her kayak would build some power.

If you don’t have a wing paddle

– Last Updated: Jul-17-14 8:10 AM EST –

and you are serious about speed, get one and learn the high angle stroke with it.
It will increase your speed by about two tenths of a second over a touring paddle.

Jack L

wouldnt do that
You won’t maintain technique. Remember that paddling doesn’t use the larger muscles of the body like running or swimming does. Of course if you are doing if right, you will engage most of your core and even your legs, but not at the same level. Consequently, the cardio of it is forgiving. You will find that all but max effort will wear your muscles but probably not wind you.

Like Jack said, building up to higher efforts over longer periods is the idea.

1st workout
Here is my 1st workout. I did a warmup, 1, .75, .5 & .25 miles hard with a quarter mile of easy rest in between intervals. I was just trying to get a feel for what is going to work and what isn’t.


I agree heart rate isn’t a good way to train for paddling. Even with near max effort I only got to 143 bpm. It’s going to be about being able to sustain a hard effort for longer amounts of time. My next workout will be 2 mile intervals.

Also, I need to put in on the larger side of the lake.

straight arm drill. paddle with straight arms and keep paddle centered at your chest forcing rotation. Then bend the upper arm and keep the lower arm as straight as possible.

stab the catch. aim for a spot in front of your feet and stab the blade into the shaft.

bring the blade up early. The blade starts coming up at your knee and should be out by the time it gets to your hip.

sit as if you are holding a pencil between your shoulder blades. don’t reach by hunching, reach by rotating.

try and maintain the height of your upper hand as you rotate. DONT drop your hand as it crosses or as you lift your blade.

Focus on each of these for a few strokes at time.

looking at your garmin data, you should work on longer easier intervals, like 2x20 mins or 4x10 mins. This length interval works well for getting use to longer efforts.

a new stretch !

bend over at hips, spread feet apart, grab ankles.

pull up n ankles while rotating pelvis over thighs at bottom spine.

stretches upper thigh and top pelvis/bottom spine muscles.

Flexing legs when paddling eg vastus medialius iso stretching pushing down on ankles, forcing thighs.

Flexing should keep leg muscle chemistry running while sitting.

Dump before landing n swim to the beach !

Dk. Could you elaborate on the dump a little more ?

DK is so full of crap that he doesn’t want to unload it on the beach where some unsuspecting swimmer might step in it


Thats some funny shite !!!

quick dry polyester

– Last Updated: Jul-18-14 10:30 AM EST –

the stretch was a surprise.

I've suffered, with poor posture, several slightly incapacitating muscle pulls off the upper pelvis. Not standing from a prone or squat for several weeks.

No cure ! EXRX.Com misses this one. Then yesterday doing a back stretch from ankles going into an inner thigh/knee bent over stretch, the new stretch stretched upper pelvis.

Performance cycling asks for abdominal power to legs. A pelvic stretch may facilitate the transition.

Is the swim warmup before cycling a used warm up for you athletes ?

First of all I am not an athlete. I just play one on the interwebz.

Secondly my only serious stretch is when I reach for the remote.

Paddles as Chainrings

– Last Updated: Jul-18-14 6:07 PM EST –

I'm a biker / kayaker. I always carry two paddles. One with significantly more surface area than the other. Think big and little chainring. Paddling into a stiff headwind? Grab the smaller paddle. You get the idea.

Even if you only take one paddle, think about which cadence is right for you.

You can get your heart rate up
One of the things beginners think is that to paddle faster you have to paddle harder. It is not true. To paddle faster you have to paddle faster, so you may need to shorten the stroke and get paddling faster.

I do my speed workouts by time and I am certainly no expert but I’ll share what has worked for me:

Stretch before you get in the boat in then do 15 minutes of warm up paddling.

One minute all out turns out to be about 100 strokes and the first minute I am going between 6 and 7 mph depending on the boat.

Then paddle at a touring pace (3.5 to 4.5 mph ) for two minutes.

Repeat this cycle four times for a total of five sprints. Naturally at the last sprint I am not going 6 to 7mph but Im working just as hard. This really helped me go faster, brake through the surf, and judge how fast to paddle to get the best speed and how much is wasted effort trying to get the boat going faster than the hull wants to go.

Hope this helps

Basically, You’re Not Going Hard Enough
For I suspect you’re in good running shape and surpass 150 all the time, even when on your bike? Running is an eccentric movement, while paddling is concentric, which means, at a 143 heart rate, you can increase your paddling effort.

Yes, I know you’re in a sea kayak and can’t pump your legs like it’s done in an Olympic kayak. So get yourself a longer paddle and paddle downwind or down river to increase your heart rate.

Towing your wife or paddling up wind, will only teach you to go slow.

Remember, as your paddling condition improves, it will always take more and more effort to stay in the maximum heart rate zone. Perhaps a better indicator of how well you’re getting in shape is how long it takes your body to recover between pieces? The shorter the recovery time, the more your conditioning has improved.