Take any Olympic athlete and you will find that they are only as good as the coach who consistently supports them on their journey to greatness.  These coaches not only have great knowledge about their sport, they are also technical and tactical experts who plan every step their athletes take.

With this in mind, you need to ask yourself, “Will someone developing a weekly personalised training program tailored to me help me achieve goals and compete at their best?”. The answer is of course yes. Let me tell you why.

Same s#*!, different day

If you find yourself performing at the same pace, doing the same efforts week in week out, then you’re not alone. Paddlers frequently ask me questions such as “after all the miles, why am I not getting faster?” or “the stroke rates of other paddlers in my training squad are slower then mine, why do they go faster than me?” While the second question is more about technique, the first one is about having a better balance between long distance and interval work within your weekly training program.

Coaching is all about that fine balance between endurance training, and improving your race pace. Most training programs will be developed and planned one to two years in advance. Remember the old adage “If you fail to plan,  you plan to fail”. 

Ask yourself:

Over the past couple of years developing personally tailored fitness programs, I’ve been able to help paddlers of all levels of skill and fitness, a range of easy to apply new ways to simplify their training programme, and improve their race pace by an average of three percent over a mere next seven weeks. 

A new way to look at training

Those of you who paddled in the 1980’s and 1990’s trained to heart rates, and you probably still do. While institute athletes used lactic acid and painful ergo tests to work out their anaerobic threshold, most of us just guessed our range.

The problem with heart rate training is that your heart rate will regularly fluctuate due to a number of external factors such as emotions, illness, heat and altitude, making it difficult to train consistently.

Another key issue is that if you train at your anaerobic threshold all of the time, you are violating many of the basic training principles, for example, overloading, specificity and recovery.

Now don’t through away your heart rate monitor just yet, but do ask yourself this question. “What are you trying to achieve as a result of your training, is it to improve your heart rate, or is it that you want to go faster?” To paddle faster is most likely foremost on your mind.

As a fulltime coach now myself, I have developed a tried and proven deep understanding of how everyone trains differently, but without a sports science team behind you taking lactic acid tests every five minutes, how can the average paddler know what is right for them? Over the last couple of years as an elite paddler (2000-2004), I’ve discovered my response rate was better when I trained at 80 percent and my training regime included one or two sessions at race pace, or above, per week.

This meant I trained in a manner best suited my body, but I didn’t know why. Last year, I did some research on the topic, and discovered a publication by B.J Sharkey and S.E Gaskill titled ‘Sport Physiology for Coaches’.  The knowledge I gained from my research, in particular from B.J. Sharkey’s book, helped me connect all the missing pieces for me, both as an athlete as well as a coach.

What I’ve proven through “in the field” training development is that training at 80 percent helps improve your slow twitch fibers, which in turn improves your endurance allowing your body to recover. I also proved that training above race pace, ( i.e. at 105 percent ), you improve your fast twitch fibers, which teaches your body to go faster over shorter intervals, which in turn improves actual race pace over time.

I am sure there are other coaches and UltraFit magazine readers that may not agree, but I have been working with this concept now for over a year, and the results have proven the method to be hugely successful – all paddlers I’ve coached have seen at least and improvement of three to five percent. This is backed up by their times posted in a six week time trial I run. The results speak for themselves.

It’s important to also note that fulltime paddlers do have the luxury of resting between training sessions, knowing full well that their coach is busy planning their next session, wehre as most everyday paddlers are too busy to sit down and develop a personally tailored training program that suits their goals, as well as finding time to actually go out and train, have family time, work and playtime.

With this in mind I have developed a seven-week training program for UltraFit readers to give you a taste of what paddlers I coach benefit from. This program is designed around intermediate paddlers, who on average training once a day, with some cross training if they can fit it into their schedule.

This trial seven week training program will give you the opportunity to improve on your current paddle fitness and strength, and give you the confidence to hit the water knowing you have improved – which is of course the key difference to just getting out there and banging away in an unplanned fashion. To get the results you want, you are going to want to see your training programmes are being personally tailored to your goals, by your very own fulltime coach.

Finding Your Race Pace

Follow these easy steps

It’s important to note that correct paddling technique, cross training and gym sessions are also extremely important to a well balanced training program. It is highly recommended that these also be integrated into your training week.

Your Fulltime Paddling Coach

Julian Norton-Smith

Paddle 2 Fitness 


0417 549 409