Category Archives: General

General posts on training, paddling, etc.

Pedal-to-paddle: Cross-training for Mind, Body and Heart

The Best Cross-Training
by Barbara L.

It’s a summer Monday afternoon, and I’ve got my eye on the clock as I move through my work and errands.  I don’t want to be late!

At 4:45, I strap my helmet on, clip into my bike pedals, and roll down the driveway.  I’ve got just enough time for the 12-mile ride to the waterfront for dragon boat practice.  It’s getting to be rush hour in our little city, but the traffic is mostly going in the other direction.  And as a kid who learned to ride a bike in Chicago, riding with cars whizzing by doesn’t faze me.  If anything, it gets my adrenaline flowing, and I ride faster.

Up and down hills, around the traffic rotary, across the pedestrian mall, and down the long slope toward the Community Sailing Center.  I arrive to find most of my teammates already there, starting to warmup.  I lock up my bike, switch my bike shoes to water sandals, and join in.

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“Yeah, bucking furpees!” we call back and forth to each other.  And pushups.  Twists.  High knees. Jumping jacks.  Anything to get warmed up and ready to paddle.  I stretch my back, shoulders, hips.  I’m warm already!

We troop to the dock to our waiting dragon boat, and spend the next hour happily paddling – paddling hard – under the encouraging, challenging, and watchful eyes of our coaches.  Sometimes we work on distance paddling; sometimes starts and sprints.  Always, we work hard, egging each other on.  There’s plenty of joshing and laughing during the rest periods, but once we hear “paddles up” we’re all business.  Each practice is an opportunity to work on technique, on timing, on that ineffable swing that happens when we are all together in flawless harmony.  There are races to be won!

When we “Let it ride” for the last time and tie up at the dock, we’re all pooped.  We gather butt pads and water bottles and head back to the parking lot for post-practice stretches.  Once that’s done, I switch back into bike shoes, refill my water bottle, and start the twelve-mile ride home.

This ride is slower that the earlier trip.  For one thing, it’s more uphill.  For another, I’ve just finished a demanding paddle!  But the ride home is lovely too.  The traffic is much lighter; the sun is sinking low in the sky, peeking between buildings and trees as I peddle up the hills, around the rotary, back the way I came.  After an hour of paddling hard on the right side of the boat, it’s wonderful to relax into the symmetric spin of a bike, reconnecting legs and torso and arms in a smooth rhythm.

As I pull back into my driveway, not quite an hour after leaving the waterfront, I’m ready for a shower and some dinner.  And bed.  My body has the satisfied tired of a good, long workout that’s utilized every part of me.  My spirit’s refreshed, too, from the camaraderie of the paddle and the solitude of my ride home.

Bike-paddle-bike.  It’s my favorite cross-training – for my body, for my heart, for my head.  And I get to do it all summer long.

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A (paddler’s) case for strength training

It’s All Connected

I’ve always been an endurance sports kind of girl – biking, running, nordic skiing, hiking.  And while I’ve occasionally made New Years Resolutions about going to the gym, they’ve never really stuck.   “Weights just aren’t my thing,” I said.

That was before I started dragon boat paddling.

It was clear right from the start that our coaches expected us to do strength training beyond the paddling practices.  So I was diligent (well, fairly diligent) about doing core exercises a couple of times a week during that summer.  Then, as my paddling form improved, I began to realize how much each paddler’s strength matters to how well the boat moves forward.  I started working out at the gym during the fall and winter months, when we couldn’t paddle on the water, to get ready for the coming paddling season.

Weight training still wasn’t my thing.  But every time I started to falter, I’d think about my teammates.  How we all had to work together to paddle well.  How we love to do well at races.  How I’d be letting them down if I didn’t get stronger.  And so I’d add another rep.  I’d finish the workout.  I’d come back again a couples days later, to do it all again.  I got stronger.  And I liked it!

Now going to the gym is part of my weekly routine, all year round.  I’m a better paddler every summer.  And those endurance sports I love – especially nordic skiing (though this season there’s a frustrating lack of snow!) – have benefited too: I ski faster, stronger, and longer than ever before.  It’s all connected – the satisfaction and smiles of a good paddle mirrors the smile on my face as I skate-ski up a wintry mountain trail.

Thank you Malia!  For the paddling, of course – and also for helping me become a better athlete, all around.

Thanks to Barb L. for this guest post. As coaches, it’s always great to hear affirmations like this from our athletes. Keep up the good work!

8 reasons to get into a dragon boat this year

1. Your current fitness regimen just doesn’t cut the mustard
Maybe you’re a cross-fitter who needs more than the inside of a smelly gym from time to time. Or perhaps you’re sick of running on the treadmill and not actually getting anywhere. Maybe you just need something to train FOR. Dragon boat will give your gym sessions purpose as well as relief. Plus the strength and speed gains you make in the gym will not only make you a better paddler, but also inspire you to challenge yourself in many new ways.

2. Great scenery
There are so many amazing waterways to paddle on. Granted, when your coach is running a drill or you’re in a race, taking stock of the scenery is a bad idea. But to be able to train and race on the water, in beautiful and varied surroundings, is pretty freaking awesome. Just ask our friend Clayton. As someone who’s relocated for work a number of times, he’s paddled in the Swiss Alps, on Vermont’s Lake Champlain, and is now enjoying the views in Singapore.

3. Travel
You don’t have to change jobs or countries to get the best out of dragon boat. Instead, you can see the world through competition. We’ve been fortunate enough to have competed in Hong Kong, Italy, Hungary, the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia–to name a few. As the fastest growing team water sport in the world, there are new competitions in amazing locations every year.

4. Bling
Yes personal successes are great, but who doesn’t like medals and trophies? If you want to compete, you can earn some pretty great rewards.

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A joyful Malia crew after winning the Summer Splash in Montreal, June 2015

5. You don’t have to start at age 5 to become great
This is nothing like, say, gymnastics, where the athletes start out young and are “retired” (or injured beyond repair) by their teens or twenties. You can start dragon boat at any age, and at any fitness level. How far you go with it is entirely up to you (see #8 below). There are racing classes for under 16s and over 60s and everyone in between. Do you really need any more reasons to give it a go?

6. Old injuries are bumming you out
Maybe you used to run marathons or ski moguls, but now your knees are shot. Or you’ve had too many concussions from your favorite contact sport. Whatever the issue, chances are dragon boat can give you a new lease on fitness and competition (maybe even if you’re in rehab!).

7. Team play and camraderie
Dragon boaters are a close-knit lot. Think about it – 22 people marooned together in close quarters out on the water for 60 or 90 minutes at a time…you get to know each other very well very fast :) You end up gaining a whole new family – heck you can even BRING your family. We have quite a few mother-daughter and husband-and-wife paddlers on our crew. How great is that?1380098_10202300415737217_1370270291_n

8. You could qualify for Team USA and go to the Olympics
Yes, really. Our club has contributed national paddlers AND coaches to Team USA to a number of World Nations Championships. Some of them didn’t even start dragon boating ’til their 40s and 50s! And with recent movement to make dragon boat an Olympic sport, you could even become an Olympian.11866475_798609730253343_1387222227174505235_n

SO, there you have it. Go find a dragon boat crew in your community and just try it out. What do you have to lose? Especially if you’re in the Burlington, VT area, your first two sessions are absolutely free.  We have both winter and summer options – just check out our schedule.