Tag Archives: dragonboat

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.


“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.


Paddler Profile: Jeff H.

jeffRacing Class: Premier

Why do you dragon boat?
I love being on the water, and I’m a competitive person. Combining the 2 just makes sense. Dragon boating is a great challenge – physically and mentally. You have to trust your teammates and work together in unison to really excel. I love my team – we’re a diverse group of people that just works really well together. We’re an eclectic mix of young and old, male and female, experienced and inexperienced, but it just works. I love this team and wouldn’t trade it for anything. One of my favorite sounds is the sound of 20 paddles slicing in to the water in unison on a calm day, and feeling the boat shoot forward with every stroke.

What motivates you?
I want to win, and I want to feel the love from my teammates. Knowing that any of them would help in pinch is a great feeling, and I would do the same for them.

How did you get into the sport?
A friend and co-worker was talking about the sport to a few of us at work a few years ago. I remember seeing the boats on Lake Champlain, and thought “that would be fun – how can I join?” I ended up going to an early season BBQ – it poured so we couldn’t get on the water, but everyone was very welcoming. Once I got in the boat, I was hooked. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was so much fun.

What would you say to others considering trying or joining Malia?
See above – we are an incredible mixture of motivated, fun loving people. Everyone is welcoming, and willing to help out. We also have a great end of season party each year.

Who are you?
I’m married, and have been in Burlington since 1999. We live in Colchester, and I’m a Business Analyst for a rather large IT company in downtown Burlington – you can’t miss the large, painted silos on Pine Street. I snow board in the winter (when there’s snow) and paddle in the summer. My wife and I also chase our rambunctious two year old around all the time – she’s the team mascot, and maybe a future paddler. When we’re at home, I love to fire up my smoker (year round), and relax with my family.

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
~ General George Patton

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!