Train With A Plan

Too often we get stuck in a rut. We have our workout days, our time limits and have to deal with weather, chores, work, and life in general. Just getting out on the water can be a relief. Often we just repeat our common paths because we can get back in time, etc.

The problem this stagnation causes is the lack of progression. It’s great to keep your fitness up, but to get better we have to be unconformable.

Being uncomfortable isn’t necessarily fun or the relaxing escape we often long for. Having a plan and clear goals though can provide a focus and a sense of purpose to the madness. The feeling of being able to set personal bests and maybe even achieve a podium win immediately erases the longer struggle for improvement.

No one starts at the top. Just remember that guy out front leading the pack has probably put in more training time than most of the back pack combined. It might seem easy to them, but that one race is a culmination of months or years of work.

Set Goals

Self-evaluation is an important and critical step to setting proper goals and progressing your skills. You can test yourself against a clock and/or against competition. However it’s important to include some form of objective measurements in your goals and evaluate how your progress is going towards meeting those goals independent of other factors (weather, competitors, etc.). Time trials are a great tool to learn from. Learn about heart rate zones and your body’s energy pathways too.

  • Identify your long-term goal: Start by identifying your long-term goal. This should be a broad and specific goal that you want to achieve in the future, such as completing a iron channel crossing, improving your 10 mile time, or increasing your strength.
  • Break down your long-term goal into short-term goals: Once you have identified your long-term goal, break it down into smaller, achievable short-term goals. These should be specific, measurable, and attainable goals that will help you reach your long-term goal. For example, if your long-term goal is to complete a iron Pailolo crossing (26 miles solo), your short-term goal might be to train 15 miles without stopping.
  • Develop a plan: Once you have identified your short-term goals, develop a plan for achieving them. This should include the specific activities and exercises you will need to do, as well as the frequency and duration of each activity.
  • Track your progress: Regularly track your progress towards your goals. This will help you stay motivated and make adjustments to your plan as needed.
  • Adjust your goals as necessary: Finally, be prepared to adjust your goals as necessary. If you find that you are not making progress towards your goals, re-evaluate your plan and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Train with Intent: Training in a focused and goal oriented manner will be much more productive and is one of the major common traits associated with experts in any field.
  • For more ways to get the most out of your workouts and build a strong mindset look at the tuned-up page.

Failure Is The Way

This needs to be said from the start. Too many paddlers are caught up in winning or “not being last”. These are not goals. Embrace your failures and don’t fear them or be embarrassed by them. Every race you don’t win is a race that 1000x more people never even tried.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Michael Jordan

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

John Wooden

There’s no failures in sports. There’s good days. Bad days. Some days you’re able to be successful. Some days you’re not. Some days it’s your turn. Some days it’s not. And that’s what sports is about. You don’t always win. …It’s not failure, it’s steps to success.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Types of Loading

When talking about a training, think of your goals and how much time you can spend training and what your end goal is. When professionals talk about training they are carefully planning their time and efforts (loading) so they avoid injury and can peak for their main goal.

Types of loading vary and while studies tend to favor a polarized periodic loading here are some of the common methods:

  • Progressive Overload: This involves gradually increasing the weight, reps, or sets of an exercise to continually challenge the body and stimulate muscle growth.
  • Periodization: This involves dividing the training program into specific periods, each with a different focus, intensity, and volume. This approach is often used in sports that have a specific competition season.
  • Deloading: This involves reducing the intensity and volume of training to allow the body to recover and avoid overtraining.
  • Cluster Sets: This involves breaking up sets of an exercise with short periods of rest to allow for a higher volume of work to be completed in a shorter amount of time.
  • Supersets: This involves performing two exercises back-to-back without rest to increase intensity and reduce overall workout time.
  • Drop Sets: This involves reducing the weight or resistance of an exercise after reaching failure to continue working the muscle group to exhaustion.
  • Pre-Exhaustion: This involves performing an isolation exercise before a compound exercise to fatigue the specific muscle group before performing the compound exercise.

Some of these can be used in combination. However we’ll focus on the most common a polarized periodic plan.


Periodization is a method of organizing training into specific time periods or phases, each with a specific goal or objective, in order to maximize athletic performance and prevent overtraining. The goal of periodization is to break down an athlete’s training into manageable segments (cycles) that focus on different aspects of physical fitness, such as strength, endurance, speed, and power, and to gradually increase the intensity and complexity of the training over time.

Essentially you’re improving the 3 energy paths that your body uses to power itself along with all the extra systems that benefit from those activities. (See Energy Pathways)

  • Polarization Periodization: Polarized periodization is a specific type of periodization that involves focusing on low-intensity, long-duration training for the majority of the training period (usually around 80% of training volume), with high-intensity, short-duration training making up the remaining 20%. This method aims to optimize athletic performance by targeting both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, while minimizing the risk of overtraining and injury. Polarized periodization has been shown to be effective in endurance sports such as cycling, running, and cross-country skiing.
  • Linear Periodization: This is the most traditional form of periodization, in which the athlete gradually increases training volume and intensity over time, leading to peak performance at the end of the training period.
  • Reverse Periodization: This method involves starting with high-intensity training and gradually reducing the intensity and increasing the volume as the training period progresses.
  • Undulating Periodization: This method involves alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity training within the same training period, with the aim of improving both strength and endurance.
  • Block Periodization: This method involves breaking the training period into several distinct blocks, with each block focusing on a specific aspect of physical fitness.
  • Conjugate Periodization: This method involves training multiple physical qualities, such as strength and power, simultaneously in order to maximize athletic performance.

Make a Plan & Measure Progress

Take a look at your training load. Don’t make increments of more than 10%, unless you’re under 30 years old and you’re already in shape.

Include a time trial course or a specific distance sprint time. Self-evaulate your progression and it into your plans.

Example Plan

6-8 hours a week. Here’s a theoretical plan starting February and getting ready for June Sprint Regattas (5 months).

Month 1 (Foundation Phase):

  • Week 1-2: Focus on low-intensity training (zone 1 and 2 heart rate) for 80% of training volume, with 1-2 sessions of high-intensity training (zone 5 and 6 heart rate) per week for the remaining 20% of training volume.
  • Week 3-4: Increase the amount of low-intensity training to 85% of training volume, with 1-2 sessions of high-intensity training per week.
  • Training focus: Build aerobic base, improve paddling technique and endurance.

Month 2 (Building Phase):

  • Week 1-2: Continue with 85% low-intensity training and 1-2 sessions of high-intensity training per week.
  • Week 3-4: Increase the amount of high-intensity training to 25% of training volume, while maintaining 75% low-intensity training.
  • Training focus: Build muscular endurance and increase lactate threshold.

Month 3 (Peak Phase):

  • Week 1-2: Increase the amount of high-intensity training to 30%, while maintaining 70% low-intensity training.
  • Week 3-4: Reduce overall training volume and increase the frequency of high-intensity training to 3-4 sessions per week.
  • Training focus: Maximize power output and performance gains.

Month 4 (Tapering Phase):

  • Week 1-2: Maintain high-intensity training frequency and decrease overall training volume by 20%.
  • Week 3-4: Further reduce overall training volume by 30%, while maintaining high-intensity training frequency.
  • Training focus: Reduce fatigue and optimize performance.

Month 5 (Recovery Phase):

  • Week 1-2: Engage in low-intensity, recovery-focused training for 80-90% of training volume, with 1-2 sessions of high-intensity training per week.
  • Week 3-4: Continue with recovery-focused training, reducing overall training volume by 50%.
  • Training focus: Maintain fitness gains while allowing for recovery and rest.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

Jim Ryun

Sources For These Methods of Training

  1. Seiler, S. (2010). What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 5(3), 276-291. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.5.3.276
  2. Laursen, P.B., & Jenkins, D.G. (2002). The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training: Optimising training programmes and maximising performance in highly trained endurance athletes. Sports Medicine, 32(1), 53-73. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200232010-00003
  3. Ronnestad, B.R., & Mujika, I. (2014). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), 603-612. doi: 10.1111/sms.12104
  4. Mujika, I., & Padilla, S. (2003). Scientific bases for precompetition tapering strategies. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(7), 1182-1187. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000074444.88702.4F

Additional Reading

“Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool – This book delves into the concept of deliberate practice and how it can be applied to achieve expertise in any field.

Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else” by Jon Gordon – This book offers insights into the mindset and training methods of elite performers, drawing lessons that can be applied to personal and professional development.

Serious Training for Endurance Athletes” by Rob Sleamaker and Ray Browning is an excellent resource specifically tailored for endurance athletes. In this book, Sleamaker and Browning provide comprehensive guidance on training methodologies, including periodization, strength training, nutrition, recovery strategies, and race preparation. They draw on scientific research and practical experience to offer insights into optimizing endurance performance across various disciplines such as running, cycling, swimming, and triathlon.

80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower” by Matt Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald introduces the concept of 80/20 training, which emphasizes the importance of balancing easy and hard workouts to optimize endurance performance. This book offers practical guidance based on scientific research and real-world experience.

The Science of Running: How to Find Your Limit and Train to Maximize Your Performance” by Steve Magness – Magness explores the latest scientific research on endurance training, covering topics such as biomechanics, physiology, and psychology to help runners maximize their potential.

Training Glossary

  • Aerobic Exercise: Exercise that requires oxygen to generate energy for the body to perform the activity. Examples include running, cycling, and swimming.
  • Agility: The ability to change direction quickly and efficiently.
  • Anaerobic Exercise: Exercise that does not require oxygen to generate energy for the body to perform the activity. Examples include weightlifting and sprinting.
  • Anaerobic Threshold: The point during exercise at which the body can no longer produce enough energy aerobically and must rely more heavily on anaerobic metabolism.
  • Balance: The ability to maintain equilibrium while performing a task.
  • Body Composition: The relative proportions of muscle, bone, fat, and other tissues in the body.
  • Circuit Training: A type of resistance training that involves performing a series of exercises in sequence with little to no rest in between.
  • Concentric Contraction: A type of muscle contraction in which the muscle shortens while under tension, such as the upward phase of a bicep curl.
  • Cross-Training: Engaging in a variety of different types of exercises and activities to promote overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Dynamic Stretching: Stretching exercises that involve movement, such as lunges or leg swings, to warm up the muscles and increase range of motion.
  • Eccentric Contraction: A type of muscle contraction in which the muscle lengthens while under tension, such as the downward phase of a bicep curl.
  • Endurance: The ability to sustain a particular level of effort or activity for an extended period of time.
  • Fartlek Training: A type of interval training that involves varying the intensity and duration of effort during a workout.
  • Flexibility: The ability to move a joint through its full range of motion.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): A type of interval training that involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.
  • Hypertrophy: An increase in muscle size and strength that occurs as a result of resistance training.
  • Isometric Exercise: An exercise in which muscles contract without any movement of the joints, such as holding a plank position.
  • Jump Training: A type of training that involves exercises that enhance jumping ability, such as squat jumps and box jumps.
  • Kinesthetic Awareness: The body’s ability to sense movement, position, and force.
  • Lactate Threshold: The point during exercise at which lactate production exceeds the body’s ability to remove it, leading to a buildup of lactate in the blood.
  • Mobility: The ability to move a joint or body segment through its full range of motion without restriction.
  • Neuromuscular Control: The ability of the nervous system to coordinate muscle activity and movement.
  • Overtraining: A state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive training and inadequate recovery.
  • Plyometric Training: Exercises that involve explosive movements designed to increase power, speed, and agility. Examples include box jumps and bounding.
  • Proprioception: The body’s ability to sense and control its position and movements in space.
  • Progressive Overload: The gradual increase of resistance, intensity, or duration of an exercise over time in order to continue making gains in strength, endurance, or performance.
  • Recovery: The process of restoring the body’s physical and mental state after exercise or training.
  • Repetition: A single instance of performing an exercise movement, such as one push-up or one squat.
  • Resistance Training: Exercise that involves working against an external resistance, such as weightlifting or resistance bands.
  • Set: A group of repetitions performed