Following a Training Program

The Importance of Training Plans from Paddle Monster on Vimeo.

The most important thing about following a training program is compliance.  If you’re freelancing and aren’t actually following the program then you can’t expect to get the results it’s designed to deliver.  You’ll very likely be doing either too much or too little training and almost certainly will be doing either too much or too little of specific types of training. 

A good program isn’t a randomly constructed thing.  It’s the result of a process that maps out your season and attempts to prepare you for your most important competitions.  It’s also fit to your level of ability, your base level of fitness, your training experience, your commitment level and your competition objectives. 

Whether you’ve designed the program yourself or had a coach do it for you, once it’s been set it is best to follow it as closely as possible.  This will ensure you’re doing the right kind of work, in the right amounts, at the right time.  While it’s important to monitor your training closely and adjust your plan if necessary, such adjustments usually take place on a scale that is larger than one training microcycle (one week).  Once the weekly program has been set it is usually best to stick to it as closely as possible.  Depending on how you’re responding to that weekly program (and have been responding to those immediately proceeding the most recent week), you can modify the next week’s program to reflect your current training state if necessary.  But these modifications are always made with the master plan in mind, rather than randomly in response to how you might have felt in your most recent workout. 

A good program should prevent things like overreaching or overtraining from occurring.  It should build sequentially from week to week, allowing you to master technical components of paddling while building and consolidating your fitness gains.  It should also build in recovery weeks, which prevent overtraining and further help you consolidate the gains you’re making. 

At Paddle Monster we will be posting the training program for the coming week every Sunday.  The programs themselves will run from Monday through Sunday.  There will be three levels of programs posted each week, one for novice, one for intermediate and one for advanced level paddlers.  I’ll be slotting you into one of these levels based on the information you’ve given me in the questionnaire you complete when joining.  If you disagree with the level I’ve assigned you to then you have something to discuss with me on the forum.  I’m pretty flexible and can easily be won over by sound logic and common sense, however I’ll expect you to make a solid case for why you should be assigned to a different level.  Remember, I’m trying to help you succeed, so I’m putting you where I think there will be the best fit for you. 

How much training is enough?

The question of how much training is enough is one that can spark a lot of debate.  Clearly, that depends firstly and foremost on your training background, current level of fitness and the goals that you have.  The reality is you can’t just jump into an advanced level program if you’ve never trained at that level before.  The reality is also that you can’t be a high level SUP racer unless you’re prepared to pay the price in training.  A big part of my job is helping you be realistic in both your training and racing expectations.  Again, we’ll work together, you and I, in the forum to find a level of training that is best for you. 

I will say this: an advanced level competitor that has high-level goals really needs to train daily.  I’m aware that there are many top level SUP athletes on programs that only require them to paddle 4x/week.  In my opinion that really isn’t enough.  I can’t think of a high level (read Olympic) level sport that only requires athletes to train every other day.  Most athletes at that level train daily, and in fact most actually train twice per day.  This is important to build the fitness levels required for their sport as well as to establish a high level of technical proficiency.  SUP paddling is no different than any other sport.  It requires a high level of fitness, specialized to paddling.  It also requires a huge level of technical proficiency.  In fact, when you consider all the skills a top level SUP athlete requires, you realize that stand up paddling is a very complex sport and requires a large, highly professional commitment to training.

To this end, our advanced program will have you on the water a minimum of 6x/week for much of the year.  Sometimes you’ll find that there are 8 on-water sessions on the program in one week, sometimes only four.  Cold climate paddlers may have stretches through the winter where they don’t paddle at all.  The bottom line is this: unless you’re currently at the top of the world rankings there is a lot that you need to do.  There is a lot of fitness you need to build and a lot of skills you need to master.  If you’re like me and have no ocean background, you’re playing catch up on skills.  You’re never going to erase your skills deficit training only 4x/week.  The only way to develop these complex skills is to spend time on the board.  There are no short cuts.  So I am recommending that people paddle more for large parts of the year.

Intermediate level athletes should be on the water about 5x/week through the pre-competitive and competitive paddling seasons.  Like the advanced trainers, there will be times when they are on far less.  But again, I want to stress that 4x/week is not enough for you to erase the skill deficit that you bring with you.  If you want to get better you’ve got to pay your dues.  It’s that simple.

Novice paddlers should be on the water 3x-4x/week at a minimum through the pre-competitive and competitive paddling seasons.  But they should be following that up with some ancillary dry-land work to build some strength and power in the muscles they use for paddling.

What if you can’t do all the workouts on your program?

I completely understand that almost all of those who join Paddle Monster will not be considered professional, world-class athletes.  The vast majority of the members will have jobs, families, and a variety of other commitments that are simply the day-to-day reality of life.  It might be totally unrealistic to expect many advanced level paddlers to get on the water eight times in one week.  Similarly it might be a real struggle for some intermediate level paddlers to get out on their board five times in one week. 

Is that okay?  Well, yes it is.  Your life is your life and we all know there are realities that become priorities out of necessity.  Things like jobs and families should come before your hobby/sport.  At the same time, no it isn’t okay.  If you really want to achieve some high-level goals you need to understand there are no short cuts.  So it’s going to depend largely on what your goals are whether it is okay or not.  I just want to be honest and up front with you about it.  Some of you may have goals that are unrealistic given the amount of work you’ll be able to do.  However should you be able to do the work, some pretty far-fetched goals can suddenly become surprisingly realistic.  So in the end it’s up to you to tell me how much you can train given the realities of your life.  My job will be to help you adapt the program I’ve written to best meet your reality.  And that is a discussion we’ll have on the forum, where you have a chance to interact with me, your coach, as regularly as you wish. 

I can help you determine which workouts to drop if that’s something you have to do.  I can tell you how to keep your program balanced if you need to miss a few days of training for a business trip.  I can provide all the advice you need to make sound decisions on matters like this, but I can’t read your minds.  You need to share these issues with me so I can help you manage to train as effectively as possible through them.  But you’ll always need to understand that training time missed slows your development, no matter who you are.  I can’t alter that fact and would be lying to you if I suggested otherwise. 

Habits of an athlete who trains “professionally”

Here is a list of habits I’ve noticed in athletes that approach their training in a professional manner:

  • They comply with the program and follow all the instructions.
  • They communicate with their coach when they know they are going to miss training sessions and develop plans with the coach on how to adapt the program to minimize the effect of missed workouts and maximize the gains made despite missing sessions.
  • They respect the training zones.  They follow instructions regarding intensity closely.  The use heart rate monitors to help ensure they train in the correct zone.
  • They don’t take short cuts and they don’t take pieces off in interval workouts.
  • They arrive on time to group training sessions and warm up properly before starting the training session.
  • They recognize that little things can make a big difference, and take a “no stone left unturned” approach to identifying things that may make a difference.
  • They keep things in perspective.  They don’t get overly excited by a good workout or down when they have a bad one.
  • They are able to focus on process related thoughts rather than outcome related thoughts while paddling.
  • They know how to rest well.
  • They have fun.

Let’s get out on the water and train.  There’s lots of work to do!

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Showing 5 comments
  • jmizoguchi

    Such inspirational words here. Looking forward to coach me.

  • Vhleewater

    The biggest challenge I find is weather. We have had challenging conditions for weeks that made it dangerous to get on the water (debris and current) or difficult to train in different workout zones (when the wind is blowing at 15 mph, I have only one speed going upwind.) My questions are: 1) Can we substitute water time with gym when we cannot get on water? 2) And what about recovery days? Thanks!

    • Larry Cain


      First of all if you;re an all-access member it would be great if you could ask this in the forums. But since you asked I’ll answer here.

      Yes, substituting water time with gym work or extra cardio is better than doing nothing when you can’t get on the water. SUP does require a lot of power and power endurance which can be developed to a high degree in the gym and then later converted to a greater level of specificity on the board. So yes, when the conditions prevent you from getting on the water doing good quality gym work is useful and probably the next best thing.

      As regards recovery days, they are built into the program, both as days off and as days where the training impulse is lighter than on others. From the perspective of having to miss on water work for bad weather it is always nice when the bad weather corresponds to a day off. Then you aren’t missing anything.

      I don’t advocate shuffling a program around if you can avoid it as it tends to ruin the balance of it, particularly with regard to following up harder days with days of higher load.

      I hope this helps.

  • joannehamiltonvale

    Hi Larry,

    I’m currently trying to build my training plan for the comping months. It will consist of the basic phases:
    *Base development phase
    *General preparation phase
    *Specific preparation phase
    *Competition phase (end of april till end of september)

    After a good first year of competition I would like to make a big step this winter and make sure I’ll be of an higher level when racing starts. I’ve got time for about 5 training sessions a week and would like to know where I have to look for some training sessions that fit in in the base development phase. In what week should i look of the past few months.


    • Larry Cain

      Hi Joanne,

      You’ve got a couple of options.

      1. You can stay with us and follow the program geared towards those racing in April at the Carolina Cup. We can leave you in the base and general preparation phases a little longer than we otherwise might so that you’re hitting your competition phase work around the time of the Carolina Cup rather than 6 weeks before it.

      2. You can use the programs that we’ve posted here for your specific preparation in accumulation and intensification and do it on your own. They’ll soon all be easily available in a “Training Program Archive” In a full year program “base development phase” work is basically the same as the accumulation work we’ve done in the last two training cycles. I would, however, reduce the paddling a bit to be replaced by some land-based work preparing you for the general preparation phase work which is almost entirely land based.

      As yet there are no programs up that relate to the general preparation phase as we only launched May 11 and haven’t gone through that work yet. For most people in northern climates that work is going to commence November 1. However if you are still on the water doing on water base work, the general preparatory work will be available in the archive by the time you get to that type of work.

      I hope this helps.


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