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Why You Should Participate in a Training Camp

In one of the first issues of Paddle Monster’s e-magazine, The Catch, I wrote about the benefits of taking a clinic.  

Well, if a clinic is a valuable learning opportunity, what about a training camp?  There are almost as many top paddlers and coaches offering training camps as there are offering clinics.  It’s certainly not hard to find one if you look.  At this very moment, as I sit in a coffee shop in my hometown of Oakville, Ontario, on a beautiful mid-February afternoon, there are two training camps running that I know of.  Tamas Buday is running one in Florida and I spoke with Andrey Kraytor earlier today and he’s running one in Turkey.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, opportunities to work with good coaches in a collaborative training environment with other paddlers can almost always be found.  But what makes these such a great investment?

You get all the information in a training camp that you get in a clinic, and then you get a whole lot more.  Think about it.  Not only is there a limit to the information that can be conveyed in a two or three-hour clinic, but there is also a limit to the information that you can absorb.  While I strongly recommend taking clinics, it’s pretty easy to get bombarded with information to the point where it surpasses your ability to process and absorb it.  Because training camps run over longer periods of time, from three days to a week or more, not only can information be provided to you at a more comfortable pace, but you’ve got much more time to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately do something with it.  

When I ran our Paddle Monster training camps in Florida in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with Seychelle and Victoria Burgess, we had three to four days to roll out all the content over 6 to 8 sessions. We did video analysis and follow up in each workout, introduced and ran different types of training sessions working on different components of paddling fitness and skills, and had the time to help the athletes consolidate lessons they were learning in each session.  Beyond a doubt, the athletes that took part in these camps left with much more knowledge and a far better understanding of their technique and next steps, of training, and of their strengths and weaknesses than they could ever hope to get from a clinic.  Attending these camps in February and March set the participating athletes up for the coming season, gave them a jump on their training, and provided some direction on how they could maximize their improvement when training on their own in their home environments.  

Think about it.  How many clinics have you been to where you get a video analysis and then get to work on your technique under the guidance of a coach for the next few days?  How many clinics actually see you doing different workouts in a group environment?  Things that just aren’t possible in a few hours can easily and effectively be done over a period of days.  

Technique

I always say that there are three pillars to performance in paddling: aerobic ability, strength/power/power endurance, and technique.  By far the most important is technique.  I’ve seen lots of really strong, extremely fit paddlers perform comparatively poorly.  I’ve also seen paddlers with superior technique whose fitness leaves something to be desired perform really well.  Technique – your ability to maximize your connection with the water and use of your unique set of physical tools to move your board optimally through the water – trumps everything else, and it’s easier to improve your technique that you might think.  

The first step is to get an understanding of what constitutes good technique.  I’ve written about it extensively in “The Six Fundamentals of Paddle Technique”  and in a series of posts on technique errors and their fixes.  A good coach in a well-run training camp will discuss all of this with you to ensure that you have a sound understanding of what you should be trying to achieve when you put your paddle in the water.  

The second step is to see what you are actually doing while you paddle.  Most of us are surprised when we see ourselves on video.  We usually aren’t paddling as well as we think we are, and I include myself in this statement.  Actually seeing yourself padding and getting a thorough and accurate debrief from a competent coach is a huge benefit.  Being given a plan to improve your technique that involves next steps that can be followed up on over the next several training sessions is critical.  All of this should be happening in a training camp.  

When you leave the camp, your technique should be a little better.  Don’t kid yourself, it won’t be perfect as that takes time.  However, you’ll have the tools and the understanding to continue to work on it on your own and, if you’re diligent, you’ll see remarkable progress in your technique over the coming weeks.  

Training

One of the best things you’ll be exposed to in a training camp are group workouts.  The sad reality in our sport is that far too many people train on their own.  Extremely lucky are those that have training groups that they can meet with daily to not only motivate each other but push each other in “cooperatively competitive” workouts.  

Whether it’s been during my canoe career or more recently as a SUP paddler, I include myself in that group that is fortunate to have training partners.  I rarely paddle alone.  Not only does that make paddling more fun, but the quality of my training sessions improves dramatically when done with others.  

Training beside other boards gives you a little push and helps you find ways to keep going when you’re tired.  But more importantly, pulling strokes beside another board gives you critical feedback about how well you’re paddling, how far you’re moving your board each stroke, how connected you are, how relaxed you are, and how effective your paddling rhythm is.  For those that have never been exposed to group workouts this experience can be life changing.  A good coach will help you get the most from the group training environment, helping you stay focused and relaxed while getting the push that the group environment offers.

Fun

Whether it’s in the camps I’ve run or the ones that I see photos of on social media, one thing is clear – the participants have fun.  

To me, the best thing about paddling isn’t the racing or the training and the benefits it provides.  It’s the social aspect.  I’ve made so many friends over the years and had so much fun sharing the common experience of being on the water together that it is by far and away the best thing about paddling.  

Training camps, where you share the experience with other participants not only from workout to workout but between training sessions as well, are places where great memories and friendships are made.  Especially if you normally do all your training alone, you don’t want to miss out on this.

Finding a training camp

The easiest way to find a training camp that you can participate in is to follow some of the top paddlers and coaches on social media.  They’ll let everyone know through their various platforms when they’re running a training camp and how to sign up.  Here are just a few of the names you should be following.  This list is certainly not exclusive:

  • Michael Booth
  • Candice Appleby
  • Tamas Buday
  • Seychelle
  • Andrey Kraytor
  • Paddle Monster
  • Larry Cain

Unfortunately, I am not offering a training camp in a warm, sunny location this spring.  I will be offering something this summer on my own home waters in Oakville, Ontario.  If you’ve never been there before, consider it, and stay tuned for details.  

Paddle Monster is running a camp from March 3 to 6 in Fort Pierce, Florida with Coach Victoria Burgess.  She’s got to be one of the best kept secrets in SUP coaching.  She’s an experienced ocean paddler and racer and is well known for her long ocean crossings.  She’s a wonderful surfer and knows her way around in flat water as well.  On top of that, she has a PhD in Exercise Science and is a certified sport nutritionist.  You aren’t going to find a more knowledgeable coach anywhere.  If Victoria has a weakness it’s that she’s humble and doesn’t promote herself as well as she should.  So, I’m here doing it for her.  Here’s what you’ll cover in the four days of her camp:

  • Body composition testing
  • Review of technique fundamentals
  • Video and video analysis
  • Land drills and water drills
  • Technique focus intervals
  • Aerobic base intervals
  • Anaerobic threshold intervals
  • Introduction to sprinting
  • Drafting
  • Surf session if conditions permit 

If you’ve done your off-season homework and are looking to get a jump start on the coming season, and especially if you’ve never participated in a training camp before, you should be considering this.  Sign up information is available here.  

Happy paddling!  

Larry

  

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