Updated: Oct 13, 2021
If you've been following along, I just finished up my 9 weeks to 9mph challenge as a part of the APP World Tour Fast Track competition. I ended up reaching my goal and then some. Scope out the blog and YouTube video to learn more about sprinting.
In athletics and training, there are quite a few different schools of thought. I'm going to briefly touch on two:
One believes in a ton of high mileage first and foremost. After a period of low intensity aerobic base, the athlete does sprint work because their bodies can now support the sprinting. The musculature, the cardiovascular system, everything is now prepared to go fast with less chance of injury.
Then, there's another that believes that you should develop the neurological connections fully first, often done with quick and fast efforts, perfecting your technique and power application before undergoing HOURS of training at lower intensities. Reason being, a ton of low intensity hours could reinforce bad movement patterns.
Which school of thought is correct, and which should you follow?
As with everything in life, the answer is: "It depends."
It depends on what your background as an athlete looks like. How much strength training you've done, how much aerobic work you've done, if you're coming from a different sport, or starting completely fresh from the couch.
When I started paddling, from being a couch potato (i.e. no gym experience, no running, no paddling, no cardio of any kind, no strength of any kind - you get the point). Starting out with a sprint-first way of thinking was disastrous (and I spent a small fortune on chiropractic, acupuncture, and KT tape). My technique was awful, to put it politely, and I didn't yet realize that every interval wasn't supposed to be "as hard as you can go" for the allotted time period. In this case, paddling slower was good. More paddling was BETTER. But paddling with a camera on to film and review my technique and make improvements every week was BEST. That way I was building up my stamina and muscle AND working against bad movement patterns. If low intensity aerobic base with consistent technique review was best... then adding in some work in the gym was BEST-EST. With proper push and pull strength balance being developed off the water, I was enabling myself to head back out after aerobic periods and perform faster and harder sprint efforts without injury, and this enabled me to dial in my form/technique.
Now that I've gone through multiple annual training cycles, I start my year off differently than I did when I was completely new to athlete-ing.
For example, this year as I was coming out of my off-season, I did a 9 week maximum strength block with all-out 20 second alactic sprints. (This was my 9to9 blog above) I've already developed good strength balance in the past, then maintained it well throughout the year. I'm not starting from scratch, so I was able to do my sprints safely - where I would
watch the video and critique my technique closely - alongside doing some heavy lifts in the gym. One sprint session each week and 2 heavy lift sessions was enough, the rest was low intensity base aerobic work - these sessions flushed any metabolic wastes and promoted recovery from my "heavy" and "hard" efforts.
Now, I'm on to increasing my speeds at much lower heart rates. With my technique dialed in from sprinting, and my neurological system primed to utilize the most muscle fibers per stroke, I'm heading into an 8 week block to improve my Aerobic Function.
If you're interested in developing your aerobic function, I recommend going to this ARTICLE on PADDLE NINJA. To follow along with what I'm doing for training, you can join PaddleNinja.com and scope out the "10k Improvement Plan" built by Johnny Puakea specifically for this kind of goal. Here is the final video from my 8 weeks of aerobic training: