Many paddlers consider a warm up something they only do when they have the extra time, but don’t treat it as a necessary part of their training (or even their race). A proper warm up should not be considered an “extra” that gets fit into a training plan inconsistently, rather, it should be treated as a key component of a training paddle. When performed consistently and properly it can help a paddler become faster, stronger, and less injury prone. But how long should you dedicate to a warm up?
Part 1 of your warmup: Stretching
When it comes to stretching, there are two major types: static and dynamic. In research where endurance athletes performed static stretching before working out, they became 5% less efficient and reduced distance covered by 3%. The same study reported no decrease in performance when dynamic stretching was performed before training. Rather, dynamic, repetitive, sports-specific movements that replicate how your muscles work during padding helps to prep your muscles and connective tissues for the training paddle you are about to complete. Furthermore, the warm up will help to “wake up” your neuromuscular system, which lets your body know what its about to endure. Turning on the communication between your brain and body prepares you for safe, injury-free paddling.
Which dynamic stretches you do before your training paddle will depend on which areas you need to improve on as well as selecting some favorites. Be sure to select stretches that address hip opening, torso rotation, shoulder mobility, as well as stretches that reach your triceps, lats, and hamstrings.
Although your warmup may differ, here is an example:
Side to side leg swing
Body Weight Squats, full depth
Torso Twist w/ arm reach
Lunges with Lat extension
Shoulder pass throughs with your paddle
Another popular option that hits all key components would be to do 3 rounds of "Sun Salutation" from Yoga, if you add in a side angle stretch after warrior 2, you'll hit pretty much everything!
Check out this video HERE where I lead you through a Sun Salutation for Stand Up Paddlers.
When including dynamic stretches that get to all of the muscle groups you will incorporate while paddling, you can expect to warm up for at least 10 minutes. Be sure to spend extra time on any muscle group that needs extra attention or mobility.
Part 2 of your warmup: Paddling
No matter the workout or race, you should start with low intensity paddling around 65-70% of your max heart rate for about 10 minutes. If you're just going out for a low LSD (long slow distance) training paddle, a short slow warmup will suffice. However, if you're going to do an interval session, or start a SUP race all out, you should do some intense efforts in your warmup. Try adding in 20 stroke accelerations on each side for beginners. Start ramping up your power and stroke rate over the course of 20 strokes, by the end you should be close to your maximum effort, but not quite there yet. Switch sides, and start the acceleration again. Be sure your heart rate comes back down to 65% before doing another stroke acceleration cycle. The goal here is to get your body primed and ready for the high stroke rate and heart rate you typically see in the start of a SUP race. Over time, you can see how many acceleration cycles are ideal for you.
And, on a side note, if you're in a cold climate and doing other forms of cardio, the warmup is still just as important!
After a few weeks, you should start to notice a difference in terms mobility and perceived exertion. Look forward to a faster and stronger session!