Having a goal goes a long way to help keep your motivation high and focus on achieving it, but actually getting there isn't always as straight forwards as it might first seem.
If you had a paddling schedule detailed out for each week, this would certainly help, but this is far beyond what we can comprehend for many of us. Therefore given we have to fit our paddling around day to day life, just having some ideas on what you could do, or as I like to call it, have some tools in the box to use can be a great alternative without the regimented discipline needed to stick with a detailed plan.
Welcome to the school of winging it!
Your goal and how to reach it
You want to give yourself the best possible opportunity to reach your overall goal, so setting yourself smaller goals will help you get there step by step. Given the Head of the Dart challenge is over a 2 month period, it's worth considering breaking up the time into smaller blocks. This way you can focus on a smaller goal, keeping your sessions interesting and achieving something every time you paddle.
Below you will see some session ideas, and while you don't need to plan each session weeks in advance, deciding what the smaller block is going to be focused on will help you stay motivated throughout. For example, splitting the 2 months into two or three-week blocks will allow you to set 6 - 8 mini-goals to achieve along the way.
What to avoid
As we said above, having a goal is a must to get you motivated and focused. The Head Of The Dart Challenge for 2021 is, in many ways, a simple goal to achieve. Paddle the distance you have set yourself and hey presto, the job is done right... Well, the very simplicity of this could actually be the biggest challenge of all.
Think of it this way, say you have set yourself a total of 150km to achieve and you are already onto your 6 or 7th paddle after work by the 2nd week in. Sounds great right, but then you realise you are only on 30km in total and the thought of paddling the same stretch of water again doesn't fill you with much enthusiasm.
The key to enjoying the challenge and getting more from it to progress your paddling is to avoid doing the same thing over and over for 2 months straight.
This section is broken up into smaller sub-sections focused on specific session ideas that you can use to mix up your paddling while still achieving your overall distance goal.
Paddling for time It sounds odd to focus on a completely different type of goal to your main one, but paddling for a set time is actually a great way to build your confidence and fitness.
Depending on the conditions, a given paddle might be easier or harder than your last. If you aim to paddle 10km, but it's very windy, your more likely to give up sooner and only achieve a small portion of your goal. Instead, if you plan to paddle for 1 1/2 hours regardless, you may only cover 8km, but you have achieved your goal and still covered a reasonable amount of distance.
This method is also great for building up your pace as its easier to judge your fitness and ability to hold a faster speed over time than a distance.
Doing Intervals One of the best types of sessions for making progress with your paddling and stopping your mind wondering is by doing interval sessions. They are full of small goals and usually, without much rest time, so you don't have the luxury of thinking how hard the session is or shall I stop now.
Another positive by doing intervals is the distance you cover is actually more than you might think. This is because whilst there are periods where you are not paddling at all, the rest of the time, you are often pushing yourself harder than you usually would. Therefore you are paddling quicker, covering more distance than over the same time period.
Intervals don't have to be complex or only for the seasoned paddler. They can be just as beneficial for beginners and work great with a simple structure. The possibilities with intervals are endless, and so you certainly won't get bored anytime soon with these sessions. Check out the How can we help section below for directions o a weekly interval session plan.
Breaking up your distance This one is a simple but very effective method. All you have to do is divide up your time and set yourself a goal for this week or the next two weeks, for example. Using a smaller distance goal, you can be flexible with your sessions without worrying about the bigger goal in mind. It doesn't matter how you get there as long as you do, so if one week the weather is looking terrible, you can adjust your goal to make up for it when the weather is better again.
Remembering to have fun It goes without saying if you enjoy it, your more likely to do it again. When we focus on a goal, we can forget to have fun, and then before we know it, we are no longer pushing ourselves to achieve it.
One tip is to finish off your session doing something fun. This could be practising your turns, trying to cross-step or paddling on one foot. If you just finished your session and didn't take 5 minutes to enjoy yourself, you will remember how hard it was, not how much fun you had, so always give yourself a little time.
1 to 5 paddling intensity scale This scale is a way to categorise your sessions so you can really mix up your time on the water. If you consistently did the same intensity level, you could wind up either getting extremely bored as it was not a challenge or completely overdoing it and burning out. Using the different sessions also means you can fill one week with higher intensity and the next with lower intensity so you can recover properly.
Level 1 - These sessions should be all about fun. Go out and play on the water, try new skills and push yourself to become a better paddler all round.
Level 2 - Easy sessions where you focus on technique and developing skills. Don't forget to have fun and enjoy the scenery.
Level 3 - This is where we start to add some intensity. Surf sessions or paddling for time is a great example here. You don't have to go mad, but your starting to feel it at the end of a session. Level 3 is where you are likely to cover the most distance.
Level 4 - The work really begins at level 4. Here we are working harder and pushing our fitness. Perfect for high-intensity interval training or short blasts after work.
Level 5 - Everything left out on the table. Often short sessions due to the high intensity or a mix of shorter interval block with periods of rest between. These sessions will take you to your limits but will need recovery time after. Perfect if you have limited time and want to get something in. One of my favourite sessions is a 20-minute interval blast—1-minute paddling hard with a 1-minute rest x10 - simple.
How can we help?
Haywood Sports is built upon a single goal to help you progress your paddling incrementally. We cover everything you might need to achieve your goals, no matter what they are. Our brand hashtag sums this up - #nextstopresults.
One way we can help you during this challenge is by giving you session plans to follow. Each week we post a free training session to mix up your paddling and push your paddling fitness. All you have to do is head to our Training Hub and download the plan by becoming an associate member.
Another way we can help you is through our coaching. A lot of our work looks at making paddlers more efficient, which gives you many benefits. Through our coaching sessions, you can expect to get better glide from your board, saving you energy and increasing your average speed, as a few examples. Good technique is the foundation to improving your paddling and helping you hit your goals time and time again without injury and fatigue.
Finally, we are paddlers who have built up years of knowledge across all areas of the sport. If you have a question or want to check something, get in touch; we are always happy to help.
Scotty - Haywood Sports