How do you train for 6,853km?
6,853km of paddling over 9 months, averaging about 5-8 hours a day. How the hell do you prepare for that? Do too much training and you risk over training, injury and not wanting to see a paddle before even starting. Do too little and you also risk injury, endangering your fellow paddlers and reduce the likelihood of finishing.
I'm still a fair way out from the start, so there are four key areas I'm working on.
1. Get rid of niggling injuries and weakness
I've had a weak left rotator-cuff for some time. On top of that I've come off the end of rehabbing a hammie tear (done while hitting a PB on my deadlift, but in the process caused a hammie strain/slight tear and then I really messed it up subsequently trying to out-sprint some footy players doing hill work. Idiot.). I have a genius of a physio who's helping me, Brett Kemble. He works with some pf Australia's elite kayakers, so he knows what he's talking about. My opening line when I met him was "I'd like bullet proof shoulders please". We started with some treatment sessions and a strength program focused on tendon loading to address the weaknesses and imbalances. Then as little overuse niggles come up, I go see him. The program has made a massive difference and given me the foundation I need to build strength on.
2. Building strength and hulking
Kayaking requires strength and a lot of it. Female Olympic kayakers will be doing pull-ups with 20kgs+ hanging off them. Just a lil bit impressive. I'm secretly proud I can punch out a few of these with 6kg (and a lot of groaning). Kayaking requires total upper body strength, abs of steel and strong legs.
With the foundation built with Brett he's now setting my strength program focused on power, while building strength and bulk. During this trip I'm sure to catabolise my muscles, so hence the hulking! I aim to hit the gym three times a week.
As my coach, Jim Walker, pointed out, I train better when I've got a goal to work to. So I tend to have a race to focus on. Plus I enjoy racing. Round Sydney there's plenty to choose from with the ocean and harbour series of races and lots in between. Then there are the international races and the world series. I did the US surf ski champs a couple of years ago which was a good challenge.
I've just finised my races in the Australian Ocean Racing Series. Now I'm working towards Molokai, a 53km race in Hawaii from Molokai to Oahu across the Channel of Bones. Doesn't sound entirely appealing, but everyone I've spoken to says it's the best race in the calendar. I was lucky enough to win a couple of return flights to Hawaii courtesy of Hawaiin Airlines donating them to the surf club Christmas raffle. Couldn't believe when I won!!! Made it an easy decision to go do the race.
Then I recently have some fantastic news - I've been selected for the Australian team heading to the World Ocean Racing championships in Hong Kong later this year. To be able to represent my country in sport is a dream come true. My coach Jim and 5 others from his squad have been selected. Going to be a great winter training with the team.
And all this will be great training for the Nile. I need to get up to 5 hours paddling, so this will be a good foundation to then build on as I get closer to setting off. My 'on' weeks have me out on the water 4 or 5 times a week for a mix of endurance, ocean skills, lactate and intervals. I can assure you I sleep very well.
4. Training smart
And this is by far the hardest one for me. Take a day off because my body is over fatigued?? Crazy talk. Well that's my go-to reaction. It's followed by a lengthy internal dialogue where I talk myself down and LISTEN to my body. All my injuries in the past have resulted from overdoing it, training through aches and minor strains and not letting my body rest when it needs it.
As I say to myself, "Bless this body for what it has done for me". So I need to give back and be kind. Now I rest when I need to. Use my training schedule as a guide and not the law. Remind myself it's ok to skip a session if needed - one session won't stop me getting the results I want. But doing that session and I risk injury, missing many more session and competitions.
I also add a lot of mobility and rehab work into my lifting sessions. That takes almost as long as the strength sets these days!! But it's worth it.
Being able to rest will be a challenge on this trip. While there will be rest breaks, there will be plenty of days when we have to push on. So making sure I'm as prepared as I can for what this expedition will through at me is key. And the great thing is - I love it!