Early development of ‘General Endurance’ for long duration activities is necessary to allow us to train more efficiently, overcome fatigue during long competitions and to improve recovery time. This is why a pre-season low intensity AEROBIC fitness regime is so important. It is also important slow down and maintain ‘General Endurance’ levels during off season by cross-training so that the body can recover from the extremes of race season exertion.
In preparing for a race, however, work must focus on a more ‘Specific Anaerobic Endurance’ of medium duration, which resists the onset of Oxygen debt experienced in a Dragon Boat race; where the oxygen supply cannot totally meet the demands of the paddler. For this reason both AEROBIC and ANAEROBIC conditioning is of paramount importance to the Training Programme.
Specific Power Endurance is also partly related to high strength development which will be discussed further in the section covering Strength.
Speed Endurance relating to our ability to overcome fatigue under conditions of maximal intensity will also be discussed further in the section covering Speed.
Other factors which normally effect endurance are the Central Nervous System (CNS) conditioning, athletic willpower and development of the Speed Reserve.
Aerobic Capacity effects the amount of oxygen transported to the muscles which controls how much energy is available during a race and how quickly you can recover from work in a training session. The oxygen demand of the upper body and arms when paddling is only about 85% of that for the legs when the same athlete is running. This suggests that good cardio-vascular base can be provided by off-season running, rowing or swimming since these forms of exercise will build up heart and lung capacity faster and more efficiently than paddling. The focus of a water training programme should be more on Specific Muscle Endurance related to local muscle Aerobic Capacity. This will relate to how much oxygen the specific muscles can actually utilize when working by training to increase blood capillary density and as well as the number of local mitochondrial enzymes which are necessary to transfer oxygen into the energy making processes.
Normally a training programme should develop Aerobic Capacity early on in the training season and gradually replace these workouts with higher intensity Anaerobic activities. One should be careful, however, that too much emphasis on maximal intensity stressful work may reduce consistency of Anaerobic performance from one day to the next. This will impacting the stability of an athlete's capacity for speed and will ultimately reduce Aerobic Endurance due to the damaging effects of high levels of lactic acid on muscle cells. It is good practice that an Aerobic training component of varying intensities alternate with periods of high intensity Anaerobic in weekly micro-cycles to allow muscles to regenerate and increase the durability of Anaerobic Power.
a) Long Interval Training (Maximal Aerobic)
A good exercise to perfect Aerobic Endurance early in the training season are long repetitions of work for 3-10 minutes when oxygen consumption is maximal ie. at the Anaerobic Threshold. Intervals of this duration will make improvements to cardiac output, the control of blood distribution and the control of the rate of glycogen mobilization in the muscle. Long intervals should be performed as fast as possible without causing total exhaustion so that several repetitions are possible ie. high heart rate but no burn.
Intensity of work for long intervals should result in lactate concentrations just over 4mM/l where heart rates will typically measure between 150-164 bpm. Be aware that as fatigue sets in, an athlete's heart rate will increase, even though the intensity of the work-out does not change. The work-out should cease if heart rates reaches 180 bpm.
The rest period between intervals should involve low intensity muscle movement, at about 50% capacity, to stimulate biological recuperation and be sufficiently long to flush out any lactic acid. A rest period longer than 3-4 minutes will begin to effect the quality of work in the next interval since the blood capillaries will begin to shrink.
This type of training is extremely beneficial to making improvements in performance for longer distance races and marathons by ultimately raising Threshold heartrate levels. In many respects long intervals could form the basis of a marathon distance training programme such as for outriggers, relying on longer distance workouts to improve energy management aspects.
b) Short Interval Training (Lactic Tolerance/Maximal Aerobic)
Surprisingly very short interval training aimed at developing ‘Anaerobic Capacity’ plays an important role in building up ‘Aerobic Capacity’ since it appears the greatest improvement to the aerobic system is achieved when muscles are used close to their maximal aerobic limit. Even work intervals as short as 15-20 seconds with a 30 second rest will improve ‘Aerobic Capacity’ if performed at a blood pumping, aerobically fast pace, but just below lactate generating intensities. The levels of oxygen consumption will be very high, forcing the body to adapt by improving oxidative pathways in the muscle structure.
Longer ‘short’ intervals of 60-90 seconds will stress the oxygen supply system to the muscles increasing capillary density and increasing blood flow to the muscles effecting the rate at which lactic acid is dissipated. At this intensity of work, a degree of anaerobic metabolism is affected and an exercise will inevitably become impaired due to lactic acid intolerance. The importance of the ‘Interval’ rest is vital where continuous muscle movement with 50% effort assists in flushing out lactic acid to prepare for the next interval.
These interval training sessions may last for 1-2 hours and appear to have the greatest beneficial effect on ‘Anaerobic Threshold’.
c) Steady State Paddling (Anaerobic Threshold)
Longer training distances of 15 min. to 1 hour steady state paddling performed at ‘Anaerobic Threshold’ intensity will train factors related to the removal of lactic acid from the blood and ultimately increase the Threshold level. These sessions must be performed at lactate concentration levels of 2-3 mM/l corresponding to a heartrate of 130-145 bpm and will improve the integration of all aerobic processes. Training intensity should be uncomfortably hard work but sustainable... barely.
Very long distance training would be required in preparation for dragon boat marathon races, where steady state training sessions reach a duration of 3-4 hours and are performed once every two weeks. The training effect of these distances is to induce Central Fatigue or ‘Hitting-the-Wall’ by depleting glycogen stores and forcing the body to mobilize fatty acids as a source of energy. Extra long distance training will help to stabilize the biochemical processes associated reliance on fat as an energy source and avoid a rapid onset of fatigue caused by a system which is unfamiliar to such demands. Careful management of diet is an important factor when training to this volume. Some athletes will keep their carbohydrate intake low before a long training session in order to induce Central Fatigue earlier and reduce their volume of work.
When paddling, proper breathing is also important where an athlete should make an effort to sit upright allowing full expansion of their lungs. One should learn to forcefully exhale all used air out the lungs to increase the quantity of oxygen rich air which can be inhaled. It is even suggested that hyper-ventilation just before the beginning of a race will significantly increase the amount of oxygen available in the blood earlier.
Again, one of the major benefits of a high Aerobic Capacity is to affect a high Anaerobic Capacity by providing a more efficient system flushing out Lactic Acid build-up faster and allow muscles to function longer at high intensity.
Fartlek training is similar to interval training, without a prescribed duration of work or rest, and the intensity of work reaches much higher levels, but only for a brief moment. The athlete or team must progressively build up intensity to reach an absolute maximum and then quickly reduce effort to 50 or 40% intensity until heart rates drop to about 130 bpm and its comfortable to begin work again. Several surges should be executed over a 1 to 1 1/2 hour training session. This will push heartrate levels higher than in intervals to stress the limits of the AEROBIC system, but will not induce excessively high lactate levels. The intended result is to raise the Anaerobic Threshold and to become intimate with the full range of intensity potential.
The Anaerobic Capacity
The main effect of training Anaerobic Capacity is to increase an athlete’s Lactic Tolerance where higher levels of lactate concentrations can be experienced for longer periods of time. Anaerobic Capacity is best improved by cyclical short interval training where the intensity of work is to such an extreme the paddler can no longer continue to go beyond a short duration.
A work interval of anywhere from 5-120 seconds is adequate depending on whether the level of intensity is super-maximal (100-98%), maximal (90-95%) or sub-maximal (80-85% capacity), though each repetition is ‘pushed to failure’ Too long a duration of work at high intensity or too many intervals can exceed the limits of lactic acid tolerance which will reduce boat speed and result in dominance of the aerobic system, which will not benefit anaerobic training. This will depend on the overall capacity of the team.
Workouts should be grouped into interval sets of 4 to 6 with 30 seconds to 2 minutes of easy paddling of 50% intensity between work periods. A full recovery of up to 10 minutes between sets is necessary to allow the build-up of lactic acid to oxidize and fully dissipate.
to Lactic Tolerance training are beneficial.
Lactic Tolerance ‘A’ training on the other hand allows an athlete to experience even higher levels of intensity by increasing the rest period to twice that of the work period. This type of training will maximize boat speed and allow an athlete to develop their application of power with quick muscle movement. The emphasis should be to achieve extreme levels of lactate concentration of 12-13mM/l, also pushing an athlete’s heartrate to their maximum levels.
Very short intervals of 10-15 seconds flat out work will increase the rate of glycolosis 1000% above that in a long distance run and will help to recruit muscle fibre, increasing strength. The down side, however, is that very short intervals will over time tend to decrease the number or capillaries bringing blood into the muscle, reducing aerobic conditioning.
Slightly longer intervals of 15-20 seconds will improve the use of phosphocreatine (PC) as an energy source to be used gradually over the duration of the race ie. enabling the power normally reserved for the ‘start’ or end ‘kick’ to provide a small but continuous contribution. It is important that the rest interval be kept long, close to 2 minutes, so that the work interval is kept alactic and sufficient time is provided to build-up PC stores. It only takes about 22 seconds to replenish 1/2 of PC stores and 44 seconds to replenish 3/4 total capacity. Work must be to absolute intensity so that the training effects will be confined to expenditure of PC and not glycogen. This type of training is ideal the week prior to race day since it avoids the longer term effects of fatigue.
Intervals of 60-90 seconds result in an increase in the amount of glycolytic enzymes improving the rate of glycogen mobilization and the muscles ability to tolerate the products of anaerobic metabolism. This duration of work interval will also help to smooth out the edges between the effects of different shorter distance training.
In Anaerobic training you must realize that the greatest improvement is made if you push each exercise piece to failure since it is at this point the body forced to adapt (No pain - No gain) to combat Lactic Acid fatigue you must train hard, really hard which is a painful process (if it didn’t hurt so much more people would be doing it - you need discipline to go beyond the pain).
As previously mentioned, too much stressful work can impair performance and can reduce Aerobic Endurance. It is therefore critical to organize a training programme to include longer Aerobic workouts within an Anaerobic training regime.
Resistance training such as seat pulls or dragging tyres is also often used for anaerobic conditioning, however, it has been suggested that this is often associates with drawbacks to speed development and can create risk of injury.
The Central Nervous System
The Central Nervous System (CNS) effects muscle coordination and a breakdown of the working capacity of this system is a principle cause of fatigue resulting in loss of concentration and coordination, sloppy stroke technique etc.
The body as an organism is endowed with certain defense mechanisms which are activated if there is an apparent threat to its functioning. For example, fatigue brought on by the anaerobic metabolism is necessary since if the muscle were to keep on working at a maximal intensity, levels of lactic acid would increase to the point that it would become fatal to living cells. The CNS will also limit the amount of force muscles are able to exert in order to protect ligaments, tendons and the muscles themselves from damage.
Continuously stressing the body with heavy loads will allow the CNS to become more confident and correspondingly lower this ‘margin of safety’. Regular repetition of a specific movement pattern under load also builds up the neurological pathways between muscles and brain thereby developing coordination and turning stroke technique into a motion which is second nature.
Training with uniform work of moderate intensity will improve the Central Nervous Systems’ working capacity and improve the nervous connections required for coordinated function of organs and systems. Intense training will also teach your body to redistribute blood supplies efficiently from the stomach and intestines when there is a greater demand on specific muscles.
Waiting a good 2 to 3 hours after a meal will assist in training this aspect and will help to avoid the indigestion and nausea associated with training ‘on a full stomach’ when the digestive system is forced to shut down due to a lower blood supply.
The Hong Kong Island Paddle Club is proud to announce that the 11th Deep Water Bay Dragon Boat Races on 9th May 2010 was the first Carbon Neutral dragon boat race in the world. With the innovative partnership of Carbon Care Asia, a low carbon solutions specialist, this event was also Hong Kong's first carbon neutral sports event.
Hong Kong Island Paddle Club is partnering with the Hong Kong Shark Foundation
If you are interested in sponsoring the Hong Kong VRC Paddle Club please email Stephane Boualam, Sponsorship Secretary, for more information.