How to get your Paddle on….



erg-drawingOne of the things about dragon boating is that, even on the National  there is no one person on the team who stands out, Even in other team sports, there will be a certain member who stands out or who is having a great season, who everyone knows, a Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey Jr.

Even in sports related to dragon boating, such as rowing, the members of elite teams will be famous, if only within the circle of those who follow the sport or after an event like the Olympics, where a team might bring home the gold and be briefly in the international spotlight.

There really is nothing like that in dragon boating, often because the team can change from year to year and

Still, for those interested in the sport, there are teams that one aspires to join or at least to be capable of joining.

Are the odds even for everyone?

Yes and no.

Theoretically yes, because all that’s needed to qualify is a good enough test.

The reality is far more complicated because of the logistics and availability of training required to excel at that test.

Certain areas of the country simply have more resources and therefore more opportunity for people to develop and hone their skills. A town with one dragon boat team, regardless of the quality of that team, is not going to offer the same possibilities as a city with a dozen teams, a training centre and access to off-season training and conditioning.


The truth is, if you want to make an impact in the sport, you’re going to need to either make sacrifices or be innovative, if not both.

Here are some suggestions:



1)     If it’s possible, be willing to make a commute once a week or even once in a while to that training centre. Often, these centres will offer one and two day seminars that can help you improve your stroke or other aspects of dragon boating.

2)   Try to find ways to replicate the training in your town, even if it means going to a couple different places to access specialized equipment such as a multi-stroke erg machine.

3)   Think about getting a dragon boat training centre going in your town with like-minded people. If they permit it, put an ad up in your local gym and meet with like-minded people to go through a workout. There is something about being part of a group that motivates you to push yourself a little farther than you can on your own, whether that motivation be an encouraging word from someone else or the reluctance to not quit earlier than someone else in your group. (Let’s be honest here; competiveness is a great motivator.)

4)   Go online, find and download a training manual from a leading training centre. Many clubs or regional associations have training schedules or guides to qualifying for race teams. Use those to plan a workout regime. You may never qualify for the National Dragon Boating Team (or you may) but the knowledge that you have trained enough to do so is something that you can be very proud of, regardless of whatever you do.

5)    Go on Pinterest and find posts for what you want to do.  The motto is “A catalogue of ideas” and it really is that. With a little focus and time, you can find a plan for almost every aspect of having your best dragon boat season (or career).


Embrace the Suck.









Many years ago, I met Chris, who had come back to High School to finish his diploma.

At the time I thought he was pretty old to come back to school, almost 22.

( I say this ironically because I ended up going back to University at 35).

Anyway, the guy was pretty buff and was one of the first guys I knew to work out in what was a forerunner of the CrossFit “box”.

After one of his workouts, as he walked by me, he muttered something like “Glad that’s over” and I asked him what he meant.

Turns out that while he loved the results, he hated working out.

Capital H HATED!!!

I found this surprising as the guy would show up at this gym for to five days a week after school and put himself through what seemed like a pretty intense workout.

The thought that he was spending so much time and energy doing something he actively disliked seemed counter-intuitive to me.

But, he told me, as he told himself during every rep, that he liked looking like he did more than he hated going through what it took to look like that.

One of the first things I realised when I started seriously exercising is this:

Like Chris, I hate exercising.

I hate the discomfort.

During racing pieces, I just want it to be done.

However, I also know that it is by being continually uncomfortable that I am developing as a paddler.

And I think that is what is behind success in training….Accepting that it will be uncomfortable and that there is something at the end of the road as a reward.

Some things in training, like walking or cycling are going to be easier than others, simply because, even though we haven’t done them in a training capacity, we’ve grown up doing them.

The trick is to know the WHY of the training.

Figure out what you want to ultimately achieve through your training:

Is it the ability to run five kilometers?

Cycle twenty five kilometers?

Paddle a sub two minute 500 meter dragon boat race?

How to accomplish this?



Figure out what it will take to accomplish those things, then work on those things.

Figure out the sub-steps required.

Do those.

Know that it won’t be easy.

In fact, the more you embrace the suck, the less easy it will be, because the more you embrace it, the farther into the process you’ll want to go.

You’ll crave that extra rep or extra thirty sends on the cardio station.

But know that you are doing this in the pursuit of something bigger.

Then dive in.