RPE, SUP and Neutral

My best paddle last week came about 10 days into my training with the TRX RIP and TRX Suspension trainers.  As I dropped my board into the brisk Deschutes River I was thinking about fall colors and maybe the last barefoot paddle of the season. There was not a cloud in the sky although we were predicted to get a few inches of snow by late evening. I felt great! 

In order to monitor a bit about my training paddles I use Nike+ on my iPhone to get feedback on minutes per mile. I wear a Polar heart rate monitor because sometimes I tend to go too hard for too long and start to erase the fun factor. I always bring along the GoPro HERO with at least two mounts. The suction mount on the board works well in the river, and the head mount captures awesome views. On this particular day I was simply out for color and the brilliant day. Training wasn’t on my mind.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the robo-voice from the Nike+ app say, ” One mile. Average pace 18 minutes per mile.” Okay,” I thought to myself, “When the breeze is in my face and I am going up current in this section of the river I average 21 minutes a mile.” Weird, I wasn’t trying so hard, my rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was medium, maybe a 6 out of 10.  Heart rate was in a manageable range. What was making a difference?

I believe I was cranking out the miles in a quick but seemingly easy manner because of two things.

First of all, I did feel powerful. My feet seemed to be gaining power from my legs with each paddle – and the only thing I was doing differently was maintaining a neutral spine. Core engaged and tail tucked. A neutral spine is a prerequisite to doing the TRX system. Perhaps 10 days of practice at that had provided me with a better “engine.” I have had a habit of bending at the waist, particularly when skiing. Muscle and body memory around creating that more upright, neutral spine might be a valuable transfer to more than just my SUP technique. Good news since ski season is just around the corner.

Technique makes all the difference. I get a great deal of insight by reading Dave Kalama’s blog. He recently wrote, “Paddling most of the time needs to be a very flowing and rhythmic action, not a tense muscle flexed series of positions, but rather a constant continually moving movie. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to exert yourself, but if your base stroke comes from a place of rhythm and flow, when you exert yourself you will be much more effective and efficient. The best fix for it is to greatly reduce your power level and learn how to use your technique as your driving force, not your power output. Decrease your power to the level that you don’t feel like you’re doing any work at all, and just concentrate on technique. You’ll be surprised at how fast you go.”

I have no doubt that my neutral spine and effective technique made all the difference on speed.  How satisfying to have things come together – awareness of technique, reach, proper hand and arm placement as well as on-land training.  What’s been your best “surprise” when it’s come to RPE and SUP?

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