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?

SUP, Quads and TRX

I am gaining new respect for the collection of muscles that make up the quads. After a full 5 months of paddling 90-120 minutes 5 X a week I imagined that I was in really good shape. I have been honing my technique according to insights, blogs and experts since late last spring. Driving the board forward with my legs while using the core, lats and good measure of  “reach, dammit reach ala Dave Kalama” I really believed my fitness was balanced and solid. 

The summer included down wind runs across Odell Lake and a great experience at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. It was a first time for me to SUP in the Columbia River.  When the winds picked up to 30+ knots and the swells reached 5+ feet I actually felt ready. Deciding to race in the surfboard class instead of the 12’6″ raceboard class was likely a good decision.

Overall Age
1 130 Horn Todd 31 M Victoria, BC 1:34:30 0:11:07 0
2 233 Shasek Judy 63 F   1:47:01 0:12:35 12.5
3 142 Mebus Brady 17 M 1:47:18 0:12:37 25
4 231 Cunard Sam 20 M 1:47:57 0:12:42 37.5
5 253 Willems Brandon 24 M 1:49:37 0:12:54 50
6 222 Jerry Ohlson 50 M 1:50:06 0:12:57 62.5
7 143 Mebus Leanne 48 F Gig Harbor, WA 1:52:04 0:13:11 75
8 227 Thomas Mark 37 M 1:52:26 0:13:14 87.5
9 259 Rieke Anna 44 F 2:00:33 0:14:11 100

The only reason I put those results in there is to indicate that I was actually prepared and trained by late summer. Building on that training, I decided to connect with Suzie Cooney of Suzie Trains Maui to stay fit all winter and to be ready to do the Olukai Ho’olaule’a in Maliko Gulch next May. Suzie suggested we get an Indo Board and Gigante cushion and the TRX RIP Trainer.

So, on October 10, yesterday, I did my Beginner Workout with the RIP Trainer and then spent about 5 minutes doing a paddling move on the Indo Board (30 pulls each side X 5 sets). BY that night I began to feel that “sore but not hurting” sensation that indicates that a muscle has been sincerely worked. Oddly, in conventional strength training a particular muscle gets that feeling.  In this case it was a total collection of seemingly equal fatigue and muscle soreness throughout the entire quad – front, inside, and deep in the central  thigh. Oddly enough, even though I did not do any sit-ups or convention ab-work, my upper abs were also sore.

This did not happen on the first two sessions with the TRX RIP Trainer. Interestingly enough, as my skill in setting up my position and neutral back became more effective, the range of muscles engaged increased.

This morning dawned sunny and warm so I decided to head out to the river for a medium intensity 4 miles. Holy cow! Moving through my paddle stroke with care during the warm up and then with an intensity of about 60% of what a fast interval might be I could feel plenty of new muscles engaged. My quads let me know when they were working. Lats and upper abs, same thing.  It was a challenge to do this relatively easy paddle as so many areas were soundly fatigued from the past 4 days of land training.

This was great insights. As fall comes to Oregon and the freezing months of snow, ice and gray are due, it’s awesome to realize how sport-specific an exercise program done inside, in my home garage, can be. Can’t wait for the events and fun of 2013.


TRX Rip Trainer Day 4

It looks simple, in reality it’s GENIUS!

First of all, what is the Rip Trainer? Well, it consists of a resistance cord attached to a pole. You get a workout DVD and guide and a door anchor which works really well. If you have a door (or a tree or a banister) you have a fix point.  In summer and fall we will use the TRX Rip Trainer in our garage, but during the winter we will bring it into the house where there is HEAT! We can easily move our training are to any room with a door and adequate space for moving.

Our first step was to watch the DVD included in the purchase. We buy a lot of fitness and sports equipment. Too often the DVD training is less than stellar. We were 10 – star impressed with the professionalism and information shared by each of the experts in the DVD. While too many knee and shoulder surgeries have provide us with lots of insights on rehab and the physiology of the body, the careful explanation of how the spine works and why the TRX system provides movement challenges in many different planes of motion was enlightening. 

It wasn’t long after watching the dvd that we set out to do the Beginner Workout. After the warm-up we did a few planks, a practice we like for controlled rotation using the entire body. Next we were ready for a session of producing rotation with the RIP Trainer. As Ed is returning to standup paddling after 5 months of shoulder rehab, mitigating the risk of future injury is a top priority. The expert guidance throughout the beginner workout was exactly the confidence-building we wanted.

This is certainly NOT to say that the beginner workout was easy-breezy. It’s incredible how versatile the workout intensity can be. Simply increasing the frequency of the movement or stepping further from the fixation point of the cord UPs the intensity. Both the spiral movement patterns and the unbalanced rotation of the force provided a controlled activity that worked the core and specific parts of the anatomy safely. As we are learning how complex even the easy to follow exercises are, we moved relatively slowly during our first session.

As the weather is turning cooler here in Oregon we won’t be able to get into the water as often as we like. For me, simply standing on my board in bare feet is fun. I love to practice balancing on my Indo  board with its smaller roller. With the addition of the TRX RIP Trainer to our workout area I decided to try using the Gigante cushion with the Indo board as the platform for trying some of the TRX training moves. I am absolutely NOT a fan of sit-ups.

After a summer of paddling an hour or so 5 days a week I gained solid evidence of SUP as an ab exercise that delivers core strength and balance. What a foundation! In order not to lose that foundation during cooler months I decided to combine some moves. I fixed the TRX RIP Trainer a bit lower than usual (with the door connection, included). Standing in a stance with feet parallel on the Indo board on the Gigante cushion facing the door, I began to mimic paddle strokes. My lower hand was closest to the cord, on the low end of the “paddle.”  Slow and steady didn’t seem like much of a workout until the next day – wow! Quads and abs, even my lats were definitely worked! Be sure to do the same movements on each side for symmetry.

I have been following some great training suggestions on Suzie Cooney’s blog so I decided to quickly review some of her tips for using the TRX. If you search through the site you’ll find solid information and have the ability to connect for a custom session via Skype.