The Science Behind “Just Paddling’s” Training Programs

The Science Behind “Just Paddling’s” Training Programs

Our skeletal muscles, which provide movement for our bodies, are each composed of a mix of muscle fibre types commonly identified as Type I (slow-twitch), Type IIa (fast-twitch) or Type IIx (fast-twitch). Slow-twitch fibres are smaller, more efficient and fatigue resistant (more endurance) as they are better able to utilize aerobic (oxygen) energy pathways, but produce less power and speed. On the other hand, fast-twitch fibres are larger and produce more power and more speed but fatigue more easily. Based on the intensity of the activity being performed, muscle fibres within a muscle are generally recruited in the following order: Type I → Type IIa → Type IIx. What this means is that in order to recruit and train fast-twitch muscle fibres, you must train at higher intensities; otherwise, the slow-twitch fibres within are adequate to meet activity demands without recruiting fast-twitch fibres.

Paddlers depend on slow-twitch fibres for endurance. However, as exercise physiology professors would say, “a trained muscle fibre is a more aerobic muscle fibre.” When trained, the Type IIa fibres become more fatigue resistant (albeit still less than Type I). Because they provide greater contractile force than Type I fibres, trained Type IIa fibres allow top-end endurance performance across all paddling distances.

Bottom line: If you’re always paddling at an moderate to Hard pace in TZ 3 then you’re missing out on training the fast twitch fibres and will race below your performance potential. One of the best things about intervals is that you don’t have to do a lot of volume to get a lot of benefit. Like any type of training, “use it or lose it” holds true for training fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Sprint Endurance” & ”Endurance = 2 x 2 Progression

Just Paddling believes all training needs to be progressive in nature from every single Interval to training weeks, months and years. 2 x 2 Progression (2x2P) increases training adaption twice as fast as any other type of Interval training before. Using two distinctly different progressive Interval sessions to increase Functional Threshold Pace (FTP) we use all of the key training metrics in each of the 2 separate training sessions, Alactic Power 5-20 seconds, Anaerobic capacity 30-90 seconds, Maximal Aerobic power 3-7 minutes and Functional Threshold Pace 20 minutes and beyond. By using the two interval sessions as part of a progressive training plan each week over a four-week period will have you paddling faster for longer in your next race.

The interval sets are progressed from week 1 to week 3 with week 4 being adaption week with lower volume. By altering the number of repetitions, duration of each repetition, and/or the active rest / rest interval between repetitions you won’t get bored and be motivated for each session.

Training Intensity Scale using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) for each Training Zone (TZ)

  • KEY: ‘ = minutes “ = seconds
  • TZ 1 RPE 2-3 Very relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation
  • TZ 2 RPE 4-5 Working. Feel warmer. Heart rate and respiration up. May sweat
  • TZ 3 RPE 5-6 Hard work. Heart rate and respiration up. Carbon dioxide build-up. Sweating. Breathing hard.    
  • TZ 4 RPE 7-8 Stressed. Panting. Sweating freely –RPE 7 Very stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.
  • TZ 5 RPE 9-10 heavily stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.


Training Intensity Scale using Pacing and % FTP ( Functional Threshold Pace)

If you know your FTP or use our FTP Test to find out what your FTP speed is then you can easily calculate what speeds you need to hold for each of the 5 Training Zones (TZ ). We have calculated that FTP is at the top of TZ 3 and low level TZ 4 so using the correct % of FTP will give you your speed ranges for each TZ.

TZ1 <75%; TZ 2 85-90%; TZ3 95-100%; TZ4 105-110%; TZ5  >115%

Functional Threshold pacing is very effective way to monitor training Intensity and speed at the same time, using the combination of the RPE scale and visually watching your speed on your GPS watch/ Monitor. After just a few weeks of Interval training using a GPS device and using the RPE 1-10 SCALE you will have a very good feel for pace in each training zone and gain the confidence to push yourself in the Training Zones above your current FTP and soon see the Increases in your speed and endurance to train faster for longer and maintain a higher FTP with several weeks of progressive interval training. It is good to retest every 4 to 6 weeks for increases in FTP and make the adjustments to your TZ speeds.

  1. Maximal Aerobic Capacity / “Endurance”

Maximal Aerobic Capacity (VO2) can be defined as the maximal rate at which an individual can utilize O2 during intense exercise.  VO2 intervals are very hard efforts that are typically between three and seven minutes in duration, and represent the maximum amount of time that an individual can exercise at their VO2max intensity.

Performing this type of interval will increase aerobic capacity (body’s ability to use more oxygen) while both decreasing and enhancing tolerance to acidosis (burning feeling in the muscles). Combine this session with the longer lower Intensity sessions below your FTP to increase the mileage and muscle Endurance.

Undertake paddling sessions with one VO2max interval session “Endurance” set per week (preferably on same day of every week) and adding in the mileage through sessions below FTP will build Maximal Aerobic Capacity. . These sessions are appropriate for Specific Preparation, pre-competition and competition training periods (Starting out with a minimum of roughly six to eight weeks out from a goal race).

Week 1 TZ 1 2’/TZ 2   4’/TZ 3 1’/TZ 4 2’   REPEAT X 6

Week 2 TZ 1 2’/TZ 2   3’/TZ 3 1’/TZ 4 2’/ TZ 5 .5’   REPEAT X 7

Week 3 TZ 1 2’/TZ 2   3’/TZ 4 3’/ TZ 5 1’      REPEAT X 8

Week 4 TZ 1 3’/TZ 2   4’/TZ 3 1’/TZ 4 2’/    REPEAT X 5

  1. Anaerobic Endurance Capacity / “ Sprint Endurance”

Anaerobic Endurance ”Sprint Endurance” intervals are maximal efforts for 20 to 90 seconds that feel VERY, VERY HARD and when followed by interval of VO2 max the combination increases Anaerobic Capacity. . These intervals are important for the start and finish of a race but also help to build Tolerance to surging in races and chasing Ocean /wind swells in Distance racing.

Week 1 TZ 5 .5’/TZ 4 2’/TZ 3 1’/TZ 2 4’/TZ 1 2’ REPEAT X 6

Week 2 TZ 5 1’/TZ 4 1.5’/TZ 3 2’/TZ 1 2.5’ REPEAT X 7

Week 3 TZ 5 1’/TZ 4 3/TZ 2 3’/ TZ 1 3’ REPEAT X 6

Week 4 TZ 5 45”/TZ 4 1’/TZ 3 2’/TZ 1 2’   REPEAT X 8


Most Paddling races are endurance events so endurance training is a primary focus of any training program. However, if you want to maximize your performance potential, then you must include intervals and by using our 2 x 2 Progression Training Programs to develop the metrics to train faster for longer. Do these intervals progressively over a four-week training cycle and be faster in your next Paddle Race. Train online with our Monthly Progressive Training Programs and leave out the guesswork.

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