Dragon Boat Water Progression Plan – Level 1

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Welcome coaches! This Level 1 program is laid out for participants to paddle once weekly for 10 weeks in the summer with the end result being a festival attendance.

LEVEL 1 PADDLERS: This water progression is for beginner, novice or seasonal paddlers who only paddle and do NOT participate in any other programs to prepare for the upcoming water season. They may be new to paddling or are return paddlers and have paddling experience. As such, there is very basic technical coaching with the end goal of doing a 500M race at the end of 10 sessions. It is important for coaches to keep the team mandate in mind during practices and working within the teams goals. 

LEVEL 1 CRITERIA: This program is formulated on the criteria that defines a level one paddler. These paddlers:

  • Enjoy group participation, community and camaraderie
  • Want to get out on the water and have fun
  • Paddle to be participate in the sport and be active in the summer
  • Want to enjoy an activity that provides well being
  • May be competitive with their own goals and enjoy being in a race but competing is not their focus

LEVEL 1 PROGRESSION GOAL: This program will prepare paddlers to be able to sustain RPE18 for 3 minutes. This is most likely longer than the body of a race but it’s a great number to work up to in pieces that over prepares paddlers for a 500M race in unfavourable weather conditions. This training will also prepare paddlers to do RPE19 as in a start and transition to RPE18 so coaches can build a race strategy.

PROGRESSION: You will see a build in piece length, then back down as the program builds in intensity or exertion. Follow the program as laid out even if it seems counterintuitive as this progression is layered. It is wise to take the festival you are planning to attend and work this training backwards 10 weeks from that date to allow for proper progression.

MODIFY FOR MORE PRACTICES: It is easy to add a few weeks by adding more practices and lengthening the body times of each piece. I would suggest duplicating practices 5, 6 or 7. Avoid doing duplicate practices after session 7 as they are targeted to peak paddlers for racing. You can always add endurance or base sessions as they are the foundation that high intensity is built on. 

  • Injury happens when paddlers do not have the strength or endurance to do the pieces
  • Introducing an RPE before the current one is peaked doesn’t allow for progression in the next RPE
  • Peaking and Progressing builds race pieces and race strategies
  • Losing form due to fatigue trains bad habits
  • Losing speed during pieces is an indication that the piece length may require adjustment
  • Losing synchronicity is a sign that either RPE intensity or piece length adjustment may be required

Here is a list of equipment you may choose to use:

Tempo Trainer

If you choose to monitor the teams stroke rate you will need a metronometer or a device that keeps time. The tempo trainer made by finis is a great option.

GPS Tracker and App

A garmin watch with the bicycle app tracks speed and distance.

SpeedCoach OC2

This device can be useful to track stroke rate, distance and speed as well. It provides feedback as it gives data responding to the boats stroke rate but does not set it.

Foam Yoga Blocks

These foam yoga blocks float and are a good width and height for the drills.

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