Focus On The Fundamentals

One thing I’ve noticed about lifelong athletes — those that stay active in their sport for years — is that they consistently work on their technique and skills.

I’ve experienced firsthand what can happen when you don’t spend enough time on these important fundamentals. I had an extended period of time where I didn’t really work on my technique or focus on my skills, and instead relied on my past conditioning from previous years. I wasn’t doing as much technique training, I wasn’t consistently doing strength training, and I skipped a lot of my endurance training, but I kept on racing.

I ended up injured and had to take almost a year off from paddling, and spend the next two years building back. Then the pandemic hit, so no more gym access and I had five months of zero paddling.

That ended for me this past October and I’ve spent the last six months rebuilding my base, back on the water and in the gym. This time around, I’m applying what I learned from past mistakes and I’m deliberately putting time in on technique.

Over the past few months, I’ve also been putting together an online course for women dragon boat paddlers who have to do an OC1 time trial for their dragon boat team tryouts. The course is basically “How To Paddle OC1” and focuses on some of the most important fundamental skills in OC1 paddling.

One of the skills I teach is how to sit centered in the OC1. Sitting centered in the OC1 is an important way to keep your body healthy and increase your paddling speed, and it’s totally underrated. It was a great reminder for me of how valuable it is to focus deliberately on a specific aspect of technique, as the hours I spent developing the training program helped reinforce my own paddling!

I’m sharing with you below one of the videos from that course (there are over 80 of them!) because I think it is so important, and it’s a common issue that I see keeping many women from reaching their goals.

How To Sit Centered In Your OC1

Leaning left while paddling slows you down and makes it difficult to engage your muscles effectively because your hip joint and back will be out of alignment. Joints need to be loaded while in proper alignment to avoid injury.

Leaning left causes loss of speed while paddling on the right side because:

  • You are leaning away from your catch, therefore missing the front of the stroke
  • You can’t engage your hip and back in the most powerful way with poor alignment
  • The power phase of your stroke is shifted towards the back of the canoe

Leaning left causes loss of speed on the left because:

  • Pulling with collapsed posture on the left side makes it difficult to engage your butt, hip, and back muscles.
  • The ama is being driven down into the water which slows you down due to increased friction

Why Try to Sit Centered?

Look at your GPS while you are paddling in flat water and you will see that there is a difference in boat speed when you are paddling on the left side (slower) versus the right side (faster) due to the drag of the ama. You can reduce this difference by learning to sit centered in the OC1.

Pain in the hip and lower back are common when paddlers lean left and don’t learn to paddle with pelvic alignment and intentionally practice balance and stability while paddling.

Remember that part of learning to sit centered is developing multiple skills to feel safe and confident, so make sure you also practice your brace stroke and learn to fly your ama. Just in case you didnt already, watch this video teaching the brace stroke from my March newsletter. Remember, you need to practice this skill repeatedly or it won’t come naturally, so get out there and practice often and have fun learning!

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