Incorporating Kayaking Into Ironman Training Routines


Training for an Ironman, or any triathlon for that matter, is a daunting and grueling task. While traditional triathlons incorporate running, swimming, and biking, there’s going to be a lot of other workouts you’ll want to incorporate to prepare yourself. Kayaking is a great way to change up your cardio and upper body workouts while training, and it’s a highly useful training tool for triathletes.


While biking and running are predominantly lower body and leg-based sports, swimming is usually the element of a triathlon that makes or breaks a competitor. Swimming, like kayaking, is a truly full body sport. The upper body strength workout you’ll get while paddling will build muscles not only in your arms, but also in your shoulders, upper back, and core. In order to really get a kayak moving – even on still waters like a lake – it takes timing and coordination, again, similar to that which you’ll utilize while stroking along on the swimming leg of your Ironman. By using a tandem kayak and a workout buddy, you’ll be able to get even more coordination training, as you’ll have to work out the timing with your partner as well as the water and currents, to successfully navigate the route you’re paddling.

Kayaking also includes a large amount of balance. It’s very easy to tip a kayak over if you’re not completely focused on what you’re doing. Even if you are focused on what you’re doing, a strong current or sudden rapid can come up and take you on an unexpected twisty, turning path. These elements are great practice for the biking portion of a triathlon. Bicycling requires not only stamina and leg strength, but a great deal of balance. Depending on the course your Ironman or triathlon is taking, as well as factors such as weather, there may come a point on the biking section where you’re met with unexpected obstacles like gravel, wet surfaces, or unexpected turns in the path. Learning to keep your balance on a kayak when sudden changes come up on your course is great mental and physical training for when you’re on that bike path!

Competitive (and leisure) kayaking is also just a really great endurance exercise. Within a few minutes you’ll start to feel a sweat, a burn, and your heart will be pumping. Although you’ll be giving your legs a rest, this is a great training tool to incorporate once in awhile to build the lung capacity, stamina, and mental strength to push through pain and weariness that you’ll need on your run. The running portion of an Ironman or triathlon is almost always the final segment of the race. By this point you’ve already worn yourself out with swimming and biking, and it’s all about mental strength, agility, and stamina. Learning to build endurance with a kayak is a great training tool that you can utilize in this last section of your race when you’re exhausted and ready to quit.

Kayaking, whether in a river kayak or a fishing kayak, is a great way to train for a triathlon. It’ll give you a full body workout that trains your body, spirit, and brain with everything you need for your Ironman or triathlon to be a big success!


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