Workout Program Creation

Fit to Paddle

The Paddler’s Guide to Strength and Conditioning by Rocky Snyder

In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute; the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed.

Alfred North Whitehead

When setting out to create your own conditioning program there are a few things to keep in mind. First, start out slowly and progress on to more intense workouts as your body gets accustomed to these exercises.

Often we find a person who, in the past, has exercised regularly for a long period of time but who has not been exercising in the last few months or years. They often start their new exercise program where they had left off. This can be dangerous because their muscles have de-conditioned even though their egos have remained intact. The chance of injury or extreme muscle soreness is greatly increased in this case. It is important to start out slowly so the body can adapt to the new strain that exercise places on the body.

Secondly, if any sharp pain is experienced while performing an exercise, stop immediately. The exercise may not be the right one for you or the form may be incorrect. In this case, refer back to the description of the exercise to see if it was being performed correctly. If it was performed correctly, and pain occurred, omit that exercise from your conditioning program.

  • When performing the strength training exercises start by executing one to two sets of each exercise selected.
  • After exercising a week, sets can be increased to two to four.
  • With most strength training exercises, perform between eight to fifteen repetitions in a set.
  • If an exercise cannot be performed, with proper form, for eight repetitions chances are the weight is too heavy.
  • If an exercise can be performed, with proper form, for more than fifteen repetitions the weight is probably too light.
  • The exercises that do not incorporate external resistance (dumbbells or barbells) such as abdominal and low back exercises, push-ups, and pull-ups can increase in intensity by increasing the repetitions. These exercises may have sets of ten to thirty repetitions.

It is a good idea to change the list of exercises on a regular basis so the muscles do not get too accustomed to the same movement. The more variety in a strength workout the more the different types of demand is placed upon the muscles, forcing them to adapt in a number of ways. Try changing the list of exercises each week or every other week. It is okay to repeat some of the same exercises but be sure to alternate at least two or three.

The same approach should be taken in regards to endurance training. By alternating between different cardiovascular exercises the body is being challenged to meet many different types of movement. This can help reduce the chance of experiencing a plateau in the training program. A plateau is when the body does not seem to be developing at the same rate it had been recently.

When designing the endurance portion of the program remember to also start slowly and progress to higher intensity in a methodical manner. Start with ten to twenty minutes two to three times per week and slowly add five to ten minutes each week or add an additional day.

Many people like to gauge the intensity of the cardiovascular routine by their heart rate. This allows you to be aware that you are exercising at an ideal intensity level. Generally speaking, when a person exercises at 60% of the theoretical maximum heart rate or above, physiological adaptations will occur. It is not recommended to exercise at 100% of your maximum. A range of 65 – 85% of the maximum heart rate is a safe range for most people. Any person with medical issues should consult a physician before establishing a desired intensity level.

To determine what your target exercise heart rate should be can be done with a very simple equation. Subtract your age from 220. This number represents your theoretical maximum heart rate. Multiply your maximum heart rate by a certain percentage (i.e. 60%=0.60) to find your target heart rate. This is the simplest form of determining a target heart rate. However, the only factor taken into consideration is a person’s age.

There is another equation, the Karvonen Method; that takes a person’s resting heart and age into consideration to determine the target heart rate. The best time to take the resting heart rate is in the morning, before getting out of bed. Take your pulse for one minute. This is your resting heart rate. The equation is as follows:

Max. Ht. Rate (220 – Age) – Resting Ht. Rate x Desired % + Resting Ht. Rate = Target Ht. Rate
Example: A 50 year-old woman with a resting heart rate of 63 beats per minute wishes to exercise at 75% of her maximum heart rate.
220 – 50 (age) = 170 (maximum heart rate)
170 – 63 (resting heart rate) = 107
107 x 0.75 (desired intensity) = 80
80 + 63 (resting heart rate) = 143 (the woman’s target heart rate)

The Rate of Perceived Exertion (R.P.E.) is another but more subjective way of determining the desired intensity level. Simply put, on a scale from one to ten (one being very easy and ten being extremely difficult): how intensely do you think you are exercising? Ideally a person should exercise between a five and eight on the RPE scale.

Using the two approaches of the Karvonen Method and the R.P.E. may be a wise course of action.  By combining both objective and subjective factors a more complete estimate of the correct intensity level can be established.

In regards to the flexibility portion of the program this should be performed daily even if the other parts of the program are not being performed on that day. Flexibility is the key ingredient to prevent injuries. The strength training and endurance programs have a tendency to tighten the muscles so it is therefore essential that a person spend as much time stretching the body back to a balanced state. Although it is important to have a proper warm up when exercising, most gains in flexibility will be received when stretches are performed after strength and endurance training. Be sure to take time at the end of each workout to properly cool down via stretching.

One more note on strength training: samples of a paddler’s strength & conditioning program will be given at the end of this book. One is a ten-week program created for a health club, one is a ten-week program for the home and one is a program for overnight camping excursions. The weights listed should be replaced with the proper amount according to your personal strength levels. It is important to understand that when performing the strength workout, the exercises incorporate all of the major muscle groups of the body. If you intend to perform strength workouts more than three to four times per week, it may be better to focus on upper body on one day and lower body on a different day.