Heather Keizur returns to Nanaimo April

Heather & Steve returns to Nanaimo April 24th!

OK, ok, this has nothing to do with dragon boats…my daughter Heather, who graduated from Alberni Valley District Secondary (way back when), will be returning to the Island in April for three performances, one of which will be here in Nanaimo. (You’ll find her biography here.)

I admit to bias – she’s my daughter, after all – but if you love jazz, no matter what the language, you’ll  enjoy Heather’s stylings. Steve Christoffersson, by the way, is an awesome keyboardist (and plays a hauntingly French melodica)… here’s his bio:

“Steve Christofferson started out as a garage-band guitarist but he picked up the keyboard after hearing the Beatles’ “White Album”. Steve has played the piano in nightclubs and jazz festivals around the world with Nancy King, toured Europe with the Alan Jones Sextet, and performed at the PDX Jazz Fest with Kurt Elling. He’s taught workshops and masterclasses at home and abroad, and worked with Jim Pepper, Karrin Allyson and many others. Steve is heard on recordings with Nancy King, The Metropole Orchestra and Skol Brothers, the electric quintet that features his compositions.”

You can purchase tickets and reserve seating at Simonholt – hope to see you there!

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No wonder these folks are so hard to beat :-)

No wonder these folks are so hard to beat :-)

With a big hat tip to Vancouver Island Paddling, from whence this photo came. I guess we’ll have to call this one “The Water Ski Drill.”

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Warm-Ups Are Critical

Warm-Ups Are Critical!

Someone wrote to me recently asking why she should have to join her team for warm-ups. “I get lots of exercise at work,” she said, “I hurt myself once during warm-ups, too, and I’m not going to chance it again.”

I confess she hit a sore spot, because I recall being irritated when people on my team refused to participate in warm-ups. I knew I needed to be deal with it, but never quite got around to it. In truth, I really didn’t see it as my job to look after warm-ups and cool-downs.

Workshops required for Dragon Boat Canada L1 coaching certification showed me why I was wrong – it’s the Coach’s responsibility to make sure all the athletes participate: If they won’t do the warm-up, they don’t get on the boat.

There are two reasons for that, both of them important.

First, the purpose of the warm-up, as explained here;

A warm up is the act of preparing for an athletic event or workout by exercising or practicing for a short time beforehand. Warming up helps reduce your risk of injury and the aches and pains that come with exercise. The physiological reason to warm up is to assist your circulatory system in pumping oxygen-rich blood to your working muscles. The idea is to increase circulation throughout the body in a gradual manner. A proper warm up safely prepares the body for the increased demands of exercise. Cold muscles do not absorb shock or impact as well, and are more susceptible to injury.A warm-up helps you prepare both mentally and physically for exercise and reduces the chance of injury. During a warm up, any injury or illness you have can often be recognized, and further injury prevented. Other benefits of a proper warm up include:

  • Increased movement of blood through your tissues, making the muscles more pliable.
  • Increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This prevents you from getting out of breath early or too easily.
  • Prepares your muscles for stretching
  • Prepares your heart for an increase in activity, preventing a rapid increase in blood pressure
  • Prepares you mentally for the upcoming exercise
  • Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise
  • Improved coordination and reaction times

If that doesn’t convince you of the pressing need for proper warm-up before paddling, perhaps this will:

In a representative study published last year in The Journal of Human Kinetics, a group of 36 active adults undertook a strenuous, one-time program of forward lunges while holding barbells, an exercise almost guaranteed to make untrained people extremely sore the next day. Some of the volunteers warmed up beforehand by pedaling a stationary bicycle at a very gentle pace for 20 minutes. Others didn’t warm up but cooled down after the exercise with the same 20 minutes of easy cycling. The rest just lunged, neither warming up nor cooling down.

The next day, all of the volunteers submitted to a pain threshold test, in which their muscles were prodded until they reported discomfort. The volunteers who’d warmed up before exercising had the highest pain threshold, meaning their muscles were relatively pain-free.

As you can see, when the Coach asks the team to warm-up, he (or she) isn’t doing it just to annoy his athletes – he’s doing it to prepare their bodies and minds for what’s ahead. He’s also doing it to reduce the chance of injury, and the Journal of Human Kinetics study demonstrates why he’s right.

“Why bother?” you ask. The answer is simple: Your Coach is legally responsible for your well-being, even if neither you nor the Coach know it.

As I explained in “Coaches Duty of Care,” your coach is legally responsible for what happens on the boat, even if he or she isn’t aware of it  (and most aren’t, in my experience).

Why should you join in with the team during warm-ups? Because your Coach asked you to for your own good and that of the team, and because he or she is legally responsible for you.

That’s why I advise coaches to include the following item in their buy-in (their “rules of the road,” if you will):  Warm-up and cool-down are mandatory – if  you don’t do them, you don’t paddle.

Speaking for my curmudgeonly old self, any athlete who refuses to do warm-ups and cool-downs is disrespecting the coach, the team, and himself or herself. While the evidence supporting cool-downs isn’t nearly as strong, it’s still a good idea to give your heart an opportunity to slow down if nothing else. Here’s a brief bit from Wikipedia on the subject:

During aerobic exercise, peripheral veins, particularly those within muscle, dilate to accommodate the increased blood flow through exercising muscle. The skeletal-muscle pump assists in returning blood to the heart and maintaining cardiac output. A sudden cessation of strenuous exercise may cause blood to pool in peripheral dilated veins and the heart must beat faster and harder to adequately oxygenate the body and maintain blood pressure.[citation needed] A cool-down period allows a more gradual return to venous tone, and allows a gradual decline in heart rate that reduces stress on the organ.

UPDATE: I want to share a few of the comments I have received via email. The senders’ identification has been removed to respect their privacy:

This is an excellent article. All paddlers should be required to warm or should not be allowed on the boat. Our team has at least three paddlers who refuse to do warm-ups, some who use injury as an excuse. If you cannot do warm-ups you should not get on the boat and this should be a mandatory rule of [the club] to protect the club and the coaches.

This comment raises a great point – shouldn’t clubs make an effort to understand the legal and physical issues and act upon them by issuing some mandatory directives? The next comment addresses the same issue, but from an entirely different tack:

…often the person leading the warm-up is inexperienced and it is important for crew members to modify the warm-up so as not to injure themselves. eg. It is known that stretching is NOT a good form of warmup but yet I’ve often seen that done by the person in charge of the warm up. Jumping Jacks can cause injury to some people. They need to do a modification, but they need to do a warmup.

Two good points here: First, a lot of paddlers leading warm-up and cool-down drills don’t really understand what they are doing – again, this is an area where clubs can (and should, in my opinion) take charge and provide direction. Second, static (stretching) exercises have no place in warm-up drills, which should be completely dynamic in nature. Save the static drills for cool-down.

Prevailing Wins Dragon Boat Team warming up

A classic static drill

Good dynamic drill (Prevailing Wins)

Good dynamic drill (Prevailing Wins)

In the first example (also Prevailing Wins), the paddlers are stretching, using their paddles as support – this is a static drill which is ideal for cool-down. In the second photo, the paddlers are swinging their paddles – in other words, a dynamic drill involving a lot of movement – a great warm-up drill.

One paddler wrote that she knew her own body, by way of suggesting that the paddler knew better than the coach with respect to how to prepare an athlete for demanding exercise. Whether or not an athlete thinks he or she knows their body has no bearing on the coach’s understanding of the need to oxygenate the blood to prepare for a strenuous workout. In the end, as one of my favorite coaches is wont to say, “There’s only one coach in the boat.


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Above: A member of Nanaimo, BC’s Aquaholics makes good use of his paddle during warm-up exercises at the Race the River festival.

Race the River (Prevailing Wins) Race the River (Prevailing Wins)

The Comox Prevailing Wins team also displays some cool warm-up techniques using their paddles and dynamic stretching.

This seems to me an idea whose time has definitely come, and it looks like a whole lot of fun!

Watching Prevailing Wins go through their routine left me wondering why the technique couldn’t be employed during parades and other demonstrations – in other words, dragon boat drill teams.

It’s nice to see paddlers walking in a parade, but think about how effective it would be if such drill teams existed! I can envision DB drill team trophies at major festivals, and such activity would be a GREAT way to promote the sport to the community as a whole.

How about some videos, paddlers? (Contact your local militia for tips on coordinating drills!)

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Some great advice from Blake Hara, Head Coach, National Dragonboat Club:

Too often too many of us tell athletes “reach it out” or “you’re not reaching far enough” but what we’re probably observing is an athlete not prepared to leave their comfort zone, and involve their core.

This is understandable if the athlete doesn’t appreciate the sequence required for executing core body strokes.

It’s important to impress upon the athlete that effective reach is the result of core body twist and position.

Instinctively, when athletes hear the command “reach”, their focus goes to positioning their hands as far in front of their body as possible (hands being the obvious indicator of reach), regardless, and usually to the detriment, of core body involvement.

So next time you’re looking for a couple more inches at the catch try saying “increase core body twist” or “more core pivot” and you should get more reach with weight and power to support it.

My only concern is the use of the word “twist,” which might be construed as telling the paddler to twist his or her spine in order to achieve the desired rotation.

I like “pivot” or “rotate” instead, as they convey the need to rotate core from the hips up rather than simply twisting the spine, and applaud Hara for finding a new and refreshing way to convey the technique to the crew.

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