Dragon Boat Paddling – When You Can’t Fill a Boat

Dragon boat paddling is the ultimate team sport. To get the best results, you need to synchronize everyone’s timing and technique. This is why team training is essential for dragon boat paddlers. But I know you will agree with me when I say sometimes it’s hard to get the team together. Some members may be sick or unable to attend the training for some reason or maybe it’s just the off-season.

Whichever reason is behind it, if you can’t fill a boat, you can’t have team training. Fortunately, there are other activities you can take up to stay in shape. Let’s take a look at several exercise alternatives for dragon boat paddlers.


Canoeing is your best option for paddling without a team. I believe this is the closest you can get to dragon boat paddling and you don’t even need a single partner. Popular Mechanics shrewdly observed that it is like somebody gave you a backstage pass to all river sloughs and lake coves that had been unduly overlooked. I concur. I think people that go on an adventure with a canoe see a lot of wildlife. After all, when you paddle by yourself, you can’t reach high speeds, so you can find time to notice the landscape. Aside from that, you will have an opportunity to spend time with yourself and clear your head and thoughts.

You can control your speed when canoeing. However, remember that with harder paddling, the chance that you will steer off course increases. The newbies and those who find themselves in a canoe for the first time will find it tricky to keep a straight line at first. The more experienced among you shouldn’t have trouble with controlling the canoe.

Don’t forget that there is a special solo canoe on the market. This type is balanced differently than a regular canoe and is a great option for lone travelers. It is a bit expensive, which is why you can consider the following cheaper alternative.


Upper body is the powerhouse of every dragon boat paddler. Each time you turn the kayak, you use core muscles, which will in time build this area. Believe it or not, you can make around 500 strokes per mile when kayaking, according to Kayak Lake Mead.

Remember not to shirk but try to make as many repetitive strokes as possible. This will put your back, stomach, chest and arm muscles to work. The good news is that statistics says that it’s enough to go three miles per hour to make 1500 repetitions. This is more than an adequate amount to tone up your muscles and prepare for the following race.

Kayaking will also be of great use to your heart health. It is like any other cardiovascular exercise, so you can also use it to get rid of those few extra pounds you gained during the holidays. The peace of mind and the natural setting will be fruitful for your mental health, too. I can’t tell you how many times I went kayaking when I was nervous. It is a great stress reliever.

Standup Paddle Boarding

I think surf lovers are going to enjoy this one. If you haven’t heard of standup paddle boarding, it’s a kind of surfing where you don’t sit until a wave comes. Instead, you are standing on your board and propelling yourself through the water with your paddle. It might be tricky at first, but it’s extremely fun! Men’s Fitness supports this claim, stating that this is the fastest growing water sport in the world.

Stand up paddle boarding is a full-body workout. The main task is to maintain your balance. This means that your legs are put to the test, as well as abdominal and back muscles. Arms, shoulder and back muscles are also used to propel through the water.

There are even inflatable paddle boards that you can roll up and take with you. According to Pump Paddle Boards, inflatable SUPs rival hard SUPs in most performance departments. This is perfect for keeping up your “paddle fitness” whilst on vacation or if you just want to mix up your routine.

This is also a great exercise if you are recovering from an injury. Paddle boarding is gentle to your ligaments and tendons. If you’re recuperating from leg or back injuries, it is a great way to keep your strength.

Indoor Rowing Machines

Now that we mentioned all outdoor activities let’s move indoors. Rowing machines are just as the name suggests – machines designed to mimic rowing moves. They present an ideal substitute during the winter or when you are far from the water (perhaps on a business trip in another city). You exercise by pulling the handle towards your body, while the seat slides away from and toward the flywheel.

Indoor rowing machines are low impact, which means it doesn’t stress your knees and hips, making it suitable for people of all ages. I suggest this exercise for keeping your upper body strength level up, but it is also a great cardio workout. There are several workout programs for increasing your endurance, such as these great routines.

Other Gym Exercises

Visiting the gym or exercising on a regular basis is essential to keep your body in shape. Don’t forget that dragon boat paddlers need to have a formidable total body condition to be competitive.

Here is a great YouTube video of the dragon boat exercises you can do.

As you can see, this mixture is a quick, all-around workout to keep your body in shape. You need little space for the exercises, but some of them require a bar or a flex band. If you don’t have them ,a simple towel will also do.

Here are my suggestions for other exercises, depending on the muscle groups:

· Legs and hips–rear foot elevated split squats, front or box squats

· Core muscles – pall of presses, RKC planks

· Upper back – deadlifts, barbell high bench row (my favorite!), chin ups

The goal of these exercises is to increase strength and endurance while focusing on the symmetry of your body. This is something to keep in mind if you decide to add other workouts to your routine since you wouldn’t want one side of your body to be more developed than the other.

I believe these alternatives are all you need to paddle without a team. They will ensure that you stay in shape and surprise the teammates with your progress at your next training. What are you waiting for? Start exercising, prepare for the following season and show how important part of the team you are!

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