The Basics of Sprint Training for Canoeist and Kayakers: Building Speed and Endurance

Sprint training is a crucial aspect of kayaking that focuses on enhancing speed and endurance. It involves a combination of interval training, aerobic and anaerobic exercises, and recovery periods. Tailoring these elements to the specific needs of kayakers can significantly improve performance.

Interval Training

Interval training involves alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity exercise periods. For kayakers, this could mean paddling at maximum effort for a set time, followed by a period of light paddling or rest. This method is effective in improving both speed and endurance as it pushes the body to its limits, then allows it to recover, preparing it for the next high-intensity phase1.

Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training

Understanding the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training is key to effective sprint training. Aerobic exercises, such as long-distance paddling, use oxygen to fuel the muscles and can be sustained for extended periods. They build endurance and improve cardiovascular health. On the other hand, anaerobic exercises, like sprint paddling, do not rely on oxygen and are performed in short, intense bursts. They are excellent for building strength and speed. A balanced training program for kayakers should incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic exercises1.


Recovery is an often overlooked but vital component of sprint training. It allows the muscles to repair and strengthen. For kayakers, recovery might involve light paddling, stretching, and adequate hydration and nutrition. Ignoring recovery can lead to injuries and hinder performance improvements1,2.

Practical Examples

  • Interval Training: Start with a 10-minute warm-up of light paddling. Then, paddle at full speed for 30 seconds, followed by 90 seconds of light paddling. Repeat this cycle 10 times, then cool down with 10 minutes of light paddling2.
  • Aerobic Training: Engage in a long-distance paddle at a steady, moderate pace. Aim to maintain the same pace throughout the exercise2.
  • Anaerobic Training: After a warm-up, perform a series of short, intense paddling sprints. Each sprint should be about 20-30 seconds, followed by a rest period2.
  • Recovery: After training, spend at least 10 minutes stretching. Hydrate and consume a balanced meal to replenish energy stores2.

In conclusion, sprint training tailored for kayakers involves a mix of interval, aerobic and anaerobic training, coupled with proper recovery. Incorporating these elements into your routine can significantly enhance your kayaking speed and endurance.


1: McKenzie, Don, and Bo Berglund. Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science: Canoeing. International Canoe Federation, 2019.

2: Szanto, Csaba. Level 2/3 Canoe Sprint Coaching Manual. ICF; 2014

About the author – Dr. Kent Klitgaard

Dr. Klitgaard holds a PhD in biomechanics with a specialization in sprint kayaking. He has a solid background in sports science and is currently doing research and coaching. Dr. Klitgaard collaborates with Team Danmark and the Danish national kayaking team. With extensive experience as a coach, he also enjoys sprinting on the water whenever possible. For those seeking personalized guidance, Dr. Klitgaard offers online coaching through Instagram @Kayak_Kent, feel free to reach out to him.

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