Normative HR data

The question was,

“whay can’t I get my HR up as high paddling as I can running or biking?”

Heart rates are very individual and to complicate matters further vary dramatically from sport to sport for any one person due to body position, exercising muscle mass, sport specific training experience, past sports experience, age, etc.

I came to kayak and surfski from an Olympic, 1/2 Ironman and Ironman triathlon background. Initially I had a trouble getting my heart rate elevated. With proper technique training and more sport specific workouts my peak paddling HR slowly increased. I can now (6 years of correct paddle sport training later and almost 30 lbs heavier) hold nearly the same peak HR when racing in K1, surfski, cycling, running and swimming (race at over 180, peak at close to 195).

I have found that paddling is no where near as taxing as weight bearing sports such as running, xc skiing and to some degree cycling. My aerobic fitness (not performance) decreases rapidly when I stop cross-training while paddling. So for someone well training in weight bearing aerobic sports, paddling may well push them as hard aerobically (at first), until they learn to use more muscle mass in the movements (i.e. core and legs).

I would suggest that it is not your lack of upper body muscle mass that limits your peak HR and VO2 in paddling, but your inability to use the proper muscle mass at this time. Resistance training in the gym should focus not on increasing strength or muscle mass, but on learning how to use your core strength and sequencing of muscle activation from the core to the extremities (as with cycling – hip movement first then knee then ankle). Proper technique will also minimize the risk of shoulder injuries, and if all you do is technique work for the next while, you’ll still get a lot faster than if you focus on strength building or pounding off intervals.

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services


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