Training Tips

Please note that these are general guidelines. Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition, and to independently determine whether any of this is suitable for you.


Tip #1 – Maintain the power position or paddler's box throughout every stroke. Square your body to face the power.

So what is the 'power position'? When looking at your body from above, let's consider an invisible line that passes through both shoulders. We'll refer to this as the 'shoulder line'. Now consider another line that divides your body into two equal halves. We'll call this the 'mid line'.

The power position simply involves keeping your hands in front of your shoulder line and preventing your hands from crossing your mid line. In so doing, you will maintain a rectangle with your arms, paddle and chest. With this rectangle formed, you get the most power from your paddle and your shoulders stay in the safest position. When your hands move behind your shoulder line your arm is in a very vulnerable position.

Does this mean that you can't safely reach to the back of your kayak? Not at all! But what it does mean is that in order to reach to the back of your kayak you'll need to rotate your whole torso so that your arms stay in the power position. This act of rotating your whole torso is fittingly named 'torso rotation'. Torso Rotation is not only responsible for keeping your shoulders safe, but it is a key concept for getting the most power from your strokes.

Courtesy of Suzanne Blackburn, Maine Sea Kayak Guide, American Canoe and Kayak Level 4 Coach, Hiker and Adventurer Extraordinaire



Tip #1  For longer activities, have a checklist for packing what you need. Even if you've done this a lot, it's easy to forget things when you don't have a list. Also, always bring a little extra food and hydration. Better to have a little extra than to get dehydrated or not have enough fuel!

Courtesy of Anne Torrez, Tri It Your Way, Certified Triathlon Coach

Tip #2 – Cadence work is one of the easiest and best ways to improve efficiency on the bike. It can improve your neuromuscular efficiency, and your muscle fiber recruitment. Before I have athletes do intervals, I always have them develop their cadence range. We do workouts like 8 x 30 sec spin ups, shooting for a cadence of over 110, and also low cadence sets of something like 6 x 1 minute with a cadence of 65. This not only helps improve pedal stroke efficiency, it also helps educate athletes on what different cadences feel like. This can help you find the cadence that is right for you. 

Courtesy of Jesse Vondracek, Top Step Training, Professional Triathlete and Coach

Tip #3  Shift early and often and spin to win! Your bike likely has 22 gears; use your gears to help keep that cadence where you want it!

Courtesy of Jesse Vondracek



Tip #1 – Swim fast more often. Endurance is critical, but most people focus too much on aerobics work and not enough on speed work. Right after warming up, do 6-8 short swims with 30-60 seconds of rest. If swimming in a pool, try 25's, or if swimming in open water, try going for 10-15 seconds at full speed.

- Courtesy of Brad Burnham, Swimming & Diving Head Coach, Bowdoin College

Tip #2 – Work on comfort breathing to both sides. It is so much better when you can breathe away from wind or waves. Having the option to breathe to either side also makes it possible to keep an eye on the shore or other landmarks while keeping a good stroke.

- Courtesy of Brad Burnham

Tip #3 – Find friends. Training is so much more effective and rewarding with people pushing you and laughing with you!

- Courtesy of Peter Casares, Head Coach & Aquatics Director, Bates College and owner of Bobcat Swim Camps​

Tip #4 – Mix it up! Get out to the lakes, ponds, and/or oceans at least once a week... but don't be afraid to swim fast in a pool or mix up your strokes. Any work you do pays off, and variety is what keeps you from getting injured (or bored). I've always felt that the swim takes about an hour and a half... so if I get at least an hour in a pool or open water, the mileage doesn't matter... building up to handle that amount of time is what I focus on the most.

- Courtesy of Peter Casares

Preparing for Your Swim

For some, swimming three miles in the ocean is not a big deal. For others, it's a significant challenge and it takes no small amount of effort to get there. Winter is a great time to rev up your training with pool workouts. And once the weather (and water) is warm enough, it's definitely important to do some open water swimming. It's even better if you and your paddler escort can practice together.

If you need a wetsuit or a swim buoy or any other open water swimming gear, check out this offer: If you are participating in the 2021 Cross for LifeFlight, use discount code lifeflight10 to get 10% off your online order from triathletesports, or call 800-635-0528 between 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM Mon-Friday. Just mention that you are participating in #IX2021

Obviously, there's no single answer that works for everyone, but we have a couple of training guidelines we can offer. One is that you don't have to be able to swim three miles all at once before the event--if you were running a marathon, you would not necessarily have to run all 26.2 miles in any session before your race.

But you SHOULD be swimming that distance per week in the final weeks leading up to the event. That might translate to three sessions per week, one mile per day, or maybe a little more, to account for currents and squiggly navigation.

The other useful rule of thumb is to plan on a 10% increase in training distance per week.

We're lucky to have experienced and knowledgeable swim coaches at our YMCAs in the Mid Coast, including Eryn Thostenson at the Waldo County YMCA ( and Morgan Schreiber at the PenBay YMCA ( as well as many avid swimmers and coaches..

  • Eryn Thostenson (Waldo County YMCA) recommends as a helpful resource to learn more about training for the swim.
  • Kirsten Read, iX2020 Alumni coaches swimming, holds clinics and has helpful pointers at her site:
  • Ruth Kazez's website has some great resources and encouragement for swimmers new to long distances, plus training plans for ultra-distance and Ironman distance swims.  
  • There are tons of mostly-freestyle workouts at Sara McClarty's blog to build speed and endurance and reduce boredom of lap swimming in a pool.


We also share training tips on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to follow us @CrossForLifeFlight!