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Chat With a Champion: Part One
August 27, 2016
We managed to score ourselves an interview with one of the worlds leading kayakers and owner of Jackson Kayaks... Mr Eric Jackson. With a career spanning four decades, he's represented the United States in either Slalom or Freestyle every year since 1989. Holder of four Freestyle World Championship titles and an Olympic games athlete, Eric also spends his time designing world class kayaks, coaching other paddlers and growing his family's love of the sport.
We chatted to him about all things training and got some great insights into the psychological side of sport too. Check out Part Two for that, where you'll find out what he has his sights set on for the future.
"What is your trick for staying fit and keeping up with the younger kayakers?"
Young kayakers doesn’t mean fit kayakers. Youth doesn’t bring fitness- training does. Being in as good of shape as the MOST fit young kayakers means training as hard or harder as the most fit ones. Fitness is primarily a function of volume, variety, and quality of training. I no longer train with the highest volume as I did in my 20’s-30’s, as I am doing other things with my time (Business, family, fishing, etc..). However, I keep my quality and variety up to stay fit. I kayak hard when I am paddling- doing endurance, sprints, lots of freestyle moves, etc.. I run 3 miles/day when I am home playing disc golf (run the course- 36 holes/day- equivalent of 2 miles of wind sprints). I also do some circuit weights when home, and push-ups when I am not home. I manage my body fat as a gauge for my activity levels as well.
"You mentioned you have several workouts you do in freestyle kayaks, could you share some of these?"
Lactic Tolerance workouts- 60 seconds on- 60 seconds off X 5 with two sets. You make a routine that takes 60 seconds and do it in flatwater as fast and highest quality you can (good clean moves, etc.) Take 1 minute, exactly, off, and repeat 5 times. Each time it will get harder to complete the routine, and do clean moves - it is both a fitness and a “paddle well while tired” workout. It is great preparation for events as you will never be as tired in a world championships ride as you will be on your 4th or 5th run during this training program.
"Do you do anything outside of a kayak to assist with paddling, any gym or strength based workouts?"
I do circuit weights, which help both with strength and also injury prevention. Kayaking doesn’t work every muscle in every way, so doing a variety of weights helps balance things out. My circuits can be found at: https://shop.pearsports.com/workouts/fat-off-muscle-on.html.
"Nutritionally speaking, whats for breakfast? Anything you'd recommend to other athletes regarding nutrition?"
I am a big believer in managing your own body and training your digestive system as well as your muscles - McDonalds is food I frequent, for example… not because I think it is the best option for every meal, of course, but because if you can’t eat fast food, or a variety of things without feeling bad or getting fat, you are not working out enough. Ultimately, for me, at 52 years old, and no longer doing 500 on water workouts year like I did for 15 years, I don’t eat the same quantity - but that is simply a function of calories in balancing calories out for the year and maintaining my 165 pound normal self. My “coaching” suggestions for anyone is based on nutrition is simple - eat variety, don’t overeat - and certainly don’t be overweight. If you are overweight, you are self-handicapping and can’t expect coaches to have sympathy when you don’t perform as well as you hope to. Our “Competition” Rock Star M is 26.8 pounds, for example, and our standard is 30 pounds. That is only 3.2 pound difference, but I don’t know many of our top team members who are not willing to pay the extra money for the 3 pounds. In bicycles 3 pounds cost about $5,000 to save. When I compete in the World Championships I drop below my normal 165 to 160, giving myself another 5 pounds of help in getting bigger air, and being more retentive. My body is well within the healthy range between 155-170. So me going to 160 is not unhealthy in any way. Make sense?
Finally - if you are training to compete - you’ll be traveling to compete- learn to eat different foods and not have food be an “issue” when competing abroad. Many new international competitors struggle with traveling due to food and that gets in the way of focusing on training/competing.
"Have you found any frequency or common recurring injuries or niggling pains amongst paddlers?"
Yes- shoulders (bicep tendonitis ), forearm tendonitis, pulled rib muscles, dislocated ribs, lower back stress/pain are the main ones. Each can be prevented, or managed while continually training.
"Do you feel flat water freestyle translates well into moving water freestyle?"
Absolutely, but certainly you can’t expect to be good in freestyle with only flatwater training. Flatwater teaches you edge control, weight over the boat, paddle dexterity, and the motions for most of the moves in holes. You can also learn some wave moves easier if you practice them in flatwater first. Whitewater
requires timing, and managing a ton of variables that you can’t duplicate in flatwater.