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August 31, 2016
In the second part of our 2 part interview with Eric Jackson, we gain some excellent insight into what goes into his fitness regime and most interesting of all, just what goes through the mind of a world champion before his run.
"How do you prepare and ensure you are hitting your peak for a competition?"
For most freestyle kayakers, the two main reasons they are not ready to win an event is lack of skill in specific moves on that specific water, or lack of a good plan (routine). Of course, nerves can thwart the best paddlers’ goal of winning as well, so a good mental approach is needed as well.
1. If you show up to an event and are not able to do the moves you feel you need, forget any kind of “tapering” and focus on learning as much as you can until competition day. Meaning - it is better to be very tired, but have more scoring moves, then be fresh and not have them.
2. You should expect to have your “average” ride during competition, not your best one. Your goal is to make your average ride better than the competition’s best rides. If you are in the middle of the pack, you should still be focused on improving your average ride as much as possible. You can’t improve it, if you don’t know what it is. I suggest (as I have done myself and for all of my training group paddlers- Stephen, Clay, Dane, Emily, Nick, Matthieu, etc. etc.) is to do “world Championships” finals during each workout at least one time. This is where you pick a routine and run through it with the goal of scoring your best score on each one. Of course, the best ride counts, but you keep your average. When it is competition time, you will perform much better already knowing what score to expect, versus just hoping for a great score.
What goes through your mind when competing, are you trying to calm yourself or psych yourself up in the eddy?
My only focus before I compete (moments before) is to get into a “broad external” focus, which means awareness of your surroundings (water, people, weather, wind, judges, equipment, etc.) In this focus you can manage the variables during your rides, versus an internal focus with internal dialog where you get tunnel vision and the ride gets out of your control, you miss moves, etc.. and can’t seem to get it together. My trick for getting into a broad external focus (this is contradictory to many “sports psychiatrists” who I have worked with at the US Olympic Committee, etc.. so beware that I am giving coaching that many doctors in psychiatry would argue as bad coaching. My proof of the method is in not only my personal results over the years, but the results of those I have coached. )
Before dropping into the hole or wave-
1. Look and read your logos on your boats, then look up at something far away, pick out a judge, or in my case, find my wife, blow her a kiss and wait for her response.
2. Now look at the feature and choose your exact point of entry and begin your ride.
3. during the ride have 1-2 more times where you take your focus out of the feature and into the crowd, judges, or a tree or something that forces you to stay broad external, and then continue.
Most freestyle athletes can’t recall each part of their ride, nor give a visual recount of them, as they got into an internal focus that doesn’t process what their eyes see properly and they “blank out” acting using their habits only, subconscious brain (what sports psychiatrists tell you to do), and when a move doesn’t go right it causes the entire ride to go downhill and doesn’t allow you to get back in the game.
Lastly, some questions from our community:
How do you keep kayaking fresh and interesting, especially in environments you've paddled for years. I.e. How do you stop a familiar spot from becoming boring?
I find that kayaking games are the key for just about anyone to keep entertained and fresh. We play “horse” “add on” and other games I have created over the years where even flatwater can be exciting. Imagine shooting a basketball for hours each day by yourself or with someone else, but never playing "around the world", or “horse", or one on one”, it would be boring quickly. Adding competition to your training, in the form of games keeps things fun. If two people are different skill levels it is easy to give one a handicap. Also, variety of locations is always the best solution. Big waves, little waves, big holes, little holes, etc. etc.. I am very excited about the prospect of competing in the World Cup in 2016 in three locations I have never been.
You've been at the top of the kayaking game for years, do you have any other goals left in life?
My new personal competitive objective is to be the number 1 ranked professional bass fisherman in the world. This year I completed my rookie year at 143rd in the big leagues, meaning I still have a long way to the top! Being a rookie again, and getting my butt kicked, is actually quite fun. It wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t think I could improve, but I am going to apply the same strategies I applied to kayaking, to fishing to get to the top. 1. become the most knowledgeable 2. work harder than the competition, 3. invent my own techniques, equipment, and strategies for competition 4. surround myself with the the best that I can learn from 5. Do it for the fun, not for money, fame, or anything else that would be “end game” related and prevent daily activities in the training/competition from being enjoyable.
I also want to see my kids continue to do well and grow in the sport and help them as I can.
What are your top three tips for fitness?
1. If you think you are fit, think again. There are different levels of fitness and in freestyle, few are truly fit. You may decide that you don’t need more strength, flexibility, endurance, power to compete well, but don’t be fooled to think you are truly fit in comparison to what your body is capable unless you spend nearly all day working out as hard as you can. Luckily for freestyle athletes- a 45 second ride in international competition doesn’t require the highest level of fitness, so a focus on technique is the most important.
2. Train when you are not able to get on the water, so when you CAN be on the water, you can train long and hard. Most of the lack of fitness related issues athletes in our sport have, are related to being in a good spot to train and to get tired or hurt before while there is still daylight and time to train. Anyone who has followed me over the years knows I was the first one on the water and the last one off. Dane is an example of someone who has followed in those footsteps and literally out trains anyone on the water in today’s competitions. (more hours, more rides) To beat him, you need more skill, a better routine, etc.. and to accomplish that you need to be a better natural athlete, or out train him… I believe you can beat 90% of anyone by outworking them. The best, who are repeatedly the best, train hard, and usually, harder than others.
3. Build up your volume of training slowly and consistently. “over training” is a mis-used term. An out of shape person overtrains with 1/10 of the training volume of someone in top form. Doctors will say “you are overtraining” and you might be doing 50% of the training I am doing for example- don’t believe you are doing too much, because the chances that you are are VERY slim unless you are on the water 8+ hours day, plus weights, etc… Your body can’t handle a sudden increase in the volume of your training, it needs time to adjust and get stronger, particularly your tendons. If you are going to do chin-ups- don’t do your max in the beginning or you’ll get tendonitis in your forearms. Do 1 set of less than your max today, 2 sets tomorrow, and 3 a week later, but keeping below your max. In 3 weeks you might be ready to do 3 sets of 60% of your max, for example… in 6 weeks, if you have been consistently, slowly building up, able to do your max.
Finally- when physically training REALLY hard you need 3 weeks hard, 1 week of 50% volume to build back up. If you are training pretty hard, but not super hard, you don’t have to worry about that.
If you'd like to find out more about Eric Jackson, you can check him out online at: