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The goal: To promote paddle sports AND make YOU a better paddler

Whether you’re new to paddling or have been paddling for a few years, you’re probably wondering what paddle training plan is best. To help answer this question, we’ve created a decision tree to help pick the best paddle programming for paddlers. We have training plans for stand up paddling, as well as training plans for outrigger canoe. All of our training plans can be used with surfski, marathon canoe, or recreational kayaks. No matter what plan you choose, they are all scalable for your ability level and you can be sure you’re getting the best paddle training plan to see results! 

Paddle Training Plans

We have a lot of plans to choose from, and are adding more every day. It can be challenging to make the initial decision, especially if you have goals and want to ensure you’re on the right track. Rest assured, we are always here in the Member Only Forum to help guide you more specifically. But, we hope that the decision tree we’ve posted below, and the recommendations found within it, help you get over that initial analysis paralysis! 

Paddle Training Platform

We’ve made the process within the platform as user friendly as possible by allowing you to input your main goal or “A-Race” and then providing you with training plans that fit your timeline. We even try to narrow down choices for you by displaying only the plans that are longer than the time between the day you start and your target date. If you are setting up your initial training plan or changing your plan, but don’t see the plan you want, choose one of the plans the platform suggests to build up base and develop your skills until the other plan comes available. When your target race, or goal, is closer you can switch to the more specific plan. Alternatively, we have the option if you “Don’t have a target race” or just want to select that box so that you can be in charge of which plans you’re following when, and for how long. Although, unless you’re a seasoned paddler with a lot of training knowledge, we wouldn’t advise going this route if you’re trying to peak for a race! This option does exist however, in chase you need free rein to use the platform for generic fitness while following super-fun plans guaranteed to enhance your paddling!! 

Choose the Best Paddle Training Plan for YOU

If you do want to select from everything, we hope the following blog a great starting point. Play with this decision tree to see where you land! Then, once you reach an end, scroll down below to read more about the training plans that meet your unique needs! 


“Plans for Any Activity”

These training plans are suitable to use with a different cardio activity such as biking or running. Some were built specifically for the off-season for paddlers that are faced with cold or dangerous winter conditions. Other plans are built for paddling, but the workouts are easily modified to fit another goal you may have. Off-season half-marathon, anyone?

1. 10 mile Intermediate and Advanced Master’s Program

If you’re over 50, these plans are built specifically for bodies that may need a little bit more time to recover between sessions. This could mean with age, or it could be someone at the opposite end of the spectrum, where they have yet to ramp up their training in the past. The workouts contained in this program would be suitable for any cardio activity. 

2. Medium Course Intermediate and Advanced

If you’re looking for a middle distance endurance activity, then the workouts found in this program would also work for a different sport than paddling. You may have to read over sections that mention paddle drills at times, but the workout itself would still suit you. 

3. Off-Season Aerobic Maintenance

This is our off-water specialty! Built originally for paddlers that are forced off the water in winter months that want to keep moving and training, this plan includes a hand-picked selection of cardio workouts that are meant for all activities. If you are looking for the best off-water option for cardio, this is it. 

Cross-Training & Off-Season, Off-Water Training

These are our off-season specific plans geared towards paddlers needing a break from paddling or forced off the water due to winter conditions.

1. Cardio and Calisthenics

One of the best ways you can prepare for your time on the water is with a good pre-season program. If you don’t have access to weights or a gym, then this cardio and calisthenics program utilizes bodyweight moves to build a strong, balanced musculature and aerobic cardio activities to increase your aerobic capacity so you can really hit the ground running when you finally do get on the water!

2. Maximum Strength

This is hands-down our most raved about plan outside of the “Improvement in 10k!” When followed safely and properly, the strength balance gained in the off-season is the number one way to prevent injury when you increase your mileage on the water. If you are serious about paddle racing, especially ultra-endurance events, you should seriously consider having a very strong and balanced body as your foundation. 

3. Off-Season Aerobic Maintenance

This plan is exactly what it says, aerobic maintenance when you can’t get to the water. If you’re never going to be convinced to do a block of gym training with weights when it’s cold outside (like in the Maximum Strength or the Cardio and Calisthenics plans), then this is your go-to plan.

Competition Test Drive… and Fitness!

These training plans are excellent for anyone looking to “test the competitive waters.” Give them a shot, enter your first race, and see if you’re bitten by the racing bug to improve summer after summer while having fun with friends and traveling to fun, cool locations. Be forewarned, paddle racing and the friends you make and meet up with at races may become a big part of your life!

1. Couch to 5k

An easy introduction to skills and drills for racing your first ever 5k. This one isn’t as in depth as the 10k program, because it is geared towards beginners. 

2. Improvement in 10k

Our #1 plan in the platform, this one develops excellent breathing and pacing skills needed to tune into your inner racer. Don’t try to train by “racing” all of your workouts – you’ll wind up energy deficient, grumpy, injured, and unmotivated. Instead, hop on this improvement in 10k plan and start out doing things the right way the first time, if you do decide to get into racing, this plan will save you years of improper preparation. 


Specialty Plans


This is a pretty BROAD category, but these plans really set us apart from other training platforms – our “Specialty Programs.” 

1. Extended Base

Although the “Extended Base” isn’t necessarily a specialty, it is an excellent way for someone t


o maintain general paddle fitness. If you are looking at getting into ultra distance racing, which would be a specialty, then this plan would be used as a gentle ramp up before tackling some of the higher volume training plans for ultra distance paddle racing.

2. More Bumps

(One of Aprils favorite plans) This is geared towards people looking to get in shape to go on amazing downwind runs. Some of the best paddle vacations in the world are centered on amazing downwind conditions. Don’t show up and not have the absolute best time catching and linking bumps because you’re training isn’t up to the task! This plan gets your fast twitch muscles prepared, power application on point, and endurance at a maximum so you can enjoy endless sleigh rides!

3. The 100 Mile Week

If you’re looking for a goal within itself, then tackle the 100 mile week. This plan does have perquisites. You should seriously consider having completed some of the Extended Base program to ease into this one, and you should have been able to finish either of our “Ultra Distance” plans without missing too many wor


kouts in full. If not used as its own goal, then this plan would be a goodie to prepare for top performance in an ultra event such as the MR 340, Texas Water Safari, or similar races. A PERSONAL ANECDOTE FROM APRIL: “I would also do the Maximum Strength plan before attempting this one… or before attempting either Ultra Distance plan. I cannot stress the importance of balancing strength in the body for injury prevention enough when attempting high-volumes!”

4. Ultra Distance “Go the Distance”

This is our beginner Ultra program, for someone that doesn’t have expectations yet, and just wants to “Go the Distance”. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop! You will finish! This plan is geared towards your first longer race, somewhere in the vicinity of 20-50 miles. 

5. Ultra Distance High Performance

For races that aren’t super-duper ultra (100+ miles long), but are more in the 20-50 mile range and require a little more gusto for a top performance, we have the “Ultra Distance High Performance” Plan. Scope this out for your next Chattajack or similar event. 

Build Something EPIC!


If you’re looking to stick to training across multiple years in an effort to build up to a high level of competition, we have plenty of plans for that as well. What becomes most important here is how you structure them together throughout your year. To understand this better, you’ll want to check out this Article on “Using Paddle Ninja to Build an Annual Training Plan.” But, here are a few highlights of some plans that are great for people who are really looking to make improvements in their racing. 

1. Elite Performance Long Distance

This plan was originally designed to train athletes for optimal performance in the 13-mile Carolina Cup Graveyard Race, but works well for any paddlecraft race of 10-15 miles. This plan has a base build mesocycle already included, no need to sync up multiple plans there. It adds some really intense speedwork to prepare you for the demands of competitive racing with strategies like fast starts, hopping on or dropping a train, and finishing strong. With 4 key workouts per week, this plan is flexible enough to fit most paddlers’ lifestyles, but also is good for someone starting out on their competitive journey that is at a 4 paddle per week level. 

2. Improvement in 10k

This is our #1 plan in the platform, it develops excellent breathing and pacing skills needed to tune into your inner racer. Don’t try to train by “racing” all of your workouts – you’ll wind up energy deficient, grumpy, injured, and unmotivated. Instead, hop on this improvement in 10k plan and start out doing things the right way the first time. This plan is technique-city! 

3. Maximum Strength

If you’re going to take your paddling seriously, then you need to develop whole-body health and fitness. You cannot neglect a certain type of training. If you paddle because you don’t like the gym and weights, then you will only ever be able to attain a certain level. Not to mention, if you want to go hard in multiple races and decrease your risk of injury, then you need to seriously consider developing a balance of strength to support the work you’re asking of your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. 

4. New Normal

If you have a series of paddle races that you’re preparing for, or aren’t sure WHEN your next race is going to be.. exactly.. you may consider following one of the extended base plans before hopping onto the “New Normal” The base plans will keep you fit and in a good fighting position. Then, if you get the word a race is on, or you find one to attend, you can hop on this Danny Ching original paddle plan for 4 weeks to peak up. I would suggest backing off for a week of taper before the race, though. 

5. The OG

This was the first training plan Johnny Puakea ever sent April. She states: “I followed it… poorly. I thought the heart rate zones were too low and too easy, must’ve been a mistake. Nope, I wound up exhausted and spent. I was the one making the mistakes. I went back to it 3 years later and followed it to a “T” and won a few things 😉”

I just need to peak for a race in 3-8 weeks… QUICK TURNAROUND

We wouldn’t advise joining Paddle Ninja and just blowing through one of these plans… although if you’re a seasoned athlete with a solid base looking for some variety – this might work for you. That being said, we would recommend always following one of our base training programs, and even exploring the pacing, breath, and skill development of the “Improvement in 10k” plan before hopping on one of these quick, plans designed to peak you for a race.

1. Condensed Peak Performance

For people that have a full 8 weeks before a race, this is a great plan to hop on to peak for a 3-5 mile race. It’s like the race snuck up on you and you only have 8 weeks to train.. we’re hoping you were on a base program before this…

2. New Normal

So, somehow, you missed the 8 week mark or decided at the last minute to do a race in 4 weeks. Some people might use this program as a part of a plan after a base training plan, but not you! You’re just looking for some quick gains, and this is definitely the place to get them.  

3. Three-Week Tune Up

Seriously the last ditch effort. You procrastinated. You didn’t start training a month before the race… the race is THIS MONTH. But you don’t want to make a complete fool of yourself. I’ll just remind you that you can only build your house as big as your base will support, but I know you just want the quickest possible route to the best possible outcome. This will do the trick, just don’t make a habit out of it. Go back after your race and do an aerobic recovery block, I beg of you. Need I remind you to read our articles on overtraining??


The results: building a “paddler community”, a slight addiction to paddling sports, the possible need for more sunscreen (due to the desire to be on the water at all times) and you may have more of a hunger and need for speed… 

At Paddle Ninja, everyone is a part of something bigger than ourselves – access to a world-wide network of awesome SUP coaches and trainers like April Zilg, Danny Ching, Johnny Puakea and Paolo Ameglio (and myself, Travis Kindt), who love the sport! 


When you join Paddle Ninja, you have access to proven training plans – aimed to build endurance, strength train and teach solid technique. 


It really is simple: in order to get better you need to train better. Get a plan in place, know the correct way to become better – by people who have the track history to show HOW you CAN improve. 


Join myself and countless others as we benefit from being a part of our Paddle Ninja community!

Register for Paddle Ninja by clicking the box right for you: