This is the point at which things start to feel more serious.

If you’re starting off as a novice (as we were) then training will require serious commitment to getting out on the water as much as possible. Due to the timing of the race this will inevitably mean training through freezing temperatures, in the rain, snow, mud and whilst the rest of the world is sat under a blanket by the fire.

If you’re going to go for it then it’s probably best to think “what a great way to keep myself full of beans through the winter!”.

All this advice on training comes from reading masses of websites, talking to other people who have done DW and from our own experiences. Hopefully I’ve put it all together in a way that will be useful for you.

General principles

  1. Give yourself time – we started our training plan from Christmas onwards which allowed us to progress from a wobbly paddler to distinctly average DW competitor, however it’s common sense that the longer you train the easier the race will be. Six months of training is generally recommended by the DW race committee, but it’s not really clear if learning to paddle from scratch is included in that. I would recommend three months (September – Christmas) enjoying as much time on the water as you can, then three months (January – Easter) building up your fitness, technique and mileage.
  2. Make a plan – as soon as you think you’re ready to start training more intensively, sit down with your diary and get your training plan in there. It’s very easy to let life get in the way as time goes on, so make sure you put kayaking first. If you want to save yourself time then use the one provided on this website.
  3. Every little helps – as with most things, it’s more effective to do little and often rather than paddling for a whole day once a month. All the advice we read suggested paddling 2-3 times per week with a long paddle every 1-2 weeks.

How do I make a training plan?

Your plan needs to be realistic whilst meeting the points above. If you make the world’s best training plan but you have to quit your job to achieve it, then that’s not really the best place to start.

I’ve made this ready-made plan available for you to download, or there’s advice on how to make your own plan in the Zero to DW Hero eBook. This plan has different types of session to help you build up technique, portaging and overall fitness. It also has suggested locations for the long paddles that will ensure you’ve covered the whole course before race day.

Download the training plan here for £5:


Timing, timing, timing

Other than the sheer length of the race, the most difficult aspect is estimating how long it will take you to get to Teddington Lock. You have roughly a four hour tide window in which to arrive and spending a minute extra at each lock could change your arrival time by 1.5 hours.

A huge part of the training is learning about the speed you paddle in different conditions and the impact that portaging (and tiredness) has on that speed. Without tracking your training you will get to race day with absolutely no idea when to start and will probably end up having to camp at Teddington Lock for eight hours.

There’s some more information on estimating your average speed on the race day page, but to save you some misery later down the line, make sure you make your training runs as much like the race as possible, then track and record your speed.

Learning technique

If you’ve joined a club then you should be able to get good advice from the members there on things like paddling and portaging technique. If you’re still struggling to work out what you’re aiming for, then let me know and I’ll aim to put some more information on this site.

What’s in the Zero to DW Hero eBook?

  • Tips on how to make your own training plan
  • Information on useful build-up races that you might want to take part in

Download the Zero to DW Hero eBook here (£15):


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© S Hicks 2019

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