An Athlete’s Insight Into Winter Training

Outrigger Canoeist, Triathlete and World Level Masters Swimmer, Champion Robyn Saultry, has a lifetime’s worth of experience. Her recent titles include 3rd place in the 2015 World Pa’a Kaiwi Channel 41 mile Relay OC1, 3rd in the Kauai World Challenge 34 mile coastal relay and 4th in the 2016 World Championship Molokai Solo. To achieve and retain her first-class performance Robyn trains vigorously throughout the year, come rain or shine. Robyn shares below the realities of what this entails, in particular, the harsh conditions when training in the winter.

After a long and taxing build to completing my first ever Molokai Solo at an age most are retired and sitting on the couch, I am now amidst a serious recovery phase and planning my next six months of the year.

Winter training as a paddler can often be a difficult task. Experiencing sub ten degree mornings with strong chilling winds means that sometimes it takes hours to warm up the extremities after training. Attempts to stay warm by layering up with thermal gear, a beanie and wetsuit boots does help but being wet throughout not only training but packing up as well, can be incredibly cold. Training in cooler temperatures can be detrimental to an individual’s performance. The body has a number of thermoregulatory responses to cope with temperature changes, such as vasoconstriction (redirection of blood from the periphery to protect and maintain homeostasis in the core) and thermogenesis (shivering). The cold affects individuals very differently, factors such as age, gender, body composition and exercise account for some of the differences.

Training throughout Winter still entails a 4:30am arrival for mid-week paddle training. The sessions are a little shorter and less intense, with predominantly a technique focus to allow me to fine tune areas of my stroke that need improving. There is always something to work on, and this time of year is the perfect time to practice and develop good habits. This training phase is of great importance because avoiding bad biomechanics can reduce the injury risk later on as the duration and intensity of training increases. The dry-land training continues throughout Winter too. Stationary bike work to maintain cardiovascular fitness and weights, focusing on the rehabilitation of my troublesome shoulders and to balance out the muscle groups. Stretching, rolling, massage and physio all continue with the main aim of getting my body ready for the next increase in volume through both training and races.

My racing mainly local now, with a South Queensland Zone 6 race series starting in July and ending in December. I will be helping some other paddlers prepare for these races and hopefully doing some 2 person racing to mix things up and have some ‘fun’. The races are short course (8km) and for long course (16km). Along the way I will be heading to Cairns to compete in the Marlin Coast relay Sat 15th Oct 2016 that I did as a solo entrant last year. This year I will be teaming up with a club member to share the driving and race distance. It’s a 4 x 10km race along the coast from Yorkeys Knob to Port Douglas

To finish off the year, I will be racing at Sydney in a new event run by paddler extraordinaire Dean Gardner on the 10th of December. Final race details yet to be released but it’s around 25km. By the time December rolls around the race dates for 2017 should be in place and plans and bookings and training programs will be well underway.

So the pedal has eased off but the training continues but the main focus shifts to rehabilitation and improving technique.


Stocks. J.M., Taylor. A.S., Tipton. J., & Greenleaf. J.E. (2004). Human Physiological Responses to Cold Exposure. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 75(5). 444-457.