Train Like an Olympic Canoeist

Train Like an Olympic Canoeist

The most gruelling workouts that were regular staples in Gabriel’s program.

When we’re young we all dream of big things, for Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny that “big thing” was the Olympics.

“In a really humble way, I always thought I would go to the Olympics. I dreamed of it, and just watching the events on tv, I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.” And from a young age, the dream was forged within him.


Gabriel competed in the C-2 1000m and 500m (doubles canoeing over 1000 metres and 500m), and recorded 6th and 5th place finishes respectively in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. We’re talking flatwater paddling (not whitewater), with skinny boats that are hard to balance, and incredible effort to make it all come together. Other impressive performances for Gabriel include two fourth place finishes in the C-2 1000m event at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships.

So ask yourself, how does a guy prepare for the sport of sprint canoeing? His discipline is known for a demanding combination of technique, endurance, power, flexibility, and mental focus required to excel at the highest level.
Here are some of the most grueling workouts that were regular staples in Gabriel’s program.

Workout 1 | “The Gut Test” on Bench Press and Bench Pull

What you’ll need?

  • A stop watch (preferably one with an interval timer function)
  • Training shoes
  • Water
  • Training partner(s)

Bench Press and Bench Pull Exercises (with weight trees)

This is a two exercise maximal effort test. A true test of power, discipline, and eventually muscle endurance and fatigue.

Part 1 | Warm-up

Bike for roughly 10 minutes and loosen up while allowing the blood to pump and heart rate to rise. Next, work through some movements like walking lunges with an overhead arm stretch, lightweight shoulder exercises, and some light mobility exercises. Finally, begin with a few warm-up sets on the key exercises, bench press and bench pull.

Part 2 | Bench Press

The bench press set begins with your one rep maximum lift. Following each lift 30 pounds are removed from the bar, and after 4 minutes rest another maximum effort for the most number of reps (observing proper form, and always performed with a spotter for safety) until failure. This cadence is repeated until an athlete is able to reach 100 continuous repetitions without stopping or failure. Gabriel typically would begin around 300 lbs, and finish at either 90 or 60 lbs (depending on whether or not it was a good day).

Part 3 | Bench Pull

Observing the same protocol and set formula as on bench press, Gabriel would begin with his 1 rep maximum effort, and then rest 4 minutes after each set while dropping the weight by 30 lbs.


Workout 2 | Running Intervals

What you’ll need?

  • A stop watch (preferably one with an interval timer function)
  • Running shoes
  • Water
  • Training partner(s) (if possible)

Gabriel’s go to running workout is two sets of 10 times one minute hard followed by 1 minute of recovery or rest.

Part 1 | Warm-up

Take 10 minutes to loosen up jogging; towards the end of the warm-up begin to incorporate a few sets of “strides” to begin acclimatizing the body to the higher pace that will be utilized during the body of work.

Part 2 | Set 1

And let’s get this party started!

Try to reach a high pace and maintain throughout the full one minute efforts. During the rest jog easily to try and stay loose, and with 5 seconds to go before the start of the next hard interval gradually increase pace so that there is a moving start to each hard interval.

Why not start like your sprinting out of the blocks before each piece? The practice is too long and there is too little rest; you’ll risk injury and it is not the purpose of the workout to work on static starts. Rather, mentally focus as you stride into the start of each piece and really concentrate to give a complete 60 seconds.

Following the 10 hard pieces, take an extended 5 minute break.

Part 3 | Set 2

A repeat of Set 1, this time with more built up fatigue. Channel your inner “Rocky” and work through to the end. It is common to see people drop off during these two grueling sets, but they are very useful in training the energy systems required to excel in canoeing.

Workout 3 | Body Weights For Time

A workout Gabriel admittedly says was challenging for him, and “I don’t think I will ever do it again”, but just in case you want to feel his former pain, here goes nothing…

What you’ll need?

  • A gym
  • A timer
  • Water
  • Notepad, (or something to keep track of your progress)

Do the following exercises in any combination of reps you’d like for time:

  1. Chin-ups | 100
  2. Push-ups | 250
  3. Vee-Sits | 250
  4. K-Motion (a kayak motion with rotation and a punching extension forward of alternating dumbbells held at chest height) | 250
  5. Squat Jumps | 150
  6. Burpees | 100
  7. Russian Twists | 200

If you want to test your metal against the likes of Gab and other Olympians register for the next FANFIT Challenge.

Related: FANFIT Challenge Open Registration