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The optimum cadence is the cadence which allows the paddler to sustain the highest average power output over a specific distance or time. Not all athletes perform at the same cadence. You need only to watch a race to notice the variation in cadences among paddlers, even at the elite level. By knowing where the cadence sweet-spot lies, an appropriate training and racing structure can be established. Training at or near the optimum cadence during targeted sessions, whilst focusing on increasing power output will help develop a more effective and powerful stroke, improving your performance.
Athletes who specialize in short distance events, such as the 1000m sprint, can experiment with different cadences during race length intervals to determine which cadence allows them to output the greatest average power output.
Athletes who race longer distances, such as multisport or marathon, will find it more difficult to hone in on their optimum cadence since 1000m intervals are less relevant to their target discipline. Performing 15 - 20 minute intervals at various cadences and comparing average power values would yield more relevant information. However, the number of intervals that can be performed in a single session with good form are limited to 2 or 3. For these athletes, finding their optimum cadence will be a project spanning multiple sessions.
The cadence that allows for the greatest power output may not initially correspond to the cadence that results in the greatest boat speed. This is due to the fact that the athlete is conditioned with a technique that suits a different cadence. The fact that the tests have revealed that more power can be generated at a different cadence has shown that there is more energy available, and hence the greater potential for improved performance. Technique refinements and general conditioning will allow the athlete to improve paddling efficiency, and convert as much of greater energy source into forward boat speed.