How to Prepare for a Dragon Boat Race

“If you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.

Of course, this quote can be applied to virtually anything worth working for in life. To give yourself the best chance to succeed, you must do the work required to mentally and physically prepare yourself.

Since a team sport like dragon boat racing requires every team member to be on their ‘A’ game in order to win, there are a few things you should be focusing on before and on race day.

In this blog, we’re going to take you through some tips to ensure you’re at your best when you hit the water.

Let’s get into it.

Getting Your Body Ready

While dragon boat racing may seem like a relatively easy sport to learn during your practice sessions, it can also be quite strenuous and can impact you if you aren’t used to exercising certain areas of your upper body.

Please note: if you have injuries to any of the areas that we’re going to touch on below, please consult your doctor before exercising and competing. Safety is most important in a dragon boat.

First and foremost having a strong core is key. Since most of your torque comes from your core, you’ll want to make sure that you focus on building strength in this area.

There are many core exercises that do the trick. But, we’d recommend watching this video from Dragon Boat BC for some exercises that specifically help with dragon boat racing:


Other areas of the body to focus on that are equally important, are the shoulders, arms, and back. Just like with your core, focusing on these three areas will help to improve your paddling power.

You can find plenty of different workout regimens out there to help with strength training, but again, we’d recommend following one that specifically helps with dragon boat racing. 

If you can get access to equipment like dumbbells, check out this weight training program from the Stratford Dragon Boat Club.

Alternatively, there are calisthenic workouts that don’t require equipment that you can do from home. Dragon Analytics offers some great exercises to get you started in this article.

Being ready for a dragon boat race doesn’t stop at preparing physically, however. You also have to get your mind in tip-top shape. In the end, it’s what’s controlling how your body performs.

Getting Your Mind Ready

Having a clear mind will help you compete better in more ways than one. You’ll be able to make decisions faster, push yourself harder, and believe in yourself more.

The first step in preparing mentally starts with proper rest. Getting sufficient sleep has been proven to improve athletic performance across the board.

Sleep Foundation, an organization focused on trustworthy sleep information, states that “when athletes practice or learn new skills, sleep helps form memories, and contributes to improved performance in the future. Without sleep, the pathways in the brain that allow you to learn and make memories can’t be formed or maintained.”

They also explain that “sleep is essential for cognitive processing. Loss of sleep is associated with a decline in cognitive function. This can have adverse effects on athletes whose sports require a high level of cognitive function, such as decision making and adapting to new situations.”

On top of making sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, another important step to prepare your mind for a dragon boat race is proper nutrition and hydration.

Since our bodies are composed of 60% water, drinking a sufficient amount of water is vital for high performance. Generally speaking, health experts recommend people drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. However, this amount differs depending on factors such as your environment, diet, etc.

In the days and weeks before a dragon boat race, it’s of utmost importance that you drink as much water as you need to help your body perform its best. You should also eat as healthy as you can as well.

Calories are the fuel that energizes us. The best way to make use of this fuel is to ensure you’re eating healthy calories rather than unhealthy calories.

Dragons Abreast, a Breast Cancer Paddler dragon boat team in Toronto, provides some healthy nutrition suggestions for before and after a dragon boat race in this article.

Post-Competition Recovery

We can’t skip one of the most important steps – recovery.

Many fitness experts say that recovery is just as important as the training you put in before a competition. It’s crucial to not overwork yourself and to give your muscles the chance to repair, rebuild, and strengthen.

Rest days and engaging in active recovery like stretching can help sustain and build your body’s capabilities.

Check out this video that Katie McGrath uploaded that features some great stretches to do after racing:


Just like before competing, proper nutrition afterward is equally important. Refer to the article above shared by Dragons Abreast for some recommended foods to eat after an event.

Some Additional Tips

If you’ve never competed in a dragon boat race before, we have a few additional pointers that will help you out on race day.

First, since you’ll be sitting on a wooden seat for a prolonged period of time in your dragon boat, we recommend getting yourself a butt pad (yes, a butt pad - they’re a lifesaver). This will help with ensuring your rear end isn’t sore after you’ve finished competing.

Second, to help with grip, we recommend getting some paddling gloves. In the boat, your hand will likely slip up and down the shaft of the paddle, and wearing gloves will help with this problem.


As we get closer to kicking off the dragon boat season, there’s never been a better time to put all of these tips into action. 

Just as we mentioned before, preparation is key to success in a sport like dragon boat racing. By implementing the advice provided, you’ll be on your way to finishing on the podium at your next competition.

Because let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to add some of this shiny hardware to their collection?