Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Training to fly

Training. It's not what most people think of when it comes to paragliding...I mean, it's not like preparing for a marathon.  Or is it?  The ideal way to train of course, is to fly.  There's no denying that anyone's flying improves with consistency. But with work, weather and access issues (i.e. no driver) it's not always possible.  So can you improve your flying when you have limited opportunities to get into the air?

I think it is. The mental game is being discussed more and more in our sport. Top pilots openly discuss meditation and visualization as being beneficial, and National Team members in a number of countries have access to sport psychologists. 

Then there's the physical side. For years we'd joke that paragliding was a lazy sport...after all we usually drive to launch and then just sit around in our harnesses while flying.  With longer flights (6+ hours in the air is not uncommon) and competition pilots flying with heavy ballast to increase their speed, physical training for paragliding is no longer laughed at.  Just ask all the pilots who have taken up Cross-Fit over the last few years!

In 2010 I started flying tandems and my solo flights diminished each year as my weekends filled with taking others on joy rides (which is fun for me, but uses a different set of skills than solo flying).  This has left me feeling quite rusty when it comes to my current paragliding skills above and beyond the basics.

My goal is to find a way to get back to a higher level of flying fitness, but can I accomplish this without having a lot of airtime?  I love reading and between my collection of fitness books (from my days as a personal trainer) and mind set books recommended by other competition pilots, I'll be able to design a training program based on my established skills and see what improvements I can make. Plus I have a bunch of theory books to read on those endless rainy days, so why not try?  It's not like getting into shape and improving my focus will be bad side effects if this doesn't help my flying!

I'll share what I learn in case anyone else is curious about this side of the sport.  For instance, a hint from "50 Ways To Fly Better" when talking about speed-to-fly theory (page 98 if anyone has the book & is following along) is to notice the thermal strength when you enter, and then ride the thermal until it slows again and you hit that same number on your instrument (i.e. exit at 0.5m/s if that's the rate you entered at).  On an ideal day you would then glide full-speed to the next thermal and if you hit it at  2m/s and it gets stronger, you could leave when it slows to 2m/s again knowing the next one should be the same strength.  Since I tend to only look at my instruments to see my ground speed, I'm going to focus on this on the next flight, and learn more about how to actually use all the information I can get out of these fancy flight computers.

Task 1: Pay Attention to Your Instruments

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