A light hearted look at swim coaching.

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Honest Swim Coaching.

Why do you recommend I start my race really slowly and build into it? ‘so I beat you.’

Why should I swim with my head in the water? is it more efficient? ‘yes and you will scare fewer people in the other lanes.’

Can I dive in please?  ‘sure or how about just throwing your goggles into that lane over there and save yourself the trouble.’

Why should I kick with a smaller narrower leg kick? ‘ so you don’t kick me when I am in the next lane.’

Can I learn breaststroke yet? ‘no because that really hurts me when you kick me from the other lane.’

Can I learn Butterfly yet? ‘I think we are going to need a bigger lane.’

Can I use my pull buoy? ‘yes as a pillow at the end of this 10k set’

What should I do? I forgot my fins and paddles? ‘not put them on.’

Can I do this length Kick? ‘ok but the pool closes at 10pm’

Can I do this last 100m as kick? ‘Ok I am back here on Tuesday.’

I keep drinking water through my snorkel! ‘there are cheaper options as straws.’

I think my snorkel is broken? ‘stop using it on backstroke.’

Sorry I am late – ‘that is ok, it is not my finish line disappearing further in the distance as you struggle to drag yourself into T1 from a disappointing swim that you have to explain to your family and deal with the sad disappointed look in your children faces.’

How much should I reduce my kick by? ‘stop washing the ceiling for a start.’

Can I wear an orange hat for this openwater swim? ‘at your speed not a good idea. Unless you want 000s of people swimming around you in the corners.’

So I breathe in when I turn my head to the side? ‘if you can do it any other way then you are moving onto the advanced course.

the get out swim-

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Coaches are devious creatures, engaging all sorts of tricks to get you to try a little harder, swim a little faster or further. This will be of interest whether you swim or coach and will offer an insight into the coaching mentality and the pressure created by swimming in a group. When the two of these combine and work well, you will swim fast….

Many years ago Coach would offer us a get out swim. We would swim Mon-Fri, 5:30am to 7:30am with the club before school. As a reward we might be offered the chance to nominate one of the swimmers to step up, accept a swim challenge and possibly get out 15mins early if said challenge was met or time beaten.

Many of our club records were set during these get out swims. The elation and joy of possibly leaving just 15mins early led us to discover depths of energy and strength previously not discovered enabling superhuman speeds. Often best times would be set that we struggled to beat in major competitions. With the others in the lanes watching and relying on you, the pressure built. With the chance to let everyone out early and shower longer, walk slower to school or eat more at breakfast it was a deadly serious business. Olympic trials qualifying times were made during these swims! it was a chance to perform and no matter how many 000s of meters just swum it did not matter. Fatigue was not an issue.

Along similar lines  I challenged out fitness swimmers with the following mainset knowing I would change the end option and see how they reacted. I am convinced that allowing swimmers to shape their own sessions encourages them to work harder. Or work appropriately to how they are feeling and yet find a way to dig deeper.

1×100 FC strong effort, 2×50 FC Stretch out recovery

repeat 2×100, 2×50, 3×100, 2×50, 4×100, 2×50.

The last block of work was going to be 5×100 also on 2mins

All were expecting it as i am quite predictable knowing how much I like a nice pattern! You can even see swimmers holding back on the 4×100 knowing what else is coming, you can see their pacing drop back a couple of seconds. Instead I offered a choice of the following after the 2×50 recovery.

6x 100 on 2:10, 5×100 on 2mins or 4x100m on 1:50. At this point the guys were pretty tired from the big block of work and I did not think the 1:50 option was likely. If it had been 3 some of them might have tried. Given the fatigue levels the 2:10 was my bet but once again I underestimated the power of group to get together, rally around and fight it out and not take the easiest option.

Often a mystery swim pops up to keep people guessing but this was a new challenge to let swimmers choose more distance with an easier interval, the predicted and expected set or a harder but shorter swim.

From a coaching perspective always mix things up, offer alternates, allow the swimmers some input into their set. Chances are they will work harder and you will all benefit. This block of work is named the creeper as it starts easy and the exhaustion creeps in. You could also make it harder by reducing the rest interval as the 100s go up.

1×100 interval 2mins

2×100 interval 1:55

3×100 interval 1:50

4×100 interval 1:45

5×100 interval 1:40

You could also go back up and make the set 3.4km which is a big block of work and ideal for Ironman. 1×100, 2×100,3×100, 4×100, 5×100, 4×100, 3×100, 2×100, 1×100 with the 2×50 stretch out between 100m blocks.

A group fitness session that is coached invariably gets you more excited to swim, to swim harder and faster. That is what we strive for within our sessions. The group cohesion comes together trying not let anyone get left behind. The camaraderie between the swimmers helps the group march forward into whatever I can throw at them. If you have not yet tried a fitness session with us come along and try it. Be prepared for devious methods to get you to try more and some enthusiastic peer pressure.








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So, this cold/head flu/chest infection thing dragged on for 3 weeks. For me that is unusual. Most years it is a one week of nose blowing and sneezing and then get back to it. If you are athletically inclined than being out of action is no fun. It is like the expenditure of energy through training creates more and leaves me buzzing. Similarly, the huge amount of effort needed to get out of bed early and get to the pool for an early swim leaves me amazingly wide awake and bouncing for the rest of the day. At least until 2pm perhaps. Is it real or is it just that smug sense of getting something done while others are asleep? maybe a bit of both. On the other side of the coin when I cannot train the fatigue grows, the general daily malaise festers and the negative thoughts of how much fitness I am losing compound. After a strong summer of openwater racing and events <60km plus of events raced> come September I thought I was in pretty good shape. Fri Sept 13th was my last swim session and it had gone well. We were two weeks out from the masters National shortcourse Champs and I had the 1500m entered. Sat 14th I had the scratchy back of throat sensation and had started sneezing. At this point I was ok about it since for as long as I could remember I was a one week ‘cold’ person that was easily shrugged off. 7, then 10days came and still I was not right and certainly not able to swim.

The following was useful from my recent SCIENCE OF ENDURANCE TRAINING AND PERFORMANCE course from the Uni of Kent. I don’t think this was written with swimming in mind though and you need to think carefully about what might be feasible, what might be actually useful and what will hinder your all important recovery.

The Road back to Recovery –This brief guide is based on the article by Ronsen (2005).

Day 1 -NO strenuous exercise (very light exercise (e.g. heart rate less than 120 bpm) is OK if only above the neck symptoms (e.g. sore throat, runny nose) present. NO exercise at all if symptoms are ‘below the neck’ (e.g. muscle/joint pain, headache, fever, generalised malaise)…. Remember, exercising with an infection can be very dangerous!!

Day 2 – If increased coughing (or any symptoms worsen) or if any fever: NO exercise! If no fever or malaise, no worsening of ‘above the neck’ symptoms: very light exercise (heart rate below 120bpm) for 30 minutes is OK

Day 3 – If symptoms persist, consult doctorIf no fever or malaise and no worsening of initial symptoms: moderate exercise (e.g. heart rate below 150bpm) for 45 minutes is OK.

Day 4 – If no symptom relief, NO exercise and see doctorIf first day of improved condition, follow the guidelines below for post-illness return to exercise

Post-illness return to exercise

Ensure you have had at least one day without fever and other symptoms before returning.

Ensure full recovery for each session before undertaking the next session (you will probably take longer to recover than before the illness). Stop exercise and consult your doctor if: New episode or worsening of initial symptoms, or if fever develops. Persistent coughing and breathing problems in response to exercise.

Gradually increase back to normal training (taking at least the same number of days spent off due to illness before getting back to ‘normal’ training levels).

Pay particular attention to your tolerance to increased exercise intensity and take an extra day off if it feels harder than usual.

Swimming well is a highly cognitive activity and if you are distracted with a foggy head, struggling to breathe, coughing and spluttering I wonder how much you are really helping yourself. You probably are not helping your swim advance in any way and it is unlikely to be assisting your recovery. Maybe some head up kicking with a float to ease the strain on your breathing if you are only suffering ‘above the neck symptoms.’ Sculling could work well at this point. This will keep you in touch with the water and reduce that clumsy mechanical feel when you finally do resume full training. I usually refer back to my Christmas example and how swimmers after 10-14 days out of the water despite feeling mechanically dreadful in the water they are not as bad as they think they are, once we have reassured them with video footage. Don’t rush back. You are not going to lose the full mechanics of your swim stroke in 2-3 weeks. Each day you try to rush back to reduce your fading fitness inevitably you delay your full recovery which only further lengthens the longer project of getting back to full training.

I would not swim with ‘below the neck’ symptoms as described in Day 1 and to be honest I doubt you could do much to enhance any area of your swim even if ‘only’ suffering with above the neck symptoms. Day2 – if no fever or malaise present then perhaps you could work on some yoga or prehab exercises to keep the body supple. Stretchcordz are a possibility which will have you reproduce the swimming arm actions but allow the HR to stay low and not restrict the breathing in anyway. Day3 – if no fever or malaise then 30mins gentle full stoke made easier with a pullbuoy and snorkel to keep the heart rate down and the airways flowing with no restrictions. Providing you were already comfortable with a snorkel in the first place. Day4 – if feeling ok then start the Post illness return to training as described above.

As I went through this process as much as I wanted it to be over and for me to be healthy I had to stop myself training. Going in too soon was not going to get me fitter or stronger. I could have practiced some drills but I wonder how accurate they might have been and surely I could be accelerating my recovery with the extra time resting and sleeping.

Activities for long term time out of the water.

Watch some swim videos. You can study and learn. Be inspired to return to the water. Competition admin! start to enter those races. Many are opening and filling. Henley just announced the date of the 14km swim. Order some new kit to replace old/tired/not shiny. An eventual return to the pool with new kit will help. Take as many positives to that first session as you can. At the least rinse and shine those tired goggles. Rose tinted?! Start an online diary/training plan/commit and get accountable, plan to swim x metres each week and hold yourself to it. The Speedo On app and website are very easy to make use of. Revaluate your nutrition and diet. Is there anything you can do better to avoid such incidents in the future? Do you carry hand gel? combined with more hand washing <soap and water> this can help as long as it is over 60% alcohol. Read up on some of the great Tri books out there. Especially mine and Steves! Maybe this is the time to finally plan that training camp you had been promising yourself for quite some time.

Rest and get your sleep. I once read that you need 7 days to get over a cold with antibiotics or 1 week without. If you catch something then let it run its course. Make the time productive in other areas. I actually got some of my Xmas shopping done last week thinking I would then be free to train in the run up to xmas! Let us see how that one works out.

Those who pee, those who swim….

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I recall pointing out a small technical point on a swimmer’s stroke during a warmup which I hoped if they could make the small modification would result in a faster swim. This was a good athlete who had been to Kona before and was hoping to go again. The session continued and after 35mins or so into our 90min Mile End fitness session we took a short break to prepare for the mainset. It is usual for swimmers to take a quick pee break, rest and chat or take a 50m easy swim. I noticed the swimmer who I had pointed out the tech issue to swim to the deep end and address the flaw with a simple exercise using the deep end wall. I was impressed. No chatting, resting or pee’ing for this athlete.

Last night another athlete just back from racing Kona attended our Kensington fitness session. So soon?! yes so soon. A short break after the race, the long travel trip broken up with a stay in the US but back in the water just a few days after landing in London. No one is asking for amazing performances, best times or huge volumes but staying out of the water for long periods is not healthy to your stroke or your feel for the water. Yes, there is such a thing and while ‘feel’ might sound a little mystical plain & simple the water can feel slipper or more solid depending on how familiar you get with it. One swim per week is 6 days of unlearning to swim. If you actually want to get faster you have to commit to 3 per week. Sorry! 1-2 per week is not enough, it might allow you to stay at your current levels but it is highly unlikely you will get quicker. Don’t undo all that good work from the previous 6 months by allowing yourself to resume after a lengthy break from a worse off position than where you finished the season. Build on it, year on year. There should be progression not a restoration of your usual ability from a deficit.

If you are a great Duathlete and have the potential to bike and run with your AG at Kona what do you do? start work on your swim with a two year plan as a good friend and fellow coach did. Of course you aren’t going to swim 30 mins quicker in a matter of weeks, but you might be surprised what can be achieved short term if a few glaring issues are corrected. Given enough time though it can happen. An extra 45min swim per week, 2km, 25 strokes per 25m which hopefully should come down for 2 years is a potential 5million strokes that can be put to good use. Finally, you might cure that bad kick, inability to breathe to the left, lift the head too high, dropped elbow, straight arm push down etc etc.

There are those who talk about going to Kona and those who actually will race it. Those who do the extra little things to practice, to improve, to commit and really achieve their dreams. I was pleased to learn that after getting up pretty early 2-3 mornings per week one of our Para swimmers has qualified to swim for England at the Cerebral Palsy championships in Barcelona next year. Leo lives in Putney and gets to the LAC, Stratford for 6:30am via the train system. Ok it isn’t Kona but we are excited about Barcelona.

Have you asked yourself where will you be swimming next year? what will you do to get there?


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During the current fortnight you might have been asked to swim as far as possible in 10mins and record the distance. If not this week then certainly next week at the SFT fitness sessions. This is so that the coaches can nip off and refill coffee cups from next door. Along with this though there are some other benefits….


Would you favour a race that offered a fast swim? Or avoid it since you were not being tested over a true and fair course that you paid for? Should you even be caring about your OW swim times when in fact positioning would be more important since conditions will be similar to all on race day? Surely ‘time’ progress should be measured in the pool where conditions can be controlled. If your swim times in OW are significantly slower then pool based swim tests then granted you should look at your OW skills and ability to swim straight. If you are not testing yourself regularly in the pool then going back to your coach and saying ‘I am just not getting quicker in OW’ then this is probably going to leave all parties frustrated as the following will reveal it is not easy to compare OW swims.


A necessary part of recording and checking your progress is to test yourself on a regular basis with benchmark sets in the pool. Tests could include Timed swims, measuring stroke counts, taking Golf scores, working out your critical swim speed or performing a Step test. Parameters should be kept identical down to the smallest detail. Ideally perform the test at the same time of day, same length pool and have a similar warm-up before the set. Testing on a fairly regular basis should be a key part of your training. Many triathletes know their VO2 max, most would know their resting HR and average speeds for their 10mile bike TT or a 5K run. However, we should also be familiar with our best efforts in the pool.


Measuring these improvements allows us to rebalance the levels of drills and fitness sessions in an overall training plan. When technique measurements are improving then we maybe able to relax some of the pure drills sets and add fitness sessions. If the fitness benchmarks are not improving then I might suggest relaxing off the fitness sets and adding some more drills sets.

If you feel you have not been improving then recording and keeping a set of meaningful data is essential. Your comparisons need to be personal – not just comparing against others, which do not provide a real constant. The general speed of the group in your Triathlon or Masters swim session may have moved on massively and to still be ‘stuck’ in lane 1 is not a failing on your part.


Recording your own set of tests, taking your own measurements and charting them monthly or per training cycle needs to be done otherwise you will have no idea of how you are progressing. It is only this kind of strict and accurate measuring that can really gauge whether or not you are improving. Comparing one open-water swim to another or even the same course from year to year is of very little use other then to be a rough guide. Currents, weather and variations to the actual course layout will have the distance change significantly and the potential time taken to vary massively.


If after charting your progress for several months and you note you really are not improving then questions can be asked. If you can honestly say that you feel your technique is holding together then maybe it is time to check how hard are you working. If you can ‘hang on’ to an even stroke count throughout a 400m swim then that is a great step forwards. The next step is to have the control and enough feel for the water to swim the same number of strokes per length regardless of speed. A decent male adult competitive swimmer in a 25m pool will swim 13-15 strokes per length regardless of their speed. They will still swim the same distance per stroke. Inefficiency will allow the stroke count to increase, not more speed. A higher stroke count will rarely equate to more speed only more tiredness.

Good technique gets you so far and needs to be good before moving onto more serious fitness swim sessions. There comes a time though when you need to work hard as well. Not to the extent your technique falls apart but you should be getting out fairly tired after the appropriate sets swum at the appropriate intensity. Speak to your coach about some of the usual swim tests that could be incorporated into your swim training.




Making the most….

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Making the most of what you got dealt. We could all be better, faster, lighter if if if…. I blame my short legs for so many things. Sitting down next to my old swim friend Mark Foster and we are the same height. It could have been me on Strictly doing equally as bad. I am usually the tallest guy when we are all sitting down on a  train or plane. I can see the confusion when everyone gets up to disembark and people are saying ‘hey where did that tall guy go?”  With a reasonable turn of speed for a distance guy and  great endurance since the 1500m was my event it was a shame the 10k Openwater was not available in 1992 when I was at my fastest. I am sure it would have been my event.

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.
-Shel Silverstein

So when it comes to training this Winter have a  think about making the most of what you have. Is something really stopping you? Could you build on what you do have?

Maybe you don’t have a 6 litre lung capacity but you could train more effectively breathing every 3rd in order to race relaxed every 2nd with a balanced stroke. Your VO2 max not as high as you’d like? losing a few pounds would enhance it. Maybe you don’t have a 6 beat leg kick and a big sprint finish, which you don’t really need. But, you could work this winter so that you can swim faster than you can pull. Maybe you can’t bench press nearly 300lbs like Adam Peaty but you could ensure both your left and right arm perform the same movements, take the same pathway under the body with the same angles at the elbow and accelerate at similar rates. Sometimes it is easy to see why you are not swimming in a straight line.

Your streamline off the wall might lack the flykicks of Phelps to 15metres but we should all get to the first set of flags before engaging the first arm pull. You might not have size 14 feet like the Thorpedo but turning yours in a little will help maximise the surface area are you do have. Big toes tapping, can you feel them lightly brushing? ‘On pointe’ will be well beyond most of us lacking Carlos Acosta genes but a little ankle flexibility could help our streamline. Ian Thorpe kicked a sub 5min 400m once upon a time, how about a kick that does not take you backwards being an aim this winter?

No, no, no, don’t clench and cup those hands, scooping the water with those little hand paddles. We want big hands, a few mm of daylight between your fingers and feel the body travel over the anchored hand. They are anchors not paddles, holding the water so the recovering arm can launch forwards as the body rotates.

You love your neoprene nappy you wear all the time but shouldn’t it be a crutch for that tired swim at the end of the week <post big bike ride> rather than your new swim technique that can’t cope without. It is highly unlikely a race in the UK will be non wetsuit next year but maybe. Many Ironman are. Austria, Switzerland and Germany often flag up. Why not prepare now for a non wetsuit swim and reap the benefits?  if you do get to wear it great! alternatively the stress if you can’t and not being prepared is the last thing you need with another 138miles to go. The latest wetsuits are coated in special layers to help minimise drag, why are you undoing this with a big ‘cycling’ leg kick?

It is nearly November, can this extended break really continue? Could you not build some momentum ahead of  the big inevitable break over Xmas. With the bike and run to factor in no we can’t swim six times per week but we can swim more than once. Surely?!


Be Like Eddie…

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I have just had the pleasure of spending a week on training camp with Septuagenerian Ironperson Eddie Brocklesby. She is planning on another IM event later this year so some swim, bike and run at Club La Santa seemed ideal. While many approached the last day tired and exhausted she got up early and went off and raced the local Mini Tri hosted by the facility. I wrote the following recently about Eddie and her amazing training routine that we can all aspire to at any stage….

The Ironman Swim,  Later in Life…

Swimming did not come easy to Eddie having learned late in life. After many years now working with Eddie on her swimming, I want to share the story of what went into turning Eddie from someone who did not really enjoy the swim into an Ironman Triathlete, tackling her fear of openwater, and getting her to (start to) enjoy her swim training.  In this time, Eddie has improved her swimming to the point it was possible to finish the swim in a strong enough position to bike very well, run well and compete in multiple IM events including Kona.

Natural Talent

Not really for Eddie! shoulders made of concrete were going to be a real hindrance to getting any kind of upper body rotation and arm recovery. Yoga and stretching as part of her regular weekly training were encouraged which would help mobilise her strong upper body. The strength needed to keep the trunk rigid while running, her first sport was impressive, but in order to mobilise and streamline we needed to add the ability to relax and increase her range of motion. Upper body rotation through the long axis of the body while keeping the head still took months. Eventually, with a lot of practice and the sort of determination that distinguishes Elite Competitors, these skills came and progress was made. What was lacking in natural talent was offset with tenacity. I have met few with such an appetite and desire to improve.

What needed to happen

The general drills program Eddie followed in her own time were restricting incorrect movements, encouraging correct movements and, perhaps most importantly, interrupting the “auto-pilot” movements that had been creating inefficiencies and slowing her down.

  • Pushing down on the front hand to lift the head out of the water when breathing
  • Scissoring the kick when trying to increase rotation
  • Slow dragging legs that were not contributing to the overall stroke.

She was moving from the stage of “unconscious incompetence” towards “conscious competence”, which required a lot of thought, effort, and diligence in creating correct pathways that reduced drag and created propulsion.

At this point, it was not possible for Eddie to contemplate swimming as Active Recovery ie be able to go and have a nice relaxed easy swim to recover from a bike or run session. This is now becoming possible and a real breakthrough in terms of enjoying relaxed swimming. Preciously the act of swimming even very slowly was exhausting. She struggled with physical limitations and restrictions, as well as a lack of confidence and coordination in the water. The combination of physical and mental obstacles proved to be one of the toughest challenges to overcome.

What needed to stop happening

While friends, club coaches, and teammates all meant well with advice and suggestions, the information overload was hindering progress. Most swimmers learning good technique in their adult years find the process can be quite overwhelming and need to get their main technical coaching from one consistent source. That is not to say there is only one way to go about improving your training and that we have cracked it! Far from it but the issue is if many voices are adding comments at different stages of progression. This causes issues.

Dryland routines

The increase in weekly distances swum meant that certain body parts needed strengthening to cope with this increase. A dryland routine was introduced ahead of each session to mobilise key swimming muscle groups and start the warm-up sequence allowing her to enter the water ‘warm.’ Working with Annie, Eddies Tri coach has been a great help coordinating a full plan of attack on getting Eddie race ready.

Training in all weather and against adversity

You will see Eddie out on the bike and running year round in all weathers. You will also see her busy all over London involved in her charity Silverfit. What she squeezes into a day is breathtaking.  On the many training camps Eddie attends the amount of swim, bike and run she fits into a day is amazing. Recently after a 130km sportive to conclude our Italy training camp most celebrated with a beer. Eddie put on her run shoes and it was time for 7km of running. Choices and sacrifices. If you want to achieve, improve and accomplish it comes at a price.

I hoped Eddie would have the patience to see it through another winter and keep at it. Recently she rejoined the Mile End fitness Wed AM group for 90mins and 4km of swim fitness. It is an early start but she is there working hard in her lane. These group sessions including our Summer Openwater sessions keep her motivated, challenged and inspired. It was not easy to convince her that taking a step back now and again from her fitness sessions and work on technique would help in the longer term. Of course, she was not about to become unfit while biking and running so much, but it is highly counter-intuitive for someone with a Championship mindset to be told to step back a little, take it easy a little more, and be patient. Keeping track of progress and setting new challenges was key.

Results, Testing & Scheduling

I quickly learned that Eddie was keen on stats, such as knowing Resting HRs, weight, calories consumed, 5km PBs, foot cadence, etc. I developed a schedule so that even small degrees of progress were clear. At first, in a typical week, we juggled 2 pure drills sessions, 1 technical endurance session and a light fitness session. Stroke efficiency developed with this balance and, if the next test went well, we would bring it up to 2 fitness sessions and lose one of the pure drills sessions. If our efficiency measures stalled we would take a step back, talk about what was lacking or being lost in the stroke, devise a plan and continue. Even the fitness sessions I write contain 20-30% of drills, due to the technical nature of the sport.

2017 and onwards

I guess the best lesson we can draw from Eddie’s experience is that swimming is not a “one size fits all” sport.  You cannot mimic a good swimmer and expect to swim like them regardless of the assurances they might give that their new technique is wonderful. Given the fact that a large proportion of people new to triathlon are coming from either running or cycling backgrounds, and given that most of them have struggle with swimming technique, we can safely say that many of the things that Eddie has struggled with are common issues that triathletes of all levels struggle with. But, each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed effectively in order to see us become more complete, better performing triathletes who really can enjoy all three disciplines of the sport. I see another IM in Eddies future. Watch out Mexico.

Swimskin – yes or no….

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Do you have a non wetsuit swim this Autumn/Winter, Kona even? should you factor in a swimskin from the likes of….

https://www.blueseventy.com/products/pz4tx ??

When I went to watch Kona in 2015 everyone was in the Roka suit but they were loaning them out to trial so not conclusive.

Swim skins are designed to obviously go over a tri suit for the swim section of your race which will streamline a two piece tri suit and probably help over not wearing one. Over a one piece I am not so sure so factor that in as to what you might race in. The saltiness of the water off Digme Beach/Kailua Bay was very impressive as we floated around drinking coffee handed out from one of the sponsors boats so for sure do not stress too much about it being non wetsuit.

You obviously take a swimskin off in transition which takes a bit of time so add that in to the eqation. Supposedly they are hydrophobic so you swim faster but most tri suits aim for this as well and are hardly full of drag in their own right. Some more compression might help if you can get it on tight enough but again it then gets harder to take off. They are not allowed neoprene so no buoyancy.

Some swear by them and use them all the time in Non Wetsuit swims. Since Speedo do not make one I have not really tested all the claims of speed gains and can only go on feedback. Most positive feedback I have had came from Women who might struggle in a tri suit only <if they have a small waist> as water might gather in the lower back. With two suits on and the outer one tight it might stop the lower back area filling. Not 100% conclusive but perhaps something less likely that men would suffer as much if waist bigger. So anatomical considerations as well!

Sorry there are a lot of ifs/buts with this

I used to use the Sailfish version years ago but that had neoprene in it and helped massively. Probably in the grand expense of Kona it is a small extra amount but it all adds up I know.

As for justifying the expense I also think it helps where you might, time wise, be exiting. If you can make a breakthrough to sub 1:10 it will help massively. The usual peak exit of an IM at 1:20-25ish now becomes 1:10 as it is the worlds and most complained how scrappy/violent the swim is at this timeframe.

Goodluck whatever you decide and I would appreciate any feedback on your experiences.

River Dart10k Swim

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Dart 10km


Finally, a swim that fully went to plan this season. I last swam at this event in 2015 and recorded 1:59. You should not really compare swims like these from one year to the next but it is nice to just flat out be quicker and enjoy it come what may. However, rainfall, tides and positioning in a very wide river all make for completely different events. I use the word event rather than race as when Kate Rew initially came to me with the idea of a 10km river swim many years ago <I helped write the training plan on the OSS website.> it was to be a fun, enjoyable mass participation event quite unique in its approach. If you have seen the swim exit on a sunny day with the deck chairs and cheering crowds you will know what I mean. Think village fete rather than swim race. However, you cannot help feel that there is a competitive element between the two days wondering who had the best conditions or the strongest currents. This weekend just gone a little breakdown suggested Sunday was the harder day or the least assisted. The following show the number of swimmers who swam –

Sub 2 Hrs         Sub 2:10          Sub 2:30

37                    89                        344 – results from Saturday

15                    42                         180 – results from Sunday

Not conclusive by any means but interesting. It might have been that the overall quality of swimmers on Saturday might have been better but at the other end of the spectrum the 600th swimmer was 2:50 on Saturday and 3:23 on Sunday, with over 1300 swimmers finishing.

You also have the interesting idea of what time you depart impacts your swim. The tide looked to be turning at 9am yesterday, the River at the start area in Totnes was extremely static. Those leaving at this time would have had less help at the start compared to the Elite wave leaving at 10am. I swam in the Fast wave departing at 9:45 and the Elites went off at 10am. 6 from this wave beat me so was pleased to have been quickest on the day from my wave.

I was pleased to be 4mins quicker than in 2015 but I try to measure my swims a little more internally to check on progress and see how I did. Openwater is many amazing things in terms of swimming but what it is not is accurate when comparing distances, events and performances from year to year or even day to day. So many factors to consider, so many contributing factors beyond your control and some within. I was pleased to get so many within my control right this race and some of those out of my control not playing a part having had an upset stomach at London Docks, goggle malfunction in Oxford, tired arms in Sheffield and Camping woes at Henley!

I was testing a new 2018 sleeveless wetsuit for Speedo so was keen to put that through its paces. I only had a brief chance to swim in it the previous week so this was a risk but minimal as I know the products intimately. Fuelling was also going to be critical to get right. Swimming hard for close to 2hours is very different to swimming 6 x 1 hr steady with 5hours rest between each swim as we did in Geneva. I took a Powerbar Hydro Gel as they settle quickly and don’t really need extra water just before starting, at the 4km food station and the 7km station. For events over 5km I usually like to carry my own supplies in the form of gels inside my wetsuit around the leg/shin area. They seem to cause no irritation there and I forgot about them once the race started. I fatigued heavily with 1km to go so may have just run out of energy but the weather deteriorated significantly at the end of the event so it might have just been a tougher swim at this point. Pacing for the most part was good, I saved a little for the end knowing when the River opens out it does get choppier and harder to navigate. I kept breahting under control knowing my HR was remaining sensible. The start was probably the hardest as it felt extrememly cold and I had to resist the temptation to speed off trying to warm up. The early KMs passed by and we were all keeping right but I was passing people form the earlier waves on their left trying to be considerate and staying within the channel marked out by the safey cover. I don’t think there was a single minute where I glanced up or breathed left or right and not see some form of safety cover. The OSS really have this aspect perfected.

I ‘only swam’ 10079m which considering how accurate the course is I am really pleased to have only added this small amount. Swimming any event for the second time is probably the best preparation you could ask for. Knowing approximately where the aid stations are going to be, where is half way, when you pass that particular boat ramp it is only 2km to go, what to look for in the distance when the river widens all helps. At times it is not easy to accurately get across some the larger openings so familiar landmarks will help.


Arriving at the finish to the deck chairs, the helpers, the hot chocolate then this suddenly becomes a real reminder about the true history of this event. It is all about fun, sense of accomplishment and comradery of all regardless of ability. I swam a similar time last year for the Coniston 8.5km lake swim to give you some idea of how much the current helps. This event is a great way to achieve the 10km badge of honour as a stepping stone to longer events if you are building up. Good luck in 2018 if you are contemplating entry. This is truly a classic on the openwater circuit.


Kona Bound….

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Swim Boo Swim….

I have had the pleasure of working with Boo for over 2 years now and helped her 1900m Half IM swim time come down significantly in the first year. A key member of the Hillingdon Tri Club it has not been easy to take all points on board while volunteer coaching and working a demanding job involving a lot of travel. It has been a long journey since we first met but finally it all came together at IM Sweden recently and Boo is now heading to Kona. Boo has worked tremendously hard on improving the weakest part of her Triathlon and I could not be prouder of her and pleased for her success.

If anyone promises fast results in the pool, be sceptical. It takes time, patience and diligent practice and when Boo arrived for her Initial consultation it was clear there was a lot to be done which would result in much quicker times.

Initial Consultation Early 2015 – Points from the lesson

Need to remain narrow – Currently swimming low & wide, minimal rotation.Warm up with Torpedo <5m off each wall> to elevate the shoulders, to help narrow the stroke. This will also nicely warm up the legs and remind them that they drive rotation. Not for propulsion

Catch up to float to reduce the cross over which is causing a side to side swim action.

Sculling brought the focus to the elbows and helped the catch by working on a fingertip to elbow paddle it also helps keep the water feeling more solid.

Use the central snorkel a lot now to help keep the head still

The hard bit is then convincing the swimmer that it is possible to improve if they put the time and practice in. It is years as a process for significant improvements depending on how far you wish to go. Not months especially when the aging process is against you <sorry Boo J .>

15 Sept 2015 – Club La Santa swim camp

Regular filming was allowing Boo to identify issues, feel when her stroke was good and how to adjust things when the stroke was not so good. Surfing the arms back up to the surface after entry was an issue and Boo could now run an internal diagnostic and check various stroke components and make the subtle adjustments.

You will see the Extension <superman> drill pop up in fitness sessions time and time again. A solid all round body position drill that helps many areas of the full stroke. If the hands are surfing up after entry this is a great drill to check their depth and know where they should lie – i.e. aim to enter and extend to parallel to the surface but quickly fade slightly down as if you were about to set an early catch position.

Avoid returning up to the surface in an attempt to pull more water, the exposed forearm will create drag and slow/fatigue you.

Add fins to extend the amount of drill swum and if not possible recall how it flows nicely into the full stroke. 

Hold the drill for 2-3 Breaths to one side then swim an odd number of strokes to take you back to the drill on the opposite side. This is a great way to perform the drill accurately if you cannot wear fins.

Early 2016 FITNESS WORK starting to develop.

As Boo’s technique started to hold together and improvements were being made we started to put the stroke under some pressure. Fitness blocks were added on camps and in lessons such as the following with the idea that swimming hard beyond 1900m in training would help race day be very comfortable, low stress and relaxed getting on the bike.

1x100FC with 30secs rest. 2x100FC with 20

3x100FC with 15, 4x100FC with 10

3x100FC with 5

4x100FC with 10, 3x100FC with 15, 2x 100FC with 20

1x 100FC with 30. The aim here was just to build the endurance for the 70.3 season.

13 MARCH 2016- 121 lesson.

Wake up the legs CHALLENGE – 200M LEGS -In an attempt to stop Boo dragging her legs along for the ride I challenged her to break 4mins for 200m FC with fins. We broke this up into

week 1 – 100m fast, rest 10 into 4x 25m rest 5

week2 – 4x50m, rest 10

week3- 2x 100m, rest 10

week4 200m for time.

These little time trials were added into usual tech sessions.

22 June 2016 – 121 lesson.

Race season. I love race season and get excited about tracking competitors progress on race day. Not being at a venue to assess conditions make it hard when you just have stats from the tracker. I might look at the pro results to get a feel for a fast or slow race, demanding conditions etc. when evaluating a slow or fast performance. 

‘Good luck this weekend, I am so happy you are now getting the success you deserve. A couple of things to think about….Just a couple of things!….

Think Narrow, add in some rotation, you have gone a little flat again which is causing snaking and low wide arms – avoid the cross over when rotation is reduced <low arms due to low shoulders – creating the inevitable low wide sweep>

Later Breath, watch the hand pass under the body and follow it into the breath with the turn of the head.

Xmas 2016

I have all the time in the world for swimmers who are dedicated and diligent.  

When someone asks me ‘do you think I can break x mins for y metres in the pool, in an Open Water race or in a Triathlon’ within reason I rarely say no. I can help provide the training and stroke improvements to get you there but you need to get to the pool, get your dryland shoulder strengthening done, stay healthy, rest well, eat well, slowly build volume and make sacrifices. By this I mean give stuff up to find time to do what you need to do.  Saying yes to you is the easy part but are you prepared to help answer your own question? So no Boo you did not drive me bonkers it has been easy guiding someone so determined.

31 March 2017


Another chance for filming, a chance to swim 1-2x per day in the pool and open water and really enhance that familiarity in the water. Once in a while a swim overload can be really useful to your progress. At this time, we were consolidating a great winters training and refining some technical aspects. Technique will suffer when you overload it with fitness but that is how you progress once your technique has been cured of a lot of the basic problems. You need to train it, hold on to it and polish it when it does fade as a result of a big fitness block. I love the concept of technical endurance for this aspect of swim training. One of my favorite sets we worked on was the following.

5x300m FC rest 30 – Tech Endurance Session1 normal FC when the lane rope is blue and white.

THEME- with the following ‘interruptions’ will shake up any standard 1500 swim.

1) Fists clenched FC when in the red zone, <5m into and off each wall>

2) Legs only in the red zone <arms folded on head as you push off, by your side as you finish a length>

3) No breather in the red (and you probably will be!)

4) Add fins but point them downwards in the red zone to feel surplus drag & work the arms harder.

5) Windscreen wiper scull off the wall. Pivot at the elbow, fingertips to the bottom of the pool, palms to push out to the pool walls then return to facing each other

As you can see a substantial amount of fitness but with lots of tech pointers interrupting a long steady swim where form no doubt would have suffered.

JULY 2017

Openwater – you need to swim in it, train in it and be ready to race in it. We know it is very different to pool swimming and confidence, the cold, navigating all make or break a good OW swim. From previous years Boo and I swam many Monday afternoons at Hyde Park checking her tech improvements in the pool were transferring across to OW. Everything was falling into place and Boo was starting the season with some early season events. There is nothing quite like some low key OW events and Triathlons to help practice and work hard with less stress of things going wrong in a key A race.

On the big day in Sweden Boo was familiar with the location having raced in 2012 and swum a 1:31. She was not massively quicker this time but conditions were different and exiting in 2012 she only beat 4 others in her AG out of the water. In 2017 only 5 were quicker this time as she swam 1:24 and headed onto the bike in great shape. See you in Kona Boo.