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Anna Herber

A Swim for Tri Session Breakdown

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This is a lighthearted look at a coach/swimmer dialogue during one of our fitness sessions. Most days we add a mainset to social media that we may have swum at one of our fitness sessions. You can find these at #weswam on FBInstaor twitter. The following should help you read the swim sets.

Listen carefully! I will say this only once!

 Coach Dan– ‘Ok swimmers your warm up is 200m swim, 150m pull, 100m drill, 50m kick, that’s 8 lengths, 6, 4 and then finish with 2 if you prefer to work the old fashioned way as we are in a 25m pool. The pattern is SPDK, swim, pull, drill, and kick if you need help remembering. SPDK. I am here on poolside if your stroke feels a little out of sorts, let me know before the drill option and I will cast a quick glance and offer a relevant drill. Once you make it through this 500m we follow a similar pattern but lose a little distance. Lets go 150m Swim, 100m Pull, 50m Drill so that’s Swim, Pull, Drill you know the pattern by now, SPD, but a new drill please. Can’t think of two drills then ask me? Finish that and its 100m, 50m Swim; Pull finishing with another 50 Swim. I want you fully warmed up before today’s main set.’

But that’s a 1000m warm-up coach, 40lengths if you still like to swim the old fashioned way. If I make that including that huge 50m of kick what chance of coping with the main set do I have? Where do you want the pull buoy when it comes to the pulling? Normal position or down between the ankles like I remember you mentioned recently? Engage the core more was it? Sounds tough. Can I suggest a 3rdchoice as to where I would like you to stick it. He won’t notice if I sneak those fins on for the kick will he?


Coach Dan– ‘Next up we are going to swim 12x25m on the black line down the centre of each lane. I would like to see 10m of great speed as you depart each wall and then 15m of great FC tech as you reduce speed and swim to the wall. First swimmer pushes off when the last swimmer in the lane arrives. LIFO. We will get the HR up and get you ready for the main set. Can I see evidence of a leg kick please soon after a great streamline off each wall? Squeeze those ears with the upper arms, squeeze the legs together, point the toes. Push off looking like a starfish and you will swim like one. Take advantage of the option to swim down the middle. Watch where the hands are sending you when you set up your pull, sweep too wide in either direction and the hands will not be helping you travel forwards. Pull the hand backwards in a relatively straight line and you will go forwards.’

Ah yes my most favourite aspect of Tri swim training, the opportunity to swim continually at one speed and get yelled at for not changing pace. How about if I just kick my legs harder, make some splash yet not necessarily go any faster but just look it. I wonder if that will fool him? If I streamline long enough hopefully I will get halfway down the pool and then won’t have to swim that hard, he won’t have thought of that will he! What does it even matter if I am on the black line or not, there won’t be one on the bottom of the Serpentine.

Coach Dan– ‘Close those eyes for a few strokes, then reopen are you still over that black line? Is your stroke keeping you straight? When it comes to racing all you have to keep you straight is your stroke or excessive sighting. Your stroke should keep you straight; sighting should keep you on course. What happens when we lift the head too often? The hips sink and you will slow down. Yes even in a wetsuit this happens I am sorry to say. Two swimmers racing at similar paces? The one that sights more often will be slower.’

Its like he can read my mind, I guess he will see though the splashy leg idea as well so I perhaps had better try to up the tempo a little. You know just to keep him quiet a bit. Now was it more strokes for more speed? Spin them a little faster? That seems to be helping, its certainly tiring but I am not getting any quicker down this length, those other two guys either side of me are pulling away. How about accelerating the hand under the water after a good strong anchoring in position, hold the water then pull the body over it. If that works then I guess the over the water bit kind of happens regardless. How do I hold it? Ah yes that’s better, fingertips down, palm facing the wall I’m swimming away from. Now I can feel the back and shoulders getting involved.

As hard or as easy as you like

Coach Dan– ‘Our main set is going to be one of those nice long FC swims that you can make as easy or as hard as you like. I am not going to suggest a pace or a target all I am looking for is even swimming throughout. Let me suggest you do in fact start out nice and easy. The increase in swim volume and limited rest will feel quite testing in the latter stages of this swim. In the opposite fashion to the warm-up we are going to add 50m with each swim to a starting point of 50m. The rest period is only 15secs rest and as you increase each distance the aim is to remain at the same pace. Swim 50secs for the first 50m and you then rest 15 and depart on 1:05. The next distance is 100m with an aim of 1:40 and an interval of 1:55. 150m of FC then follows with a target of 2:30, interval of 2:55. This pattern repeats to a final swim of 500m for a total main set of 2750m. Note at what point you start to slip from the 50sec per 50m and keep that in mind or note it down post session so we aim to go beyond that next time.’

This sounds like a trick, start out nice and easy, who is he kidding. How will he let me off with that? I wonder just how slow I could go. OK it seems that first 50 was not as slow as I would like. Been holding 55secs throughout so far, and am now at 3:40 for the 200m. Oh I just wish there was more rest. How can I keep on this pace yet make it easier? What was some of that crap he’s been lecturing me about? Ok well I am pushing off each wall gasping so perhaps I could streamline that a little more? Stop breathing upward to the ceiling, as I know that left arm is pushing straight down to the bottom. Come on, get those fingertips down and push backwards. Oh yes that’s it, pivot at the elbow and suddenly that’s easier. Great, hit 4:30 for the 250 that’s a little bit quicker then that 55 pace and my HR dropped a fraction.

Coach Dan– ‘Well done that one was quicker, don’t let it slide now, you still have quite a few swims left and they are getting longer, make each turn count, make each pull count, every breath, get that air out underwater, get that head turn into the breath a little more quickly and get the head back to neutral as soon as you can. If your head is moving unnecessarily then the body is following. Keep the shoulders submerged waiting in the shallow end as soon as you finish the next swim, keep drinking, get your rest, I know it is not much but conserve. It’s the 300 next, we are hoping for 5:30 next swim or better. This is sub 70min IM pace if you do want to start thinking about how this might relate to OW next year.’

Sub 70min eh? That wouldn’t be too bad I could live with that, maybe even sneak a 65 with a wetsuit, that would get me out in the top…. whoa what the what’s up with my legs, oh stretch, stretch, stretch please cramp go away not now I am on pace for something special. Please calf, please release and let me go. I promise I won’t run before swim practice next time.

Coach Dan– ‘What’s up? Twinges in the leg? Calf or arch of foot? Wriggle it, stretch it out continually in these rest periods, and try to stop it from getting any worse. Be gentle with those push offs from the wall, you are streamlining nicely but it is putting that region of the leg under some stress. If it goes again then pick up the pull buoy and try to continue. Keep up with the fluids, you are unlikely to be dehydrated but remember you will be sweating in the water during this type of set. Did you run to the pool today?’

Ok that calf is under control and I am back on it, just the 450 and 500 to go, good grief it’s getting harder. How much further? Come on now, keep that breathing under control, I’m trying to breathe to both sides but the air just isn’t coming quickly enough. If I stick to one side though that bloody arm collapses and pushes down. How about if I breathe to one side for one length then swap? Surely that will keep him happy? The arm feels better at least. Oh that’s slower, stop daydreaming and focus, I need to get back on track. If that arm pushes down then that leg kicks out. Keep the kick small, how many times does he have to say that for it to stick? Ok I can get back on track with the second half of this swim; there we go that was a 55, can I hit 8:15 for the 450?

add paddles

Coach Dan– ‘Great main set ladies and gentlemen, nicely worked, please can we start a cool down as 300 FC swim nice and easy. I would like to see the first 100 with paddles, fins and snorkel into 100 with fins and snorkel finishing with a final 100 with snorkel. Rebuild the FC tech if it is has deteriorated during that tremendous main set. Chances are it will, that is the idea, put the stroke under some pressure and see how long it holds together. It will not remain perfect at some of those intensity levels you will have been striving for.’

So tell me how do I rebuild my stroke? It feels like it has been dragged through a hedge backwards. Ok the fins are helping, the paddle is making it easier to hold onto the water and I can feel the body travelling forwards and over. Thank goodness for that central snorkel, I need that air. So I let these toys do some of the work and artificially prop me up. Ok that makes sense. I guess it make sense to get back to where it was so that I carry it into the next session. I can feel that paddle helping the hand anchor into the water, the fins helping drive the body over the hand. The snorkel allows me to keep the head still, that’s useful I can actually watch the hands, feel the rotation all without that constant interruption.

well done…

Coach Dan– ‘Well done squad that was just got over the 4km done, see you next time. Get your rest, get your recovery and look forward to the next session. Don’t leave it too long before I see you again.’

The student who made me want to coach

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At the age of 10 I was taken to my first early morning swim training session (a whole 3 minutes away!) by my parents.

I was woken with a cup of tea and I remember moaning about how early it was. Dad was great, and reminded me this is what champions needed to do. He was going to drop me off on the way to work and then Mum would pick me up afterwards with a mad dash to get ready for school. It was no real hardship and having learned to swim many years earlier it was a natural progression.

Fast forward many years and many medals later – coaching did not immediately appeal. As I retired and thought about what was next, after a wonderful 4 years of swimming in a US college, a scholarship to a private sports school and the opportunity to race around the world, poolside with kids at swim club did not appeal. Via the sport of Triathlon and the opportunity to help adults learn to swim faster a new challenge was presenting itself. Kids were a different entity and did not appeal, as was adults learn to swim. Adults learning to swim faster was not really an easy option and not many had explored this area.  Keeley and I started SFT for exactly this.

February 2018 and a young adult by the name of Eid approached me to help him learn to swim faster. Without knowing his full story I was intrigued that already he was pretty quick having only learned to swim a few months earlier. In fact so intrigued I double checked with some local swim teachers to see if I was being told the full story. A rate of progress from 0 – 3km in 4 months seemed fanciful. Apparently it was true – and then Eid’s full story unfolded. Not only had he only just learned to swim, he had to overcome the harrowing journey of fleeing his home country on a flimsy boat knowing that he could not swim if something went wrong.

Most mornings Eid gets to swim practice on a bus in the depths of winter. My swim upbringing could not have been more different, and my journey made easy by supportive parents. We have been happy to support Eid as best we can writing letters to the Team GB and the IOC, asking for sponsors, swimming and racing with other groups to give him the best chance. Last year the IOC announced there would be an IOC refugee status team in Tokyo.
For more information on Eid’s story you can watch more here:

United Nations website
Ch4 reported on his progress last month
ITV London last Friday

We hope Team GB supports Eid, since no British-based refugees were put forward for Rio 2016 and the IOC refugee status team. It is not a simple process, and despite the United Nations UK division getting involved we are not sure what might happen. There are no strict qualifying times. At the moment all we have to go on is what we have learned from a few websites and the results in Rio. From Wikipedia we learn that a number of universality places are awarded to what appears to be nations not strong in swimming (–_Qualification)

‘NOCs may also permit swimmers regardless of time (1 per gender) under a Universality place, as long as they have no swimmers reaching either the standard entry time.[1] 

From some of the early preliminary rounds Eid will get close to what some of these other people were swimming in Rio. It is unclear if the IOC ROT status team falls under this guideline?

Sub 30secs is our objective and with a solid winter of training I see that happening Spring 2019. Sub 28secs is possible in 12months if Eids current rate of progress is maintained. Just to confirm 12 months ago he could barely manage a length of FC. It is a remarkable rate of progress. Currently, Eid is swimming approximately 34secs for 50m.

Good luck Eid!

Swim For Tri’s Top 10 Tips for getting the most out of your swim coaching

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When you’re putting in the hours with your swimming lessons, you really want to make sure that you’re doing the things in and out of the water that are going to make the biggest impact on your technique.

Learning the secrets to stroke development and upping your swim fitness in our swim coaching classes is all good stuff. But when you put in the effort during the rest of the week as well, you really do start to see amazing results that take your technique even further.

At our Swim For Tri classes we really love watching our students improve over a course of 1 2 1 lessons. It’s all about the hard work and dedication, and the progress you see when swimmers finally head out for open water swimming speaks for itself.

Based on some of the attributes we’ve noticed in our most improved swim students over the years, here is our top ten list of practical tips and winning attitudes that help you get the most out of your swim coaching. If you’re going to do something then do it properly, and advancing your swim technique is no exception!

1) Arrive on time

Arriving on time really is crucial. Not just so you’re not wasting your money and enjoying a full class, but also if you make a point of arriving a little early it really helps you to get your head in the game. When you arrive in good time you’re in a much more relaxed mental place, which means you can really work on your stroke technique and enjoy an unhurried class. Park the day’s stress in the locker room, and take a moment just to breathe and collect yourself. This will help you focus on your swim more.

2) Don’t forget your spare goggles

The thing about goggles is that they always seem to break just when you need them. We would highly recommend having some spare ones kicking around at the bottom of your gym bag so you don’t have to waste a session if the worst happens.

3) Do your homework

Time and time again we see incredible results from our students who commit to doing their homework, and do it regularly. When you’re paying for swim coaching you’re often booked in for just 1 swim per week, which means you have 6 days out of your week unlearning how to swim. Beat this formula by keeping your head in the game even when you’re not in the water, and get the homework set by your swim coach done and dusted.

4) Listen to your coach

Perhaps we would say this, but you should always listen to your coach and avoid overanalysing and complicating your practice with an onslaught of swimming technique information from Youtube or elsewhere on the internet. A professional coach will be drawing on years of experience as well as real life knowledge of you to give you personalised advice, so sometimes it’s best to trust in your coach and follow their advice to the letter.

5) Swim a full length

Don’t be a lazy swimmer! Try not to glide in to the pool edge, or stop early. When you think about all the swimming distance you’re skipping out on by cutting corners it really does add up over a year, so swim your full lengths and make the most out of your time in the pool.

6) Start each length with a great streamline

Start each one of your lengths in the pool with a really well executed streamline to set up an accurate length of swimming. It’s worth getting this piece of technique right to benefit your swim in the long run.

7) Be positive and realistic

When you’re learning something new it can feel like an uphill struggle at times, but keeping a positive attitude in mind means that putting in the effort it takes to vastly improve will be a lot easier. Remember that you can always improve – everyone can – but it will take some time. Be realistic and be prepared to put in the work to get to where you want to.

8) Invest time and reap the results

Improving your swimming technique is like learning a language or a musical instrument – the more time you put in the faster you will improve. Time invested wisely with good instruction from a great swim coach will result in huge improvements. Think about the amount of driving lessons it took to pass your test, and then how much longer it takes to really relax as a driver. It’s all about the week in week out effort and commitment to really get the results you want to.

9) Be mentally present

Having a bit of focus in your mind regarding your swim practice is one of the best things you can do to make all of these different elements slot into place. Prepare yourself mentally for your swim coaching by arriving with plenty of time, keeping a positive attitude, and psychologically committing to the process of improvement. Keeping a clear head in the water and being in the moment will have huge benefits for your stroke technique too.

10) Enjoy yourself!

Finally, our most important tip has got to be make sure you’re enjoying yourself! Remember to have fun with your swim journey. We’re much more likely to be disciplined and committed to physical activity practices we really enjoy, so make sure you’re appreciating how your body feels after a good swim and giving yourself a pat on the back for your achievements when you notice those improvements.

Thank you for reading this blog post about getting the most out of your swim coaching, we hope you’re getting all that you can out of your swim sessions.