Tag Archives: coaching

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

I posted the other week about going From the Sublime to the Ridiculous as I returned from swimming in the lovely, warm waters around Crete to swim in the less lovely and certainly less warm waters of Salford Quays.

This post charts a journey in the opposite direction.

One of the things that the SwimTrek holidays do is a video analysis of your swimming stroke – which tips and pointers about how you can improve. When I first had this done in April 2014 it was the first time I had ever seen myself swim. To be honest I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I couldn’t really spot all the faults.

However, revisiting it, it’s clear that I over-rotate on one side, and hardly rotate on the other; that I have a ‘limpy’, single-side breathing stroke; that my catch is weak; that I lift my hands in the reach. In short, it’s a clip of someone that can swim, but it’s not a great, technical stroke.

I can’t be too disappointed with it though – it got me down the length of Windermere, on two occasions.

Since that second Windermere swim I’ve had some proper coaching of my stroke by the brilliant Ray at SwimCanaryWharf. Part of Ray’s method is to film your stroke, so I’ve seen a lot of it since the film above, but it was still good to see it again, in situ when I was filmed in Crete.

Of course I could spot some faults and get picky about it, but in truth the difference is like night and day. Previously I looked like someone that could swim, now I look like a swimmer!

I still have a tendency to lift my left hand so my palm is facing forwards, I don’t kick enough and I am too slow on each breath – and so I’m going to keep working on those elements. But equally, I’m delighted with the improvements.

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Bilateral Breathing

When I first got back into swimming in 2012 my plan was always to train myself up to be able to breathe bilaterally. I always considered that to be part of what constitutes a ‘proper’ swimmer.

So I’d try – and I would really try – but I just couldn’t master it.

It wasn’t so much the breathing part – I could always technically breathe to both sides, it’s just that when I breathed to the right I couldn’t seem to swim at the same time. I seemed to lose all momentum and power and as much as I worked on it I just wasn’t getting any better. So after a couple of weeks of diligently working on it I’d give up again.

Then when I did the Channel Relay I noticed that all the swimmers in my team only breathed to one side during that swim (even Mike Read, the king of the Channel). My attitude then was ‘bugger bilateral’.

Until now that is.

Unfortunately during the first technique session with Ray from SwimCanaryWharf there was a misunderstanding and I thought that he had said that bilateral wasn’t important. However, during the second session he was disappointed that I wasn’t breathing bilaterally during normal swims (ie when not working on the specific drills). So this morning (the first chance I’ve had to swim since I saw him last week) I committed to breathing bilaterally.

And I can do it!!

With just two coaching sessions (and me working on some drills myself) I can do it. It was clearly all to do with the way I would ‘lean’ on my right arm as I was swimming and now that this is better (but by no means perfect yet) it has freed me up to be able to breathe bilaterally.

Not only that, but this morning’s swim felt wonderful and relaxed and I swam with a sense of perpetual motion and not a ‘limpy’ hard working stroke.

I’m feeling really confident about the changes this will make to my swimming overall.

– – –

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Big lad love

I went to a friend’s wedding a few years ago and I was honoured to be asked to be an usher. As the other usher was the bride’s brother I was then included as part of the wedding party and wore the ‘outfit’ – you know the morning suit and hat etc.

It was a lovely wedding and a lovely day for everyone.

However, it was a bit confusing for the wedding photographer.

After the service he wanted to get lots of photos in front of the church, so in his slightly camp South Yorkshire accent he organised everyone:

“Right then, let’s have the bride here – doesn’t she look lovely everyone? And the groom can stand next to her.
Ok, let’s have the bridesmaids around them… oooh gorgeous.
Now then, the parents and the brothers and sisters… ah beautiful”

And then he looked round to make sure he’d got everyone and he saw me. I was wearing the outfit, I was clearly part of the wedding party, but he had no idea who I was. A slight panic crossed his mind. I probably needed to be in the photo, but how did he ask me to join the group.

“And you… erm… big lad love, you go and stand at the back.”

By a certain group of friends I’m still occasionally known as big lad love.

I mention all of this because last week I went to get some swim coaching. I want to use the winter to work on my technique so that I can reap the rewards as I start to swim outdoors again next summer. I went to a great guy down in Canary Wharf and we had an hour of assessment and filming and drills in the endless pool. But at one stage, early on in the session, while watching a video of me swim from a head-on position he said to me, “you’re a big lad, but that’s a small hole in the water.”

It immediately reminded me of a camp wedding photographer in Doncaster.

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Annoying football coach

My son’s football coach is really starting to annoy me. Every Saturday morning I bring my son down for the coaching sessions and nearly every Saturday I leave annoyed.

My son really enjoys football (and still enjoys the Saturday morning sessions fortunately), but I’m not biased enough to believe that he is blessed with any natural ability. He tries hard, he runs hard and he’s willing to learn.

So when the coach sets up a skills session to work on a particular aspect of the game there’s no point him just getting exasperated if the kids don’t get it right. Instead he needs to walk them through it, explain what it is they are learning, tell them why this is important, let them have a go and then remind them of all of the above if/when they don’t get it right.

Then when they’re playing a game at the end try to make sure that all the players are involved – and that my son actually gets passed the ball now and then.

GRRRR

Ok, rant over.

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Terrible swim, great chat… Masters

On Monday I got into the pool just after 7am for my regular Monday morning swim session, but to be honest it was hard work. I was still really tired from the previous week’s work and hadn’t managed to catch up fully on my sleep. It really made me realise just how important rest is in regards to all of this training.

I plan to do mini 1km sets at a threshold pace when I’m swimming these sessions. The plan is to keep to a 1:54 / 100m pace (1 minute and 54 seconds for every 100m swum). I managed the first two 1km sets, but setting off on the third I just didn’t have the energy.

I could have pushed through it, but part of the reason for being tired was because I was busy at work – and there was still plenty to do on Monday. So instead of keeping going and wiping myself out for the day, I called it a day.

By doing so it meant I had a few extra minutes to chat to someone who is a regular lane buddy. I see her and say hello, but even after all these weeks we’ve only just got onto first name terms – I’m usually too busy swimming and then rushing to work. But on Monday I had a few extra minutes and we chatted for a bit. Naturally the talk was about swimming and our stroke (I’m a bit choppy with my left arm apparently) and during that conversation she mentioned that there was a Masters session at my pool twice a week – I didn’t know that!

So last night I went down to my first ever Masters session – in fact it was my first ever swimming “lesson” of any kind. I don’t remember being taught to swim but I presume that my dad gave me the basics and I got on with it as a nipper, I certainly was never a member of a swimming club. So I was a little bit nervous at the start of the session.

In the end the session was a swimming club session for teenagers with one lane roped off for the old folk. It doesn’t sound like much, but as there were only three of us it was plenty. We started with a warm-up as the coach watched our stroke and then gave tips.

She actually said that my stroke was quite good – which was gratifying to hear – I just have to focus on reaching a bit further and rotating a bit more. Although I’ve never had any lessons I have watched swimmers and read a few tips and hints and tried to adopt the good habits into my swimming – it seems that some have sunk in. After the initial assessment we swam few drills (I’ve never used a pull buoy before, so that was interesting) and continued to receive hints and advice from the coach.

It wasn’t a particularly intense session, although the different drills helped me work on different aspects, but I really enjoyed it and got a lot from it. I’m going again tonight 🙂

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Coaches… Discuss

As I start to plan for next year’s events I’m trying to work out my training plan. Not only do I want to complete the challenges I’ve set for myself, but I want to do them as we’ll as I can. So I’m going to train and I’m going to ask for advice and tips. However, I’m not going to employ a coach.

In the lake I trained in this summer I would hear a lot of the triathletes talk about their coaches and every time I heard it it sounded strange.
“My coach thinks that…”
“I’ve entered this event because my coach…”
“The training plan my coach has me on…”

The reason it sounded so strange is because it felt like they were abdicating responsibility for their own training. Don’t get me wrong, nearly all of them were faster than me – and I’m sure the coaches had a hand in that. But it still felt wrong.

If I was a potential Olympian it would be different. But at my age (nearly 40) and ability (not very good) having a coach feels wrong.

One of the things that gives me the most satisfaction about my swims this year is that I did them and I did it all. I worked out a training programme. I motivated myself. I planned which events to enter. And I made the decisions.

Could I have done it all quicker – almost certainly. Could I have done it better – no way. It was because I was doing it all that it was so special.

Do any of you have a coach? Let me know if you think I’m wrong.

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