Four of the Best Swim Drills for Triathletes
Most age group triathletes aren’t fortunate enough to have swum from a young age. In-fact a lot of triathletes haven’t swum at all until they decide to start triathlon. It seems to be the number 1 question I get from people when they first start triathlon… how can I get better at swimming?
Whilst my initial answer is to always ‘Just get in the water.’ You want to be in the water at least 3 times a week, maybe 4 if you really want to improve and get the muscle memory process started. Swimming is one of the most frustrating disciplines for triathletes, as we often don’t see progress for months and months. Compared to cycling or running, we often see results much quicker.
Plus, who wants to go and swim by yourself? Who wants to swim in general when you can’t chat to your friends like you can whilst cycling or running? Who wants to get up in the freezing cold darkness at 5am during winter and jump in a swimming pool? Generally no one!
I heard an athlete say this morning before swim squad:
‘My stroke isn’t perfect, but it is efficient for me’
This particular athlete is a professional triathlete and swims easily off a 1.20 cycle. Yet if you saw the stroke, you wouldn’t see a perfect high elbow, strong catch, passed the hip technique like we’re all taught.
I absolutely loved this!!! It is a perfect quote that I think a lot of triathletes should take on board. Whilst I 100% believe that stroke plays a part, I strongly believe that just getting in the water, spending time in the water and getting stronger in the water will pay dividends over hours and hours of swim technique lessons (opinion).
Here are a few of my favourite swimming drills that you can incorporate into your sessions – I would recommend wearing fins it helps with body position and takes some pressure off the hips.
1. Catch-up Freestyle
- My number 1 tip for catch up is to think of the ‘train tracks’ make sure your arms follow the line of a train track. Make sure there are 4 kicks in between each stroke so you can really focus on a ‘strong’ pull through under the water. Keep the legs together when you breathe and breathe every stroke to work on evening out the hips.
2. Finger Tip Drag
- Exactly like it sounds. Do your normal pull through stroke then drag your fingers alongside your body until your head and back into the water. This drill should be super slow. Really focus on keeping on the hand right alongside your body.
3. Head-up Freestyle
- Triathletes really struggle with this and I believe it’s because it is where the hips sink and the deficiencies creep in. Lock the core in, keep your head looking forward not turning side to side with your stroke and kick hard! This drill is particularly important in the first part of a triathlon, getting a quick start and also helping your hip position when sighting in open water.
- I personally like athletes to have a pull buoy on for scull, as we tend to want to kick as we feel like we are going NOWHERE. But that’s okay. Again this is a slow drill and is about really engaging the first part of the stroke, which is the initial pull phase.
I have attached a few you-tube videos below that can be used to get a visual of what I am talking about.
However I like the 4 kicks in between as I feel it allows for more focus on the actual stroke and you can slow it down.
Progression of this video:
2. Finger Drag
3. Head up Freestyle
Good luck and happy swimming!
Ultraman Australia– 3 big days, 1 massive team effort
A personal blog entry by Coach Rich days prior to his attempt at the 2017 Ultraman Australia
For those who aren’t familiar, Ultraman is a 3 day stage race comprising of swim bike and run. It started in Hawaii over 30 years ago and this year will be the 3rd annual running of Australia’s edition held at Noosa Heads, Queensland. The distances are fairly heavy. The stages are comprised of as follows:
Day 1 – 10km swim + 140km Bike
Day 2 – 280km Bike
Day 3 – 84.3km Run
It is an enormous task, especially when we are going in trying to race not just survive. But not dissimilar to any task that seems too great, you break it down into smaller more manageable parts, tick them off and the overall outcome sorts itself out.
I should add, that Ultraman is invitation by application- so I feel very privileged to have been accepted to race this year. When I summited my application the only thing that genuinely concerned me was 10km of swimming. I had run over 85k a couple of times before, I felt my bike strength could handle the 420km of riding but goodness – I thought a 5km swim set was a long way – let alone 10km in the open water.
I chose this race for two reasons. 1) Personal retribution – I really wasn’t happy with how I performed in Kona last year. Not focusing on the result or time that I did, I just knew what I was capable of in training and the race did not reflect that. I made critical errors during the first half of the race which caused this, and is something that makes me grind my teeth a little whenever I think about it. So I wanted any opportunity in 2017, whatever that looked like, to have a race that appropriately reflects what I have been doing in training. 2) Timing – My wife, Lisa, is doing a 120km ultra marathon around Mt Blanc in Italy and France in late August this year so any sort of race needed to be in the first half of the year. This discounted a Kona return and anything past June due to her impending training load. So when the idea of Ultraman came to be, I thought it was a perfect fit for me and it satisfied the two reasons above.
The preparation has been amazing. It has brought be back to how I felt training for my first Ironman. Training hard, consistent and enjoying every minute of the process all while not really knowing whether you are fit enough or fast enough or what to actually expect during the event.
The swimming is what has surprised me the most. While I was in good form going into Hawaii, I still thought any set above 5km was far too long. Not only did my perception change over the last few months but my ability to hold form and maintain speed in the back half of 7/8/10km sets has been super encouraging. I found I almost go into a meditative state when swimming long – it will certainly be something I will miss after the race.
So my expectations… I am driven to have three consistent days whereby the performances do reflect my training. Throughout the weekend I also want to continue to represent to the T:Zero Collective that by living your potential, anything is possible. Set a goal, a massive goal, work hard, real hard and achieve that goal.
I am fit, healthy and ready to see how fast I can go over these 3 crazy days.
I have swapped between ‘us’ and ‘I’ a bit in this blog. It is because unlike anything else I have ever done, this has been the biggest team effort I have ever been apart of.
So, bear with me, the following people I would love to thank:
My crew - I never would have dreamed that we would have at team so selfless in supporting this singular goal for me. That team, my crew for the weekend, includes Scotty Farrell, Nick Quinn, Nick Rinaudo, Steve Wehlow, Brett Kerwick , Andrew Perry & Cam Cole. I feel so very fortunate to have so many great friends as crew to be there every step of the journey. They have been invaluable over the past number of months – not only giving up their own time for the race, but prior to the race, pacing me on course, meetings to go over race strategies, contingency plans, fueling etc. It has been ridiculous and I cant begin to explain how grateful I am to these 7 guys.
Nicki, Em, Tahlia, Nat and Kim – thank you for supporting me by allowing your husbands to crew this weekend. You are all mothers/expecting mothers – and to give up breakfast in bed this Mother’s Day so that they can sit in a car for 8 hours and help me – is remarkable. I truly appreciate it.
Jude, Scott, Karen, Wendy & Carol- Thank you to all of you for helping out with Ted and our little family generally so that this preparation could be done. It is a gross understatement that it couldn’t have been done without your help.
Lisa Spink – Swim coach extraordinaire – you didn’t need to take such an invested interest in this journey but seeing that you are a crazy ultra marathoner yourself, I can kind of see why you did. Thank you for everything you have done to get me this ready – it has been really enjoyable experience and my ability in the water has far exceeded my expectations.
My body maintenance team – Andrew Duff from Sports and Spinal Physio, Kirra and Michele from Queensland Diagnostic Imaging at Caloundra, Di Feldman, Ash Hunter (for the use of her Normies) and Vanessa Ng from Innovation Podiatry have all gone out of their way to get me on the start line. I wish that list wasn’t as long as it was, but I am so stoked that these guys are in my corner.
The previous champions – When you have no idea what you really are getting yourself into, you seek out the ones that do! I am very grateful for the time that Dave Kalinowski (1st Male in 2015 and current course record holder), Pip Holland (1st Female in 2015), Robbie Andrews (3rd Male in 2015) and Tony Bryan (9th Male in 2015) had all given me over the past few months to pass on every little detail they knew about their preparations and performance for Ultraman. These guys are all amazing people and so generous with their time.
The businesses – The following businesses have been with me throughout the training and I will absolutely be representing them with pride this weekend – Clif Bar, Rudy Project, Champion System Apparel, Xterra Wetsuits, Velo Service Course – Mooloolaba, Pioneer Cycling, Sunshine Mitre 10, Ausmar Homes, Hebel and Hebel CSR.
The T:Zero Family – To the T:Zero Coaches, the athletes who I coach, and the T:Zero collective – thank you for your inspiration each week – knowing we have a family of athletes and coaches around Australia all getting up early and embracing the grind to achieve great things is awesome and motivates me every day.
The Kerwick Family – you are both ridiculously incredible people who I am so fortunate to call close friends. Your outlook on life and how you deal with its ups and downs is simply inspiring.
My lovely wife, Lisa – 2017 was (and still is) meant to be ‘your’ year. Thank you so so much for letting me hijack some of the year to do this. You have been so supportive the entire way. Thanks for letting me share some of the trails with you (even though you crushed me on all occasions), thanks for taking the breakfast shift with young Theodore for the majority of the mornings each week and really, thanks for being you. You are brilliant and cool and goodness this is getting wordy – so ill wrap up here. Ox
So yeah – a MASSIVE team. The biggest feeling I have is an overwhelming sense of gratitude and it will be something I feel not only over the weekend but for a long time after.
No stone has gone unturned for this preparation. Logistics are sorted, the race plans (A,B and C) are ready…now its time to sit back enjoy the final day of rest before getting into it on Saturday.
Live Your Potential
The importance of the coach / athlete relationship
In the world of endurance training and racing, we as athletes rely on many relationships to support, guide and assist us on our path. We have supporter type relationships with our partners, friends, family and kids who pump up our tyres when they need inflating. We have relationships with our work colleagues who, even though they ask how the weekend was, are not really interested in hearing the ins and outs of the 5 hours ride (cue the glazing of eyes look). Some of us have curious relationships with our gadgets and technology and spend hours pondering the session and the number that have been crunched. Perhaps the most critical relationship we have, however, is with our coach!
At T:Zero the coaches believe wholeheartedly in the concept of ‘athlete centred coaching’ where the coach’s decisions and actions are executed with the athlete in mind. This means all coaches employ a style of coaching that adapts to the athletes needs, while creating a supportive environment that empowers the athlete. T:Zero is determined to promote the athletes learning through ownership of their training, developing awareness of the session goals and taking responsibility of their training to reach their goals and potential! This is why each athlete has their own unique training program that is carefully designed around their needs, abilities and goals as opposed to producing a cookie cutter program that does not support the T:Zero philosophies and ultimately does a great disservice to the athlete.
Ironman University has developed the notion of the 3 C’s of coaching, those being compatibility, communication and commitment. These 3 C’s are critical to the success of the relationship and are worth exploring deeper.
Compatibility is critical and is largely based on cooperation and effective interaction between the coach and athlete. Research supports the notion that an athlete’s self-confidence is increased when the coach and the athlete have similar values, beliefs and approaches to training. This is why new athletes are carefully matched to T:Zero coaches to ensure there is a strong linkage in values and direction in the first instance. When you have compatibility between a coach and athlete there is a shared learning experience where the coach learns what the athlete needs and what they want from the coach and the athlete learns the science behind the training and ultimately about their own performances.
Coaches must learn how to coach athletes and conversely athletes have to learn how to be coached and the secret to success in this relationship is through effective communication. Communication is key in any relationship and must be constantly developed. Initially the coach and athlete quickly establish their roles, expectations and standards which allows for the athlete to understand why the program is so and how it will benefit them in the long term. The best way to communicate is in person and when this can’t be achieved there are the alternative platforms of texting, calling, messengering, snap chatting, what’s app, zoom and instragramming (did I miss any???). The coach constantly seeks feedback from the athlete in terms of how they are feeling, what is going on in their lives, how the session went, what was good, what could be worked on and how they are travelling physically, mentally and emotionally. This feedback can be communicated and interrupted via Training Peaks comments, but sometimes it is what is not said that provides the cue to call the athlete. Equally, the athlete wants to know how they are going, if they are getting better/faster, if they will smash their PB or even finish the race. There are competing needs in the communication process and it is imperative that both the coach and athletes needs are addressed for a successful journey.
The final C is commitment. Both parties have to be committed to making the relationship strong, positive and enjoyable. The coach must ensure they convey their strong commitment to helping the athlete towards their goals and it is via this intention of commitment that the athlete will be able to identify their own goals and dreams for their endurance career. The athlete has to be committed to doing the hard work and sticking to the program in terms of training, nutrition and recovery to see the results. At the end of the day a well constructed training plan will not miraculously convert into real results without a lot of hard work, determination, sweat and tears from both the coach and athlete.
It is also worth noting that there has to be a high level of trust in this relationship. Trust that the coach is preparing you for the event of your life and has your best interests at heart and in reverse the coach has to trust that the athlete will do the little things like sleeping, stretching, reducing stress and not becoming obsessive over missing sessions (I am the worst offender for that!! Guilty as charged!!).
As you can see, the relationship between the coach and their athlete is a very necessary and critical component of endurance training. If this relationship is strong and solid communication exists, this will translate seamlessly into positive results for the athlete, thus making the athlete happy and working positively towards the attainment their goals and living their potential and making the coach proud to have played a central role in the athlete’s success!
NEW DIET ALERT - LPHR (Low Processed High Real)
With so many diets hitting the streets of late. It seems only just that we should just start our own and jump on the band-wagon for some prime time BS! Except, I’m for real, in every sense of the word. 100% real food, no labels, no packaging, straight from the earth, into my gizzards, full of nutrients, real food. You know, like a vegetable and stuff. Or fruit from a tree. A nut. A seed. Or ethically treated, organically raised, home grown animal meat. (Let’s not go down the vegan v carnivore debate right now please).
What does grind my gears is the amount of LCHF, GAPS, Atkins, HCLF blah blah out there confusing the bejesus out of everyone and anyone. Even I get confused and I just finished a 3 year nutrition science degree.
I will say this though… you don’t need to become a fat adapted LCHF athlete to perform at your best.
Without focussing too much on what’s already out there and pointing out what’s inherently wrong with a lot of ‘them’, let’s focus on a few of the key elements that make up the new LPHR diet and how this can be implemented into your life to make you hum a little better from day to day and sleep like a baby (one that sleeps well anyway). Let's keep things simple please.
There are many factors that make up a good diet. Actually, let’s scrap that word from here on out. We now say ‘way of eating’... woe for short. So, as I was saying, there are many factors that come to the party for a good woe. Let’s take a look and see if you can marry up some of these factors to help you in your day to day relationship with your woe.
Environment: your physical environment, the immediate space you live in, erry day, has a large role to play in what goes in your mouth. Is your fruit bowl in a high traffic area? Or is the biscuit jar? What’s in front of you, all day, every day, is what you will eat. Most of us are pretty weak when it comes to devouring something sweet and delicious when we could have quite easily had a small handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Am I right?
Nutshell: If there’s something in your immediate vicinity and you know you can’t resist it, get it the hell out of there. Get stuff that’s good for you and have it there, handy as you like, ready to roll.
Culture: the blue zones of the world (Google it) live considerably longer for a few different reasons. They eat well, they eat with friends and family often, they slow down and enjoy their food and love life a bit more in general. They stress less and exercise more.
Nutshell: Turn your woe into something more closely related to the people of the blue zones- get some food culture into your life... stat.
Eat more vegetables: the happiest and most long-living people of the world, eat a mainly plant based diet. High in nutrients, high in fibre, low in added sugar/salt, trans fats (vegetable oil), low in packaging. Just plain old, unadulterated, real food (95% of the time).
Nutshell: ask yourself... Do I include vegetables in each meal of the day or at least two meals? Then make a decision to include a few more veggies in your day. It’s not rocket science that plant based foods are full of goodness and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out how good this stuff is for you- EAT MORE REAL FOOD.
Sustainability: for you and the planet you live on. Be realistic about your woe. Can you see yourself adhering to this woe for life? Or is this just a 12 week broccoli and chicken binge to cut and shred? Take a step back and have a look at the amount of packaged goods in your fridge/pantry. Is that sustainable for your planet? Let alone your health.
Nutshell: set yourself up for a good woe. Cut back on the plastic already. Eat more vegetables and take your own bags to the fruit barn.
So… without waffling anymore… LPHR for lyf!
For more reading and without me re-inventing the wheel, I highly recommend you check out and adopt, at your leisure, the following woe guidelines from Brazil and the Blue Zones.
Thanks for reading :-) Keep it real :-)
Buy more stuff from people/places like this:
The newest addition to the coaching ranks at T:Zero Multisport, Bonnie explains why she is looking forward to the transition from athlete to coach.
By Coach Bonnie
Triathlon has been apart of my life since I can remember. I started out swimming and running so the natural progression was to get on a bike. I have been involved with Triathlon for over 10 years now and whilst I have taken a back step to racing myself, I am taking a forward step towards coaching and giving athletes the opportunity to achieve goals like I have over the years.
I have always loved the idea of becoming a coach and when Rich and Scotty mentioned that they thought I would be a good coach, I used some of their belief and have decided to follow this pathway. Whilst I am a Registered Nurse and work as one, I am a great communicator (can talk) and love being on the sideline cheering for athletes as much as I enjoyed racing myself. An athlete can expect constant communication, access to T:Zero Multisport camps, blogs and most importantly a coach who knows what’s it’s like to not want to get out of bed at 4am every morning!!!
I couldn’t think of a better club to have behind me and allowing me to use their name of T:Zero and guiding me through coaching also. T:Zero is going from strength to strength and collectively I believe that it can continue to grow into an amazing community and a place for athletes to help each other day in, day out. I have been coaching a few swim sessions over the past couple of months and have received such nice feedback (they hate me at the time) from athletes and I can’t wait to help others.
I am pumped to be a T:Zero coach and learning from my athletes themselves. I look forward to learning the different approaches people have to training and racing, learning about different goals and trying different ways to help them achieve their goals. I look forward to being the sounding board for my athletes, keeping them motivated and giving them guidance, support and direction in their triathlon journey to live their potential.
Goodbye for now,
T:Zero Multisport industry leaders with CPD for coaches
By Head Coach - Richard Thompson
At T:Zero Multisport we pride ourselves on having the very best long course triathlon coaches in the country. We are of the firm belief that what makes a great coach is their practical experiences mixed with their theoretical knowledge.
There are a lot of coaches out there who promote that their theory of coaching, is the answer – there methodology is the silver bullet that everyone is after. The funny thing is that there are a lot of amazing performances in triathlon, both from the age group and professional ranks and they are all coached by different coaches using all sorts of techniques and theories.
The one thing that I think sets T:Zero apart is that we acknowledge every athlete is different – their athletic age (as well as their actual age), their strengths/weaknesses, thresholds, mental approach, work environment (and associated stresses), family life and not to forget their physical make up and what they are stimulated by in training versus the type of training that results in little response. So how can the silver bullet approach work for everyone?
The success we have had over the years, is because we do not have the ego to think one way is the right way for all. The coach’s ability to acknowledge the different qualities of the athlete and pivot to a different style of training when one approach isn’t achieving the gains as predicted, is the key to ultimate success for the athlete.
So, here in lies the problem. How do the coaches avoid holding onto one way of thinking and expand their knowledge on a continual basis? The answer – continual professional development or CPD.
Presently, there is no CPD requirements in triathlon. Not in Australia or anywhere. In our mind, this is a farce.
Almost all professions have some element of compulsory annual CPD requirements. Teachers, Lawyers, Engineers, Nurses – but somehow, not triathlon coaches.
Triathletes sign on with a coach expecting them to have up-to-date knowledge and to maintain that knowledge to be a deliver the very best professional service. If a coach who obtained their level 1 triathlon certification back in the 90s hasn’t coached for 15 years, there is no current refresher course or CPDs offered to bring them up to speed with the changing trends in the industry. They can simply go straight back into the thick of coaching athletes.
Now don’t get me wrong, the changing trends/theories out there may not be agreeable to everyone. You might spend time with another coach, consider a thesis or read a textbook that you simply do not agree with, but, the very fact you are learning what is out there and giving it consideration, makes you a more knowledgeable coach.
We have had discussions with the various stakeholders in the past about this, but to date, there still is no CPD obligations for coaches. Understanding different techniques and methodologies is so important to become better coaches.
So, we have had to set the standard. Effective this year, T:Zero Multisport has implemented its own compulsory CPD requirements for all its coaches. This makes us industry leaders, not because it sounds fancy but because we truly believe it is required to ensure our coaches stay relevant and on top of their game.
We are already inspired by our coach’s thirst for knowledge – from Coach Mon finishing with her Ironman U certification to Coach Em recently being accepted into the masters of sports coaching program at University of Queensland. The introduction of CPD requirements in the T:Zero stables will be a brilliant thing for our coaches, our athletes (current and future) and the industry as a whole.
We implore all other coaches around the country to follow suit.
Why not slowing down is the new speeding up
By Head Coach - Scott Farrell
If you’re confused by that statement then you haven’t yet felt the wrath of the piano on your back making sure you can’t possibly go any faster towards that finish line. If you’re with me… then you should be working hard on what I’m about to tell you.
When thinking about racing a triathlon, we get so preoccupied with the need for speed and pushing harder and faster. Don’t get me wrong… this is a big part of it too. But the real secret to finishing a race well and knocking over killer performances, is the ability to not slow down. Easier said than done right!? Yep, pretty much. When it comes to an endurance sport like triathlon, there’s no getting around the hard work over long periods of time and if you haven’t done the work, you’ll meet my friend the piano with a side of green room at some stage and that’s a guarantee.
So, how do we get to the point where we ‘don’t slow down’? Good question. Let’s break it down into some key fundamentals:
So there you have it folks, a simple, albeit short recipe for not slowing down- it’s not sexy by any means but the real stuff never is. A combination of the right motivation, a mighty strong core, a focused, positive mind, years if consistency and a good coach ;-) will take you to where you want to be. My suggestion would be to start with a good foundation by working on your trunk. Build a solid core and work out from there, one session, one day at a time.
A MUSIC GUIDE TO YOUR NEXT KILLER SESSION