Swimming: video analysis

A key part of the training camp this weekend was swim video analysis. Despite my timed swim test performances (1500m, 4x400m, 20x100m) improving substantially of late – principally due to the squad-based fitness sessions I’ve been attending – I knew my technique was pretty raw. I took five 1-on-1 lessons with Swim for Tri in April/May: this got me breathing bilaterally and showed me basic extension and rotation drills. But – never having seen myself self on screen before – I was otherwise at a loss as to what to work on this winter.

Here’s my video.

HEAD ON: rotation is improved (Dan tells me!). But the main faults you notice are: 1/ my straight-arm action – especially on the left arm – failing to bend the elbow and point the hands down at the black line. This means I’m only using shoulder power to propel through the catch. By bending at the elbow I can a) use the entire forearm as a paddle, and b) engage the ‘lats’ (latissimus dorsi muscles of the back) to be stronger through the first catch phase. This provides a less stressful and more powerful muscle engagement. Also: 2/ the hand entry creates too many bubbles (especially left hand) thus creating drag.

What to work on: 1/ focus on correct hand/arm pathway in drills and full stroke; 2/improve ‘piercing’ hand entry.

SIDE PROFILE: where to start?! Two major problems slowing me down: 1/ my alignment is tilted down from head to feet, and feet are pointed down at the ankle (despite kick being reasonably well controlled in range). This creates drag and prevents maximum stream-lining through the water; 2/ no proper glide phase with the lead hand. I have worked on this using extension switch drills, but I slip back to ‘wind-milling’ when trying to go quicker (fine if you’re a sprinter, but inefficient for swimming 1.5 to 3.8k during a triathlon).

What to work on: 1/ strengthen leg kick through drills to properly engage glutes and lift the legs; 2/ slow the full stroke down and focus on full extension, and also use extension and catch up drills. This will also further aid rotation.

Swim for Tri can be reach for coaching, lessons and endless pool video analysis at http://www.swimfortri.com

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Trew winter training

So… I haven’t posted anything training-related of late. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing any! Quite the contrary I’m happy to say. I took the decision – whilst self-coaching my way to the half ironman – that I really needed to start working with others more tri-experienced. Why?

Well…. Sure I reckon I could post a decent time in IM Switzerland next year by continuing with what I was doing… but would that be enough? Would I be satisfied? What has experienced shown me?  After my first marathon I felt elated (or more specifically relieved) to have finished, but immediately (quite literally) this feeling was overtaken by a recognition of what I could have done…, and therefore what I wanted to do. I knew I could have trained better, or smarter (not necessarily more – v important distinction) and that I simply wasn’t satisfied with my performance. 5 marathons later I’m – to be honest – still not. I simply didn’t want to go through the same process with triathlon.

So Ironman. I know I want to be the very best I can be in Switzerland on July 25th. Yes like anything it will be a learning curve, and once I finish I’ll want to go quicker (of that I’m certain). But I just don’t want to leave anything to chance. 12th October marked the start of week 1 of a six-week block working with Olympic coach Steve Trew. Steve’s got me really focused on quality, not quantity. I’m doing 3 sessions of each discipline a week, building carefully but most definitely working hard. That said, he also focuses his athletes on good technique – something often forgotten with bike/run (in contrast to swim) but winter is the time to perfect form and build strength. His guidance – and the fact that I’m expected to stick to and feed back on the training he sets – is helping me make the most of each and every session. I’m really motivated for the challenge ahead.

Steve also organises periodical training camps; I spent this weekend in Hertfordshire with his group of athletes and also swim coach Dan Bullock. Mixing with fellow triathletes ranging from novices to World and European qualifiers was great, and having access to expert advice, video analysis and tuition was invaluable.

There are a number of coaches around offering on-line or distanced coaching, setting training for you, reviewing results and guiding accordingly. I would strongly recommend this for any triathlete; it’s especially beneficial given the complexity in balancing three sports. Now all I need to do is do the training….!

We’re in!

The draw for the 2010 edition of the Maratona dles Dolomites has been made. Today I was delighted to discover that Al, Jonny and I have been successful and will be flying out to test ourselves against some of the hardest climbs Italy has to offer on July 4th 2010.

First raced in 1987, the event now attracts thousands of fans and cyclists and is one of the pre-eminent sportives on the Italian and European calendar. 4,190m of climbing over 7 major passes covering 138km of roads through the Dolomites; this promises to be a tough, tough ride… and for me, ideal preparation just a few weeks out from the Ironman!

Trading up

Discovered this interesting series of programs following a runner moving into triathlon. It’s exclusive to Outdoors TV, and features Richard Iles (organiser of the New Forest triathlon series) and Dan Bullock (of Swim for Tri).