Category: Coaching

3 Key Open Water Sighting Tips for Triathletes

Sighting is a seemingly small element of a long open water swim. However, when not performed well, poor sighting carries a significant cost. Watch the following video to see how much extra distance the highlighted swimmers go:

I coached at our team’s final open water practice of the season last weekend. It was a great session, with a lot of good, hard swimming done. However, in general the team’s sighting was poor. I watched them snake through the straight out-and-back course. I was secretly (and sadistically?) pleased as it made the workout longer but I recognize the need to correct their technique for race day.

My swimmers (and maybe you too?) have two key elements to correct:

1. Poor sighting technique

Poor form is tiring and inefficient.

  • One of the most common faults is lifting your head too long which expends energy and causes your feet to drop.
  • Not sighting within the rhythm of your stroke will cause a pause in momentum and break your cadence. Stop-start swimming is no fun.
  • Finally, don’t lift your head to sight just for the sake of it, lift and scan for your landmarks. Use it to make sure you are on course, or don’t sight, just swim normally. If you are swimming parallel to shore, there will be minimal use to lift your head up and to the front.

2. Not sighting regularly enough

  • The swimmers tended to sight too late, only to discover they had veered off track. It’s a trade-off (energy and rhythm) but sighting more frequently would have prevented them from swimming the extra yards.
Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!

Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!

 

Key tips for Open Water Sighting

  • Sighting Tip 1: scan the course pre-race for landmarks that are bigger and more obvious than the buoys, e.g. telecoms masts, distinctive buildings, boats (as long as they are not moving!), etc.Even though my fellow Coach’s guns are HUGE, it was tough to see them from the water. Swimmers had to work hard to spot him. At Coney Island beach on Saturday, rather than using Coach as the marker in the water, it would have been far easier and more effective to sight using one of the huge buildings behind him on the beach.
  • Sighting Tip 2: Incorporate sighting into the rhythm of your stroke. Lift your head only enough to spot your landmark and throw your head into the breath and next stroke.
  • Sighting Tip 3: Sight regularly, but not too often. It all depends on how ‘straight’ a swimmer you are and how much you trust yourself.  Somewhere between 3 and 12 strokes is the norm. Experiment in training to find what works best for you and your internal compass.

Review the Swim Smooth video above that clearly shows how far you can go off course if your sighting is off. Be sure to practice a little before your next race(s). You get no points for swimming extra distance!

Keri-Anne-Payne-open-water-swim-Beijing-2008_1127785 Olympic Open Water, A Seminal Event About To Occur openwaterswimmingnews

Keri-Anne Payne’s crocodile eyes – head barely out of the water

Photo credits: Flying Cloud & http://www.openwaterswimming.com/
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2013 World Tour Series, Hamburg recap

Watch the pros storm through the course in this short recap of 2013 World Tour Series, Hamburg.

Jonathan Brownlee pips brother Alistair to World Tour Series gold in Hamburg

The level of intensity is unreal – they take the swim out hard, and then push the pace from there. To be able to do that they must train their bodies to switch disciplines quickly and maintain max effort levels. There simply is no time to ease into the bike or the run.

Their transitions are pure efficiency – every movement maximized and practiced to eliminate redundancies. Given the first three were mere seconds apart, any hiccup in transition would be very costly.

Amazing!

How do you practice transitioning from one discipline to the next?

The Best Way to Save Time AND Swim Faster: Do More With Less!

Most of us have limited time to train and/or very well developed procrastination skills. It is very easy to lose a lot of time preparing for or delaying the start of training. Particularly with swimming when you have to get to the pool, change, get in, etc.

I wonder what the average time unnecessarily lost per session is?

Swimming workout for triathletes

From Mike Gustafson’s genius Twitter feed ‏@mikelgustafson

The best way to save time and maximize the training benefit of each allocated hour is to have a plan in place. Know exactly how you are going to spend your time.

We are also creatures of habit, and developing a routine will help us mentally as we avoid stresses, problems and uncertainties that can cause us to lose time or even avoid training altogether.

If you struggle with the swim, you want to ensure you are getting the most out of each session. Avoid wasting time like the above “set”. The best triathletes are ruthlessly efficient with their training. Get in, work hard, get out, move on.

Apply the following  structure to your swim workouts, to ensure you are efficient with your time in the pool. Every swim session should have each of:

1) Warm-up – start steady and increase the pace. do some sprints if you are doing a main set of fast intervals. Include some combo of swim, drill, pull and kick
2) Drills – best to do this as part of the warm-up when you are fresh and can do the technique to a high standard
3) Main Set – this is where the main effort occurs. It might be aerobic or faster, more intense work.
4) Warm down – important to let the heart rate come down to resting pace, and it will help you not sweat back at the office!

Use this set-up no matter how little time you have for a session. It will help you proceed directly and efficiently through the workout  and achieve a rewarding level of work.

Another key tip is to pack your bag in advance, e.g. the night before, so you are not scrambling to throw your gear together while running out the door, and you don’t show up at the pool without a key piece of equipment. Save time and avoid raised stress levels!

Of course, all of the above applies to all sports and training sessions – be they bike, run, yoga, weights, etc.

Where to next?

Post #101: Where to next?

Thank you

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you find it useful. To the 500+ of you, whether you came here via Facebook or Twitter, or subscribed directly. thanks for reading, and for all the emails and comments. It can be hard work keeping on top of a semi-regular posting schedule with the day job, but it keeps me honest and researching various topics. The summer season kicks off shortly and I’ve been planning my sessions and building a shortlist of topics to post on. This is fun for me as I learn as I formulate ideas, but I should really start with you dear readers:

What would you like to see here? What aspects of swimming and triathlon concern you most? What is not covered elsewhere? What do you like or dislike and want to see more or less of?

Let me know by voting in the poll above or in the comments: any and all suggestions, requests and feedback gratefully received! Thank you again for reading. It’s been a real thrill engaging with you, seeing the stats grow and hopefully helping you all along the way.

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #24 Be Persistent and Patient (Like Skyscraper Builders)

Woah! How is it February already? Time really does fly, reminding me of the urgency to do what I can to get faster and stronger in the time that I have.

“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of tips you can apply in your daily triathlon training in order to kick your performance to the next level, without any inordinate expense in time or money.

With one month down so far this year, what are you doing to improve your performance? What tips would you add to the list?

Today is #24: Be Persistent and Patient

The triathlon season is long but is like building a skyscraper - take your training plan step by step

Approach your triathlon season like building a skyscraper – with patience and persistence. One window pane at a time! (photo: David Marcel’s flickr)

In triathlon, the season is long and the training sessions are too. 3/6/9 months of toiling in three different sports – and bricks. 5,000 yards in the pool, 10 mile runs, 4 hours on the bike. Seemingly endless at times, it’s hard to persevere when tiredness kicks in.

One of the keys to success in triathlon is being persistent – and consistent – over the course of a very long season.

When training loads peak it is hard to get out of bed, we feel heavy and sluggish, every muscle and joint aches and mentally you just don’t want to go another yard.

However, do everything you can to maintain forward progress. Yes, it’s tough, you might feel you are performing below peak but everything contributes to your race day performance.

It is like building a skyscraper – the foundations take ages but eventually your season takes shape as improvements start revealing themselves. Then as your training plan progresses you add on the windows one by one, until you top out and the job is done – you’re ready to kick ass in a race.

And race day is only a small number of days and weeks away. The adage “time flies” applies to the long triathlon season as well (even if you’re not having fun!). Summer season and race day will come all too quickly. Prepare yourself by being consistent in training throughout your program.

The key is not dwelling on your mistakes or “bad sessions” but to keep trying and keep fighting. Remember your goals.

Enjoy the process, it is not always fun, it is likely tough, but enjoy the progress you make, the milestones you achieve and enjoy the sport, your teammates, the endorphins.

One element that helps me keep going is tracking my progress. By writing down my training performance, I can see in black and white how much faster I am compared to last month or year. It’s a great motivator.

By being persistent and patient, eventually we all finish building the skyscraper. So, don’t give up, just like this Peruvian llama. You will reap the benefits on race day – guaranteed.

“31 Easy Tips” thus far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller
#22: Engage Your Core
#23: Don’t Break the Bank!

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #18 Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door

“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is designed to provide suggestions for areas of improvement in your triathlon training and racing that you might not have previously thought of.

Today’s tip is #18: Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door.

ignore your bucket of troubles to train harder and race faster

By that I mean, don’t bring your stresses and worries to practice. Leave your bucket at the door so it doesn’t drag you down while you’re training. Swimming with a bucket is tough. Running with a parachute will slow your progress, and cycling while distracted is just dangerous! Improve your triathlon and ironman performances by focusing on each practice.

Another way of looking at it is to manage your ‘Energy Pie’. You have many family, friends, obligations and hobbies and limited time and energy to handle them all. So prioritize them and manage them in a way that maximizes your happiness and ability to train.

Whatever your issues, try and forget them for the hour or two you are training. Focus on the session at hand. It will allow you to work harder and get more out of the practice.

You can return to tackling the problem afterwards, and hopefully a good workout and shower will make you feel better.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #17 Be on Time

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance.

Today’s tip is #17: Be on Time.

be on time to reduce stress

The days I am early or on time to practice I find I perform significantly better. I am less stressed, less frazzled, more relaxed and focused, have more energy and find it easier to commit to working hard on what my coach demands.

It makes sense to be on time. It’s good manners and shows respect to your teammates and coach but it is also hugely beneficial to you and your performance.

So, get out of bed 10 minutes early, or build in a cushion for those inevitable delays as you commute to practice. Don’t make like an airplane – be on time!

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #15 Get Yourself a Mentor

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance. Be it recovery, technique or trying something new in training, the tips are relatively straightforward and yield larger gains than simply doubling your efforts in practice.

Today’s tip is #15: Get Yourself a Mentor. 

Mentors are important

I read that Thursday, Jan. 17 is “Thank Your Mentor Day”  and started thinking about how far I have gotten thanks to the many great mentors I have encountered and learned from.

While my success is relatively small compared to most, I would not have achieved half of it without the opportunity to learn at the hands of many people far more talented than I.

A mentor could be your coach, a friend, training partner, colleague, professor, teacher, parent, etc, and can help you improve in any facet of life.

In particular a good coach will teach you lots about your chosen sport and how to succeed. Training with athletes who are faster than you can spur you to train and race faster, and gradually catch them.

The benefits of having a mentor:

  1. Inspire you to achieve lofty goals
  2. Motivation
  3. Feedback
  4. No excuses – make yourself accountable
  5. Leverage their experience

How can I get myself a mentor?

  1. Identify successful people you can relate to and trust
  2. Ask them to be your mentor
  3. Work hard on the relationship, e.g. listening, asking questions, implementing suggestions

And while we’re at it, consider being a mentor to someone else, formal or informal.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #14 Do Squat!

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance. Be it recovery, technique or trying something new in training, the tips are relatively straightforward and yield larger gains than simply doubling your efforts in practice.

Today’s tip is #14: Do Squat!

Not as in “do diddly squat“, but as in perform the “squat” exercise. Defined here, and widely considered to be one of the best exercises you can do.

Types and benefits of Squats for triathletes

The benefits of squats include:

  1. Increase functional strength
  2. Full body workout
  3. Improved running strength and increased watts on the bike
  4. Injury prevention
  5. and more

You don’t need a gym and a massive stack of weights, you can do various types of squats in your living room:

  1. Pistol squat
  2. Prisoner squat
  3. Jump squat
  4. Lunges
  5. etc, etc.

Do not injury yourself. That is an order!
Focus first and foremost on correct technique. Don’t try to out-squat all the heavies in the gym, and watch your knees. I repeat, do not give yourself bad knees.

If you are new to the exercise, ease into it, and be patient with results. Your legs will be tired at first but after a few of months of consistently performing squats you should notice the increased strength in your legs and core.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #12 Don’t Breathe in the Pool

Today’s tip in the “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” series is #11: Don’t breathe in the pool

I am a big fan of hypoxic work in the pool. I believe it strengthens the lungs both in and out of the water, helping your body process carbon dioxide more efficiently and helping it operate efficiently with less oxygen.

Holding your breath while swimming

Like anything new, it will be hard at first, but gradually increase the times and distances you limit your breath for. Be careful as you introduce it, but who knows you may eventually be able to hold it for 20+ minutes!

For example:

  • breathe every 3 strokes then every 5 strokes, then every 7 strokes
  • Breathe every 2 strokes for 25m, then breathe every 3 strokes on the next 25m, then every 4, and so on.
  • Do 25m sprints with no breath
  • Underwater for 25m

Here is a sample hypoxic workout and some tips on how to improve your breath-holding abilities.

As your lungs grow stronger you should be able to feel the improvements at the end of long runs or a race, where normally you would be sucking air.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself