Video, Swim Progression and Training Camps

Our second Open Water Swim Camp with Swim For Tri has just ended so let me reflect on how they've helped. (This article also appears on My First Ironman blog)

For me the real benefit didn't come on the first camp itself but once in the pool back home when I put into practice the drills I'd been taught.

Progression is slow (especially at my age) liked by Dan Bullock of Swim For Tri, as more akin to learning a language than a sport.

Please bear this in mind when you look at the photos and video below - I don't turn into Michael Phelps in 12 months.  Progression is slow and gradual, the visual changes quite subtle, but the feel in the water is quite different. (Open to read more)

Some triathletes push 'The Swim' to the back of their minds, relegating it to the role of 'something to get through before the race begins'.  Although I am no real swimmer, I take a different view.  I want to start the bike feeling as strong as possible, so an efficient swim - efficient, not necessarily a fast one - is my goal.  Plus the cardio training, weight loss and core strength from swimming benefits all three sports.

Dec 2014
Back in December 2014 I didn't swim, but Liz persuaded me to try two days of coaching at Club La Santa (full story).  At the start I looked like this.  My hand pushed down on the water each stroke, so I bobbed along, rising and falling - the only propulsion happened when my arm reached vertical and briefly traveled backwards.  Each time I took a breath, the arm swung out to counterbalance, and my leg kick widened (alarmingly!) to counterbalance the arm.  Two days of one-to-two coaching did not transform my swimming but utterly changed my mindset and we started going regularly to the pool, roughly twice a week.

Sep 2015
In September 2015 - I swam worse!  Ten months of un-coached practice and, although I knew the theory, the video shows some faults are worse than before.  That said, there are signs of a catch starting - the elbow is beginning to bend.

This was shot first day on the Swim For Tri open water camp at Club La Santa and it was during that camp things started to come together.  At the end of it, I knocked 10 minutes off my 1.9km time, completing the swim section of Lanzarote Ironman 70.3 in 36min.  So we went away and increased our pool training to three times a week, incorporating many of the drills we'd been taught by Dan Bullock on the camp.

Feb 2016
By February 2016 I was swimming a lot better.  Again, this was shot on the first day of the Swim For Tri open water camp at Club La Santa so shows no improvement made on this latest camp.  My catch is developing, with propulsion happening much earlier in the stroke as my forearm heads towards vertical.  My 'sinky legs' are higher in the water thanks to a stronger controlled kick.  While that kick is still bigger than it needs to be, it is not splaying out so much when I breath.

Crucially, my toes are starting to point backwards, something which is physically very different for my ankles.  When they point down, the legs sink and the arms have to tow much greater resistance through the water.

During the camp we learnt more things to practice and I'm sure my stroke has improved again over the last few days, although I know the real progress will come in the Fort William pool in coming months.

That said, at the end of the camp we swam the Lanzarote Ironman 70.3 course again, despite swimming off line due to a sighting into a low sun,  I knocked another two minutes off my time coming in at 34mins.  My 100m speed, however, was unchanged at 1'46" so perhaps the course was shorter?  No matter.  As I explained at the start, the real improvement will hopefully come in the next few months when I put into practice what I've learnt this week.

Please remember, my progression in the three video clips below is not huge - but it is happening.

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