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Tri blogging from Tamworth, Staffordshire
Tri blogging from Tamworth, Staffordshire
I'm new to the sport of Triathlon coming from a running background which I originally took up in Nov '12 in order to lose weight. This is my blog and journey into the world of Triathlon. I have my first sprint under my belt and now I'm aiming for the Outlaw in 2014 !

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Relaxing in the water and down to 18 strokes

owenslaterby owenslaterMay 31st 2013
It's the end of the week (Friday night) and that means Swimfit at Burntwood baths. In just 7 weeks I have my next triathlon which will involve a 750m open water swim. I got there at 8pm and got 42 lengths in the first hour practising my front crawl and the advice from the last coaching session, alternating 6 lengths of front crawl with 6 lengths of breast stroke. The pool was at a nice 27c degrees and not too crowded - probably due to it being a Friday night and most people having a social life :o)
Relaxing in the water and down to 18 strokes
At 9pm Rob, our coach, turned up and we chatted about my first race the previous weekend. First off, I was asked to do a couple of lengths while he watched and then he decided to get me working on my breast stoke. I found this a little odd since he knew I was getting into Triathlon and we had previously talked about how important it was for my timings to get a decent front crawl working. However, despite this being only my second lesson, I was willing to concede that he knew more about swimming coaching than I do so I listened and tried to put the advice into action.

Up to now I'd of described my breast stroke as my strongest stoke (ok - only real stroke I do) and had comfortably done up to 2 miles using it. However as I was soon to find out, I clearly knew nothing about breast stoke and have been doing it completely wrong for the last 35 years or more !

The first part to be broken down and corrected was my arms. I had previously been doing a great big slow circle with my arm and now had to pull them in and push down almost like a 'space invader' from the 1980's - or at least that's how it felt. The difference of course was in the push upwards of my head and upper body. After spending a couple of lengths on it, Rob felt I had that cracked so onto the legs...

Oh dear, how much harder is this.

I have heavy legs according to Rob, as well as a lazy left leg ! So part of the training is to get them working and gain more propulsion from them. Describing this isn't easy, but the exercise involved not bending the knees, bring my heels up to my backside, twisting the feet, pointing the little toes outwards and then kicking outwards.

Now that might not sound too hard and sitting here in the comfort of my home office whilst typing I'm also thinking "so what's so hard about that?"

In reality, everything - as you don't normally turn your feet in that direction. Think of a Charlie Chaplin walk and that's how your feet are before you kick outwards. I persevered miserably for several lengths with this until I started to feel a little sharp pain in my left lazy knee. Rob asked me to stop and explained it was habits of a lifetime and it would take a few weeks to get used to it. He explained why the pain occurred - essentially me not kicking out correctly !

At last it was back onto the front crawl and a challenge was set. "How many strokes do you think you use to get down the pool ?" he asked. In truth I didn't know. I had been concentrating at breathing on both sides and keeping my head in the right position. I knew it was supposed to be around 18 strokes.

Rob set the other swimmer and myself the task of getting down the pool in 22 strokes, then 20 strokes and then finally "Can you now do it in 18 ?" The lifeguards were watching and helping out by counting our strokes as we swam. BINGO - I made it in 18 strokes :o)

"You're not thinking about breathing now are you ? Your legs are kicking a lot more too !" Rob called out.

What this exercise made me do was GLIDE. Rob had been trying to get me to reach out, count 1,2 and then go onto the next stroke. All part of getting me to slow down. A common problem among triathletes and the like is that we're too competitive and just want to go fast. Coaches want to break/slow what your doing down in order to re-build the stroke and improve your technique. I had, of course, still been going too fast.

Now in this exercise, in order to conserve my stroke count I had to glide, kick my legs more and as a result of the previous exercise, my knees were not dropping down either.

Amazing how all these exercises by your swimming coach actually do all come together isn't it !
Relaxing in the water and down to 18 strokes
As I've mentioned in my previous blog. Swimfit is a great programme and well worth joining for some analysis and coaching. Even if you think you're doing it right, a couple of sessions to make sure you've not picked up any bad habits is worth doing.

As Rob would tell me, get the technique right and you'll be swimming the half ironman and iron distances a lot easier. So this Wednesday I'll be back at my local baths once again practising what I been taught and doing 18 strokes !

One last item I'll add to this blog is a helpful app called swimradar I came across being mentioned in another blog. For a full review of it please go to Ray's blog :-

It appears to only be on the I-tunes store but if like me you travel as part of your job and find the hotel swimming pool too small to be of any real use then this is really helpful. It's obviously been out for a while as an app but if you're new to the sport of Triathlon then it's all useful to know !

That's all for now - have a great week :o)

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Relaxing in the water and down to 18 strokes
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