Tips from our swimmers on how to make it your most successful year in the water (1)!

Lucy Lloyd-Roach swimspiration

As we like to ‘think differently’ we have penned an alternative to the archetypal ‘how to make it the most successful year yet’ post, by instead reflecting on some of our swimmers’ successes; sharing both their highs but importantly how they kept motivated during the lows or when things got tough.

As life settles surprisingly quickly back to normal, and the New Year is becoming an increasingly distant memory, as are some people’s New Years’ resolutions. According to the ASA website – apparently 80% of people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions! This series of posts will hopefully inspire the first 80% that it’s not too late, even if it’s just a hiccup of a couple of weeks, it is just that and you can get back to it. For the remaining 20%, this will hopefully be a motivational boost in the bank for when you need it.

If you’ve had a chance to look around at our site, you can see that we divide our swimmers up into 4 main categories: learn to swim, health, fitness and performance. Over the next 3 weeks, we’re going to take one example from each category and to share with you their successes and how they kept themselves motivated during the tougher times.

Please note that this article was originally planned for January 2015, but with the delayed launch of our website (didn’t launch until March/April) it didn’t get used. We thought it was a valuable article and have saved it for this year!

We’re starting with Chris who represents our performance category. Chris is an age group triathlete who in 2014 had a bike accident 3 weeks before one of his main events for the season! In this post he talks about how he overcame that and  turned it into his most successful season yet. We liked his article, so have left it unedited. Chris takes over in his own words from here:

“Looking back on 2014 I can confidently say that it was my most successful year in triathlon. Racing Iron Distance in 2013, I set myself some clear goals and targets for 2014 regarding middle distance / Half Iron Distance racing and specifically some swimming goals.

I knew that I was a strong runner and a decent biker but really wanted to focus on my weaknesses. I classified myself as a competent swimmer (~1:25/100m, ~6:00/400m, ~30:00/1.9k) at the start of the year but really wanted to step this up and knew that 1:1 coaching would be the way to go.

My coach was Carolyn, and we started with regular sessions focusing on the “big stuff” – hand position, engaging more at the catch, head position and eliminated all the big issues. Throughout the year as I raced both in the UK and abroad I really started to reap the benefits of these sessions, and realised you really do need to start swimming slower to swim faster! Technique first and speed second!

I fell off my mountain bike only three weeks prior to Mallorca 70.3 in May, and initially, I thought my season was over before it had even begun. After wallowing in self-pity for a bit (and eating all the cake in sight), I started to realise it was actually an opportunity to do some different training. I knew I couldn’t run, but took the opportunity to swim more and really focus on my technique. This unexpected opportunity definitely helped me to turn it around and the race was a a great success. With Carolyn’s help I completed the swim in 26:34 for 1.9k and a total time of 04:19:02 to finish 28th overall, 2nd in my Age Group and qualify for the 70.3 World Championships.

Next on the agenda was Grafman Middle Distance England Championships in June which I swam 28:27 (18th fastest swim) and a finish time of 04:07:00 coming 3rd overall and winning my Age Group.

With a couple of Standard Distance triathlons to fill the coming months I began to focus on the 70.3 World Championships in Canada for September. I worked with Carolyn on threshold sessions, continuing to address any issues and really get used to holding form at speed. I had a great race and a fantastic end to the season with a 27:52 swim and 04:18:25 overall time finishing 24th in Age Group and 141th overall (including 40+ pro’s).

If someone were to ask me for advice over what they should do to make significant improvements (swimming specifically or triathlon generally) I would suggest the following:

1. Work on your weaknesses – For most triathletes with non-swimming back grounds this is going to be the swim.

2. Don’t let set backs derail your season – These are never planned, but you can use them to your advantage. I thought falling of my mountain bike was the end of the world at the time! Looking back, three weeks of rest might have been the reason I performed so well on race day. The best thing to is give yourself chance to recover, rather than try and get back into training as soon as possible and then delay yourself from full recovery.

3. It’s Quality over Quantity – More is not necessarily better. Swimming more with bad technique… means you get better at swimming with bad technique.

4. Work / Life / Training Balance – Remember you get paid to work, not to train and training should be fun!

5. Get coached (particularly for swimming)! – For me this took a massive stress out of what to work on and when. Having someone who can look at you objectively (and from the pool side) will make a significant difference.

I’m now building up to my 2015 targets of Mallorca 70.3, Stafford 70.3 and Bolton 140.6 and continuing to work with Carolyn. My swim times across all distances have continued to fall since last year (~1:14/100m, ~5:39/400m) and its great to see the numbers improve. I have some big goals for this year, and building a winter base and technique changes are going to be a massive help come summer racing.

As you can see it has been quite a year and I was asked about motivation and how did I keep going?

I’ve found that motivation can often be a challenge, and there are often many highs and lows throughout the year. The excitement of planning your season in January can often be overcome with the realisation that you have a long season ahead. For me I break the season into blocks of 6-8 weeks, and have small targets to work towards during each period. Having a little goal for discipline for each period really helps.

The key thing is to make it manageable and measurable, so you don’t become overwhelmed and can see your progress – and keep it fun!”

Update from 2015:

Mallorca 70.3 1st in age group (and was 2nd fastest age grouper overall).
Stafford 70.3: 2nd in age group

Both results were assisted by ‘a fast swim getting me clear of others coming out of the water!’