Saturday, 11 January 2014

Relearning to swim

I know I bang on about my swimming background and it being my best discipline but it is. I can hold 1:33/100m in the pool quite easily and my PB for 1500m stands at 23:48 from Leeds Triathlon.

I mean there must be something there for me to be #firstoutthewater in a local race and 5th out the water  at Leeds Triathlon.

But I always knew there was room for improvement. After all I've had no analysis of my stroke since I was 14. Yes I dabbled with masters swimming last year but quickly got disheartened when there wasn't that much technique coaching so I sacked it off.

In early 2013 I got followed on Twitter by Alan Rapley.

Alan who? I hear you ask.

Alan Rapley was the captain of the GB swimming squad at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He swam in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and in the process swam his 100m in 49.76 seconds. Which is insanely quick given the World Record currently stands at 46.91 seconds a full 17 years after Atlanta.

Thats a length of freestyle in 12.5 seconds or 2m/s. So in summation I like to think he knows his shizz.

Anyway Alan contacted me about him holding swimming camps and I was interested as I wanted to improve. Due to a lack of uptake his planned course last year fell through. However since then he has been promoting his business more and finally today I got to go on one of his courses.

I've been giving Alan banter on Twitter as he guaranteed a 10% improvement over the course of a day. Now if he managed this my PB for 1500m would be 21:25 which is good for an Olympic swim. How could I not be interested in getting quicker. After all isn't that what we all aspire for. To be the best we can be?

So I rocked up thinking I could swim. Well yes I can swim but I meant I thought I could swim well.

The course ran something like this
  • Introductions
  • Discussions about swim sets and coaching
  • First swim including video
  • Analysis of the video and lunch
  • Dryland swimming
  • Second swim including video
So I got in the pool and did my thing.

I was doing 15 strokes and taking 7 breaths to cover the 18ish m pool consistently. I wasn't that bothered about time at this point.

When we had our stroke analysed I was shocked at how ugly my stroke was. I know what efficient swimming looks like from my BTF coaching course where we watched a video of Jono van Hazel. See below.

I mistakenly thought I would have something approaching an efficient stroke. The only positive I received about my stroke was I had a good head position. My legs were all over the place and my pull was only effective for about 2 foot of my stroke.

Alan then took us into a theatre and had us practice efficient swimming on dry land. 

This quickly sunk in and I could visualise what he was trying to explain. In summation you are trying to be as streamlined as possible and work with the water and create the least resistance for the water. 

I was dying to try this out in the pool.

So we got changed again and made our way to the pool. Alan demonstrated what he had taught and completed the 18ish m in 6 strokes. 6 strokes. WOW! Now that is efficient.

So we set off with our new tricks up our sleeve. At first it felt weird but I quickly settled into my rhythm concentrating on what I had been told.

I was soon completing lengths of the 18ish m pool in 9 strokes and only taking one breath with a minimal kick.

Hang on. Thats 6 strokes and 6 breaths less per length. How is that maintainable? Quite simple I was using the water and remaining as streamlined as possible. I was amazed at how much my stroke changed.

Below is a video which runs my before and after swimming side by side. As you can see the difference is amazing. I am so much higher in the water and my stroke is a lot longer.

I can't wait to try this out in the pool with GI Tri next week where I know I can complete 4 lengths in 1:25 which means I have a benchmark to compare it against. It really won't surprise me if I am quicker and the reps are more maintainable because I using the water more intelligently.

Thanks Alan for revitalising my swim stroke. If you want more information about Alan's coaching courses, please visit

I can't wait to use it to my advantage this year.

For any people wanting some of this expert knowledge. Alan is putting on a triathlon camp on the 15th and 16th February in Sheffield. At this camp there will be ex olympians from swim bike and run disciplines who can impart their expert knowledge to you. This is a residential course over the two days with lodging and food included for the amazing price of £175. I am sorely tempted to attend given what I have learnt in one day on only my swimming.

Thanks for reading,


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