Category: Triathlon

The Swim

I have had a few questions lately about the swim. Its clear that the swim can be a frustrating discipline to develop. I usually like to coach these things individually as each individual situation demands different needs. A rookie has massively different needs to a pro.
How much a developing young athlete commits to the swim will definitely be different to another athlete that literally hasn’t got that sort of time to invest in big volume / frequency jumps.
There are however, a few common points that I can push :
  • It’s no use practicing more when your technique isn’t being looked after. Technique should be the dominant driver. Give me 2 focussed, attentive hours over 4 mindless hours anyway.
  • Awareness of where you are at and what you need to improve is key. You cant improve what you aren’t aware of
  • The key areas of the swim are : Good body position, balanced breathing with a good deep exhale underwater, early catch, high elbow pull, strong kick.
  • Keep your rating up at least over 32 strokes per minute. Slowing down your rating means you decelerate between strokes and it needs a lot of effort to accelerate again.
  • Be aware of your stroke count for 50m at different intensities. Pulling “harder” through the water usually ends up as wasted effort due to slipping through the water. A good stroke count starts at the high 30’s. This indicates you have a good pull. If it goes much past 50 strokes per 50m it means you need to work on your pull.
  • An early catch and high elbow pull ensures a good grab on the water. Grab that water as best you can with your whole forearm and pull your body past it. Engage your lats in that movement –
  • Don’t drop your elbow underwater … it means you are only using your hand for the pull
  • The hands should enter the water at the shoulder width and pull back under your shoulder line.
When you get the opportunity to watch elite swimmers on television or for that matter on Youtube, watch with these things in mind
  • From the front keep an eye on the line of their pull under the water. Watch their breathing patterns and head position
  • From below the water watch the exhale, body position, early catch & high elbow pull.
  • From above look for hand entry points, shoulder and hip rotation and timing of the arms
  • If you get a chance, count their strokes per 50m.
  • When they get out of the water look at their bodies and how they are developed. This will tell you a lot.

Running Shoes

Just had a great question from an athlete. “When should I replace my running shoes?”

We can complicate this with many different versions of course but the centre of the envelope answer is around 800km. The variances to this rule would be the amount of trail running you do, how heavy you are, what type of shoe they are etc.

When we had our running night with Ryan Quintano at the run shoe shop he said one of the best things you can do for injury prevention is also to have 2 pairs that you rotate.

The 4 Principles of Training

See the graphic I have created below. Overload, Adaptation, Specificity & Reversibility are the keys to training. I have also added in a Performance Management Chart (PMC). It’s important to note that the PMC is displaying all 4 of those principles.

In the PMC you will note the gradual rise of fitness (blue line) as the athlete is in the overload / adaptation phase. You will also see it drop after a major race as the athlete recovers depicting reversibility.

The blue dots are indicating the specificity of training. You can see on the left of the PMC the athlete is in their winter base with lower fitness levels and lower blue dots. As they get into proper training, the fitness rises and the dots become higher showing training is becoming more intense.

The key to it all as your coach is getting the correct balance and timing right for all these factors as we lead into the races.


Training Load

I’m quite often asked how much training someone should be doing for certain events. Answer is always “it depends” , but it’s definitely good to have a ball park figure in mind. I have a few rules of thumb when it comes to training loads.

1. Work out the total number of weekly hours based on experience in the sport.

2. Take into account “life” demands. Family needs, work, study, chill out time etc

3. Make sure we have enough hours to train correctly for the goal event. If the athlete doesn’t have enough hours, shorten the goal event.

4. Once I have my rough weekly hours number I use the 25/50/25 rule. 25% swim, 50% bike, 25% run.

5. If you are doing long course I try to match weekend numbers with weekday numbers. So if you are doing a 4 hour ride on the weekend then I try to get you doing 4 hours mid week spread out over 3 rides. Similar to run. If you are doing a 2 hour long run I’ll try to get you to match it mid-week.

6. For short course athletes I like the weekend long sessions to be all about the aerobic foundations for your mid-week intensity. Weekends can also be a chance to sneak a run off the bike in to train for the demands of competition.

7. I like Monday and Friday to be have a recovery focus. That can be passive recovery by means of a day off, or active recovery by means of easier aerobic based sessions.

8. Apply the 4 principles of training to develop the mix of the hours. This is the “art of coaching” part as it deals with the many issues life throws at us.


Its sometimes hard to know how hard to go in a set of intervals. My guide is firstly to remember that we work in a training zone. So T4 is a range between 96% and 102% of your Anaerobic Threshold. Depends on how you are feeling but if you have a set of 5x1km on the track its best to work into them. Start the first one a bit easier and get to the last one by incrementally getting quicker each one.

Being aware of your targets helps this of course. If you know your threshold pace on the run is 4min/km then start at 4:05 and work towards 3:55.

Time Trials

In training, TT’s are a great opportunity to practice race skills. I am looking for 100% commitment to them and I want you experiencing that bit of internal pressure that comes with the territory. I am then looking for you to switch that pressure to a process mindset. Feel the pressure , then get your head around your pacing and technique. Let the outcome be what it is.
TT’s also give me an idea of what your current Anaerobic Threshold is.