Making Friends Through Triathlon

One of the things I LOVE about triathlon and swimming is that it enables you to travel to places that you may never have known about and to meet some of the most interesting people.

A few weeks ago, I got an opportunity to meet a super interesting guy, Nils, who runs a great race in Sweden each summer.

Nils connected with me through Instagram while out on vacation in Dubai(check out his Instagram here).

We spent a morning together talking swimming and doing a workout. What could be more awesome?

I wanted to share a quick 5 minute video he put together while we talked about:

  • The benefits of training in Dubai (at 0:00)
  • The first mistake wannabe triathletes make when they start out swimming (at 0:47)
  • The highest priority every triathlon swimmer should be focused on (at 1:38)
  • The popularity of triathlon in Dubai (at 2:48)
  • How I got into coaching swimming (at 3:33)

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Are you going to be traveling to Dubai? Want to chat swimming? Send me an email and lets connect.

Swim Endurance Tip: How Technique Will Only Carry You So Far

Swim Endurance Tip:
How Technique Will Only Carry You So Far

I failed.

I got into the pool for the first time in a very long time to do an actual swim workout.

And I suffered badly.

I get into the water from time to time to test drills and progressions or a piece of a set to make sure they work for my athletes. But the truth is I don’t actually workout in the pool anymore.

Until three weeks ago.

A local Tri coach who’s following the SwimFaster Program challenged me to do one of the workouts after sending me his times.

The test was a 750m time trial.

Knowing I have done no swim training I guessed I’d be able to go somewhere in the region of 9.30ish for the 750m. That sounded reasonable and achievable.

Full of confidence I pushed off after warming up and doing my drills.

The first 450m felt like chocolate.

Smooth, long and efficient.

And then someone dropped a Grand Piano on my back.

My shoulder, lats and abs started to BURN. My breathing shortened up and so did my reach and the finish of my stroke. My kick slowed and my head started to creep higher out of the water for each breath.

It all fell apart.

I was was eternally grateful to get my hand on the wall on the last length! Stop the watch, pull off the goggles, taste some fresh, sweet O2, and look down at the time…


What the actual hell?

I got back in the pool the next day.

And again the day after that.

And have continued to swim three times a week until that time changes.

Here Are 4 Endurance Tips About Fitness & Technique You Can Learn From My Sufferfest:

1. Great technique will only carry you through about 400m before you need fitness.

You already know this. Technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you. But technique on it’s own will only carry you through 4-5 minutes of swimming. After that you better be fit or you’re going to suffer. 

2. Consistency is the key to success in swimming

It’s been close to 4 years since I followed a regimented training program in the pool. And I felt every day off I’ve taken during that 750m.

The water is a wicked mistress if you don’t pay your respects to her on a very regular basis. The more you get in, the faster you will get. I wish it wasn’t the truth, but it is.

3. If your shoulders burn when you swim, you don’t need strength work, you need to swim more

I’ve done nothing but strength work for the last couple of years. No swimming, just strength. When I hit 450m the fire that consumed my arms and shoulders was like nothing I remember. Strength work won’t take that burn away, more swimming will.  

4. Accept where you are right now

After reporting my time back to the Tri coach that challenged me, he asked “Are you happy or not?”

The answer is no, but, it is what it is and I need to do something about it.

That time isn’t good or bad. It’s the starting point.

You may look at me and say “yeah but your pace is worlds ahead, if I swam like that I’d be happy”.

To which I will reply; “there are people just starting out their swimming journey that say the same thing about your stroke and the times you swim”.

Where you are right now is just the starting point for what’s to come. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

My time will change in the coming weeks and months, it’ll either get faster, or it won’t. Whichever way it swings, the responsibility lies firmly on my shoulders. Just as the responsibility for your times lies with you.

💁🏽‍♂️ Did You Just Learn Something Your Friends Don’t Know?

If you shared your new found knowledge with your friends, you could become their swimming master. And I think you are a legend for helping fix their biggest struggles. Click on one of the magic icons below to share this knowledge with them.

The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

The Freestyle Breath: How To Keep Your Head Low

Many triathletes I work with complain about taking on a mouth full of water during the freestyle breath. Especially when I have asked them to keep their head low during the movement. If they do manage to keep their head low, many feel like they don’t get a good breath in and get winded and run out of air too fast.

As a result they lift their head up for the breath or over rotate and look up to the sky as they breathe. Both of which result in slowing them down.

Learning to stay low to the water during the freestyle breath will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. When you don’t slow down each time you take a breath you’ll be able to sustain your pace with less effort. You’ll also find you can hold your speed for longer periods of time.

By keeping your head low to the water you are able to limit the amount of resistance you work against. The lower your head can stay the less you will slow down as you take a breath.

But keeping your head low to the water is a challenge!

So here are 4 ways to help you with the freestyle breath. Especially if you’re lifting your head or over rotating to breathe and struggle to stay low to the water like this☝🏼triathlete .

1. Get Your Hips Up

If your hips sit too deep beneath the surface when you try to stay low during the breath your mouth won’t get out the water.

Watch me nearly drown as I attempt to demonstrate this in this video:

Raising your hips up to the surface will level your body out. That means as you rotate for the breathe your mouth will clear the water and you’ll breathe in fresh air!

2. Make The Breath Faster

You’ll struggle to hold your low breathing position if you are taking too long to inhale. You have a very short window of time to get that breath in. You want to use that window to inhale only. To do this, make sure you have sufficiently exhaled while your face is in the water. That way when your face comes out the water you only have to inhale (as opposed to exhaling first then inhaling) before it can return back down.

3. Start The Breath Earlier

Breathing late in the stroke will cause you to rush the breath and lead you to feel winded very quickly.

Your head should start to turn for the breath just after your fingers have entered the water. You rotate from the neck first and then the rotation of your shoulders will take over. As your arm extends out in front of your shoulder and your body rolls to the side your mouth will clear the water. Breathe in and then return your head down before you begin to pull back with the extended arm.

Freestyle Breath - Keep Your Head Low

Staying low to the water as you breathe will ensure that you carry your momentum from stroke to stroke. You’ll no longer take on water and you’ll stop feeling winded when you get the rhythm, timing and position of the breath right.

Have You Grabbed My Breathe Easy Guide? 

Put an end to your extreme urge to breathe – even if you can’t swim more than a lap right now...

Get The Guide Here

How To Use Your Arms To Swim More Efficiently

There’s one similarity that both you and the fastest swimmers in the world share.

A common factor that you, an Age Group Triathlete and the greatest Olympians have to deal with… Want to know what it is?

The speed and efficiency of your freestyle stroke is directly related to the length of your body.

Let Me Explain

The longer or taller you can make your body the better you will move through the water. Think of your body like a boat; long, narrow yachts move quicker than short wide barges. Right?

Let’s think about that for a minute… Who would win in a race, the yacht or the barge?

If the barge captain fires all his engines. Burns every bit of fuel he’s got, and gets a head start he might have a shot at beating the yacht. At least over a short distance. But if he’s using that much energy to generate speed, it’s not going to last long. Sooner or later the yacht’s efficiency will win.

Now ask yourself; when you hit the water in your next race, would you rather be a barge or a yacht?


The length of your body through the water plays a significant role in your speed and efficiency.

So how do we use this idea to help you swim faster for longer and still have the reserves to smash the bike and run?

Make Yourself Taller 

I admit, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change your actual height. But you can make a couple of small adjustments and cheat a little to make yourself tall and long in the water. Here’s how:

Swimming with good posture is your first priority.

Just like your middle school teacher used to harp on, posture is important. Standing with good posture vs slouching is better for your health and your appearance! As it does on land, lengthening your torso and straightening your back will make you taller in the water.

And once you have good posture?

You can cheat by including your arms! Make yourself taller in the water by lengthening the time your arms spend extended out in front of you.

How Do I Do That? 

I’m 187cm (6ft2) tall.

But if I raise my hands up above my head I add an extra 70cm+ to my total height.

If you add the length of your arms above your head you’re a longer, taller body moving through the water.

If your arms are not extended out in front of you, you are only as long or tall as your hight. So the longer you keep an arm extended above you as you swim the taller you are.

This Is Why Some Coaches Use Catch Up Drill

If you’ve been to a swim lesson or spent any time on YouTube no doubt you’re familiar with this drill. It is used to help teach you extend out in front.

To swim Catch Up Drill, you must wait for the recovering hand to touch the extended hand. Only once they touch can you pull through for your next stroke.

Touching your hand on every stroke gives you a physical cue telling your hand when to start the next stroke. This makes it easy to learn how to keep the arm extended out in front as well as the timing of when to pull through. Just wait until your hands touch!

While the drill teaches you to stay extended (which is what we want) it’s not a great way to swim freestyle. Why?

Because the wait disrupts the continuity of your stroke. It halts forward momentum.

While your lead arm waits for the recovering arm to enter and touch you STOP moving forward. This means you have to re-generate your speed from scratch with every pull.

You end up moving-stopping-moving-stopping-moving… Not economical at all.

It’s like city driving gas consumption in your car vs highway consumption. The stop-start driving in the city results in higher fuel consumption than continuous driving on the highway. Similarly the stop-start movement of catch up drill results in higher energy consumption.

This higher fuel consumption may come back to haunt you later in your race.

You may have better length length in your stroke by swimming with a catch up style. But if you have to re-generate your speed from scratch with every stroke you’ll be burning too much energy. It’s going to hurt more than it helps.

This is why I do not use Catch Up Drill unless we’re in extreme circumstances!

So How Do You Achieve That Long Stroke?

Enter Front Quadrant Freestyle.

Front Quadrant Freestyle takes the benefits of the Catch Up Drill without killing your momentum.

To swim Front Quadrant Freestyle; wait until the recovering arm has passed the line of your head before you start your pull.

You could say that Front Quadrant Freestyle is 3/4 Catch Up Stroke. Instead of waiting for your hands to touch before you pull back, you start when the recovering arm has just passed your head.

If filmed from above we want to see one hand/arm extended out in front of your head at any time in the stroke cycle. You must make sure the lead arm stays extended out front during the recovery of the other arm.


Notice how the lead arm disappears past the head before the recovering arm enters the water. This shortens the length of your body through the water and will slow you down.

Front Quadrant Freestyle

3/4 Is A Rough Guide

You can adjust the length of time you keep the lead arm extended based on:

  • The distance you’re swimming
  • Your speed
  • The water/weather conditions.

Long distance / Slow speed / Flat calm water = More Extension

Short distance / High Speed / Rough Water = Less Extension

In the pool, you have the opportunity to be patient with that lead arm. You can keep it extended and ride your line as long as it doesn’t kill your momentum.

What About Open Water?

In rough open water, the length of time you leave that arm extended out is potentially shorter.

Turnover is generally higher in rough water so you’re not going to have the same length to your stroke. You will spend less time in the extended position and pull through into your catch a little earlier.

Some Degree of Front Quadrant Freestyle

With the types of distances you will be swimming, you should always have an element of Front Quadrant Freestyle in your stroke. Regardless of the situation (distance/speed/conditions) you always want some part of one hand or arm extended out in front of your head at all times in the stroke.

It may not be the full arm, but some part of it should be stretched out to make you longer.

If it’s not you’re shortening your length slowing yourself down and risking shoulder injuries.

To help you conceptualize what I’m talking about, here is an exaggerated example of Front Quadrant Freestyle.

For demonstration purposes, it’s swum very slowly to help you pick up on exactly how I get more length.

This is not the speed at which I would train or race. But it does give you a good idea of how you can lengthen your body for better efficiency!

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