Thursday, February 23, 2017

Good luck for Rottnest Swimmers and a few scheduling pointers!

Please read - important scheduling information contained herein!

Dear Swimmers

Firstly let me congratulate and wish luck to all of those who will be making the 19.7km splash across to Thomson's Bay this Saturday! I will of course be in attendance hopping between the media boat (due to my commentary and social media commitments for Karma Resorts) and last year's 2nd place finisher, Brad Smith (whom I advise). It looks set to be a great day!

As ever, here are a couple of quick final preparation tips for you:

  1. Tips to manage shoulder pain this weekend: http://swimsmoothperth.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/tips-to-manage-shoulder-fatigue-pain.html 
  2. My Top-10 race video tips for the day: https://karmagroup.com/blog/ensuring-your-karma-resorts-rottnest-channel-swim-is-a-smooth-one/ 

Schedule changes / additions:

Please be aware of the following additions / changes to next week's training schedule:

  • All sessions tomorrow, Friday 24th February, will run as normal with a special shortened set for those of you racing on Saturday
  • On Friday 24th February at 8am, I will take the opportunity from a late cancelled 1-2-1 to pop down to Cottesloe Beach (meeting on the grassy area adjacent to the northside of Indianna Tea Rooms) to offer some words of advice, visualisation and a final dip in the Indian Ocean if you are around…might even get chance for a quick coffee also before the 9.30am session
  • After the Wednesday 1st March 5.30am Red Mist Endurance Session I will be taking a few days R&R with Michelle's Canadian family down south returning to the pool deck on Tuesday 7th March. Sally will cover all the sessions in my absence per last weekend's mega-quick UK coaching visit
  • Wednesday (1/3/17) and Friday (3/3/17) 9.30am sessions will be held at the slightly later time of 10am and will be at Sorrento Beach as a fun open water skills session due to a carnival at the pool at these times - details of where to meet at http://swimsmoothperth.blogspot.com.au/2017/02/a-reminder-for-930am-friday-swimmers.html 
  • There will be no session on Thursday 2/3/17 at 6.15pm due to an evening carnival at the pool

Thanks everyone and see you on Rotto for a well deserved celebratory drink - go get 'em!

Paul

Monday, February 13, 2017

Wow! What a great fortnight with the coaches!

Dear Swimmers

I hope you have had a great weekend and well done to this of you who survived the Busselton Jetty Swim yesterday - I heard the conditions were epic!

Later on this week I shall be jetting off to London for 4 days to be the keynote speaker at the world's largest triathlon expo at the ExCeL centre:



We have been invited by swim gear company Finis (who make all the paddles and tempo trainers we use here in Perth) to activate the Swim Zone over the 4 days which basically means myself and my team will be non-stop swim coaching from 9am to 6pm for the 4 days! This year they have built an entire pool within the conference centre which should make for some very interesting demonstrations and tutorials for the +30,000 swimmers and triathletes they are expecting to see over the weekend! I literally fly in 2hrs before the show starts and leave a couple of hours after it finishes! So short is this trip that I won't miss a single Wednesday Red Mist Endurance session.

Still, I should be well prepped because as you know we've spent the last 2 weeks training up the next batch of Swim Smooth Coaches here in Perth, pulling many 14+ hour days to ensure we bring them to the standard we require. 

Since we started this process in 2010, over 3,000 international coaches have applied to start this journey to become a Swim Smooth Coach, with only just over 300 of them being selected to attend the first stage (a 3-day Coach Education Course in various worldwide locations - every one of which I've attended to deliver as Head Coach) and then of those 300, only 30 have been invited to travel to Perth and go on to full Certification with us. So the coaches that you met recently are in that top 1% and travelled from:

  1. John - California, USA
  2. Linda - Florida, USA
  3. Mike - Kentucky, USA
  4. Shangrila - L.A, USA
  5. Kristina - Alberta, Canada
  6. Mary - Calgary, Canada
  7. Laura - Kent, UK
  8. Peter - Rhode Island, USA
  9. Roy - Taipei City, Taiwan
  10. Jana - Boksburg, South Africa

…and ably assisted and mentored by Emma and Adam from the UK of course!

They have just left, so it's going to be a bit quiet on the pool deck this week! Their tasks now are to complete the assignments and examinations we have set them to show us of their learning and pragmatic application of all the work we have covered here in Perth.

We started the two weeks coaching a very special young man (15yo Harold) who'd flown down from Hong Kong just for a swimming session with us. You can read about his amazing story and see his 8.15s improvement over 100m to win an international invitational meet in Hong Kong this last weekend here:


…the video analysis / ramp test is well worth a watch if you have time.


Anyway, I thought I'd leave you with a few photos from the coaches course last fortnight and a thank you for being so supportive of what we are trying to build here. Back in November - given that our next focus is building the North American program especially - I had considered shifting this two week course to Montreal, Canada instead (where one of our coaches runs a complete carbon copy of our program here in Perth), however, seeing how well you all gelled with the coaches and that Claremont Pool is very much the birth place of the whole Swim Smooth program, you'll be pleased to know that we will be keeping the annual training program right here in not-so-sunny Perth:





















Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A reminder for 9.30am Friday swimmers this week...

Dear Swimmers

Per the schedule of open water swims for the 9.30am squad this February / March due to closures of the pool for carnivals (see full schedule here: http://swimsmoothperth.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/our-next-batch-of-international-coaches.html), this Friday sees our first open water swim up at the new shark net at Sorrento Beach.

The session will start at 10am and run until 11/11.15am depending on the weather (which is looking great!). By all means please bring a wetsuit if you wish and be prepared for lots of fun and a small amount of (optional) beach running.

Sorrento Beach is a 26 minute drive north of Claremont Pool. We are trialling this first session there given the brilliant shark net facility, offering up to a 1200m loop in which to swim.

A couple of you have mentioned that you have a kayak or SUP you could bring along - as there will be a whopping 13 coaches there with me - it'd be great if you wouldn't mind bringing something down as we can use these to assist you and create man-made markers in the water.

Here's some maps so you don't get lost.


Park in the car park just north of the Sorrento SLSC if there is space:


Meet us by the small stone groyne indicated by the purple pinpoint in the image below. The red triangle is 1200m and follows the inside perimeter of the shark net - it's a great facility!



See you there!

Paul

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Know Your Reasons: Should You Be Racing For Sheep Stations?

Dear Swimmers

The following blog post is my musings on what motivates us to train and - in some cases - compete. What prompted me to write this was my recent decision to withdraw from the Port-2-Pub 25km Solo swim on the grounds that I couldn't find my reason, something I've never had to deal with before. You may or may not care to know this information or of my life choices, but this is my account of that decision and I hope it helps you in some way.

Whilst this discussion is likely to seem somewhat egocentric, I am hoping that by sharing this open and honest account of the emotions of preparing for a big event, you might indeed be able to solidify your own reason to forge ahead, or, if like me, elect to take a different path and to feel good about that decision in the shortest amount of time possible. Of course, this is likely to apply to many things in your life, not just swimming or the squad!

Knowing our reasons and being positive about them is essential I find to being empowered to pursue a goal; not knowing has the exact opposite effect and that's not a fun place to be.

In preparing this blog, I am reminded of two books that I recently read which are well worth a perusal if you're feeling similar emotions to anything expressed here:

Book 1:


…the subtitle says it all, "when to quit (and when to stick)"

I have spent many hours ruminating over even publishing this post because of: a) being perceived as a quitter (more on that in Book 2 below) and all the negative societal ramifications that usually has; and b) because with exactly one month to go before the Rottnest Channel Swim the last thing you might have expected me to discuss openly was the "Q" word especially when we're innately trained to believe we must never do such a thing. "If you don't quit, you'll make it" is the mantra we are taught to live by at all costs. In talking with several members of the squad though recently, I know that this is very much the point that you are also currently at too - if this serves to help you and you only, then so be it. That'll be a positive outcome for me. Everyone else might not be still reading anyway…! Yawn...

Book 2: 

 

…excuse the profanity in the title!

Essentially this book is all about knowing what to care about and what not - typically what people think of you or what you perceive they do. I think we're all guilty within our peer group and swimming community in general of feeling the peer pressure to perhaps drive forth even if that might not be the best direction for us. Manson teaches us to cut our own path and be happy in our choices and not to worry too much about what people think because at the end of the day, no one really cares but you anyway! Is that an easy way of saying "it's OK to give up and have no drive"? I'm not so sure.

Know Your Reasons: Should You Be Racing For Sheep Stations?

Back in June 2015, you may recall I ran a Q&A for the squad to find out a little more about the demographics of the squad and to also aim to identify what makes you tick. Below is a snapshot of some of that information gleaned from the Google analysis:


Of all the information we collected, to me this was the most intriguing. I have been coaching the squad at Claremont Pool now for nearly 9 years and Swim Smooth itself has just had it's 12th birthday, and yet my perception of reality was totally warped against what the stats were showing. Even being "behind the scenes" of the whole squad operation, like you, I am susceptible to heresy also. 

I often hear on the grapevine such things about the squad as "someone has to die before you can get a place!" and "that's a very serious squad, only for the elite!" and yet this information seemed to suggest otherwise - 39.4% of you in fact claim that you're just swimming for fun, fitness and friendship (as simple as that!), 16.5% of you are no longer competitive and are in "retirement", and a further 2.4% have no swimming background at all. 

All up then, 57.3% of you have very little inclination to compete or prepare for a big event, instead you are driven by your own innate sense of motivation to be healthy and to simply share some social time with your mates. And that's OK. Perfectly fine in fact. Just not what I was expecting, and not what the international coaches who arrive this weekend will perceive either when they see our "slower" lanes averaging a good 15-20s per hundred faster than their own squads. In fact lane 1 on Wednesday morning averaged 1:52 for a continuous 1500m swim within a really hard 4km Red Mist set. This is always the visiting coaches's biggest collective comment after they spend two weeks with us - how fast you guys and girls all are and how disciplined and consistent you are in your approach. From an outsider's perspective, it's very much a competitively healthy group of people enjoying each other's company and that makes me very proud as a coach indeed.

I just wish I could learn to be like you guys myself as I've been doing it hard lately, coming to terms with the necessity to withdraw from this year's 25km Port-2-Pub race (more on that later).

I draw amazing inspiration watching you every day, taking instructions, following through, ticking all the boxes, sometimes achieving your goals, sometimes not, but ALWAYS coming back for more. I often question how much I must sound like a broken record on the pool deck repeating instructions, listing familiar drills time and again, but still you come. As Rob from Lane 3 (Friday 6.30am) so eloquently put it:

"So where does the black line lead? Not sure but happy to keep following to find out!" 



Keep following that black line!

My entire sporting life has been about competition. I was never the best swimmer in our club and certainly not in our county (state), but I always thrived on the competition, trying to beat my own personal bests at every opportunity. I had a dogged determinedness to be the "last to quit" thinking that if I can just outlast my competitor's own internal motivations then ultimately I'd be the only one left and would start to win everything as the competition pool shrank in numbers!



Inspiration doesn't come much better than this - 80yo Barrie Eaves also claims that if he just keeps going soon there'll be no one left to beat. Barrie swims every day of the week and doesn't blink an eye at Friday's 5km Red Mist Endurance session. Legend.

I've always felt the need to have a goal - usually a big flippin' goal at that - to keep me motivated to train, but perhaps this is where I'm going wrong? Perhaps the motivation simply needs to be about the enjoyment of swimming at this point in time. The enjoyment of the swimming community, irrespective of event or placing? My very good friend and whom I owe my entire coaching career here in Australia to (as he relinquished his position at the Stadium Triathlon Club in 2002 to make way for his psychology studies exactly when I was seeking a start), said to me over the Christmas holidays:

"I don't know how you do it. How you keep backing up for these big events. Don't you feel that you have a finite amount of motivation, especially when always training alone? I prefer to stay fit and healthy year-round, enjoying the experience of just being out on my bike, but avoiding the highs and lows of fitness / performance from peaking for certain events." 

It should be noted that said friend is actually still incredibly fit and healthy and still backs up and performs well at some big events, he just doesn't devote all his time and emotional energy into it as I seem to be drawn to do*. Could this be you too? Are you the one racing for sheep stations that aren't necessarily even there to be won?

*I have a man crush on this guy's approach to life and his family / work / training balance it has to be said! 

I often claim that I (only) swim about 10-12hrs a week (25-40km), but what is most apparent these days with a young family and busy work schedule, is that it's not the swimming duration that's the issue, it's how consuming the whole process of training for a big event - being the "be all and end all" or pinnacle of your training plan - from an emotional and psychological perspective. Or at least this is the case for me - this is where I'm going wrong, this is where the majority of you have it right.

Now don't get me wrong, focus, dedication and commitment which thus leads to consistency, performance and ultimately the ability to finish the challenge of completing an Ironman or swimming across to Rottnest Island is essential - the point is, have you got the balance right? What is your reasoning to put yourself through what you do? Can you simply say why you are preparing for your next event? If the answer is a loose "erm, because I think I should" I'd encourage you to think a little deeper. If you still can't find it and are beating yourself up, then perhaps your goal posts need some adjusting? Could this reasoning be the missing key to your spark and motivation loss at key times or am I just speaking to and about myself…??!! Possibly.

Remember, nothing is permanent - it's not like this needs to be "never again", you could, after all, spin around on a sixpence once you have made some adjustments in both your training volume and emotional approach (if its needed) and come bouncing right back. I know, and can feel already, that I'm going to be able to relight that inner fire now that I have listened and reasoned with myself about what I really want to spend my time and effort doing at this point in time

Here's some possible (positive) reasons for taking action and sticking with it in no particular order of importance:
  • because I want to do what I've never done before
  • because I want to experience something entirely new to me
  • because I want to beat my mate
  • because I want to beat my time
  • because I want to win
  • because I want to set a world record
  • because I want to be a newer, healthier me
  • because I want that flippin' number plate!
  • because I just want to do it
Note that these are all "wants", not "needs" or "shoulds". I couldn't find my "want".

Regrettably - but now excitingly - last weekend I made the decision to withdraw from the 25km Port-2-Pub solo swim. I've been asked many times this last couple of weeks "how is my training / racing going" but sadly it's never been a positive response. I apologise if you've been on the receiving end of that, or even if I've seemed somewhat evasive of answering the question properly. That's been hard to deal with in itself as I spend my whole life trying to enthuse others to enjoy swimming and yet here I was lower than low about my own. 

As per the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Squad Swimmers blog post, my training had been going well leading up to Christmas. Hindsight has shown me that my motivation at this point was simply to get fit again, rather than any bigger picture thoughts of the event itself. But I over-cooked it and I'm an idiot. I was too greedy and pushed that balance button too far in the wrong direction. I burnt out. I was grumpy and miserable to be around. This was coupled with a niggling left shoulder issue I've been dealing with for the best part of a decade now (many, many years of unilateral breathing prior to switching exclusively to bilateral ~2002), but the ultimate issue was that I just couldn't find the reasoning within me for wanting to do the event (as great an event as it is I hasten to add!) and put my body, mind and soul through the sacrifices that I alone place on myself for these events. Fear of my shoulder totally giving in on me and having to then endure months of restorative rehab also just wasn't on my "want radar".

In short, I was racing for sheep stations for the wrong reasons.

I had three open water swims after Christmas and each of them ended in severe shoulder pain and numbness, but the more worrying thing was the zero lack of drive that I had to complete each. I would literally stop mid-stroke and just get out. Something I've never experienced before. It was depressing. The guilt of exiting early and feeling like a hypocrite was compounded by the fact that I then felt guilty about how I could have spent the morning playing lego with the kids or taking the dog for a nice walk - you know, the "normal" things in life. 

So I had to make a decision and that decision was to quit. Yes, I'm a fully fledged quitter! Was I worried about how that would be perceived as a supposed leader of positive action? Certainly. Do I feel bad about that? Yes, but only momentarily. The truth is though that I'd already mentally quit this event 4 to 6 weeks before I made the decision to acknowledge it with others, even with myself. I am now very comfortable that I've made a choice to change direction rather than feeling I've simply given up, and there's a big difference.

I was reminded by close friends and family - after looking so down and grumpy - that the last time I looked truly motivated and inspired was when I did the ÖtillÖ race in the Scilly Isles back in June 2016. Why was this so? It was such a new event to me. No pressure. No expectation. Something different. Something which connects you to your environment in a way no other race could. Doing it for a reason above and beyond my own interests. I loved it and I was pumped. I was pumped in exactly the same way I see those of you training up for your first Rottnest swim or an Ironman look every time you pop down onto pool deck. I envy that look. Grasp onto that feeling and hold it aloft! You can do a lot with that feeling. Yes you'll be feeling tired right now. Yes your muscles will be aching and yes you might be nervous and apprehensive about even finishing the event but don't confuse that fatigue with malaise - it's not. Just you watch - you'll start to taper down, you'll freshen up, that mojo will come flooding back and you'll be ready. You'll be excited. You'll be set to take on the biggest adventure of your life and you will do it awesomely well. Just know your reason and then embrace it!

So, rather than wallowing in my own self-pity I've decided to get proactive, to make some changes, and it's been a liberating experience! I've stopped drinking, I'm going to bed earlier, I've cut out sugar, I'm drinking a lot more water (via my new Soda Stream), I'm trying to get my body physically back in balance after years of just swimming, blah, blah, blah...I've replaced the disappointing training sessions with more time with Mish and the kids and it just feels right. I feel "normal". I'm pumped again with the news of the Rottnest SwimRun event on 1st April (https://www.rottnestswimrun.com) and even did an 18km practice session this morning with Anna-Lee from the squad; and when I dusted off the cobwebs of my 8yo Cervelo and took just one revolution of it's beautiful carbon cranks rather than hitting the river for another loop, I knew instantly I'd made the right decision. I was alive again.

Know your reason and then go with it.

Paul

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our next batch of International Coaches arrive soon! 9.30am Squad SUPER IMPORTANT - please read!


Dear Swimmers

*6.15pm Thursday swimmers, please note there will be no session on Thursday 2nd March owing to an evening carnival at the pool - thanks!*

As is often the case, during the months of February and March, school carnivals are often run at the pool which can clash with our 9.30am sessions. This year is no different and we have 8 clash dates as follows this season - please put them in your diary!

Given earlier sessions at the pool (and the need to rush from the pool to the beach for myself / coaches), these sessions will run from 10-11am:

  1. Friday 3rd February (Sorrento Beach trial)
  2. Wednesday 1st March
  3. Friday 3rd March
  4. Wednesday 8th March
  5. Friday 17th March
  6. Monday 20th March
  7. Wednesday 22nd March
  8. Friday 31st March

N.B your app will always indicate if it's an open water session, so no excuses please for wrongly turning up at the pool (it happens!):


For these dates we shall be running these sessions instead in the open water. These are always super enjoyable and challenging sessions! Typically these have been run at Cottesloe Beach, but given the fantastic new shark net up at Sorrento Beach which can give a much more "peaceful mind" and a 1.2km circuit (if needed), we will run the first of these sessions on Friday 3rd February up there. Yes, it's a little more of a trek for some of you possibly, but let's see how we go. I've been using the net myself once or twice a week and it's a great resource and something I'd like us to get behind.

We'll make a judgement call after the first session as to whether to return to Cottesloe or stay at Sorrento.

For this first date, we shall also have the following international coaches with me to assist, so you could get up to 1-2-1 coaching advice on that first session (well worth your while!). These coaches will be arriving between 25th and 28th January and will have a 2 week stint with us here starting officially on Monday 30th January - it's going to be a great couple of weeks to really benefit from their assistance:

  1. Linda Bostic, Florida, USA
  2. Jana Schoeman, South Africa
  3. John Chipponeri, California, USA
  4. Kristina Schultz, Alberta, Canada
  5. Peter Russo, Boston, USA
  6. Roy Wu, Taiwan
  7. Mike Jotautas, Kentucky, USA
  8. Mary Jessy, Calgary, Canada
  9. Laura Ansell, London, UK
  10. Shangrilla Rendon, Los Angeles, USA
  11. Adam, Essex, UK
  12. Emma, The Lake District, UK
Have a great hump day!

Paul

Swim Thru Perth, this Sunday!


Dear Swimmers

Perth's longest standing open water race is this Sunday, the annual Swim Thru Perth with some new and exciting distances to try out!

More info and to register here: http://www.swimthruperth.org

Enjoy!

Paul

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A fond farewell to Coach Cyndy!


Dear Swimmers

This is the blog I've been dreading putting out as sadly coach Cyndy will soon be leaving us to return home to the USA in early February.



Cyndy has been an integral part of the Swim Smooth Perth coaching team for several years now, one of our most dedicated swimmers and has also become a dear friend to myself and my family, in fact we were lucky enough to spend Christmas Day this year with herself and her husband Brent. My kids totally dote on Cyndy so it's going to be a very sad day when she leaves and I know that those of you whom have been lucky to have had her coach you will be very sad to see her go too.

Cyndy is having a group of her closer squad buddies meet up on Saturday 24th January and will also be available to say goodbye to and wish her luck at the following sessions:

Option 1: she will be poolside at the early morning sessions on the 24th and 27th January to say goodbye

Option 2: If you are a Tuesday night swimmer* she will be coaching her last session on the 24th January

Option 3: If you are a 9:30AM swimmer, her last swim will be Friday 5k, 3rd February

*whilst I hate to discuss "replacements" at this time, for the Tuesday sessions of the 31st January and 7th February, if you swim in the Tuesday PM session, you will have myself and our 12 international Swim Smooth coaches with you for these dates (including Adam and Emma) as they will be here from Monday 30th January to Saturday 11th February inclusive. Following this myself and Coach Ross will transition to ensure the smooth running and continuation of the legacy Cyndy took on from coach Sandy and built further herself.


I have been blown away with Cyndy's passion, commitment and integrity in everything she does and whilst you might have "only" experienced her coaching on pool deck, Cyndy does many, many things behind the scenes for Swim Smooth and thankfully will continue to do so when she's in the USA as we build that side of the coaching business. In fact, Cyndy is primarily responsible for populating over 400 training sessions within our www.swimsmooth.guru - no easy fete when you see the detail and accuracy she puts into that work with fine panache…

…yes you could say I'm going to be totally and utterly gutted to see her go, but then that would be a huge understatement.

Cyndy, thank you for your friendship, your professionalism and your unwavering reliability and support - we couldn't have done it without you.

Cheers

Paul