Saturday, April 26, 2014

May & June is "Get-Your-Swimming-MOJO-Back Month(s)" at Swim Smooth Perth!

Dear Swimmers

I hope you're enjoying the last long weekend for a while. I thought I'd take this time to write to you about a little plot I've been hatching over the last couple of weeks. You see, March / April is always a funny time of year here in Perth and I often refer to it as the "Post-Rotto-Doldrums" - many of you trained really hard for that event and following this (or any other A-race for that matter), it's easy to slip into a kind of post-race blues feeling. This is especially dangerous at this time of year, as the weather will start to deteriorate soon and it'll be all too easy to roll over in bed at 5am in the morning and tell yourself "not today, thank you very much!" 

Same thing for those of you competing next weekend at the Busselton Half Ironman - a couple of "rest weeks" soon becomes a couple of months and before you know it, it's October and you've done very little indeed over winter. Of course rest is important, but it's equally important to set yourself a few simple winter goals to keep you tracking in the right direction.

So what prompted all this? Well I've definitely been picking up on a lack of "mojo" vibes in the squad recently and I can't help but wonder if I'm partly to blame? You see I too am feeling this way at the moment…I missed swimming the Catalina Channel in October due to my bad back, had surgery in December to fix my back, got my stitches infected in January, had the wound re-open in February, had a business trip to the UK in March and then was "Daddy Daycare" in April - get the picture? Sound familiar? In a nutshell I've had zero consistency to my training for the last 6 or 7 months and am totally craving routine and stability right now. So why not lead this charge of "Get-Your-Swimming-MOJO-Back" I thought? Goodness knows I need it too. In fact, I've just postponed my next UK trip (originally planned for the end of May) to the start of July just so that I can get you all back into a good routine this winter and establish that all important C-word: Consistency. I'm going to go a step further and add a little humour and interest to this by growing my beard (or attempting to!) until such stage as I've got that MOJO back! You'll be turning up to swimming for the next few weeks either thinking "urgh! what is he doing growing that ugly bit of bum fluff on his chin!" or you might just think "weirdo!", but that's OK because a) Michelle happens to like it and b) one day you'll turn up at 5.30am and it'll be gone! When you ask? When I've got my MOJO back! I'm hoping this might inspire equally weird feats of monk-like deprivation if you're in the same boat as me right now!

So how is this all going to work? Well, next week we'll start off with a little time trial to assess exactly where we're all at (these will operate on Wednesday 30/4 at 9.30am, Thursday 1/5 at 6.30am and Friday 2/5 at 5.30am and 6.30am). If you cannot attend these sessions, follow the advice at and perform the 400m and 200m time trials and record your times and then use the calculate to work out your current CSS pace. Remember, don't shy away from this - this is an experiment and like any good experiment we all need to know where we're starting from so we can gauge how much we need to do in order to improve. Good or bad is not important - it is what it is. It will also ensure you start this program at precisely the right intensity which is very important if (like me) you've had a period of absence; in fact my CSS has gone from 1:12/100m prior to winning the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in June 2013 to approximately 1:22 or 1:23/100m currently. My intermediate goal is to get this back down to about 1:16/100m in this 8 week period - it won't be easy, but the biggest challenge will simply be to a) commit and b) start - is this what is holding you back too perhaps?

We'll then commence an 8-week program on Monday 5th May (until Sunday 29th June) where I'm going to encourage you to try and swim 3 or 4 times per week, as per this suggestion:

  1. technique focused swim session, i.e. Monday 7am, Monday 9.30am, Friday 9.30am or simply by yourself
  2. threshold focused swim session, i.e. Wednesday 9.30am, Thursday 6.30pm, Friday 5.30am, or Friday 6.30am
  3. endurance focused swim session, i.e. Tuesday 5.30am, Tuesday 6.30am, Tuesday 6.30pm, or Wednesday 5.30am
  4. open water focused swim session, i.e. Thursday 7am (down at the river with me - meet at Claremont Jetty at 6.45am), Saturday 1pm, or simply by yourself

…full details of these sessions can be seen here:

I have prepared the session record sheet as per the image below, which is downloadable at a higher resolution from

Prior to winning Manhattan I did a very similar thing and it worked wonders. I calculated that I had 10 weeks remaining until the race and that I wanted to get 50 sessions in during this period. 5 sessions and ~36km per week sounds like a lot, but compared to my rivals who were swimming upwards of 30km more than me per week (in fact 2nd place finisher Lochie Hinds was clocking over 120km per week!), this was all that I could fit in around my busy work and family schedule. I had to be realistic. You can read more about these 50 sessions here: - the power of writing down my sessions for post-session reflection and even Tweeting every one through my @SwimSmoothPaul account did amazing things for my MOJO at that point. You don't necessarily need to set up a Twitter account yourself and some of you won't even bother to download this PDF record sheet let alone fill it in, but hopefully just getting onboard with this challenge will help to inspire you a little and that multiplied by 180 regular swimmers in the squad could do amazing things for you, me, all of us!

The key to my Manhattan "process" had to be consistency and that each session had to really count. Here's a few tips how you can make your 32 sessions really count during this period:

  • get onboard now - deciding to a) commit and b) start is the hardest part of this whole process…leave it a few weeks and whilst it will totally be possible to pick-up and join-in (especially for those of you planning a break after Busso), for some of you it will be very difficult knowing others have started before you.
  • start filling out the record sheet after every session…even if the motivation for this wanes after about session 5 or 6, you'll be well on your way by that point and getting through those first six sessions is always the biggest hurdle, see: for more details.
  • lead the lane at every possible opportunity: let's think of moving "up" or "down" a lane less of a promotion or demotion and more of doing what's right for you - just last week I was super proud that Janine Kaye and Rhian Chin completed +5km in the ANZAC Day Swim, however I moved them "up" into lane 2 to swim at a pace 'supposedly' 6"/100m faster than their CSS pace only to be told that they found it too easy being behind 8 other swimmers and had a much better workout and more beneficial when they were leading lane 1! Fair enough, I couldn't agree more. Take every opportunity to lead that you can: don't be shy, don't fear failure, just get up there and give it a go! And remember, if I move you across a lane (in either direction) I'm doing it to best suit your needs and requirements, nothing more, nothing less.
  • mind the gap: see - please read this right now…it's soooo important!!
  • learn to see one good thing in every session that you do, write it down, record it and do the same with one thing that could have been done better - this is how we learn and improve.

OK, so at this point nothing really looks any different right? There's a fancy looking PDF to print off (which few of you will do anyway) and a weird picture of me stroking some bum-fluff on my chin, but how exactly will we get that MOJO back? Well, the 8 week program will be split into 2 blocks of 4 weeks where we will essentially repeat the key sessions or training sets in the second block of 4 weeks to see how we're faring. This will typically occur in the threshold focused swim session, i.e. Wednesday 9.30am, Thursday 6.30pm, Friday 5.30am, or Friday 6.30am. So week 5 will be a repeat of week 1, week 6 a repeat of week 2 and so on. We'll keep send off times the same, won't restrict you quite so much with a specific target pace on the beeper (at least, not always), and give you the chance to really shine when needed. This might sound a little boring, but the chance to repeat the same part of a session again when you're hopefully a little fitter and (in this case) a little more pumped-up for it will be a great objective challenge. You'll need to get into a good habit of writing down some of these times and I'll be there to tell you which ones are important to record. We will then re-test in week 9 (week commencing Monday 30th June) and see how everyone's done, including me - hopefully by that point my chin will be as smooth as a baby's bum and all will be well in the swimming world again! ;-)

So come on, finish that Sunday morning cappuccino, get pumped, get inspired and get down to training next week and get started on as many of those 32 sessions that you can!

Cheers and thank you for listening to my ramblings - I hope they help!


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