Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Notes about session structure whilst Paul is away...

Dear Swimmers

Well, it's only 6 days now until I head off to the UK for the Olympics (I qualified for the shot putt...) and to run several of our 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Courses. I will be away from 25th July to 25th August and am taking Mish and the kids with me as well and will hopefully get chance to jump on Wayne's boat as he attempts the English Channel Swim on ~20th August - I can't wait!

I have been busily preparing all the sessions for the coaches whilst I will be away to ensure a smooth running in my absence but with the benefit of a bit of fresh 'blood' on the pool deck which I'm hoping you will all enjoy!


Remember, you can order a new card at up until July 31st, whereupon the new pricing structure will come into place from 1st August onwards. This will make a 10 session card (3mth expiry) go from $120 to $130, a 25 session card (4mth expiry) from $270 to $285, and a 50 session card (5mth expiry) from $480 to $500. Any cards bought now will have their expiry starting from 1/8/12 onwards. If you think you will need a new card whilst I am away, please can I encourage you to either purchase directly from me at any of the squads this Friday, Saturday or next Monday or Tuesday before I leave, or of course via the online payment system.

Please can I expressly request that you remember your cards for each of the sessions whilst I am away as it is very difficult to monitor I.O.Us for the coaches working different shifts - many thanks!


In order to allow the sessions to run as smoothly as possible, I have briefed the coaches with the following chart to ensure that each sub-group / lane within each squad is swimming at the right pace when it comes to using the Tempo Trainers to control pacing. This looks like this for your reference:

Pace per lane / per squad as an approximate guide based on current performance levels at 17/7/12 and for the nature of the specific session:

Day / TimeLane 1Lane 2Lane 3Lane 3.5 or 4Lane 4.5
Monday 7am2:16 (34.0")1:54 (28.5")1:36 (24.0")N/AN/A
Monday 9.30am2:06 (31.5")1:50 (27.5")1:42 (26.0")1:34 (23.5")N/A
Tuesday 5.30am2:02 (30.5")1:44 (26.0")1:35 (23.75")1:32 (23.0")1:24 (21.0")
Tuesday 6.30am2:06 (31.5")1:50 (27.5")1:38 (24.5")1:32 (23.0")N/A
Tuesday 6.15pmSandy to adviseSandy to advise
Sandy to advise
Wednesday 5.30am1:54 (28.5") or 59-61s cycle OR 
1:59 (29.75") or 63-65s cycle
1:42 (26.0") or 53-55s cycle1:33 (23.25") or 49-52s cycle1:30 (22.50") or 48-51s cycle1:22 (20.5") or 43-46s cycle
Wednesday 9.30am2:00 (30.0")1:44 (26.0")1:36 (24.0")1:28 (22.0") OR 1:22 (20.5")N/A
Friday 5.30am1:56 (29.0")1:38 (24.5")1:29 (22.25")1:26 (21.5")1:18 (19.5")
Friday 6.30am2:00 (30.0")1:44 (26.0")1:32 (23.0")1:26 (21.5")N/A
Friday 9.30am2:06 (31.5")1:50 (27.5")1:42 (26.0")1:34 (23.5")N/A
Saturday 1.00pm1:53 (28.25") OR 1:42 (25.5")1:33 (23.25")1:26 (21.5")1:23 (22.25")1:15 (18.75")

Please ensure that you swim in your speed appropriate lane and in your usual speed orders to assist with the flow of the session...the only tricky session for this is the Wednesday 5.30am session with Francene / Brad given the relatively small spread of ability between the lanes as this session seems to be frequented by mostly the stronger swimmers from within the squad. Don't forget, if you're feeling good, don't be shy - offer to lead the lane or move forwards a couple of spaces - it all helps!

Unlike March when I was last away, we won't be operating a 0.5% improvement per week, but instead will utilise this 5 week period to consolidate fitness and challenge you with progressively harder main sets in the Wednesday 9.30am and Friday 5.30am & 6.30am sessions - I know you will enjoy this!


For your reference, here are the coaching allocations in my absence:


Assuming Wayne gets away on time for his English Channel Swim, I'll be back on pool deck on Monday 27th August. We will be announcing the plans for our 2013 Rottnest Channel Swim Program in early September, which will be a 21 week program commencing Monday 1st October. We hope that 2013 will be bigger and better than ever for the squad participating in the Rottnest Swim, and I'd highly encourage you to start thinking about whether you might like to do a Team, Duo or even a Solo this coming year. The strength of training for this event as a group or like-minded swimmers cannot be understated, so if you've been sat on the sidelines for a while now contemplating getting involved, maybe this year is your year! I'll be joining you too for my 3rd Solo...

Right, well, I'll see you over the next few days down at the squad so if you have any questions or queries before I leave please let me know. Equally, please do not be afraid to drop me a line whilst I am away to let me know how things are going for you and equally I'll keep you posted with what I'm up to and hopefully share some cracking photos of the 2012 Olympics - wahoo!



Sunday, July 15, 2012

In case you missed it last night...

...such a brilliant documentary about one of my key heroes in sport - Ian Thorpe - check out the documentary at - it's so amazingly heartfelt - let me know what you think, I loved it!



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday Early Morning Squads and Thursday Reading List

Dear Swimmers

Wow! A bit of a fresh morning this morning but what a fantastic bit of winter sunshine right now - lovely and crisp!

I've compiled 3 recent articles for your reading pleasure that I've written over the last couple of months for the - namely:

  1. What can we learn from the olympians
  2. How to get the most out of your squad coach
  3. How best to train for a 10km open water event

...they can all be accessed from the same 5.2mb file here:

...I highly recommend a subscription to the magazine if you're into your open water swimming - it's a great read!

The first article was inspired by the fact that I'm going to be lucky enough to take myself, Mish and the kids across to England for 4 weeks from the 25th July to 25th August to watch the Olympics (we have tickets for the finals of the athletics on 4th August thanks to Caroline and Gary Claydon!!) and we'll also be attending the men's and women's triathlon events and both 10km marathon swimming events. In fact, the chief organiser of the 10km marathon swimming event (Colin Hill) who founded the Great Swim series in the UK and is a bit of guru in his own right, will be attending one of the three 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Courses that we're running around the Olympic events during that period. We're really stoked to have Colin onboard as well as 35 other international coaches from as far afield as the USA, Israel, South Africa and even Australia! Exciting times. 

Whilst over there we'll also be running a huge open water event the evening before the men's triathlon at Heron Lake (a local hot-spot for triathletes in London) together with HUUB wetsuits and also doing an official book launch too! The book has been selling incredibly well and within 2 weeks has already gone to it's 2nd print run and sold out with Amazon. I still have about six copies left here in Perth if anyone wants one - catch me at a squad session with $30.

In my absence during August, we will be allocating some great coaching in the form of Sally Scaffidi, Sandy Burt, Francene Leaversuch & Brad Hosking who will expertly deliver all the sessions whilst I am away without hiccup. I know that you'll find the change of "voice" on pool deck (albeit with my sessions) a welcome change for this period. More details to follow next week.

Finally, on the topic of squad sessions - last Friday was a bit unprecedented in that the 5.30am session seemed unusually quiet with just 17 people swimming, but then low-and-behold 43 people showed up for the 6.30am session (bigger than our biggest summer session!) - I'm still not quite sure what happened there?! I did see a few of the 5.30am regulars in the 6.30am session, so maybe all those late nights watching the fantastic Tour de France are catching up with people?! Please can I request that you do stick to your normal session tomorrow morning to allow me to suss out the situation and see what needs to be done. I am totally indebted to all of you for maintaining good attendance over what is ordinarily a quiet period for the squad, but I just need to ensure a smooth delivery with the right allocations per lane, especially whilst I am away. I am also extremely grateful for all the referrals to your friends and colleagues about the squad, but please can I request that they email me first prior to coming down just to effectively manage the dynamics of the squad? Your help and support (as ever) is very much appreciated here.



P.S You still have 19 days to go until the squad prices marginally increase - order your card at 2009 prices at or see me on the pool deck before I leave...all new cards bought will have their expiry dates commencing from 1/8/12, not from today - hope that helps! :-) 

P.P.S I'm off to the circus now...seriously!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Red Mist

This morning's seemingly inoffensive swim session (Wednesday 4th July, 5.30am) should have probably come with a warning:


In my arsenal of training sessions lies this absolute corker of a session (as outlined above) - it's nothing fancy, nothing new and I certainly didn't "invent" it - coaches have been using this standard set of 10 x 400m on 20-30s rest for millenia it seems, but why is it so good?

Each and every Monday morning back in the UK as part of the British Triathlon team our coaches would have us do this particular session and I make no qualms about it - I hated every last meter of it and used to dread it completely!! It's so easy though for us to like what we're good at and moan and complain about that which we are not so good at, and in the case of this particular session, you will not find a more appropriate (and simple) session to focus on your needs as a triathlete and open water swimmer.

This morning (as per most Wednesdays) the swimmers were instructed to remove any fins, pull buoys, paddles etc from the pool deck and forget any notion of doing anything other than normal freestyle at race-specific intensity on short recoveries. It's the only session of the week that we take this format, the others giving you a different balance on pure technique and/or threshold speed work. The swimmers were warned that it would be tough, and again (like most Wednesdays), we were straight into it after a bit of dryland stretching and no formal warm-up - hitting a set pace, chasing the person in front and focused entirely on completing the set distance in the target times for their lane. Sound like a race start? Absolutely - nothing more specific available than this type of session and exactly why we do this type of session each and every Wednesday morning. Bizarrely enough, this session is also by far and away the most popular of all our squad sessions at the moment, so people must be recognising the positive impact it is having on their swimming...and yet, why so many grumpy faces and irritability this morning in particular...??!!

The reason for the fact that so many of you saw "Red Mist" this morning (and I reckon that was about 80% of you!), is because when you're right there on the rivet (just like in a race), you have two choices - suck it up and get on with it and control yourself and the negative thoughts that enter your (and everyone else's) head, or you give in to these negative thoughts, feel your stroke falling apart, tell yourself that it is all too hard and ultimately crumble as a result. You'll tell yourself that it's pointless "thrashing around" imprinting bad technique and you'd have been better off doing some drills or more technique-oriented work but this would be avoiding the truth and the principle behind this session. How do I know? I used to do the same every Monday morning back in the UK! However, time and experience has taught me that this session is a classic for a reason - because it works - and if you can get your head around the seeming "boredom" or "tedium" or "slog" of this session, you stand to make some massive inroads with your swimming. What's more, how often in a race of any description have you had these same mental tussles with yourself? For a Wednesday morning, if I don't make at least one of the squad "grumpy" I know that the session hasn't achieved it's goal - bringing you to the rivet, holding you there with your best maintainable technique and getting you to work through those mental battles is what this whole session is about - as such, I think we did a pretty good job of that this morning! ;-) 

More than a few of you exclaimed that you were getting frustrated with yourself, feeling like your stroke was falling apart, there was irritability and tension galore even between some of the swimmers (especially lane 2 who had to deal with two sub-groups in one lane - 5 swimming at 1:33 to 1:36 per 100m and 4 swimming at 1:52 to 1:55 per 100m making it awkward to pass each other), but this is good - racing is not plain sailing and some things are simply out of your control...putting yourself in a position on a regular basis where your mental capacity to control yourself under pressure is essential - my old gym teacher called it "Moral Fibre" as he regularly forced us to go cross-country running in sub-zero temperatures in shorts and a vest!

I still do this particular set every Monday morning at Claremont Pool at 5.30am with a bunch of WA's fastest triathletes and as tedious as that might sound to do the same thing each week, understanding the fundamental principles behind it (which I didn't back in the UK even though I was training full time and racing "PRO") I now use it as a benchmark - each week getting progressively better. I rely heavily upon my Finis Tempo Trainer PRO to assist me with this task and knowing how well I'm progressing. Back at the start of April 2012 I started up again with this set and did 10 x 400m holding 1:25 per 100m - do this for 2 weeks, then down to 10 x 400 holding 1:24 per 100m, then (as per the set above), 4 on 1:25, 3 on 1:24, 2 on 1:23, 1 on 1:22 for two weeks, then every fortnight I've been bringing each interval down by 1s per 100m to this week starting at 1:20 and finishing at 1:17 per 100m. You wouldn't think it was possible to reduce like this in incremental steps, but so far, so good (it'll have to stop somewhere though!). For me, this is great swimming - but it's taken consistency and mental tenacity to get there, something I never had when I was a junior and U23 in the UK. The net result - a P.B of 17'38" for 1500m (or 1:10.5 per 100m) last week in the pool (in my wetsuit), a full 52 seconds faster than I've ever swum in a wetsuit over that distance in the pool before. Back then I was swimming on average 35-40km per week, now I'm doing 18km per week but with more focus, consistency, understanding and not being afraid to put myself on the line without the fear of failing. Sounds cheesy and macho, but it's so true!

If you're keen to try this set in your own time, make sure you've done a recent CSS test set as outlined here: and using the free Swimulator+ app ( set your first 4 x 400m intervals to CSS + 6" per 100m (i.e. 1:20), then 3 x 400m at CSS + 5" per 100m (i.e. 1:19), then 2 x 400m at CSS +4" per 100m (i.e. 1:18) and finally 1 x 400m at CSS +3" per 100m (i.e. 1:17). You might well adjust these times accordingly as you do the set a few times and get better at pacing and knowing what you can handle. Generally, each week I do a repeat of exactly the same set / times from the previous week, I'll judge whether or not I'm ready to go 1s per 100m faster the next week on if I can make the final 400m interval and even be slightly in front on the last 400m. As I start to plateau (inevitable) I'll tweak this to just a 0.5s per 100m improvement each fortnight - I'll still be moving forwards though, and that's the point!

Nowadays I absolutely crave the simplicity of this Monday morning session each week - it lets me know where I am, let's me challenge myself and tackle that Red Mist bang on - if I get grumpy and a little irritable I know it's doing it's job, but from here I work hard to control these feelings and maintain a general sense of positive flow. Getting a little too "whoah, man far out" for you? maybe, but it's working - I'm combining the physical challenge with the mental tenacity needed to do well in a tough race and you can't ask for more than that if this is your goal.

When I'm away for 4 weeks in the UK for the Olympics in 3 weeks time, I'll be placing this session in the very capable hands of arguably one of WA's toughest triathletes and someone who knows what it means to work hard and reap the rewards - Brad Hosking. You can expect Brad to keep you on your toes...if he tells you to toughen up a bit and to knuckle down, it's not big macho talk designed to bruise your ego, it's designed to fundamentally help you address such an important aspect of your preparation and that is what this session is all about. 

Remember if you see Red Mist once a week, that's OK - we all do, but it's how you control yourself that really counts and which will make you a better athlete as a result!

Hope these ramblings have been useful for you...if you're not already swimming in the Wednesday 5.30am session then I'm afraid that it's already fully booked, but send me over an email of interest and I'll add you to the wait list...or who knows, maybe even set-up another of these sessions somewhere in the week??



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's cold out there, but Wayne's gonna make it!

Dear Swimmers

Just a quick plea for help if anyone can?

This Sunday (as part of our regular weekend swim in the river, building Wayne up for his impending attempt on the English Channel on 20/8/12), we hope to swim ~14-16km in the river between Mosman Park Boat Ramp and following the shore around past Claremont Jetty towards JoJos in Nedlands before looping back to the start. These swims were essential for us last year.

Wayne has only 5 or 6 weekends left before he leaves and only 3 before I head over to the UK in August and as such we're hoping to really nail these longer swims with the view of a safe and successful passage over to France.

Each swim requires a paddler and (if possible) a small powered boat to assist with feeding etc. We've had the awesome help of Amanda and Bae and several others from within the squad, but don't want to keep leaning on these guys too much as it is cold out there on these mornings and when it's wet and rough, not particularly inspiring (I'm not really selling it to you, am I?).

If you paddle and even have a little powered boat and could help us in this quest for even just one of the next six Sunday mornings (starting at 6.30am and finishing by 10am to 1pm), please let me know and we'll build up a roster.

Your support will be hugely beneficial and really appreciated. The advantage of doing these as long swims rather than multiple laps is that it really helps develop a sense of experiencing what the Channel will really feel like for Wayne.

Please let me know, starting with this Sunday, likely to be 6.30am to 10.30am.

Thanks and by all means please pass this on to anyone else you think might be keen to assist.



Monday, July 2, 2012

The Great Bike Hike


On the 20th August a team of 12 riders including Paralympians and myself will be riding 2,500km from Perth to Broome stopping at ten regional communities before arriving in Broome.

The aim is to help celebrate and support partnerships and projects that build an inclusive community for people with disabilities and mental illness, their families and carers.

You can help by donating to The Great Bike Hike or your favourite project – or even your chosen community. and follow the links to find out how to donate securely online.

We thankyou for your kind generosity and support. 

Shirley Bell