Thursday, July 28, 2016

Do You FEAR Squad "Failure" - You Shouldn't, Here's Why!

Watch as Suzi and Sally share the love and respect during a hard-as-nails CSS set!

Dear Swimmers

One of my greatest joys in coaching you all is seeing you all improve and also seeing how you all deal with success and "failure" differently, so much so, that I often wonder if the FEAR of "failure" amongst your peers is often what prevents you from truly moving forwards with your swimming? Today I'd like to discuss how to overcome that and tomorrow you can test it out yourself!

We often use the example of squad swimmer Megan Surrette to demonstrate what is possible in terms of improvement. Of course for every email we received that said "wow, that's fantastic - good on her and good on you for helping her achieve that!" we received 3 or 4 emails that had an air of frustration, i.e. "why not me - why can't I improve like that?" - this was such a strong response that we followed up with this blog post on that very topic, Why Not Me? specifically this salient point:

"A key part of achieving that consistency is your swimming demeanour. Megan puts it this way:

"I do know that I felt a big difference when I started swimming Wednesday mornings. I am not sure whether Wednesday improved my CSS or not but it definitely increased my confidence – 1 km TT? *shoulder shrug* … sure, whatever :-)"

Megan's not saying that out of bravado, that really is how she thinks. When was the last time you really shrugged at a swimming time-trial? The key to improving is not to over-analyse or procrastinate but, like Megan, come to terms with the work you need to consistently do, switch off the brain and get on with it.

If you can face your training with an inner smile rather than an inner grimace you've got everything you need to be the next Megan. Don't fear the hard work but actively embrace it - that is the attitude of a true champion."

Could it be that your fear of taking the bull by the horns and leading an occasional set out of concern that you might let others in your group down, be what is stifling your progress? When I'm passing the beepers out for a hard set, I receive far more "no, not me - anyone but me!" looks than "yes, what the hell, I'll give it a go!" - come on people, this is Australia! Where's your digger can-do attitude?!

Nick gives Rob a hearty high-five for leading a solid 400m interval!

The reality is that just giving it a go is what it's all about. We are not racing for sheep stations - a solid workout that gets the heart pumping, blows the cobwebs out and has you thinking about how best to maintain your technique is what the majority of you are after. I've come to realise that more and more about myself - being fit and active is way better than being unfit and thinking of where you once were! Only what you do right now is important, so give it a go!

Training within a squad is a wonderfully motivating environment, challenging you always to be a better version of yourself. It both doesn't matter about anyone else in your lane, and yet it totally does too! A sense of camaraderie and team spirit can lift you on the flattest of days, but if you don't opt to take the beeper and share the love, then you can't get upset and grumpy and see the "red mist" if someone doesn't hold exactly to the pace that is set for the lane! That's Rule Number 1 of swim squad! They're giving it their best shot. This is all I or you can ask of yourself on any given day. You should take that beeper knowing this. Knowing you're not letting anyone down because they didn't opt to take the onus like you did. If you "fail" so what? Does it really matter? No. Learn from it and pass the beeper on! It's fun, or should be!

Chris Froome has just won his third Tour de France title against some pretty challenging odds. Nairo Quintana was his supposed rival, and yet he was never in the picture. Why? Because he was playing a game of defence, a game of safety, never willing to take the risk of an attack, always hoping Froome would eventually crack. He didn't. Quintana lost. Convincingly. 

Are you playing a game of defence with your swimming? Never willing to stretch yourself for fear of "failure"?

To get maximum improvement benefits you'd opt to train totally solo following our totally bespoke system. This would see you tweaking your individually specific CSS pace by small multiples of 1/100th of a second after each session, always moving forwards. But is this ever going to be as engaging as swimming within the Swim Smooth Perth Squad itself? It's finding that balance between specificity and a motivating challenge with your peers that you need to ascertain for yourself. You need to get comfortable with the idea that you, like the next person, might take on the challenge of leading and they might succeed, or they might not - they might even have a stormer and blow everyone's doors off, who knows? But if you're on the front, you're in control. You're the leader. You call the shots. Win, lose or draw, the last thing you should do is fear the challenge!

Mike's quite happy to be following…for now - but when he gets back on front, watch out!

Becoming a Tempo Trainer "Ninja":

In tonight's 6.15pm session and tomorrow's 5.30am and 6.30am session we're going to be doing the familiar Goldilocks set which looks something like this:

  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 200
  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 300
  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 400

Each lane will do the longer swims (shown in red) but depending on your lane will depend on how many 100s you are instructed to do.

We are going to use the beepers in Modes 1 and 2 tomorrow. Mode 1 allows us to be accurate to 1/100th second and this the mode we'll use for the longer swims where your goal will be to STAY with the beeper per 25m. Mode 2 works in whole seconds where your goal will be to BEAT the beeper for your rest on the 100m intervals. Remember, over 100m, if the set is RM Cycle 5, this will typically mean you should aim for 10 seconds rest as the beeper is 5s "slower" per 50m than your group's set CSS target pace. Similarly, RM Cycle 4 would give you 8 seconds rest etc.

If you take the onus of leading - or are politely asked by me or Sal (and we will still be suggesting who does lead, don't worry about that!) - it will be your job to have a go operating the beeper. It's really very simple:

  • push and hold the top* button to CHANGE MODES in sequence (this is reflected on the screen, i.e. numbers 1, 2 or 3 will display as you do)
  • lightly tap the top* button so you can hear the audible beep to START the interval
  • use the bottom* two buttons to decrease (LEFT) or increase (RIGHT) the time displayed

*always hold the beeper with the single button as the TOP - I often see people trying to operate the beeper upside down with rather comical ramifications!

The beeper will be set for you to start in Mode 2, for each subsequent block of 100m intervals, all you'll need to do is take off 1 second using a light press of the bottom LEFT button

For the longer 200 (baby bear), 300 (momma bear) and 400 (papa bear) intervals, Mode 1 will be required but this will be preset for you so you won't need to change it during this specific session - just press and hold the top button to go from Mode 2, to Mode 3, and finally to Mode 1. Simple.

I hope that's been useful for you both in terms of knowing how to operate the beeper and what to do if you find yourself leading a group, most notably:


When we tried sharing the love in the squad a few Friday's ago it worked really well and everyone agreed it was a great session. So, let's calm some of that competitive tension and put it to better use.

It's amazing what you can achieve if you just let yourself.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Great Big Squad Happy 80th Birthday to Squad Stalwart, Barrie Eaves!

Dear Swimmers

It is with great excitement that this week we celebrate the oldest swimmer in the Swim Smooth Perth Squad's 80th Birthday, Barrie eaves - whoop, whoop! Barrie has been swimming with the squad religiously for the last 8 years and still attends 3 sessions per week - Technique, CSS Development, and his favourite, the infamous Red Mist Session! On a recent Swim Trek trip around Greece, Barrie covered over 30km in the week and has even gone to the extreme of moving into the apartments opposite the pool to be within a 4 minute walk to enjoy his favourite activity, swimming!

In honour of such a great man and inspiration to myself and many members of the 9.30am crew (and beyond!), Barrie politely asked if we could do a little speed work in this week's CSS Development Session. He asked for something a bit "spicy" and that's exactly what we've got for you this week!

Here's a video singing happy birthday to my hero and then the set you'll be doing below:

So make sure you bring your A-Game to Thursday's 6.15pm session or Friday's 5.30/6.30am sessions in honour of this great man and do him proud on a session which he really loved!

Barrie's number one motto when it comes to swimming and life in general? 


How lucky we are to have such a  great guy in the squad - Barrie, you're our hero! Happy Birthday mate!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Run, Fun, Mara (Moo) You!

Just in from squad swimmer Shelley Hatton FYI:

Start your tri season with something different!

The Maramoo marathon is new and it's a new format to Western Australia.

It's on September 10 and is based on a cricket pitch about 10kms south of Dunsborough. We will run through some wineries, some bush tracks and you will marvel at the scenery.

Delight your taste buds as you indulge them while you run the course. You can try local produce and sample wine as you run. Smell the delicious all-day food from Rivendell as you run a lap of the cricket pitch after each of the three legs. Groove to the music as you complete your lap. High five the spectators who are cheering for you.

Of course, afterwards there will be all of the samples to try again! Stay for lunch and a glass of wine. Stay for the presentations to see if you've won one of the many spot prizes.
You can run the whole marathon, the half or enter as a team of three where you each run one leg of the course.

Go silly and enter the best-dressed competition and be in line for a sensational prize.

Grab some friends and make a weekend of it.

Special discount of $20 for Swim Smooth Squad Members. The code is SMOOO…TH and is valid until 31 July.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Steps To Get Your (Swim) Mojo Back (Baby!) Yeah!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're having a great day and that you're enjoying this lovely midday sunshine this week…a bit better than the rain / storms of last weekend and the record-low of Wednesday morning at 0.4ºC! I don't know who was crazier that morning, me stood on pool deck for the 5.30am Red Mist session in too few garments, or those of you who rocked up for the 10 x 400 classic Red Mist set…that was a chilly jump into the water for sure! At least the pool's been pumping at 28.5-29ºC all this week to counter-balance that! A few of the other key metropolitan pools have all been struggling with temperatures in the mid/low-20s - ouch!

Like last year, the July school holidays always proves to be a time of year when a) many people go away, b) the excitement of Wimbledon / Le Tour de France on late-night TV keeps people up, and c) just general winter low-mojo leads to quieter sessions. Many of you have been able to experiment using the squad app with hopping into sessions that you wouldn't ordinarily do and that's great, I hope you've enjoyed that! 

I personally like this time of year as it gives me a chance to pull back and reflect a bit and also forces me to be a little more creative with the sessions to try to keep you enthused. I soon know if my creativity (especially airing on things like kick sets, bands only and sprinting / I.M) has pushed beyond what is being enjoyed as I usually get a few grumpy looks or the occasional pull buoy flying off in my direction. You guys become my creative compass as it were!

One such set - which on face value is incredibly monotonous - was Wednesday's 10 x 400 "Red Mist" set. I see this as the holy grail of good endurance swimming but you have to have the right mindset for it, so if you're in the "low-mojo" head space at the moment, this could potentially be the last nail in the coffin as it were! So what we did on Wednesday was ensure that everyone who showed up had to lead at least one 400m. This gave many people who haven't led before (or in a long while) the opportunity to have a go and simply do their best, irrespective of their current state of fitness. The competitive guard was down, with the notion that when he / she was leading, everyone else had to follow their pace. We weren't racing for sheep stations! This of course led to some inevitable variability in the speed of each lane, but it did prove to diffuse some of the competitive tension that we often see mid-season (in most cases anyway!).

Derek Cross - lane 4 - eloquently put it on Twitter:

Here was the set:

So for tomorrow's set - with many of you due to return from holidays - we're also going to try and keep things a little lower-key and hopefully fun and engaging too, but still offering a great workout at the same time! Here's the plan:

…we'll be doing a series of 6 blocks of 3 or 4 x 100 intervals (so nothing too long) and on progressively INCREASING recovery times. Yes, you read that correctly, increasing, not decreasing. In a manner this makes the set feel like it gets easier, but of course with a new leader for each block and increasing recovery times, you should be able to hit some really quick times at the end of the session and enjoy that feeling! James Forbes (lane 4, 530am M/T/F) hit a 58 second 100m swim (with fins) at the end of Tuesday's session - I wonder how close he can get this time around (without fins)?

Who will lead and when? We'll have one of the faster swimmers in the group lead the first set to make the very tight cycle time of the first block (likely only 3-4 seconds rest) and then have some of the faster swimmers in the group lead the last set or two as well when the pace is really cranking. Given that these are only 100m intervals with what becomes a lot of rest, you really don't need to fear coming along tomorrow, even if you're fresh back off holidays, you'll still be able to enjoy it and will probably be assigned to lead some of the middle blocks. Of course, if you don't wish to lead at all, then I'm not going to force you, but in the spirit of the "8th Rule of Swim Club" if you are there, you have to lead! Think of it as something different. When you let that competitive guard down occasionally, surprisingly positive and powerful things can happen!

It may be prudent to highlight some lane etiquette at this point too:!etiquette/c20bh - if we all keep calm and enjoy the set for what it is, all will be fine (he hopes!).

So, let's let our guard down a bit over the next few sessions and try not to feel the stress of having to perform as something which prevents you from starting back, it shouldn't! When we view the last 45 weeks of the new squad app being in place, we can see that the following top-20 attendees have all notched up in excess of 100 sessions each. That's pretty amazing! 

It really goes to show that a) no one session should make or break your continued enjoyment of swimming, and that b) consistency is key and that consistency requires a starting point at some point! Well done Top-20!

One such swimmer who was going through the doldrums a few months back was Chad who swims in the Wednesday 9.30am session. Earlier this year Chad was swimming 1:49-1:51/100m at CSS pace and seemed like he was slipping backwards. I feared Chad might even pull the pin as he didn't look like he was enjoying the feeling of falling back too much (no one does!). Over the last month or so, Chad's started to make a real resurgence it seems and in the set you will do tomorrow, was holding 1:35-1:38/100m - a tremendous turn-around. Here's what Chad says about what helped him:

After Busselton 70.3 I decided I would try and place extra focus on my swimming over winter.  During the season I can usually only manage 2 sessions a week averaging about 5.5km for the week, so the plan was to increase the number of session and the duration of each.  When planning this I forgot how cold and dark winter can be!  One upside though is that if it's raining it doesn't matter because I was going to get wet anyway.  

So I started swimming 4 times a week and most weeks swimming just over 13km.  The first week or two was tough, but the main thing that has kept me going was noticing how quickly I was improving with the extra work, firstly the distance got easier then I noticed myself getting faster.  So far I think I have taken about 8-9s/100m off my CSS pace, and for me this reward is what keeps me getting up on those cold dark mornings.  I think if people can persevere with the first few weeks of increased effort then seeing the improvement this brings will make it easier to keep getting to the pool.  Plus, the weather can only get better from here. 

…Chad's right of course, the weather will get better from here on in - here's Cottesloe at 2pm yesterday:

As Chad says, those first few weeks back require perseverance - we've all been there. My own head has fallen off so many times in the last 18 months that I've stopped counting! What helped me turn the corner was my recent ÖtillÖ swimrun race  i.e. having something to focus on and doing it for a good cause. I can't claim that I suddenly became superman and then first few sessions were depressingly slow (some 14s/100m slower than my normal, or nearly 20%!!), but you've just got to keep at it. My biggest regret of the last 18 months was totally stopping swimming / exercise this time last year when it was cold, when we were moving house, and when I was building the squad app - all necessary things of course, but there's got to come a time when you say: that's it, I'm starting now, come hell or high water!! 

Swim Smooth Perth Squad Stalwart Barrie Eaves turns 80 this week. He swims everyday and 3 times per week with the squad. His number one rule? Never stop. #BeMoreBarrie

Have a little read here of the steps that you're likely to go through getting back in: - sage advice, albeit from 6 years ago. Even our "Get Your Mojo Back" campaign from 2014 is worth a re-read here: and here: and hopefully this then becomes you:

Lastly, a bit of humour from author Bill Bryson in his book "The Road to Little Dribbling" which is quite poignant given the recent Brexit vote in the UK I think (we don't know whether we're coming or going!). Hope you enjoy, especially those of you who've enjoyed a recent European vacation!

See you on  pool deck!