Friday, April 28, 2017

This week I've mostly been building a new website!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you've enjoyed this week's training and the Vindaloo CSS Session this morning?

This week I've mostly been building the new website - please take a look and let me know what you think or if you have any dramas using it? 

I hope you like the fresh, clean new look, minus all the bumpf about the "new" PAYG-BLUK system as it's now nearly 2 years old and you all know how it works. I'm hoping you love the special videos I've created for it, especially the Squad Lifestyle one - can you spot yourself in it?

If you have any friends who've thought about joining the squad or attending a 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction session, I hope you'll point them to the site given how it's a little clearer now as to how it all works?

Have a great weekend!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter & ANZAC Day Closure

Dear Swimmers

Please be reminded that we won't have any formal squad sessions at Claremont Pool on Friday 14th April and Monday 17th April owing to the Easter Long Weekend.

Also both early morning Tuesday sessions on 25th April (ANZAC Day) will also be off too. Please note the 6.15pm session is open for bookings on the 25th April and all those who wish to attend should please check their app to see if they are booked in or not.

For anyone wanting to get in a couple of additional sessions this week to allow you to enjoy an extra bit of chocolate this weekend, the following sessions are currently showing as having good availability:

  • Tuesday 11th and 18th April - 5.30am, 6.30am and 6.15pm
  • Wednesday 12th April - 9.30am (I dare say too that even the 5.30am might open up entirely this week and next also, so could be a great time to bag a coveted spot in this popular session!)
  • Thursday 13th April

Please stay tuned for an informal gathering on Cottesloe Beach this Good Friday at 7am for a swim down to North Cottesloe and back in place of the squad sessions (further details to follow).



P.S I will be taking a short family holiday next week (MON-FRI) up in Kalbarri, but Coaches Sally and Ross will be holding the fort in my absence. Have a great holiday if you're also heading off anywhere yourself!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Old Hat, New Hat; Old Stroke, New Stroke; Old Skool, New School!

Dear Swimmers

I sincerely hope you enjoyed last week's "Old Skool" training week and that it provided you with a little variety, fun and a bit of a challenge of course. If you absolutely hated it, firstly, that's totally OK, secondly, don't panic, we're back to the "New School" this week!

Many of you will be pleased to see the back of this guy this week! He will return again though, possibly when you least expect it!

I thought I'd just take this quick opportunity to share with you what prompted the change to the norm and hopefully what was beneficial for you as well as highlighting how what we do "normally" week-in / week-out is significantly more effective and always still with the aim of evolving rather than just rolling with the status quo.


For the last two weeks I've had a very good friend Garrie and his partner Anna stay with me here in Perth. Garrie was the coach / president of the Rossendale Triathlon Club that I first joined as a spotty 16 year old back in 1994! Some 23 years later we are still mates and in regular contact and these days Garrie has been attending our own Swim Smooth coaching courses and utilising the same system that I've developed here in Perth with his new brood in Bolton, UK. It feels pretty cool to be helping and inspiring someone these days with his own coaching who was a major reason I got into the sport and chose to pursue coaching in the first place. Anyway, Garrie attended the Rottnest SwimRun last weekend and watched me being dragged around by über-athlete Brad Hosking! You can read Garrie's sentiments about the race above and how it brought him back to "the good old days" - it certainly felt that way to me too.

So this was the impetus for last week's torturous t-shirt, bands, kicking and individual medley sets...

Old Hat, New Hat:

Many of you rightly questioned "why would you get us wasting a week doing something which you now consider inferior just for the sake of fun?" I can certainly understand the sentiment, especially with the last 14 years of dedicated hard work we've spent trying to change the world view of what is an efficient freestyle stroke and how it should be taught - slightly hypocritical, huh? However, besides how I don't believe you can ever put a price on fun and certainly can't underestimate it's value to bring out the best in you all with some exciting new challenges, there was definitely some method in the madness!

My kid's favourite book growing up was "Old Hat, New Hat" by Stan and Jan Berenstain. If you've never read it the synopsis is very simple: a bear walks into a shop trying to find a new hat to replace his old one. He searches the entire store and tries on at least a hundred different hats, none of which are quite right. Ultimately the bear goes back to his trusty favourite with "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" obviously being the motto here. However, I also believe that cheeky little bear is enjoying himself trying the variety of some new headwear and maybe learning a thing or two along the way! Hopefully you experienced this last week to some extent?

Old Stroke, New Stroke:

Swim Smooth Coach, Rob Kwaaitaal using our radio headset in the Netherlands to better coach this swimmer to improve his stroke

Using the "Old Hat, New Hat" analogy, I've recently been experimenting during my 1-2-1 video analysis sessions using our radio headset system to control a swimmer's stroke so that within the space of 50m they can experience the change and contrast between their new corrected stroke and their old, inefficient stroke. When you've been swimming a certain way of many years it can take time to change a habit, but systematically showing someone what it feels like to go back to the old stroke is way more powerful than simply being taught or even shown the inefficiencies on a computer video analysis screen. Suddenly it clicks and the swimmer realises how their old stroke has been holding them back and how - at first use - the new stroke might feel weird or even wrong, it is in fact much more effective. I believe it shaves many, many hours off frustrating technique development work and can be hugely empowering for the swimmer. 

Of course it requires knowing what that key thing is that is holding the swimmer back and then how to improve it, but even last week when we were doing some of the funny old drills like "catch-up" the look of recognition across many of your faces when you realised, for example, how inefficient it actually is to add too much glide into your stroke was very rewarding for myself and my coaches on pool deck. Showing you how these drills have evolved and continue to evolve to make the process even more refined is what makes swim coaching so exciting for me even now 20 years into this "gig" :-)

If you're curious book in for a session yourself at and use the code bubblebubblebreathe in the checkout to enjoy 10% off your first consultation.

Back to the New School:

It was massively beneficial last week for myself and my team of coaches to also see how much harder it is to coach an Old Skool session without the use of the Tempo Trainers etc and as Sod's Law would have it, the pool clock happened to be broken this week too:

You might like the idea of knowing that we're working our butts off on pool deck and really earning our keep, but this was a much less efficient way of coaching. Using 5, 10, 15 second increments on the clock made the whole process of pace and cycle allocations an "exercise of best fit" as Derek Cross put it - you were either getting too much rest, not enough, or having to solve mental arithmetic challenges in your head of when the next send-off would be, rather than focusing on your actual swimming. Equally, our attention was drawn away from your swimming, technique and required amounts of motivation as we battled to control the lanes with multiple stopwatches. I truly felt like I'd stepped back into the Dark Ages and was coaching far less effectively as a result. Whilst some of you said you liked this experience (referring to the Tempo Trainers as being psychological challenging, see of this is you), as with all we do, we're constantly striving to find a better way to do something and ensure you're getting the very best bang for your coaching buck down at Claremont Pool.

4 for the Road:

In case you missed any of these Old Skool sessions, here are four for you to savour and perhaps consign to the bin or for when you're looking for something just a little fun and a tad different, after all, that is what last week was all really about: fun.



Old Skool Threshold Session

Old Skool Red Mist Session

Old Skool Technique / Endurance Session

Old Skool Technique Session

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inspired by the Rottnest SwimRun event, this week we go "Old Skool"!

This week we'll be winding back the clocks and getting a little "Old Skool" with our squad sessions by putting the Tempo Trainers to bed for a little variety...

Dear Swimmers

In today's blog update you'll be getting two updates in one - whoop! This week's training and this last weekend's inaugural Rottnest SwimRun event - let's start off with this week.

Going Old Skool

As promised over the last couple of weeks, this week we'll be going a little "old skool" in all the squad sessions and replacing some of our current drills with some classics, asking you to bring in a t-shirt for some resistance training, mixing in a few short sections of different strokes (all optional of course!), spicing things up with a little bit of speed work, and giving the Tempo Trainers a little rest too! Why you ask? Primarily for a little fun and variety now that the two major Rottnest swims are over and to add in a light-hearted week for those of you doing the Busselton 70.3 event where I am sure your biking and running is pinging along quite heavily at the moment (cue the tired, grumpy face).

As the 7am and 9.30am crew found this morning, winding back the clock with some classic drills can provide quite a bit of insight into how to improve your efficiency, and equally to see exactly how and why certain drills have developed over the years and some have been confined to the annals of history. Here was this morning's session in case you missed it:

Whilst we speak about how drills such as "Catch Up" (essentially over-gliding) can be detrimental for your swimming, the swimmers this morning experienced this first-hand and realised how much increased effort was required to shift themselves through the imprinted dead-spot at the front of the stroke. This section of the session is highlighted above in RED. Equally then, demonstrating the similarity of drills like 6/1/6 and Unco (highlighted in GREEN above) to Catch Up and Reverse Catch Up, allowed the swimmers to see how these drills had evolved over time to give a much better chance to acquire beneficial skills that wouldn't be holding them back. Sounds simple? It was, and sometimes even just doing something purposefully wrong can be very revealing when you know how and why to do it right.

So all the squad sessions this week will have a little bit of an "Old Skool" feel about them. I've now been swim coaching myself for 20 years (eeek!) so please come and try some of these exercises for a little fun and variety. Don't forget to bring a t-shirt and equally there will be a prize at the end of the week for the most retro looking outfit(s)!

Rottnest SwimRun:

As you may recall, last June I travelled over to the Scilly Isles off the southwest coast of England to participate in the inaugural British ÖtillÖ SwimRun event - an event which saw me covering 42km with a partner comprised of 10km of ocean swimming in 13ºC and 32km of very rugged off-road trail running. It's a crazy event but one which is gaining a lot of international traction. You can read more about that race here:

…fast forward to 2017 and low and behold but several of the Tuesday / Friday 6.30am squad swimmers had decided and planned for over 12 months to bring the same race concept over here to Western Australia on the beautiful Rottnest Island.

Competitors had to complete the following course:

Which comprised 28.3km of mostly beach / rock running and 4.4km of ocean swimming, all with a partner of your choosing:

Wearing a range of garbs like this (anything goes so long as you run and swim in your running shoes and carry everything with you all day):

…and looking about this silly:

Ironically the guy who got me into triathlon some 22 years ago (Garrie Prosser, left) was visiting us on holiday for the event - the perfect mentor to have alongside!

For my sins, I had opted to go with veritable powerhouse / Terminator, Brad Hosking as my partner who has competed at no less than 3 Hawaii Ironman World Championship events finishing way up the roster. We've both recently found a "happy place" in terms of recognising that family and work commitments may perhaps have taken the edge off our competitive yearnings, however, that was until the gun went off and we found ourselves entering the first swim in 6th position out of 48 duos and then popping up in 2nd position after the first swim! The game was on and the fire in the belly was back for both of us almost as quickly as we'd agreed that we'd just be taking a weekend "stroll" around the island!

Off to a steady start in 6th position - the competitive fire was still burning brightly just 20 minutes after this race-start shot!

We decided to keep a "lid on it" and just to pace things out. Having Brad's endurance sport experience literally tethered to me was perfect and prevented the temptation to cook things too early on:

By the time we got halfway around the island (West End) we were making good ground and posted the fastest section of all the teams on the course at this point. That being said, eventual winners (and Wednesday 5.30am squad stalwarts Emily Loughnan and Gary Couanis) were looking very comfortable just ahead of us by 1m20s at this stage and making it all look very easy indeed!

As much as I tried, Brad's fast pace prevented me sneaking out any real smiles on the day - it was "game face" all the way!

Constantly getting out of the water, soaking wet and running up soft sand proved quite tedious very quickly! But check out those views!

One man pulling, one man being towed like an unwilling hound - guess who is who?!

And then it all went a bit pear-shaped. After some 2-2.5 hours of racing I momentarily lost concentration on one of the rockier sections whilst trying to put on a small visor to protect against the heat. I came crashing down in what seemed like slow-motion and landed on my left knee giving it a good knock and a bit of a gash. In my haste to get up and keep going and not lose too much ground, we believe we probably missed a key marker point on the course as the next thing we knew we were peering over the edge of a very steep cliff at the crashing waves below. We retraced our steps and found ourselves popping out at Energy Station number 5 or 6 by climbing over a barrier, only to the dismay of seeing 3 other teams had effectively caught us up. Argh!!! All that hard work had suddenly disappeared in a heart beat. We skipped the energy station for want of trying to peg back some time, but the damage had been done and suddenly the prospect of finishing 2nd overall seemed lost:

All smiles and form for Brad, all grimaces and soul searching for me!

Missing the energy station and a chance to refuel was a school boy error and sadly this is where things began to rapidly unwind for yours truly:

Brad the Machine giving me a pep-talk as we tried to catch 3rd place which would have seen us finish 1st male team - sadly my legs had other ideas and so too did the other team who ratcheted it up another notch!

I did plenty of soul searching in that last hour of the race and was faced with the prospect of the 2nd female team catching us on the final leg into the finish. Goodness knows where I got the energy from for the final 793m swim to the Army Jetty, but immediately across the line I collapsed in a heap, gripping my knee and feeling very woozy indeed! Brad looked as fresh as a daisy of course!

Massive credit to Gary Couanis and Emily Loughnan for winning the day in fine form! They made a brilliant team which is what this event is all about. Full results can be seen here: 

Emily and Gary: a deserved winning couple for the inaugural Rottnest SwimRun

20 people whom have (relatively) recently trained with the Swim Smooth Perth squad completed the event - well done you and everyone else - what an event to be part of in it's first year!

Brilliant organisation by the Rottnest SwimRun team led to a safe and fun event for all the participants in which everyone managed to get around the gruelling course - give it a blast next year!

A lot of people have asked me which was harder? Rottnest or the Scilly Isles. Despite the Scilling Isles being almost 3 hours longer and much, much colder in the water, the intensity of racing with a brilliant athlete in Brad and the sheer distance spent navigating soft sand and rugged rocks under the blazing heat, meant to me at least this was a much tougher course. Still, despite our initial disappointment of how the race went a bit pear-shaped for us in the final hour or so and despite all my whinging about my knee after the fall, this final photo says it all - I loved it, even if you didn't see a smile on my face during the race itself!