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 ├╝ber-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

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