How can I cycle and run faster? Swim!

How can I cycle and run faster? Swim!

The majority of  European long distance races this season are now behind us, and I have asked many athletes how they went. The most common answer: ‘it was ok but I somehow have to be able to cycle and run a lot faster.’

Every athlete wants to finish a race faster than the one before, or faster than last year etc, but only few athletes succeed. People often start to analyse and wonder… my cycling and running should be a lot better;  I was faster in the shorter distances and during the marathon last fall; I was quicker during all of the long Sunday rides with my friends.

After thorough consideration some athletes decide to invest more money in a new bike and to train longer and harder. This can often be the wrong approach.

One reason why most triathletes competing in long distance races are dissatisfied with their cycling and running performances actually has to do with their swim.

What is apparent is that swimming is often underestimated in triathlon.
Do I have to swim more? Or, I already swim three or more times a week!! – are frequent reactions.
No, perhaps you don’t need to swim more however it might be a good idea to work on your swimming technique – adopt a style that fits you individually.


Kristin attributes her recent improvement to changes in her approach to swim training. Photo Credit: Jose Lois Hourcade

Kristin Lie from Norway is a great example of someone who invested time and effort into redefining her swim technique and has since seen the rewards. She recently detailed the changes in her approach in her Blog after her success at IM 70.3 Haugesund:

After the IM 70.3 in Haugesund I received numerous enquiries and comments or I was asked directly about my swimming performance. Here is my answer:

During the last past years I spent a lot of time in the water. I trained with many different swimming coaches and tried everything possible to increase my speed in the water.
The result: lots of frustration for all of the effort!!!! In May I took part in a Trisutto Camp in Mallorca. Brett Sutton and Dirk Neumann found a swimming style that was good for me.. We adjusted two small things. My breathing rhythm was changed and my swimming style was simplified considerably. Place Press Push makes my swim goes whoosh….

Result: I am out of the water faster, and more importantly I save energy. Before it felt like I needed 20 Calories and now only 1 Calorie. I immediately have power on the bike and can deliver my performance. I might offend some swim coaches now but pure swim training has nothing to do with swim training for a triathlon. This also applies to cycling and running. Which both also were changed during the camp.“

We cannot describe it better!

How can you simplify your swim; how can you get out of the water faster and more relaxed; how can you achieve faster splits on the bike and during the run, or how can you increase the overall fun and enjoyment of triathlon…, all of these these aspects are discussed and practiced at our Trisutto Camps and I invite you to join me in Mallorca in October or next Spring to learn more.

 Dirk Neumann is a Trisutto Coach based out of Frankfurt Germany. Earlier in 2017 he coached his first camps on the beautiful island of Mallorca. Dirk will be coaching the Trisutto philosophy and Total Body Force Methods at camps in Mallorca this coming October with more camps available in 2018. Check here for camp dates and details.

 

Key Performance Tools: The Turbo

Key Performance Tools: The Turbo

The terribly sad events of the past days are once again a reminder of the ever increasing dangers when training on public roads. It is worth reminding ourselves that the single most efficient and result producing tool for triathlon cycling improvement is the turbo trainer.

Discussing training with age group athletes at our training camps, I observe that so many who already have a busy work and family schedule are also spending so much time ‘commuting’ to training, or engaging in activities that our Trisutto pro (non-working, no kids) athletes do not have time to do!

A lot of the programs I see incorporate gym strength training, which is a waste of valuable time in pursuit of sports specific strength, and also will not develop your specific skill level in any of the three disciplines. Instead we incorporate strength work directly into the disciplines of swim, bike and run.

The reasoning is simple, but very effective:

What we’re trying to do is engage and strengthen the muscle groups that actually perform the discipline while using the correct skill technique for our sport.

Riding a turbo is far superior to road riding if you wish to become a bike monster! It can be controlled, it can be monitored and through smart training I’ve seen the turbo turn many a poor cyclist into a good one. For busy age group athletes, riding the turbo is also time efficient, with no commute to get to training routes considered safer for riding. Instead just hop on, and ‘give it a tonk’!


Always have and always will be a fan of the turbo.

In my earlier days a turbo set was an every second ride occurrence, however with the onset of ITU legal draft races I let it go. With the last years increasing focus on Ironman I reintroduced it as a big part of what we do. Athletes don’t have to work on if it is not to their liking, however let me be clear:

It is the key to opening the door to time-trialling success, and is at the core of our TBF (Total Body Force) method. The turbo:

– Addresses time management issues (no commute, no gym).

– Better promotes strength acquisition within the specific cycling muscles

– Addresses safety concerns of training on public roads

– Is suitable for all weather conditions (too hot, too cold, too wet), seasons, daylight or nighttime hours.


Efficient, Sport specific and Safe Bike Training

Hold The Line

Hold The Line

Total Body Force techniques are taught at Trisutto Camps worldwide.

During our age group training camps we have seen athletes make incredible improvements in their triathlon swim using our TBF (Total Body Force) techniques. We have also found many athletes returned to their training environment, and individuals in their club or in the swim lane next to them have ridiculed their new stroke – despite the fact they move down the pool somewhat faster than they used to do!

It’s a tough gig going against the peer group in anything – both for athletes, and for coaches. As a coach, you often doubt and ask yourself is there a better way. For coaches, I say the hardest thing in coaching is to find a method that is not recognized by the hordes and stick with it. If I fall prey to the pressure when I invented our TBF methods and I am an Olympic level swim coach having coached 24 swimmers to the Australian Olympic team, I acknowledge how tough it is for almost all others.

However, the strength of our swim program can be illustrated with some of the successes of our athletes. When our now Trisutto coach Bella Bayliss was racing professionally there was a period when she and husband Stephen could only swim for 1 hour every second day due to a lack of pool facilities. The answer was to maximise the use of the time available – paddles and buoy,  10 x 400, 40 x 100, or one hour non-stop.


A familiar sight – Steve Bayliss leading out of the water. Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography

Stephen Bayliss was considered not a good enough swimmer, with too poor technique for the British program.  As a 3rd pack short course athlete, and 2nd pack long course he was high elbows, breathing both sides, stretching out, counting strokes, wiggling like a worm on a fishing rod as he tried to do perfect technique. After watching him run and his natural gait I thought this man got a bit of skill – these swim coaches have just killed it in the swim.

We adopted the straight arm (English cricket fast bowler) swim stroke, with breathing on one side with the instructions:-

  • Stop trying to feel the water,
  • stop stretching out,
  • stop counting your strokes.
  • Use your natural turn over – the same as you have in the run.

Stephen did, and he got better and better. Soon he was in the first pack in Ironman, then soon he was leading the swims and every body could see who it was because of his straight bowling arm! Stephen was now swimming 47 minutes not 55 minutes, and was no longer in the 3rd pack of ITU races, but in the lead pack. He beat all the young ITU Brits out of the water.

The irony being when the federation coaches who got rid of him, suggested that if he worked on his technique, (which in their eyes currently looked awful) he could be the best swimmer in Britain. They still didn’t get it.

With swimming we must not lose sight of the fact that we are training for triathlon – and that we race in a wetsuit most of the time. Get the paddles on, pull buoy between your legs and get after it. To quote Bella:

‘I used to spend an hour and a half fussing about, trying to do all the perfect technique things in the water, gliding and stretching. It was paralysis by analysis! But once I just got in, got on with it, and just thought about nothing more than putting on the gear and giving it to myself, I improved by 15 minutes over 3.8K’.

For our athletes, and for those who have applied our techniques and improved their swim – Hold the Line!

For the coaches out there, if your athletes are improving, then it is working. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it!

 
Bella Bayliss is a former World Long Course Champion and 16 time Ironman distance Champion. She now runs a successful coaching business from Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote.

Bella will be teaming up with Head Coach Brett Sutton in early Sept in Lanzarote, running a high performance advance level camp, specifically for those preparing for Kona. Stay tuned for details!

 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 3  Cadence for Women

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 3 Cadence for Women

Our recent blogs and discussions about Total Body Force (TBF) swim techniques have highlighted the need to find a stroke that we can replicate over and over, that withstands fatigue so we don’t ‘fade’ in the second half of the race day swim; a stroke that enables rhythm and balance and which is determined on an individual basis.

Whilst we do take a very individual approach to defining a swim stroke, those who have attended our Trisutto Camps would be aware that generally we tend to encourage a different level of cadence between women and men. We have added a Part 3 to our TBF Swim Series to specifically highlight the need for a fast cadence for our female swimmers. We also introduce an alternative TBF swim stroke exclusively for women.

 
Men
Most men tend to already have sufficient power, however my most common observation is that they are applying it in the wrong places. We see so many guys thrashing through the ‘Place’ and ‘Press’ phases of their swim stroke that by the time they reach the ‘Push’ there is no acceleration at all. For many it is often just an adjustment in timing that can lead to very quick improvements. We use our TBF swim methodology to adjust the swim stroke, and more often than not, the timing of the stroke falls into place.

 
Women
When discussing female swimming we differentiate into three categories:

  1. Those that have come from a swim background; we try to change as little as possible. Most trained swimmers will have executed their technique over many years. The motor patterns are well and truely laid and digging them up to follow the Trisutto TBF technique is not advised.
  2. Those that have come from a swim background but use an extensive six beat or leg dominated kick. Again we don’t change without a thorough studying time to try to assert  a) if the stroke they have is natural to them, or b) if their stroke is causing them problems over longer distance swimming (i.e. those coming from a short swim background can really struggle over longer distances, not because of cardio capacity or lack of it but because their stroke is far too energy sapping to replicate over the longer distances).
  3. Non swimmers. By this we mean athletes who have started to swim seriously since taking up triathlon. Our next chapter is devoted to these athletes who struggle to attain the desired biomechanics of conventional swim dogma.

 
Non swimming background
Our approach for women coming from a non-swim background is a little different to the men, in that we generally encourage a high frequency of stroke. Whilst the majority of women have less muscle mass then men, more significant is that they have a huge deficit in testosterone. Therefore a lesser likelihood that they will be able to hold the power required for a longer stroke when compared to their male counterparts. However women can compensate for this with a faster cadence. Just like pushing gears in cycling, if we use a smaller gear with a higher cadence and less amount of power, we can still maintain a fast overall pace.

 

Paddle Boarders competing in Surf Life Saving Events; my inspiration for developing a suitable stroke for female athletes in Triathlon. Whilst in a flat position lying on the board on their bellies, the athletes are able to maintain a terrific arm turnover with a flatter stroke, without an over emphasis on power. I want to emphasize how short the strokes are but because of the fluid dynamics of the board, how fast these athletes are traveling. Also look at how wide their arms are during the stroke, supporting our TBF methodology that getting your arms under your body or down the centre line is not a fundamental to swimming fast. Video Footage: Round 1 NutriGrain IronWoman Series

 
Using TBF technique with butterfly hip motion
After observing the positions, cadence and fantastic speeds of Surf Lifesaving paddle boarders through the water, it seemed plausible to me that these techniques could be transferred to freestyle swimming also. A very fast arm turnover that can be repeated continuously over distance.

Combining the paddle boarders arm motion with a a butterfly hip movement, is a combination I have experimented with extensively and have found these two together can in fact provide a more natural and effective freestyle stroke for many women. We still apply TBF, generating force from the hips, but instead of turning the hips sideways, we encourage an ‘up and down’ dolphin’ing / movement, vertical to the bottom of the pool. Thus is very similar to the movement of the hips seen in the butterfly swim stroke.

This stroke also allows us to focus on the finish and the explosive acceleration at the end of the stroke, rather than the extension at the front. The stroke is thus short at the front and long at the back, using the vertical motion of the hips and a higher stroke rate to create the power.

To be able to accomplish this we advocate less body roll for the women than men. To maintain a higher cadence a flatter body position is required with less overall roll. The amount of roll naturally occurring when turning to breath is sufficient with this stroke technique.

 

The male paddle boarders demonstrating the same concept; fantastic speed generated by fast arm turnover and a wide stoke. Video Footage: 2003 Australia Ironman Final

 
Distance per stroke
Focusing on a maximum distance per stroke is a notion held by many age group athletes which is a great inhibitor to their progress. The general impression that less strokes is better is a complete misnomer when training for triathlon swimming. Remember the swim leg of a triathlon takes place in open, moving water with currents and swells, while also fighting for space with other competitors. A long slow stroke is counterproductive to swimming in these conditions. The stroke needs to be suited to the environment you will compete in.

 
Gender, physique, natural body position, swim background, race distance and even mentality of the athlete are all important considerations when advising on best stroke for each individual athlete. With so many of us from a non-swimming background there is also one other important consideration – to enjoy, or learn to enjoy swimming! Technique, workout structure and correct use of ‘toys’ all contribute to improving, as well as to enjoyment – and if you enjoy your training, then you will enjoy the results too!

 
If you would like to experience TBF swim training and advice on the best stroke for you, we offer this at our Trisutto camps, including with Brett Sutton 1-6 May in Mallorca, and 8-13 May in Cyprus. 

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 2

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 2

In the second of our 2 part series Brett address’ the specifics of the TBF stroke and the principles behind developing a stroke for the Individual. (Part 1 can be found here.)

 

TBF specifics

 
We DO NOT feel the water
We do not focus on trying to ‘feel’ the water, Sorry folks, but finding a feel for the water is not going to happen…., in 30 years of coaching I have yet to see one triathlete who can feel the water. Of the 24 Olympic Swimmers I have trained, 4 were able to ‘feel’ the water. Very, very few of the top swimmers in the world will ever feel the water.

 
Body Force
We teach our athletes to use their whole body to create force. The power comes from the body – not the arms. The force we generate initiates from the hips, transfers through our body with our arms simply being the levers. Just like throwing or hitting a ball, or throwing a punch in boxing; in TBF swimming, the force also starts from the rotation of the hips.


Like so many sports – the power starts with the movement of the hips

 
To generate the force, the hips roll to the breathing side and then back to the centre. We think of it as pole through the top of the head (or like a chicken on a skewer at a rotisserie!) – we turn on the pole to breathe…, and then bring it back to the centre.

 
Breathing Pattern
Many age group athletes attending our training camps have the pre-set notion they MUST bilateral breathe. Whilst we have some great swimmers who do bilateral breathe, NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO DO THIS. Bilateral breathing suits the needs of some individuals, however the majority of age group athletes tend to be more suited to a one side breathing pattern.

Once a breathing pattern has been established, always keep it the same. We use the term, ‘pick and stick’. Whether it be fast, easy, short speed, long endurance, training, or races…, athletes should concentrate on always maintaining the same breathing pattern!

 
Rhythm and Balance
TBF swimming gives both rhythm and balance. This is the ‘X’ factor to improving the overall speed through the water. How we do this is specific to the individual.

As mentioned above, our swim stroke is dictated by our breathing pattern. Whether it be one side only or bilateral breathing, or a 2/2/4 pattern…., the breathing pattern is critical to helping us find both balance and rhythm in the water.

To find balance in the water we DO NOT need to be doing the identical action on both sides of the body! Letting go of the false conception that we need to be symmetrical in the water, has paved the way for many swimming breakthroughs. Both of our arms DO NOT have to go under our body – we often have one arm tracking a lot wider than the other and that is OK.

We DO NOT have to swim with 2 bent elbows above the water. For many age group athletes we find the best fluid dynamics come when breathing every second stroke with one straight arm recovery. The straight arm can be either the breathing arm or the non-breathing arm dependant on the athletes natural side. How the arm moves through the recovery (e.g: a high bowling action or a low grass-cutting or helicopter action) is determined by both the breathing pattern, the natural efficiency of the movement, and the flexibility of the athlete.

  • To be crystal clear – flexibility is not important in TBF swimming. We advise a stroke technique to suit the flexibility of the individual athlete. We do not try to make the athlete more flexible to try to swim a pre-determined text book stroke!

The 2 straight arms recovery stroke is also effective and can often work especially well in combination with a butterfly kick instead of a freestyle kick, for certain athletes.

Breathing one side, two straight recovery arms, fast arm turnover and butterfly kick = Rhythm, Balance and Increased speed for Sarah Crowley (Ironman 70.3 Middle East Champion).

 
Hand Entry
We enter our hand into the water in line with our shoulder (not our nose). This way we avoid the fishtail we see in so many age group athletes. If we enter our hand in line with our nose, given the momentum of the entry, the hand will cross the midline. There is no way around it; it will not stop at the nose. 
If we make an action at the front of the stoke (ie: cross the midline), it will have a reaction at the back of the stoke (fishtail).


The superman image has helped many people when it comes to hand entry position!

 
Head position
Last but not least, we do not point our nose down at the bottom of the pool. We break the water in line with our forehead and look forward to watch our hand enter the water before turning to breathe.

 

We are all different and our goal is to find the stroke that best suits the individual to obtain rhythm and balance in the water.

 
Determining the stroke and breathing pattern that is most efficient for an individual is not commonly achieved in one single swim workout. It is a process of experimentation and trial and error. Timing a single 100 interval is not a method we would recommend to decide upon a stroke. A stroke an athlete can maintain for 1500 – 3800m is preferable to one that is great for 100m but then falls apart – especially under pressure of race day. For us, Technique Under Fatigue (TUF) is the key.

A coach on deck with an eye for fluid dynamics is ideally the best way forward here. Once the stroke is decided upon, the athlete can then go away and confidently swim, ideally without the need to over-think. Incorporating tools such as pull buoys and paddles will further assist us in developing the stroke.

These tools can be used to develop swim specific strength, but the choice of shape and size for each individual swimmer is critical to TBF swimming. The correct choice of paddles can help correct swim technique without the athlete thinking, and hence avoiding analysis paralysis – one of the main killers of age group swim performance.

 
TBF swim techniques are taught and practised at all Trisutto Camps where we endeavour to find the individual stroke dynamics best suited to each individual.