Thursday, January 26, 2017

Know Your Reasons: Should You Be Racing For Sheep Stations?

Dear Swimmers

The following blog post is my musings on what motivates us to train and - in some cases - compete. What prompted me to write this was my recent decision to withdraw from the Port-2-Pub 25km Solo swim on the grounds that I couldn't find my reason, something I've never had to deal with before. You may or may not care to know this information or of my life choices, but this is my account of that decision and I hope it helps you in some way.

Whilst this discussion is likely to seem somewhat egocentric, I am hoping that by sharing this open and honest account of the emotions of preparing for a big event, you might indeed be able to solidify your own reason to forge ahead, or, if like me, elect to take a different path and to feel good about that decision in the shortest amount of time possible. Of course, this is likely to apply to many things in your life, not just swimming or the squad!

Knowing our reasons and being positive about them is essential I find to being empowered to pursue a goal; not knowing has the exact opposite effect and that's not a fun place to be.

In preparing this blog, I am reminded of two books that I recently read which are well worth a perusal if you're feeling similar emotions to anything expressed here:

Book 1:

…the subtitle says it all, "when to quit (and when to stick)"

I have spent many hours ruminating over even publishing this post because of: a) being perceived as a quitter (more on that in Book 2 below) and all the negative societal ramifications that usually has; and b) because with exactly one month to go before the Rottnest Channel Swim the last thing you might have expected me to discuss openly was the "Q" word especially when we're innately trained to believe we must never do such a thing. "If you don't quit, you'll make it" is the mantra we are taught to live by at all costs. In talking with several members of the squad though recently, I know that this is very much the point that you are also currently at too - if this serves to help you and you only, then so be it. That'll be a positive outcome for me. Everyone else might not be still reading anyway…! Yawn...

Book 2: 


…excuse the profanity in the title!

Essentially this book is all about knowing what to care about and what not - typically what people think of you or what you perceive they do. I think we're all guilty within our peer group and swimming community in general of feeling the peer pressure to perhaps drive forth even if that might not be the best direction for us. Manson teaches us to cut our own path and be happy in our choices and not to worry too much about what people think because at the end of the day, no one really cares but you anyway! Is that an easy way of saying "it's OK to give up and have no drive"? I'm not so sure.

Know Your Reasons: Should You Be Racing For Sheep Stations?

Back in June 2015, you may recall I ran a Q&A for the squad to find out a little more about the demographics of the squad and to also aim to identify what makes you tick. Below is a snapshot of some of that information gleaned from the Google analysis:

Of all the information we collected, to me this was the most intriguing. I have been coaching the squad at Claremont Pool now for nearly 9 years and Swim Smooth itself has just had it's 12th birthday, and yet my perception of reality was totally warped against what the stats were showing. Even being "behind the scenes" of the whole squad operation, like you, I am susceptible to heresy also. 

I often hear on the grapevine such things about the squad as "someone has to die before you can get a place!" and "that's a very serious squad, only for the elite!" and yet this information seemed to suggest otherwise - 39.4% of you in fact claim that you're just swimming for fun, fitness and friendship (as simple as that!), 16.5% of you are no longer competitive and are in "retirement", and a further 2.4% have no swimming background at all. 

All up then, 57.3% of you have very little inclination to compete or prepare for a big event, instead you are driven by your own innate sense of motivation to be healthy and to simply share some social time with your mates. And that's OK. Perfectly fine in fact. Just not what I was expecting, and not what the international coaches who arrive this weekend will perceive either when they see our "slower" lanes averaging a good 15-20s per hundred faster than their own squads. In fact lane 1 on Wednesday morning averaged 1:52 for a continuous 1500m swim within a really hard 4km Red Mist set. This is always the visiting coaches's biggest collective comment after they spend two weeks with us - how fast you guys and girls all are and how disciplined and consistent you are in your approach. From an outsider's perspective, it's very much a competitively healthy group of people enjoying each other's company and that makes me very proud as a coach indeed.

I just wish I could learn to be like you guys myself as I've been doing it hard lately, coming to terms with the necessity to withdraw from this year's 25km Port-2-Pub race (more on that later).

I draw amazing inspiration watching you every day, taking instructions, following through, ticking all the boxes, sometimes achieving your goals, sometimes not, but ALWAYS coming back for more. I often question how much I must sound like a broken record on the pool deck repeating instructions, listing familiar drills time and again, but still you come. As Rob from Lane 3 (Friday 6.30am) so eloquently put it:

"So where does the black line lead? Not sure but happy to keep following to find out!" 

Keep following that black line!

My entire sporting life has been about competition. I was never the best swimmer in our club and certainly not in our county (state), but I always thrived on the competition, trying to beat my own personal bests at every opportunity. I had a dogged determinedness to be the "last to quit" thinking that if I can just outlast my competitor's own internal motivations then ultimately I'd be the only one left and would start to win everything as the competition pool shrank in numbers!

Inspiration doesn't come much better than this - 80yo Barrie Eaves also claims that if he just keeps going soon there'll be no one left to beat. Barrie swims every day of the week and doesn't blink an eye at Friday's 5km Red Mist Endurance session. Legend.

I've always felt the need to have a goal - usually a big flippin' goal at that - to keep me motivated to train, but perhaps this is where I'm going wrong? Perhaps the motivation simply needs to be about the enjoyment of swimming at this point in time. The enjoyment of the swimming community, irrespective of event or placing? My very good friend and whom I owe my entire coaching career here in Australia to (as he relinquished his position at the Stadium Triathlon Club in 2002 to make way for his psychology studies exactly when I was seeking a start), said to me over the Christmas holidays:

"I don't know how you do it. How you keep backing up for these big events. Don't you feel that you have a finite amount of motivation, especially when always training alone? I prefer to stay fit and healthy year-round, enjoying the experience of just being out on my bike, but avoiding the highs and lows of fitness / performance from peaking for certain events." 

It should be noted that said friend is actually still incredibly fit and healthy and still backs up and performs well at some big events, he just doesn't devote all his time and emotional energy into it as I seem to be drawn to do*. Could this be you too? Are you the one racing for sheep stations that aren't necessarily even there to be won?

*I have a man crush on this guy's approach to life and his family / work / training balance it has to be said! 

I often claim that I (only) swim about 10-12hrs a week (25-40km), but what is most apparent these days with a young family and busy work schedule, is that it's not the swimming duration that's the issue, it's how consuming the whole process of training for a big event - being the "be all and end all" or pinnacle of your training plan - from an emotional and psychological perspective. Or at least this is the case for me - this is where I'm going wrong, this is where the majority of you have it right.

Now don't get me wrong, focus, dedication and commitment which thus leads to consistency, performance and ultimately the ability to finish the challenge of completing an Ironman or swimming across to Rottnest Island is essential - the point is, have you got the balance right? What is your reasoning to put yourself through what you do? Can you simply say why you are preparing for your next event? If the answer is a loose "erm, because I think I should" I'd encourage you to think a little deeper. If you still can't find it and are beating yourself up, then perhaps your goal posts need some adjusting? Could this reasoning be the missing key to your spark and motivation loss at key times or am I just speaking to and about myself…??!! Possibly.

Remember, nothing is permanent - it's not like this needs to be "never again", you could, after all, spin around on a sixpence once you have made some adjustments in both your training volume and emotional approach (if its needed) and come bouncing right back. I know, and can feel already, that I'm going to be able to relight that inner fire now that I have listened and reasoned with myself about what I really want to spend my time and effort doing at this point in time

Here's some possible (positive) reasons for taking action and sticking with it in no particular order of importance:
  • because I want to do what I've never done before
  • because I want to experience something entirely new to me
  • because I want to beat my mate
  • because I want to beat my time
  • because I want to win
  • because I want to set a world record
  • because I want to be a newer, healthier me
  • because I want that flippin' number plate!
  • because I just want to do it
Note that these are all "wants", not "needs" or "shoulds". I couldn't find my "want".

Regrettably - but now excitingly - last weekend I made the decision to withdraw from the 25km Port-2-Pub solo swim. I've been asked many times this last couple of weeks "how is my training / racing going" but sadly it's never been a positive response. I apologise if you've been on the receiving end of that, or even if I've seemed somewhat evasive of answering the question properly. That's been hard to deal with in itself as I spend my whole life trying to enthuse others to enjoy swimming and yet here I was lower than low about my own. 

As per the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Squad Swimmers blog post, my training had been going well leading up to Christmas. Hindsight has shown me that my motivation at this point was simply to get fit again, rather than any bigger picture thoughts of the event itself. But I over-cooked it and I'm an idiot. I was too greedy and pushed that balance button too far in the wrong direction. I burnt out. I was grumpy and miserable to be around. This was coupled with a niggling left shoulder issue I've been dealing with for the best part of a decade now (many, many years of unilateral breathing prior to switching exclusively to bilateral ~2002), but the ultimate issue was that I just couldn't find the reasoning within me for wanting to do the event (as great an event as it is I hasten to add!) and put my body, mind and soul through the sacrifices that I alone place on myself for these events. Fear of my shoulder totally giving in on me and having to then endure months of restorative rehab also just wasn't on my "want radar".

In short, I was racing for sheep stations for the wrong reasons.

I had three open water swims after Christmas and each of them ended in severe shoulder pain and numbness, but the more worrying thing was the zero lack of drive that I had to complete each. I would literally stop mid-stroke and just get out. Something I've never experienced before. It was depressing. The guilt of exiting early and feeling like a hypocrite was compounded by the fact that I then felt guilty about how I could have spent the morning playing lego with the kids or taking the dog for a nice walk - you know, the "normal" things in life. 

So I had to make a decision and that decision was to quit. Yes, I'm a fully fledged quitter! Was I worried about how that would be perceived as a supposed leader of positive action? Certainly. Do I feel bad about that? Yes, but only momentarily. The truth is though that I'd already mentally quit this event 4 to 6 weeks before I made the decision to acknowledge it with others, even with myself. I am now very comfortable that I've made a choice to change direction rather than feeling I've simply given up, and there's a big difference.

I was reminded by close friends and family - after looking so down and grumpy - that the last time I looked truly motivated and inspired was when I did the ÖtillÖ race in the Scilly Isles back in June 2016. Why was this so? It was such a new event to me. No pressure. No expectation. Something different. Something which connects you to your environment in a way no other race could. Doing it for a reason above and beyond my own interests. I loved it and I was pumped. I was pumped in exactly the same way I see those of you training up for your first Rottnest swim or an Ironman look every time you pop down onto pool deck. I envy that look. Grasp onto that feeling and hold it aloft! You can do a lot with that feeling. Yes you'll be feeling tired right now. Yes your muscles will be aching and yes you might be nervous and apprehensive about even finishing the event but don't confuse that fatigue with malaise - it's not. Just you watch - you'll start to taper down, you'll freshen up, that mojo will come flooding back and you'll be ready. You'll be excited. You'll be set to take on the biggest adventure of your life and you will do it awesomely well. Just know your reason and then embrace it!

So, rather than wallowing in my own self-pity I've decided to get proactive, to make some changes, and it's been a liberating experience! I've stopped drinking, I'm going to bed earlier, I've cut out sugar, I'm drinking a lot more water (via my new Soda Stream), I'm trying to get my body physically back in balance after years of just swimming, blah, blah, blah...I've replaced the disappointing training sessions with more time with Mish and the kids and it just feels right. I feel "normal". I'm pumped again with the news of the Rottnest SwimRun event on 1st April ( and even did an 18km practice session this morning with Anna-Lee from the squad; and when I dusted off the cobwebs of my 8yo Cervelo and took just one revolution of it's beautiful carbon cranks rather than hitting the river for another loop, I knew instantly I'd made the right decision. I was alive again.

Know your reason and then go with it.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our next batch of International Coaches arrive soon! 9.30am Squad SUPER IMPORTANT - please read!

Dear Swimmers

*6.15pm Thursday swimmers, please note there will be no session on Thursday 2nd March owing to an evening carnival at the pool - thanks!*

As is often the case, during the months of February and March, school carnivals are often run at the pool which can clash with our 9.30am sessions. This year is no different and we have 8 clash dates as follows this season - please put them in your diary!

Given earlier sessions at the pool (and the need to rush from the pool to the beach for myself / coaches), these sessions will run from 10-11am:

  1. Friday 3rd February (Sorrento Beach trial)
  2. Wednesday 1st March
  3. Friday 3rd March
  4. Wednesday 8th March
  5. Friday 17th March
  6. Monday 20th March
  7. Wednesday 22nd March
  8. Friday 31st March

N.B your app will always indicate if it's an open water session, so no excuses please for wrongly turning up at the pool (it happens!):

For these dates we shall be running these sessions instead in the open water. These are always super enjoyable and challenging sessions! Typically these have been run at Cottesloe Beach, but given the fantastic new shark net up at Sorrento Beach which can give a much more "peaceful mind" and a 1.2km circuit (if needed), we will run the first of these sessions on Friday 3rd February up there. Yes, it's a little more of a trek for some of you possibly, but let's see how we go. I've been using the net myself once or twice a week and it's a great resource and something I'd like us to get behind.

We'll make a judgement call after the first session as to whether to return to Cottesloe or stay at Sorrento.

For this first date, we shall also have the following international coaches with me to assist, so you could get up to 1-2-1 coaching advice on that first session (well worth your while!). These coaches will be arriving between 25th and 28th January and will have a 2 week stint with us here starting officially on Monday 30th January - it's going to be a great couple of weeks to really benefit from their assistance:

  1. Linda Bostic, Florida, USA
  2. Jana Schoeman, South Africa
  3. John Chipponeri, California, USA
  4. Kristina Schultz, Alberta, Canada
  5. Peter Russo, Boston, USA
  6. Roy Wu, Taiwan
  7. Mike Jotautas, Kentucky, USA
  8. Mary Jessy, Calgary, Canada
  9. Laura Ansell, London, UK
  10. Shangrilla Rendon, Los Angeles, USA
  11. Adam, Essex, UK
  12. Emma, The Lake District, UK
Have a great hump day!


Swim Thru Perth, this Sunday!

Dear Swimmers

Perth's longest standing open water race is this Sunday, the annual Swim Thru Perth with some new and exciting distances to try out!

More info and to register here:



Thursday, January 12, 2017

A fond farewell to Coach Cyndy!

Dear Swimmers

This is the blog I've been dreading putting out as sadly coach Cyndy will soon be leaving us to return home to the USA in early February.

Cyndy has been an integral part of the Swim Smooth Perth coaching team for several years now, one of our most dedicated swimmers and has also become a dear friend to myself and my family, in fact we were lucky enough to spend Christmas Day this year with herself and her husband Brent. My kids totally dote on Cyndy so it's going to be a very sad day when she leaves and I know that those of you whom have been lucky to have had her coach you will be very sad to see her go too.

Cyndy is having a group of her closer squad buddies meet up on Saturday 24th January and will also be available to say goodbye to and wish her luck at the following sessions:

Option 1: she will be poolside at the early morning sessions on the 24th and 27th January to say goodbye

Option 2: If you are a Tuesday night swimmer* she will be coaching her last session on the 24th January

Option 3: If you are a 9:30AM swimmer, her last swim will be Friday 5k, 3rd February

*whilst I hate to discuss "replacements" at this time, for the Tuesday sessions of the 31st January and 7th February, if you swim in the Tuesday PM session, you will have myself and our 12 international Swim Smooth coaches with you for these dates (including Adam and Emma) as they will be here from Monday 30th January to Saturday 11th February inclusive. Following this myself and Coach Ross will transition to ensure the smooth running and continuation of the legacy Cyndy took on from coach Sandy and built further herself.

I have been blown away with Cyndy's passion, commitment and integrity in everything she does and whilst you might have "only" experienced her coaching on pool deck, Cyndy does many, many things behind the scenes for Swim Smooth and thankfully will continue to do so when she's in the USA as we build that side of the coaching business. In fact, Cyndy is primarily responsible for populating over 400 training sessions within our - no easy fete when you see the detail and accuracy she puts into that work with fine panache…

…yes you could say I'm going to be totally and utterly gutted to see her go, but then that would be a huge understatement.

Cyndy, thank you for your friendship, your professionalism and your unwavering reliability and support - we couldn't have done it without you.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Squad Swimmers

Dear Swimmers

I hope you had a great Christmas break and are fully recharged for a great year of swimming ahead of you! To get you motivated and fully back into the swing of things, why not start 2017 on the right note with 7 habitual changes you can make - or compound if you're already a good little squadie - with your swimming. You'll be very surprised how these little changes can stack up over time allowing you to improve your swimming performance, enjoyment and general wellbeing. What's more, they're the perfect new year's resolution and kick up the bum you might be needing right now!

As a brilliant short-term goal to aim towards and fully put these changes to the test, why not think about entering the following competition:

On Christmas Eve, Karma Resorts - the title sponsor of the great Rottnest Channel Swim - announced little old me as their Head Coach for the event, something I am honoured and proud as punch about. I have been producing a series of soon-to-be-released special training tips and videos for their webpage  which is where you can also enter for this fantastic prize. I'll be providing two personal training sessions (one as an open water skills group session for your team mates and one as a 1-2-1 video analysis session) to really get you prepped! 

Entries close at 5pm on Wednesday 11th January 2017, so get onto it asap!

I spent the Christmas holidays reading some great, inspiring books and at the top of that list was (well worth a read - it's a classic, but a good one!)

So, here are my 7 Habits of Highly Effective Squad Swimmers for your reading - and pragmatic application - pleasure! Let's start off with a quote from 23-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Michael Phelps (I'm a bit of a fan you see!):

"If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do." 

…as is evidenced on a daily basis, not everyone is willing to maintain all seven of these habits all of the time, but those that do, do make the biggest improvements. See which of the seven you could make a better go of sticking to in 2017 and reap the rewards as a result! You might not be racing for your 24th Olympic gold medal, but why not choose to optimise your time spent in the pool as non of these are impossible challenges, in fact Audrey Hepburn (of all people!) famously said that:

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I'M POSSIBLE" 
Here goes:

1. Consistency is key

When you have periods of inconsistent attendance at either squad sessions or in your own swim sets, your swimming really suffers. Everyone thinks they "know" that, but we still beat ourselves up about it when we miss sessions (for whatever reason) and then wonder why we're not improving - or worse - going backwards.

Michael Phelps is famous for saying that he can't recall the last time / day he didn't swim and we all know his results speak for themselves, but then we're not all swimming full-time aiming for legendary swimming status! It's an inevitable fact that as a husband / wife / partner / mother / father / worker / normal human being, there are going to be times when you simply have to skip a session. So what should we do to get ourselves back on the bandwagon asap?

Using some sophisticated algorithms that we built into I've been able to track my own personal development for the Port-2-Pub 25km Solo Swim on the 25th March 2017. I'm hoping that by sharing this information it might give you greater insight into your own training. 

It is possible to grade every session that you do with a point score (what's typically termed a "Training Stress Score") - a longer, harder session (like a Wednesday Red Mist session) might give you 100 points for example, versus an easy technique swim (like a Monday Pure Technique session) might give you 50 points. These points are all relative to the distance you cover in the session at an average pace relative to your Critical Swim Speed (CSS). 

In order to gain long-term fitness you need to train of course, but you can't simply crank out 100 point sessions every day of the week or you'll implode (trust me, I've tried!), nor will you progress if you're not swimming regularly and consistently enough with sessions that never overly stress you. You need to balance the long-term fitness you are seeking with the short-term fatigue that your training generates. This is the "secret sauce" to good performances and everyone responds differently to how they handle this load.

As you can see from my chart below, things haven't been progressing as smoothly as I would have liked. Why not? Like you, I'm human too with a young family, a busy work schedule and the sense sometimes that I need to cram things in as best I can (not always ideal!).

I started in October and you can see that for the first 4 weeks leading up to my US Coaching trip, things are going really well. For the 2 weeks I was in the US I had to cut back on my training due to a busy work and travel schedule but ironically EVERY swim I did over there was amazing! Why? Simply because the 4 weeks I had trained prior were enough of a training stimulus to generate some real gains even though I was starting from a very low level of fitness. Essentially the extra rest periods in the US had the same effect as me tapering down to a key event; my fatigue levels dropped off allowing good performances and the training I was doing was just enough to claw onto my fitness gains. But this couldn't last, eventually the fitness drops away and you need more training stimulus. I got back to Perth and had my worst ever 10km swim at Champion Lakes - a full 18 minutes slower than I had been the last time I raced there (2014). This was the kick up the bum I needed to get back down to business!

For November and the first 2 weeks of December I nailed it, trying a little too greedily to claw back some fitness and hopefully deliver a much better performance at the Mullaloo 10km swim on the 27th December (due to poor weather this was rescheduled to 31st December and so sadly I missed it). But I over-stepped the mark. In the week before Christmas I felt totally lethargic and drained with no appetite to swim - I'm sure we've all been there! This though compounded with the holiday period and family commitments etc has forced a period of very inconsistent swimming BUT it has given me the opportunity to recover and get those fatigue levels down and get that motivation back up. Looking at this on the arbitrary fitness scale, I am at the same point as I was at the beginning of December, so effectively I've compromised all that hard work in the early part of December by being too greedy. As relaxing as Christmas time can be after the big fella has visited, the lead-up and stress prior can be very demanding and sadly there's no fancy chart that can measure this side of things, but it all counts.

So you can hopefully see that consistency isn't always about laziness as you might think, sometimes it can be brought on by trying to do too much, too soon and being too greedy about it - the result is the same: a drop in performance. Oftentimes operating at 80% of your true capacity is what facilitates the most consistent of training programs. That old adage of "a little and often" is often the best medicine.

2. Opt to lead a set more than once in a while

The ultimate best way to train is by yourself with a beeper set specifically for you, not in a squad. Argh! Did I really say that? It's true though - I should know, I've got no mates and always have to train solo! I've always made big leaps in performance in small time frames because everything I do is totally tailored to my current level of fitness. However, as I've just shown you, even then, it's possible to get this wrong and without anyone overseeing what you are doing, it's very likely that you might go astray. Equally, the motivation to train totally by yourself 100% of the time is (I believe) a finite resource. Whereas I have to rely 100% of the time on my own intrinsic motivation to train, the extrinsic motivation you receive in the squad from the coach and your fellow squad buddies is more than enough to outweigh the biased positives of training solo; in fact, it might just be what keeps the majority of you so relatively consistent in the first place! Many of you have been swimming with me for 10+ years now and I dare say even the hardiest of solo swimmers would have lost their intrinsic mojo by now had it not been for the collective motivation that the squad generates, so this is a good thing!

Squad swimmer Rob Franklyn said it best in what ultimately became part of my thank you speech at this year's Squad Christmas Party (thanks Rob!):

"Where does the black line lead? In life we rarely see people skinned of their pretences, force fields down. The environment at Swim Smooth is different. While being semi-naked and half asleep is a start, the fact that it all runs seamlessly and effortlessly, everyone has a predetermined position (assigned unknowingly to swimmers somehow) and each gets personal attention whenever needed (you are at the end of each lane whenever I stop for breath – how can this be!), lulls us poor unsuspecting into thinking it is a mere dream and the pain will stop as soon as eyes open. Your squad brings it all together and shows people as they really are. It matters not whether you are 20 or 70 y.o; a heart surgeon, student, teacher or labourer, funny or grumpy, competitive or in the way, all are just swimmers chasing the black line, feeling good about it, sharing a gag, clearing the head, soaking up the rays, making friends and enjoying the company. It's a rare place, it doesn't just happen without a lot of work on your part - I wanted to say thanks for letting me be part of it all for so long. Some of my best friends are to be found floating (mostly face down!) in the pool (or on the deck!)! So where does the black line lead – not sure but happy to keep following to find out!" 

So, how can you reap all the benefits of the squad environment, but still optimise your training time with us? Simple, opt to lead your lane / group more than once in a while. Try not to shy away from the beeper being handed to you. Know that with sweet uncertainty you will make the target times, and if not, no big deal - pass it on! You gave it a go and you got chance to benefit from the pacing control that swimming with the beeper assists. Don't shy away.

3. Don't swim on toes*

Swimming on someone's toes has been shown to reduce your energy expenditure by up to 38%. That's great if you're racing an Ironman or a shorter open water swimming event and due practice is certainly worthwhile* but think of it another way (especially you Rottnest Solo swimmers) - you're working 38% easier than you would be doing leading the lane by yourself which is precisely what you'll have to do when you swim across to Thomson's Bay (no drafting allowed). Swimmers who incessantly swim on the toes of the people in front of them (rather than the recommended 5 to 8 second gap) are effectively always under-training. Period. You can't then expect to swim at anywhere close to the speeds you're holding in the squad if you're always on someone's feet. Yes I bang about this a lot, but ultimately you need to be in control of this. Only you can make this habitual change. If you slow down for a while, so what? Your future self will thank you for it.

You could say, well I do leave the right gap but I always end up on those feet in front of me. Two options: follow point 2 (above) and lead a little more frequently; or simply avoid the necessity to close the gap down after you've set off - maintain that gap and all will be right in the world!

*unless specifically instructed to do so

4. Don't short-turn*

If you're preparing for a swim event in the open water, guess what, you can't put your feet down at the shallow end (there isn't one) nor can you cut the corner off a straight line (across to Rottnest). The classic thing I see all too frequently is people short-turning and looking like they're fiddling with their goggles as a way to "explain" why they're doing this. Get some new goggles. Putting your feet down has the following detrimental effects:

  • you lose your rhythm
  • you mess up the rhythm of those behind you
  • you reduce your fatigue in a long set - this is NOT a good thing - this is something you need to learn to adapt and deal with for longer swims
  • you accelerate off the ground and into your stroke and straight onto the feet of those in front of you (see point 3)

If there's one habitual change that'll really make a difference for you, it's this one. Remember, short-term loss of being able to stay with your group for long-term gain of improved fitness. I know which I'd choose.

It's a fundamental fact that in a squad of 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 swimmers there are going to be differences in speed (CSS pace) across the group. It is EXPECTED that on longer intervals and towards the end of a session you WILL get dropped by those who are faster in front of you. Take the ego hit, it's OK, trust me. Not taking it will leave you massively disappointed when it really counts. No one wants that.

Remember this is a list of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Squad Swimmers I'm yet to see in my 20 years of swim coaching anyone who would be regarded as being "highly effective" for their own relative level of achievement who cuts corners in swim sets. Recognise this as an issue and then make 2017 the year that you crack this habit.

*unless specifically instructed to do so

5. Pace effectively, don't beat the beeper and don't skip intervals)

 OMG! Did I really write that? Two negatives in what is supposed to part of a positive habitual change to your swimming? Yes, I did.

This is not an instruction manual on how to use the Finis Tempo Trainer PRO - you all know how to do that, it's very simple. Either stay with the predetermined pace per 25m or beat it per 50m depending on the set / instruction / session. But when it comes to staying with the beeper, don't be tempted to beat it to fluff your feathers in front of your group only to have to then skip an interval (or two) to recover from what was effectively too fast. It's not fancy and it's not impressive. Impressive is sticking with the beeper and that all important "C" word: control

Notice how this issue tends to happen more often in sub-threshold type sessions, i.e. Tuesday's Technique / Endurance sets and / or Wednesday's Red Mist Endurance sets. Here, technically it will be more than possible to beat the beeper at times - but remember there's a method in my madness - sometimes swimming at a sub-threshold pace (even if it feels "below" you) is important to develop your ability to maintain form, speed and a level of aerobic control at a pace which is significantly more reflective of what you'd ultimately end up averaging in a longer race. Think of it as developing a wider range of gears - too much emphasis at the higher end of your aerobic spectrum too frequently will massively diminish your aerobic development, especially if to achieve your efforts you need additional recovery time and reduced volume to achieve it.

Be a stayer.

6. Do drills patiently and with panache

Of all the sessions I crave having some friends for to help with a little mojo, a Pure Technique session is not one of them. Racing through drills for the sake of it makes no sense at all. Showing control and patience is essential. Understand why you are doing the drill and then do it patiently and with panache. We've got a great resource of all our drills filmed from every conceivable angle and with full audio commentary available at for $2.99/mo - or you can simply keep your head up, listen, watch and observe when we do drill demonstrations and give reasoning for why a drill should be done a certain way (especially in the Monday Pure Technique sessions). If there was ever a time to be a squad "slow coach" - during a drills session is that time. Even if you know the drills inside out, slow down a bit. These sessions are NEVER about how much distance you cover, but it never ceases to surprise me how disappointed some people look when they've "only" covered 2.2km but have done it with fine form. Enjoy these sessions and take the time to do the drills properly - your stroke (and shoulders) will really thank you for it!

7. Optimise your stroke for you

It's amazing what a little stroke TLC can do for even the most regular and consistent of squad swimmers. Many of your squad buddies who continue to progress with their swimming check in with me at least once per year for a stroke tune-up. During this session we film you from above and below the water, then sit down record the analysis of your stroke and what needs to be done, before finally hopping back into the water and with direct audio feedback using our clever little waterproof radio headset, I can give you realtime feedback with how you're going with the changes you're trying to make. So comprehensive and effective is the session that it's not something you need to keep coming back for week after week or month after month, think of it simply as your annual check-up and service giving you the key points of what you should be focusing on during your squad sessions, further optimising your training time.

To book your annual check-up, simply log into your app or visit and select a date from Tuesday 31st January onwards (fully booked until then) and use the 20.17% discount code 7habits to benefit from the discount. This special offer closes at 5pm on Tuesday 31st January 2017. And if you happen to be one of the lucky Karma Resorts swim team winners, you might even score yourself a free session! Double whoop!