Staff Writer Jek realises that nailing the correct swim technique isn’t that hard with the help of a coach.
It’s well documented that my season has been a total write-off: a trapped nerve that is stubbornly refusing to budge has meant that for the past three months I’ve been unable to run, ride or sit down for more than 10 minutes. Poor bike set up, bulging discs and bad posture have all been ruled out as possible causes – so I’m still somewhat in limbo waiting for either my orthopedic specialist or physio to have a eureka moment and work out what’s causing me so much pain. A nerve induction test in the not-too-distant future should hopefully shed some more light.
Despite my injury troubles, I’ve still been allowed to swim – meaning that I haven’t had to totally resign myself to becoming a couch potato. According to my physio, I’m not supposed to push myself too hard though, which sucks. I’m an all-or-nothing sort of gal, so only pushing up to 70per cent and not to the max doesn’t really float my boat. But with running and cycling off the agenda my options have been pretty limited, so I’ve made the effort to swim at least once a week for the last few months. It may not sound a lot, but when it’s summer time and I’m injury free, you’re lucky if I make it in the pool once in a month I spend that much time on my bike and running.
With my haphazard approach and lack of commitment it’s no surprise that swimming is my weakest tri discipline by a country mile. My appalling technique means that I’m often shadowed at events by a panic-stricken safety guy in a kayak who thinks I am about to drown. The only good thing about being so bad is that it’s pretty easy to find my bike in T1.
I was delighted then, when Speedo invited me to take part in a training session with two-time Olympian and former world and European champion Michelle Dillon. Since retiring from triathlon due to injury, Michelle has set up her own coaching business, Team Dillon.
I’ve never had a 1-2-1 swimming lesson in my life, and barring the two-coached sessions I’ve enjoyed with Team Triathlon Plus, I’m pretty much self-taught (with the help of YouTube).
I was an excited bag of nerves as I arrived at the venue to meet Michelle. My nervous disposition wasn’t helped when I saw I was going to be swimming in the same lane as Olympian Stuart Hayes and newly crowned British Triathlon Super Series champion Emma Pallant.
It only took a 50m warm-up before Michelle stopped me and started to help me with my technique. The biggest problem with my stroke was that I persistently crossed my centre line, and so didn’t really have a great underwater pull. Michelle simply told me to swim with my arms wider – and for the first time in my life I actually felt as if I was gliding through the water rather than fighting against it.
Next up was my catch phase. I’ve always known that something was adrift with it but could never pinpoint the problem – and neither could my numerous tri friends that I’ve repeatedly asked. Michelle spotted the issue straight away – I was dropping my elbows. She gave me a few drills to try and within about 20 minutes we were seeing marked improvements.
By the end of the session, I was swimming 45 seconds off 50m – a good 10 seconds quicker than my previous PB. I was absolutely delighted and cannot thank Michelle enough – in an hour with her I’ve learned more than I’ve done in the last couple of years.
Buoyed by a renewed sense of motivation and confidence, I will be hitting the pool this weekend and trying out my new technique. Faster swim splits here I come!
Speedo are proud to sponsor Team Dillon who are coached by 2 x Olympic triathlete Michelle Dillon. The team includes GB Olympic triathlete Stuart Hayes and triathlete Emma Pallant. Please visit www.facebook.com/triathelite
Log your training for free at the TriRadar.com Training Zone.