Many triathletes spend small fortunes on bike fits and gait analysis assessments, but we are happy to bash up and down the pool knowing the race is very rarely won in the swim but forget that it can easily be lost. We checked out one of Richard Stannard’s free style swim clinics recently, for a little fine tuning, as a seven time world champion Richard needs little introduction to most triathletes and his winter clinics are in great demand.
For most swimmers just cheking out the facilities at Surrey Sports Park is enough, the joy of seeing a decent swimming pool for once rather than an over crowded 25m public baths is inspiring. The day starts relaxed – coffee and videos of how the pros do it right. Just watching the likes of Addlington, Thorpe and Phelps swim from beneath the water with a clear and concise explanation from Richard starts the braining spinning – what the hell will I look like when he points the camera at me! You cannot avoid a discussion about leg kicking, we tried but you are not going to escape one of Richard’s clinics without some serious leg kicking. Some further talking and time on the swim cords to discuss details like a high-elbow pull, hand positions and entry points and it was time for some swimming and videoing.
The beauty of the day is the real mixture of abilities between the 20 people on the course. We had a mixture from a top age grouper to a couple of novice swimmers who frowned at a 16 length warm up. Lanes and positions in the lanes were quickly sorted out and it was time to leg kick, you cannot hide away from this it does make all the difference, but it hurts – hearing that it also hurts Richard as well certainly helped. We moved through a series of stroke sequences, concentrating each time on just one element of the stroke rather than getting bombarded with the whole picture. A few lengths of videoing to end the 90 minute session and we had plenty of footage of each swimmer to analize after lunch.
This is the best part of the day – seeing yourself swimming, with footage taken from the side and below and you can get a perfect illustration of what you are actually doing. If you have never seen this and want to improve quickly, you need to see some underwater video of your arms, legs and body position all interacting together. We talked through each course member in detail, similar themes came up time and time again, but the more we talked and watched our understanding grew of what we needed to put right, what to avoid and what to try out in the weeks ahead. It’s then back to the pool for more practise and some advice to take away and work on.
It was an enlightening day, it helps enormously to have an expert give you concise advice and continues to do so – our videos are out there somewhere on the world wide web hidden away hopefully so that no-one but us can find them. There is little better training you can do on a freezing cold Saturday in the winter than try one of these courses. It is money well spent, it might cut some serious time off your swim come the race season, it most definitely helps the confidence – more details are available here under front crawl swim clinic, the next available dates for 2013 are the 9th & 16th of March.