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So I’m actually getting better at swimming.

I’m really enjoying saying that, even though I’m still pretty nervous about putting it to the test next month at the Diamond Tri. But, the more I practice, with every breakthrough I make, the more confident I feel that I won’t crash and burn on the swim.

I’ve still got a fair way to go to get to 400m without stopping, and have just under five weeks to do it in – but I do love a deadline, so I know I’ll get there, one way or another.

It’s funny how last year I made next to no progress in comparison to the gains I’ve made this past couple of months simply by shutting up and getting on with the things I’d convinced myself I wasn’t capable of. Alright, maybe I haven’t shut up at all, in fact I’ve had a right old moan throughout, but had a go anyway and then realised that actually, I can do it:

  1. Swim two lengths without stopping.
  2. Progress to four lengths with minimal breaks. 
  3. Do a whole Swim Fit 16, 20 and 32 length workout in front crawl.
  4. Go out of my depth in the sea.
  5. Swim a length or two WITHOUT my nose clip. 
  6. Have a break from panicked flapping in the sea to try a tiny bit of actual swimming, again, WITHOUT the nose clip (tasted like shit twice as bad as water entered both nostrils and my mouth)
  7. Practice bi-lateral breathing (it’s not pretty).

Out of my depth

Until a couple of months ago, I had never, ever gone out of my depth in water without having the side of a pool to hang onto. Going out of my depth in the sea for the first time was utterly terrifying, even though I was with the Swimming for Softies session in my amazing Brighton triathlon training group.

Picture this, as a beginner swimmer: 

Your goggles are steamed up and you can’t see a thing from the glare of the sun. You’ve drank half the channel already, you’re knackered and flailing, and every time you stop treading water you sink. You need to de-steam your goggles and you’re desperate to get back on dry land but big, salty rolling waves keep thrashing into you, some up your nose, some down your throat, some over your head. 

All you want is something to hold onto, or step on, so you can stop, breathe, and adjust yourself. 

But it doesn’t come, and you have to suck it up (not as literally as you have been), and get on with it. 

Needless to say, every time I get in the sea I revert back to terrified little fat Tess in the school pool when the armbands finally got taken away. 

But the fear is slowly starting to slip away. The more I practice, in the sea, in the pool, the more confident I grow. Progress is so addictive!

Tonight, after a brilliant BTRS coaching session at the amazing Pells Pool in Lewes (the UK’s oldest outdoor swimming pool and my new favourite place to swim), I made a massive breakthrough with my stroke. I slowed it right down, lifted my elbows and rotated my body, keeping my head down.

I glided on each stroke before taking the next one, and sorted my water entry (ignore my ‘tip’ in my last post, I didn’t know what I was talking about). As the session went on I became less flustered and less out of breath. I was calm and capable.

It wasn’t perfect, but it’s a start.

Have a nose at tonight’s video here:

Compared with a video from my second ever full 25m lengh last year:

No wonder I was so out of breath by the end of the second video! It’s amazing how just a few specific tips on technique can really help to slow down, focus and improve.

Just don’t ask me to do it without my nose clip for Christ’s sake!

A rundown of the last couple of weeks full training:

Colour coded because I’m a fitness wanker and like to see at a glance the balance of activities in the week…

W/C 20/7/15 – TRIATHLON TRAINING WK 3 of 9 (including daily cycle commute)


Tue:RunAM/ Yoga PM

Wed:Boxing AM / 5k run PM

Thu:Swimming for Softies (Sea swim)


Sat: Yoga + meditation at Brighton Yoga Festival

Sun:Gym brick session:45mins bike+ 45mins run

W/C 27/7/15 – TRIATHLON TRAINING WK 4 of 9 (including daily cycle commute)

Mon:Swim – 20 lengths front crawl PM

Tue:Gym/run mini session AM / Yoga PM

Wed:Boxing AM

Thu:BTRS 6am brick session:20k bike + 5k run / Swim (34 lengths) PM




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What’s been your breakthrough in training, whether for a triathlon or otherwise? Any more swim tips for an improving newbie?

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