Freestyle Catch Practice #SwimTechTues

Freestyle Catch

Here’s a simple drill to help with the freestyle catch… with the emphasis on simple. Calling the front part of your stroke the “catch” is a bit of a misnomer as you can’t catch water. Instead, I’d prefer to refer to this freestyle catch drill more as an engagement drill; thinking about how your hands and forearms engage on the water.

Why Do It:

Learning the FIRST move in the freestyle catch is easier than you think… as long as you slow down, and think small. If you get a good contact on the water early, you can already have the body accelerating by the time the larger muscles of the lats kick in to propel you forward. A large majority of swimmers AND triathletes miss the first couple of feet of their propulsive phase.

How to Do It:

1. Start in a streamlined position on your front – arms outstretched, kicking gently.
2. With one of your arms, very softly, angle the fingers and forearm down slightly pressing on the water.
3. Bring the hand back to position 11, and repeat.
4. Take a full stroke of freestyle back to streamline.
5. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Move forward to slow freestyle swimming, trying to maintain the pressure on the water during your stroke.

Freestyle Catch

Working on your freestyle catch is to really think about pressing your hand and forearm on the water.

How to Do It Really well (the Fine Points):

The simplest point to keep in mind is this: Keep the elbow in touch with the surface of the water as you angle the fingers and forearm down. You’re trying to move the arm ONLY from the elbow forward.

Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Running Arm Swing #RunFormFriday

All too frequently, when focusing on running technique the main areas addressed are the biomechanics of the legs and feet, but what about the movements and use of the upper body and arm swing?

In my coaching experience, there are huge gains to be made for an athlete when they learn to integrate correct arm and upper body mechanics into their technique.

In distance runners, I try to coach individuals to strike a balance between:

Using the arms actively to maintain rhythm and to set a steady leg cadence
Generating power, balance and stability
Staying relaxed and smooth
Cutting out any excessive rotation through the torso by maintaining control of the arm swing
Being efficient in their movements for the given pace
For distance runners the active swing and rhythm of arms can provide a great trigger to “keep the legs turning over” when fatigue kicks in during the latter parts of a race.

Arm Swing


Try this drill – Arm Pull Backs:

Why: Arm pull-backs develop a compact arm swing and help create the tempo and rhythm of a high running cadence.

How: With a level head, level shoulders and a straight and slightly forward-leaning posture, jog forward while alternately pushing your arms backward as they are held at 90 degrees (or less). Concentrate on pulling your upper arm backward by contracting the muscles around the shoulder blades. Keep your arms swinging in a plane parallel to your torso and do not rotate your body to assist the movement.


Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Freestyle Arms with Dolphin Kick – Find Your Rhythm #SwimTechTues

Getting your kick in the right is really important to getting a smooth and efficient stroke. Most who read this will be triathletes – so won’t think that kicking is that important… But the kick balances your freestyle stroke and provides power – and a good kick won’t use all your oxygen! The question is then, about WHEN to place the power kick so that it has the most effect. A great drill is to do freestyle arms with dolphin kick.


Why Do It:

Freestyle Arms with Dolphin Kick is an all-or-nothing drill. Unless you get the timing JUST RIGHT, you will feel really malcoordinated. But this is what makes the drill so valuable. If you can master the drill and make it flow, you KNOW you will have the right sense of timing when you return to Freestyle Arms with Flutter Kick.

Freestyle Arms with Dolphin Kick is also good for teaching a better sense of front-quadrant timing. If you have a windmill-type stroke, or if you are a triathlete who can’t seem to break the habit of pushing DOWN on the water to get UP to air, then this is a good drill to teach you to glide and ride out each armstroke.

dolphin kick with freestyle arms

Feel the power

How To Do It:

1. Push off in streamline and do a few underwater dolphin kicks into your breakout.

2. As you break out, start swimming freestyle, but with a dolphin kick. Time the kick so that each downbeat coincides with your hand entering the water and extending forward. You may have to use a slower dolphin kick than normal, to make it synch up with your arms. Also, you may have to slow down your armstroke and glide a bit more, to make the arms synch up with your kick. In either case, the drill will make you very aware that there is a link between the arms and legs. Get the timing right and you feel a powerful surge with each armstroke. Get it wrong and you feel like you are fighting yourself.

3. This drill works best when practiced for short distances — like 25 meters. Try a set of, say 8 X 25, until you feel like the rhythm and timing are locked in. Then try 8 X 25 of freestyle with flutter kick, searching for the same timing. Whether you have a 2- , 4- , or 6-beat kick, the downbeat of the power kicks should coincide with the entry of the hands. Except now you shouldn’t have to think too much about all of this. The drill should have locked in the FEEL for where the power kicks should be placed.


How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

1. Don’t go flat! When doing this drill, there is a tendency to go flat — with both undulation and rotation. Notice in the video clip that our female swimmer manages to maintain both the long-axis rotation of freestyle and the short-axis undulation of butterfly.

2. Feel the power generated by making a connection between arms and legs. By timing the downbeat of the dolphin kick with the entry and extension of the hand, you should feel a power surge.

Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!


Run Quietly #RunFormFriday

Stand beside a road sometime and watch a race instead of running it. You will see in the passing parade what you might not have noticed from the middle of it, focusing only on yourself and the runners within sight. If you wouldn’t have been one of the lead runners (lets be honest, most of us aren’t), you’ll now see how wide the gap is between their pace and where yours would have put you. You’ll notice also how different the frontrunners look than most of those in your group.

The faster folks typically run smoother, quieter, taller and prouder. The slower ones pound the ground harder, and slump forward more and stare at their feet. The differences in pace dictate some of the differences in appearance, but this doesn’t have to be so. Slow runners may never be able to keep up with the fast, but can look more like them.

I don’t need to watch a race to see these contrasts in action. I view them daily around Bristol or London, where I’m part of the parade but still can observe it in a leisurely way. The roads and parks brings together some of the nation’s fastest runners with many of the slowest.

As they pass me, I see the faster ones gliding over the surface, brushing it quickly and quietly with each footfall. They run proudly, with back straight and eyes forward. Faster running almost demands that they carry themselves this way. Slower pace doesn’t make such demands, and bad habits can take root in these runs. Many of the city runners, with their hunched backs and downcast eyes and scraping footplants, run as if slightly embarrassed to be seen here.

Pace and experience places me somewhere between the groups, but I still try to model myself after the first. Faster runners hold up a picture of what the best running form can and should be at any pace. Slower runners naturally take shorter and lower strides, but we still can model ourselves after those who look the best. This isn’t just advice about looking pretty, since running isn’t not a beauty contest and no style-points are awarded.

Running head position


If form were purely an aesthetic concern, I wouldn’t bother write about it here. It’s worth mentioning because running lightly over the ground, in good head-to-toe alignment, is easier on the body than landing heavily and out of balance, a thousand times every mile. It’s also a little faster for the same level of effort.

The habits learned here transfer back to your normal running. In all runs, fastest to slowest, check your form with two tests:

1. Where do you look? The back follows the lead of the head. If you watch your feet hit the ground, you’re hunched over. But if you raise your eyes to the horizon, your back naturally straightens and you come into more efficient alignment. Good running is straight-backed, tall running.

2. What do you hear? The feet announce how well you absorb shock. If you hear slap-slip-scrape-shuffle, you’re hitting the ground too hard by not making full use of ankle-flex and toe-off. The less you hear at footplant, the less likely the ground is to hurt you. Good running is springy-stepped, quiet running. Maybe try running a mile here or there in just your socks. It will help you understand where your body is absorbing impact.

Whatever your pace, run softly and run tall. Look like you’re quietly proud of what you’re doing.

Running Loose

You run mostly with the legs. But that doesn’t mean the upper body just goes along for a free and easy ride. What happens above the waist determines how well-balanced and relaxed your running looks and feels. Check yourself these four ways:

— Hands lightly cupped with fingers brushing the palms, not tightly clenched or straight-fingered; wrists relaxed but not flopping. RELAXED

— Arms swinging between the waistband and the lower chest, not higher or lower; swinging somewhat across the body but not past the midline; elbows flexing slightly, around 90 degrees. STRONG

— Shoulders low and loose, not high and tight; riding level, not dipping from side to side, or with one shoulder higher than the other. BALANCED

— Face with the jaw relaxed, not clenched in a grimace; eyes gazing forward, not down at the feet.

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Late Season Success Or Time For A Break?

Autumn is upon us far too quickly but most of you will have enjoyed the race season, be pleased with your race performances and looking forward to resting and relaxing – maybe treating your long-suffering partner to a specially planned (or cooked!) meal, booking romantic weekends away, working your way through the list of neglected household chores (storing up more training and racing time for next season) and spending quality time with those important people who get neglected.

Some of you may be tapering in preparation for your main race of the season? Others may not be so pleased with performances this season and may benefit from a boost in motivation by taking on another challenge to try and beat that PB or boasting work colleague (we all have them!) before the season is over! Or, will you be beating your self up, getting more earache from friends & family, not addressing that recurring soreness in your foot and not having that much needed break?

Whatever level you race at a break should be a priority at some point in the year, same as within every week, and every training cycle. You should be reviewing your season of training and racing so far and learning from the experiences.

time to take a break


Reviewing the season

What were YOUR goals and which ones did you achieve?
Why, what went well?
Which ones didn’t you achieve?
Why, what didn’t go so well?
What have you learnt that you can take into your next race and next season?
Answering the above questions and acting on them will help improve your performances on any remaining races this season and also prepare you better for next season. Being able to quantify goals is really important, so that you can be critical about what went wrong – and right! – about them. You can explain away issues or point to holes in your training, or work commitments that have caused issues. Or if things went well, then how you can build on what you’ve been doing!


Autumn and winter planning

Most of you will be looking at dates for next year already and decided from your race experiences this season what distances work best for you and no doubt already entered popular events that fill up quickly for 2014. But how many of you have thought about making time to plan your autumn and winter training? When you ‘eventually’ enter your R & R period you need to sit down and plan how you are going to spend your time over the coming months.

What areas do you need to work on?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Most of us need to spend more time in the saddle, so why not schedule in some mountain biking in with friends or enter an off road duathlon. Cyclocross is also great fun through the winter and races are no more than an hour long, so great to fit in with family stuff. These events can be great motivators over the dark months especially when you beat your ‘traditional’ cycling friends that are always saying ‘triathletes can’t ride bikes’!

If you need to improve your swimming, book in for video analysis or 1-1 session with a coach (hopefully me if you’re local!) and cross-country and off road running events are great to maintain running fitness and strength over the winter.

time to take a break

Top tips to stay motivated over the darker months

Enter some events for fun or simply because they are different to what you normally do, maybe try a new sport? There are plenty of options!
Try a cyclosportive. These are organised bike events where the emphasis is less on time and more on getting around
Help prevent injuries and hit the gym for strength & conditioning (if you don’t have time or access there are plenty of exercises you can do at home that will benefit, do ask me, or someone that you trust)
Get together those Sunday ride buddies that may have been too busy over the summer to ride, ride for coffee and cake!
Make the most of the daylight over the weekends
Take a break to allow your body to recover and motivation rise naturally for the next season
Make time for friends and family!

Above all make sure whatever you do in the next few months is fun. If you’re planning for the new year, the last thing you want to be doing is slogging your guts out and draining yourself mentally, and feeling burnt out when spring comes around and the sunshine is back!