During our age group training camps we have seen athletes make incredible improvements in their triathlon swim using our TBF (Total Body Force) techniques. We have also found many athletes returned to their training environment, and individuals in their club or in the swim lane next to them have ridiculed their new stroke – despite the fact they move down the pool somewhat faster than they used to do!
It’s a tough gig going against the peer group in anything – both for athletes, and for coaches. As a coach, you often doubt and ask yourself is there a better way. For coaches, I say the hardest thing in coaching is to find a method that is not recognized by the hordes and stick with it. If I fall prey to the pressure when I invented our TBF methods and I am an Olympic level swim coach having coached 24 swimmers to the Australian Olympic team, I acknowledge how tough it is for almost all others.
However, the strength of our swim program can be illustrated with some of the successes of our athletes. When our Bella Bayliss was racing professionally there was a period when she and husband Stephen could only swim for 1 hour every second day due to a lack of pool facilities. The answer was to maximise the use of the time available – paddles and buoy, 10 x 400, 40 x 100, or one hour non-stop.
Stephen Bayliss was considered not a good enough swimmer, with too poor technique for the British program. As a 3rd pack short course athlete, and 2nd pack long course he was high elbows, breathing both sides, stretching out, counting strokes, wiggling like a worm on a fishing rod as he tried to do 'perfect' technique.
After watching him run and his natural gait I thought this man got a bit of skill – these swim coaches have just killed it in the swim. We adopted the straight arm (English cricket fast bowler) swim stroke, with breathing on one side with the instructions:-
stop trying to feel the water.
stop stretching out.
stop counting your strokes.
use your natural turn over – the same as you have in the run.
Stephen did, and he got better and better. Soon he was in the first pack in Ironman, then soon he was leading the swims and every body could see who it was because of his straight bowling arm! Stephen was now swimming 47 minutes not 55 minutes, and was no longer in the 3rd pack of ITU races, but in the lead pack. He beat all the young ITU Brits out of the water.
The irony being when the federation coaches who got rid of him, suggested that if he worked on his technique, (which in their eyes currently looked awful) he could be the best swimmer in Britain. They still didn’t get it.
With swimming we must not lose sight of the fact that we are training for triathlon – and that we race in a wetsuit most of the time. Get the paddles on, pull buoy between your legs and get after it. To quote Bella:
‘I used to spend an hour and a half fussing about, trying to do all the perfect technique things in the water, gliding and stretching. It was paralysis by analysis! But once I just got in, got on with it, and just thought about nothing more than putting on the gear and giving it to myself, I improved by 15 minutes over 3.8K’.
For our athletes, and for those who have applied our techniques and improved their swim – Hold the Line!
For the coaches out there, if your athletes are improving, then it is working. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it!