Swim cramping, a common frustration

By | Swim, Triathlon | No Comments

There are a number causes of cramping while swimming, and basically they are the same ones that cause cramping with most other sports and forms of exercise: electrolyte loss, conditioning and unnecessary tension. The most common of these when it comes to swimming is unnecessary tension. Unnecessary tension, like plantar flexing, is an involuntary action that is unnatural. The body will attempt to correct this unnatural position, causing a cramp.

Another contributor is a reduced blood flow in the legs. The horizontal position, a lack of engagement of the primary muscles and cold can reduce flow leading to cramp. Cold will cause blood to flow to the skin surface for heating, away from the leg muscles.

There is generally not one solution to swim cramping and a holistic approach needs to be taken.

Three preventative actions:

  • Ensure good nutrition, everyday nutrients and pre-swim hydration
  • Always kick, using at least a two beat flutter kick, even in a wetsuit.
  • Although plantar flexing maximises propulsion, holding this position is un-natural for extended periods. This is not familiar if all training is in the pool as it is relieved every turn. More open water swims would help conditioning, alternatively flex the ankle every few minutes, even if it does slow you a little.


Technique change is awkward, it’s expected.

By | Run, Skills & Technique, Swim, Triathlon | No Comments

Efficiency and technique are the most under rated aspects of triathlon by most age group triathletes.

When working with athletes on technique change I sometimes get the immediate feedback that what I am proposing does not feel right, it feels awkward, odd. Quite often I find the athlete dropping back to the “comfortable” technique believing good technique should feel right immediately.

SURPRISE, change is never comfortable, it is always awkward. Top athletes get this, absorb and embrace the change, strive to achieve conscious competence as quickly as possible, then practice until it becomes unconscious competence. It isn’t easy, it takes focus beyond being strong and courageous, it takes dedication.

Efficiency is paramount in endurance sport. A lack of focus on efficient biomechanics to overcome resistance and optimise propulsion is a huge opportunity lost.

For swimming, stopping a cross over stoke, keeping the head down, keeping the wrist below elbow are adjustments that will feel unnatural at first attempt, it will not feel good. If it doesn’t feel awkward then you probably aren’t correcting enough. EXPECT AWKWARD!

Likewise for running, landing over the feet, landing with bended knee, leaning forward from the ankles will take getting used too. With running change needs to managed and progressive. Gait change needs to be gradual due to the impact nature of running. Fast change can lead to injury. It is recommended that new techniques and gait change is done at low volume while the muscular strength to support the landing stress is developed.

Video is a great tool for improving technique. The athlete can clearly see the faults, see evidence of adjustments, fulfilling the journey from unconscious incompetence through to conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and finally unconscious competence. It is a journey of change.

When training for endurance sport we expect discomfort, we expect to be pushed, we expect a little pain. Let me add to that!

Expect to feel awkward!



Do the work that counts – Endurance training in a nutshell

By | Cycle, Endurance, Run, Swim, Triathlon | No Comments

Training is the investment of time to improve results.

There are four basic components in endurance training:

  • Aerobic training – 80% to 85% of training time in Zone 1 and lower Zone 2 (MAF)
  • Force Development – 5% of training time (Maximal Strength – Zone 5+)
  • Durability training – 10% to 15% of training time (Zone 3 – 4)
  • Technique – Integrated into training and active recovery
  • Recovery – Active recovery + 7.5 hours+ sleep average per night.

Any training session should be targeting these adaptations. The only session that have benefits if you have muscular fatigue are durability and active recovery.

Know what your session is targeting and stick to the plan. If you can’t nail it, go home and use the recovery time, don’t dig a hole!


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Triathlete or Swimmer?

By | Swim, Triathlon | No Comments

What is the game you are in?

As a swimmer, at the end of your swim effort you are  done. You don’t need carry your swim fatigue or your swim physique any further.

As a triathlete you have to carry any accumulated fatigue and swim specific physique through to the end of the race. For 70.3 and Ironman, a significant distance.

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