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Why investing in Technique Coaching is key to success in Triathlon & Swimming

As a Triathlete coach and competitor, I know only too well the importance of developing and honing a good technique, especially for front crawl both for beginners and seasoned pros alike.  Without it, your performance will always be limited no matter how strong or fit you are.

As a triathlete and a triathlon coach, I attended this year’s TCR 2011 at Sandown Racecourse with the sole objective of launching the Palm Paddle into the triathlon world. Being there to promote a new product it forced me to question the many passers-by (looking interested or not!) about their swim ability.

As a triathlon coach and a participant for over 20 years, I suspected that asking the question "are you interested in improving your swim technique" might provoke some thought process and hopefully get a positive response. In the majority of cases, the question had the desired effect – yes, I definitely need to improve my swimming. However, there were responses at the other extreme – borne out of a lack of interest or not wanting a sales pitch – their technique was fine (and as they were only walking by I can only assume that this was a genuine response).

The vast majority of responses were as I expected in that almost everyone would like to improve their swim technique. This quickly moved on to questions about hand, arm head,... positioning and basically how to swim.

As a coach, I’m used to spending a fair amount of time teaching swim technique and how best to get across the swim stroke to the various learning types – some want visual demonstrations only, others explanation, others a mixture of everything! I spent a lot of my time at the TCR demonstrating the swim stroke – from the catch, vertical forearm, kick, head position, recovery, .....There was a definite spark of something ‘clicking’ on the faces of many of those I talked to as they grasped a fundamental part of the stroke (the test would obviously be whether they could put this into practice).

The point of this observation though is that in spite of the numerous books, magazines, DVD’s and websites, etc, is that from this random, unscientific - but reasonable large - sample, the vast majority of triathletes do not know, but are keen to learn, the fundamentals of the front crawl swim stroke. This was evident from attendance at a couple of the seminars that I was able to sit in the margins of to gauge interest / reactions. Whilst attendance was good, along with many attendees, I did note many blatant occurrences of the speaker promoting a particular brand, almost irrespective of the need to do so.

Notwithstanding this, if the above, based on talking to people at TCR is representative of the total triathlon community, then there is a big need to help develop the swim technique of both beginner and more competent triathletes. If this is true of swimming then I’d guess that it is similarly applicable to both the bike and run technique and no doubt extends to the marathon running community and the like too.

The best way to address this is to not only read books, watch videos, etc, but to get some coaching. You may have the perfect technique in your head but the reality may not be quite the same. Having a few one-to-one coached sessions as part of your training can make a big difference, or join a club. However, you need to be coached so that you are shown how to swimScience Articles, rather than just being told what to swim.

Lack of technique will always be a limiter to your ultimate performance – no matter how fit or strong you are.

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Martin Hill is a British Triathlon Federation Level 3 coach & has competed in sports for over 20 years. He has actively coached triathlon & related sports since 2003 & has been a personal trainer since 2007. He works with those just starting out & aiming to complete their first event(s), through to seasoned athletes aiming to qualify in national events & then represent their country at World Championship level, including IM70.3 and Ironman.

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