In this episode, our two expert coaches will explain eight common barriers preventing triathletes from improving in their swim and how to remove them. We warm up sharing some of our own embarrassing triathlon moments, dive into our swim discussion for the main set, and then cool down with a Race Recon from Ironman Louisville.
TriDot Podcast .02: How To Remove 8 Common Barriers To Swim Improvement This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together. Andrew: Welcome to episode two of the TriDot podcast. We have a great lineup of coaches and training insight for you today. So, let's get right to it. I'm excited to be joined by TriDot founder and CEO, Jeff Booher. Jeff is the ultimate authority on optimized triathlon training. And more importantly for today, he is an excellent swim coach. Jeff, thanks for coming on. Jeff: Absolutely. Thanks. Glad to be here, Andrew. Really excited about the main set today. We're going to share a lot of things that will just help athletes achieve some big breakthroughs with their development of their swim form. Andrew: Next up is coach and professional triathlete, Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is both at Kona and Boston qualifier and has been coaching with TriDot since 2015. Elizabeth, welcome to the show. Elizabeth: Thanks, Andrew. I'm very excited to be here today. Andrew: And who am I? I'm your host, Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people, and the captain of the middle of the pack. Like any good workout, we here at TriDot like to ease into things with a little warm-up question. After that, we're going to dive headfirst into our main set conversation, which today is all about addressing the eight common barriers holding triathletes back from improving in their swim training. Then we'll cool down with a race recon of what it's like to be on course at Ironman Louisville. Time to warm up. Let's get moving. Andrew: Jeff, Elizabeth, for our warm-up today, I'm going to ask you to be just a little bit open and honest. We all know that embarrassing moments are great when they didn't happen to us. So, for my amusement, and the joy of all of our listeners, tell me what is your most embarrassing triathlon story, Elizabeth? Elizabeth: Oh, man. My most embarrassing story. I thankfully have not had anything too embarrassing. But thinking back about my swim exit and T1 at Ironman Texas just still makes me cringe. As often as I tell athletes to walk through the transition area and know where their bags are, my mind just went blank as I got out of the water. I know I ran past my bag and bike gear at least three times, and I could not remember my race number for the life of me. I had to look on my shoulder to remember what my race number was, and then asked the volunteers to help for locating my bag. Andrew: At least you realized it was on your shoulder. Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s true. Andrew: That could have been way worse. Elizabeth: It was helpful. I've got that printed there. Andrew: As coaches, we tell athletes all the time, please, please, please get to know transition. Get to know where your stuff is. It's like we're not just saying that because it's good in practice. We all come to that moment where it's like, oh, no, where’s my stuff? Elizabeth: Exactly. Yeah. Andrew: Your blood’s not going to be in your brain at that point. Yeah. So, Jeff, what about you? What is your most embarrassing triathlon race story? Jeff: Well, mine goes all the way back from when I first started in the sport. Andrew: That makes sense. Jeff: My first time riding with clipless pedals. I had done a triathlon without them. It was the beginning of my second season. And so I was taking a test drive in the middle of the day, put them on a bike, clipped in. I rode probably five or six miles, so everything was going good. I turned off a really busy road into a neighborhood, I was going to turn around and come back out, ride home. And so I'm turning around in the neighborhood and I couldn't turn sharply enough between these houses on this road, and I was about to hit the curb. I couldn't unclip and so I fell on to their lawn. I’m on their lawn, my bike is still clipped on. So, I'm on my back with my bike fully clipped in, sticking straight up in the air, looking like a turtle on his back with my bike up. So, I’m trying to unclip and get back on and get out of there before anyone saw me. Andrew: So, they weren't out in the yard thankfully while this was happening? Jeff: I didn't look. I didn't want to make eye contact with anybody. I just wanted to escape the scene unnoticed if possible. Elizabeth: You didn’t want to know if they saw. Jeff: No. Andrew: I think for me, my most embarrassing story wasn't, thankfully, seen by a whole lot of people like Jeff's. But I went into the Porta Potty before a particular race and you know, we all have to do that, get that pre-race Porta Potty visit out of your way. And I went in and I just didn't think to check, Is there toilet paper in this particular Porta Potty? And so I go in, there was an athlete before me, he didn't [let me know], like common courtesy. All my triathletes out there, if you're the one who kills the toilet paper in the pre-race Porta Potty, let the next triathlete know. For the love, let your fellow triathlete know that, hey, there's no more toilet paper in here. So, I go in there, I take care of my business, I go to reach for the toilet paper, and I'm like, there's not any. Awesome. So, thankfully, I was wearing a tank top. I wasn't wearing my race gear at the time. And so I just took my favorite black tank top and just kind of used it instead, and I came out holding it by a clean portion thinking, okay, let me find a trash can and to throw it away in. And my wife was like “Oh, here. I'll take that from you.” I'm like, “No, no, no. No, no, no.” And she's like, “You do want to throw it in the bag?” I'm like, “No, we need to burn this. This tank top is no longer …” So, I embarrassingly had to tell her what had happened. And she was like, “Well, we can take it home and wash it.” She knew I loved this tank top. I was like, “No, no it's forever done. Elizabeth: But now, did you give the common courtesy to the guy in line behind you? Did you let them know? Did you give them a heads up? Andrew: I honestly was probably so shell shocked about what had just transpired I do not recall doing so. So, anybody out there, someone's listening and you're like, this sounds really familiar. I might have been that guy. I may not have told that person. I'm not really sure, to tell you the truth. Hopefully, I did. I like to think that I did, but in the heat of the moment, you just never know. On to the main set. Going on in 3, 2, 1. 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Listen, unless your name is Lucy Charles-Barclay or Josh Amberger, chances are there is room for improvement in your swim splits. So, today I've asked two of our TriDot experts in the swim to help us address the eight common barriers keeping triathletes from improving their swim form. So, Jeff, Elizabeth, let's dive into barrier number one. Many triathletes attempt to improve their swim by just throwing more volume at it. After all, if I swim more, I'll eventually start swimming faster. Elizabeth, why is this a barrier? Elizabeth: This is a very common barrier, and one that I was guilty of myself as a beginner triathlete. Swimming more often with bad technique just makes you really good at doing it incorrectly. You're reinforcing those bad habits. Now, beginners may see some initial gains in speed, not necessarily form, but then they're going to quickly plateau. The improvements in the swim are often limited by technique, not fitness. So, increased volume while neglecting technique is unlikely to produce those improvements. Andrew: Yeah, you talked about how when you first came to the sport, that's an easy thing to believe. Because with the run and bike you will see improvement just by doing it more. You can do it smarter and improve even better, but with the swim especially, that's not the case. I remember the light bulb moment, I was at a local sprint race, and there were some youth kids there doing the local sprint race. They were 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds. And I remember the top swim time from that particular race was from a 13-year-old youth elite girl. And I remember thinking to myself, clearly it's not about getting stronger back in our muscles. Clearly, it's not about aerobic capacity per se, because all of those boxes, I win over a 13-year-old girl as an adult male. That's just biology. But she beat me in a local sprint by minutes in the swim and it was that light bulb moment of, oh my gosh, I can’t just swim more, I can't just get stronger in my upper body, there's got to be something technical here that she knows that I don't know. And so that's exactly right, that's a barrier. So, I encourage you, if you're out there, really hear that, because we here at TriDot, we hate to see you taking your training hours and throwing more hours at something and not seeing the results. So, thanks for breaking down barrier number one, Elizabeth. Once we move past that one, barrier number two: an athlete may be keenly aware of a specific technique adjustment they need to make, but they don't build their form in the proper sequence. Jeff, talk us through this barrier. Jeff: This is very important. Like you said, form is so important to swim, in a far greater degree, than the bike and the run. And swimming, it's like building a house. You have a foundation, then you build a first floor, then the second floor, then you put the roof on. And you have to develop it in that way. There's a lot of ways to break down your swim form from start to finish. In some broad categories, you start with your balance, your head and body position. So, how are you balanced in the water, what is that orientation like? Then there's the roll from side to side as you're stroking. Then you have overwater recovery of your arm, and then the last phase, you're catching your pull. And each of those can be drawn down to the smaller subparts, sub-components. But when you're working on your swim training, if you try to address something that's more advanced, like a second story, and you don't have a firm first foundation, your foundation is not built yet. You're not going to have success because each one requires the prior one in order to develop it correctly. So you have to be very purposeful and intentional. I know when I first started swimming, I swam recreationally forever, but 17-18 years ago [when I started triathlon], I just started swimming. I went through a program and the light bulb moment went off with someone literally getting in my face. So, listen, this is how important this is. I remember I was swimming as a sprint triathlon and I'd done a, it was a 300 swam. I can't member whether it was 7:30, just trying it out to see what I can do. Okay, I'm first time in the pool, so 7:30. And then the guy told me just how important it was. He gave me a program, kind of wrote out what you should do in this order. And I took it literally. I didn't swim a full stroke of swimming for, gosh, it had to be five or six weeks. All I did was I went in for 30 minutes two or three times a week and practiced the first drill until I mastered the first drill. Then I went to the second drill until I mastered the second drill and went through that same progression, the body position, the roll, the breathing, the over-water recovery, arm recovery, then the catch and pull. At the end of that time doing nothing else but that, I did a 300 in 5:30. So, I took two minutes off my 300 in about four or five weeks doing nothing but the drills. The fitness came a little bit, but it was the resistance. So, water is eight times-- 800 times denser than air. And so making that change, and the first time I did the 7:30 I was so gassed, I couldn't get out of the pool. My arms are throbbing and I could not get myself out of the pool. The second time I did the 5:30, and I was ready to go. I was ready to jump up and I felt great. And so it's just the importance of making that dramatic of a progression because each layer built on a firm foundation of the previous layer. And so athletes need to be aware of that sequence. And when they're in the water if they haven't been trained or instructed on here's how to develop those first core things, they're likely to have very limited success working on tweaking the second story or the roof, when their foundation isn't what it should be. It isn't firm or isn't correct. And likewise, if they come in and try to make a change to the foundation, then everything after that needs to be adjusted. It's like if you have a house and your form is what it is, and you go to make the foundational change, move the slab 20 feet to the east or west, everything above it has to change. All of that can't stay the same. So, realizing when you make those fundamental changes, you need to allow the time to develop all of those corresponding adjustments after that when your orientation changes because your foundation changes. So, it needs to be very purposeful, your focus, intentional, strategic, and sometimes, most of the time for athletes, they don't know where that focus should be, what to prioritize, when mastery is achieve. Andrew: Because we all read different things, right? And so someone might know, yeah, I think one time I read somewhere where a pro triathlete was like, oh, this is the number one thing you can do is like fix, really focus on your pull, what's happening underneath the water. And then someone else will say, oh, no, in open water swimming especially you need to focus on what's happening over the water. And so you read all these different things and you're like, okay, well, I know I need to fix my catch, but then someone can even fix their catch and to your point, if they're focusing on their catch, but they haven't mastered body roll and they haven't mastered body position, they haven't mastered how to breathe, you're doing it out of order. Jeff: Exactly. And so if they work on that advanced skill, and then ever come back to the first skill, all of that needs to be relearned. Andrew: And people just take it out of order and wonder why they're not seeing the improvement you saw just taking the time to do it. By working through the steps and processes you can shave minutes and minutes and minutes off. But it takes time, people, it takes time. And so let's move on to barrier number three. That was super enlightening right there. I mean, day- one triathlete Andrew Harley needed to hear that. Too bad the TriDot podcast wasn't around when I started as a triathlete. Barrier number three, an athlete will correctly spend time focusing on a specific change to their swim stroke they know they need to make, but not enough time for the new change to become muscle memory. Jeff, talk about this barrier. Jeff: This one goes hand in hand with the other one. So, okay, now you know there is a strategic, purposeful way to address your swim training. You want to build your form, you want to build your foundation, have it be solid before you go to first story, second story, and the roof. So, realizing that habituation takes time. So, there're different athletes that can learn, we can learn things and understand what should be done, but you have to be as patient as your muscles will achieve muscle memory. And it just takes repetitions, and it takes time, and you have to do it over and over and over. There's a cycle of skill development that's called unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and then unconscious competence. Andrew: Which is where you’ve got to get. Jeff: So, that's a mouthful. So, you're starting out, you don't even know what you're doing wrong, and you're doing it wrong. And then there's a point at which you know what to do right, but you're consciously doing it wrong. And then, so that's kind of where you start. Now you're doing a form, now you're doing your form, now you're doing it correctly working on a drill or an aspect of your stroke, but you have to consciously concentrate on it. If you're not concentrating on it, you backslide and then you go back to improper form. And so that's where athletes spend a lot of times, that conscious competence. They can do it correctly if they really focus on it, and they don't spend a long enough time there. It can be a lot of things. It can be the rest of their training. So, they'll do drill for 30 minutes a couple times a week, 20 minutes, 15, and then they'll spend another two or three hours swimming doing it incorrectly because their mind is drifting on all these other things. So, they're spending 10% of the time – Andrew: But in their mind, they think they've got it because they've got it when they're thinking about it. Jeff: Correct. But they don't realize muscle memory is happening that whole time. And so 10% of their time, they're doing the correct muscle movement, movement pattern, and then the other 90% of the time they're not. So, they're actually detraining. They will not improve their muscle memory because 90% of their time is spent doing it wrong. So, I think one saying is, every stroke you take either makes or breaks great swim form. So, every single stroke in the warmup, in the cooldown, in your main set, whatever you're doing, you have to do it right or you're not going to have progress. And every stroke that you take that’s not right, your detraining yourself. Andrew: I had a buddy of mine in college, he went to a golf academy because he wanted to be a golf pro so, you know, local golf course. And he would always say about going to the driving range, he was like a good golfer, he's will never go to the driving range without a specific thing to be working on. Jeff: Absolutely. Andrew: Because if you're just going out there hitting balls like, what are you doing? You're not doing anything to improve your stroke, you’re not doing anything to improve your game. Jeff: That's probably the best analogy, swim technique improvement to golf technique, swing stroke. Andrew: Yeah. So, if you're going to the pool and you don't have, okay, I know I need to start at the foundation with body position, and if you don't work on body position long enough to get it to where it's just, you've got it without thinking about it, you're not – Jeff: Don’t move on. Andrew: Yeah, and because most importantly, I think if you, as I've seen this in myself, if I'm really working on my hand entry into the water, I can really get that arm entry going really smooth and really well to set up the catch when I'm thinking about it. Well, guess what, on race day you're not really thinking about it. There's so much going on around you with other people's bodies in the course and the next buoy, and if it's not unconscious, like you've got it automatically, you're going to totally – Jeff: It's not there. You haven't developed it until you're doing it when you're not thinking about it. Andrew: Yeah, that's good stuff. Hey, let's go to barrier number four after that one. And this is really important too, selecting the wrong period in the season for the type of improvement they're looking to make. Elizabeth, talk to us about why this is a barrier. Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you'll notice that this also relates a lot to what we were just discussing with muscle memory, and kind of the time that you have available. So, one of the things that athletes really need to consider is their goal and their current training phase. So, for example, do you have an Ironman race that's five to six weeks away? If so, you might be able to make some small tweaks and some minor adjustments, but you're not going to be able to lay that new foundation in that short amount of time. Or is it the preseason, where the long swims and the higher volume are not required, you maybe have the opportunity to kind of do the overhaul of your swim technique and start down at the foundation. So, the time available until your next event is really going to determine what type of correction can be achieved prior to race day. So you need to allow yourself enough time to create that muscle memory if you're going back to those foundational skills, making sure that you can really commit to this so that you have the opportunity to be unconsciously competent in your swim stroke. Andrew: So, what you’re saying is for the triathletes out there listening, what they should not do is wait until 4, 5, 6 weeks out from their full-distance Ironman and say to themselves, hey, you know what? I’ve got an Ironman coming up, I should probably have my swim stroke looked at. And they go to a coach because, hey, my coach is supposed to fix my swim stroke, saying, hey, I'm going to invest in this, it's going to pay off big on race day, 2.4 miles swim. If I make a few little tweaks, huge time improvements. 4, 5, 6 weeks isn't enough to do that, is it? Jeff: It's enough to make some changes, but not really too substantial. And it depends, there's a matter of degrees for the particular athlete. If the athlete’s a moderate intermediate swimmer, they're not going to make a whole bunch of gains. I think someone that is at foundational, they can make a foundational change if that's what their focus is and they could have a pretty big impact. But for the most part, people doing an Ironman, doing that longer course, they've been training for a while, and they already have a whole bunch of established muscle memory already that's incorrect. And so it's going to take generally a lot longer to establish that. Andrew: Jeff, for our athletes that train with TriDot and are familiar with the training calendar and training optimization, how does TriDot already kind of help athletes order the training correctly without them even realizing it, like to optimize performance on race day? Jeff: Yeah. So, there's a couple things, I'll just hit on one of them. One is the swim form diagnostic. So, it categorizes athletes into six different swim forms, and has the very typical corrections that they need to make. There's really those very distinct classical swim forms. And so all of the drills are focused on what that particular athlete needs to do. And it's not just an absolute fall squarely in the center of one of those six buckets, but there're degrees within the buckets, like to what degree are they this form or that form, and what changes need to be made. But in the in the Season Planner, you drop a race on there, TriDot's going to look at how long do you have? What is your swing form? What is your ability? How fast are you? To what degree do you need to make these changes? And then also, where are you in relationship to your next race, and how long is that race? So, if you have a race that's coming up in six, seven weeks away, it’s going to do the most impactful improvements for your swim drills and optimize them for that period of improvement. Whereas if you had a 20-week training phase, it's going to go spend a lot more time on the fundamentals before you progress further. You're going to spend in each of those stages of swim development, you're going to spend more time in all of those. So, that's being optimized, just kind of behind the scenes, and so you just show up and do the workouts. Andrew: And again, I think you know athletes and we will certainly talk about this more on other podcasts. But TriDot athletes see their swim sessions come through on their portal or in their email and all those drills are there for a reason. The drills that are prescribed, the actual main sets that are prescribed. It's not just haphazardly rotating what workout you're doing on a particular day, they’re there for a reason. Jeff: No, there’s not a simple rotation. As a matter of fact, when we design the warmups, those are customized, the drills, the drill sets, and the main sets, according to your abilities, swim form, race distance, all of those different things. There's more than 22 million different swim sessions that you could have within TriDot. All those are dynamically created for every single scenario and combination, so it's extremely granular and specific to that athlete. Andrew: All right. Barrier number five, we're working our way through the list hoping that our athletes out there listening can apply these tips to their own swim training. Barrier number five, a well-intentioned triathlete finds a list of drills online or in a YouTube video and starts working on these drills in their swim training. Elizabeth, why is this a barrier? Elizabeth: Yeah, so athletes will do generic drills that are often the wrong drills for them. So, we were just talking about the swim form diagnostic, and a lot of swim technique is going to be specific athlete by athlete. So, if an athlete goes and they just Google “improve my swim technique,” they're going to find suggestions, drills from a number of sources and possibly, some that aren't very reputable. They're looking for improvement, they're just looking for any type of improvement. As we've discussed, there is that diagnostic element though to improving one form. And so an athlete needs to address the areas for their personal improvement. They could be spending a lot of time doing drills that are not beneficial to them. Andrew: So, Jeff, or an athlete out here, they just heard what Elizabeth said, they've heard all the things we're talking about, how can they know clearly, knowing they need to be doing drills and sharpening up certain parts of their technique, what are the right drills for them? Jeff: Well, obviously they can get their swim coach to actually look at them and give them that visual feedback right there. TriDot also has a, I mentioned this before, a swim form diagnostic, where you answer some questions, it looks at your swim performance and you enter some data. And it'll list there the drills, here's the corrections that you need to make, and here’s some of your tendencies. And you read those and it fits you to a T, and you like, wow, that's exactly what I do. So, it dials in on what those should be and then that data is used during your swim training optimization. Andrew: All right. Moving on to barrier number six, athletes do the right drills, but they do those drills wrong. I know Elizabeth and Jeff have a few comments on this one. It's a big deal. Elizabeth, can you get us started on this conversation? Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. So, we've moved on from doing the wrong drills and something that wasn't particularly personalized for that athlete. So, at least now we have athletes doing the right drills for them. But I mean, there's still a barrier here in that when you have the right drills, you need to be doing those right drills correctly. So, to improve, athletes need to do the right drills right. When an athlete is looking to make these changes in their swim technique, one of the first things that they need to understand is that they should not be fatigued doing drills. Drill sessions should be very form focused, not – Andrew: Not paced focus. Elizabeth: Right. Not fitness focused. So, you don't want to turn - Andrew: Elizabeth, my pace has got to look good on Strava. Elizabeth: Oh, I know. It will once you get the form down. Andrew: Oh, touché. Jeff: There you go. Elizabeth: So, yeah, I mean, really don't turn this into a workout session. The fitness is going to come. And there's a lot of swim tools that help you do the right drills correctly. Andrew: Well, Elizabeth, don't get us too far ahead because you may not know it, but barrier number eight, we talk about pool toys and different ways to do swim drills. Elizabeth: Okay, gotcha. So, we'll save the swim tools for a little bit later. But I know for me, like from personal experience, this is something that has been extremely beneficial to get some feedback on as I've been working to improve my swim technique. That when I know which drills I need to be focused on, I still require some feedback to make sure that I am doing this correctly. So, for example, Jeff has worked with me extensively on my swim technique and my swim stroke. And one of the things that he had me do was move my hands out a little bit wider for my hand entry point. And he would say, all right, Elizabeth, move your right hand out a little bit wider. And I'd swim down and back and you know, pop up the side of the pool, smile at him, and be like, how’s that look? And he's like, wider. So, I'd go again, come back - Andrew: Was she doing it the exact same way? Jeff: Just about. Andrew: Okay. Elizabeth: Yeah, definitely. Andrew: That's so common. Elizabeth: And that is a very common thing. And it really took some video feedback as well for him to video my stroke and have me swim down and back. Okay, now move your hand out wider, swim down and back. He'd show me both videos, and it would look the exact same. And so my – Andrew: And it probably felt way different to you. Elizabeth: It did, it felt different to me. So, my kind of perception of what I was doing didn't necessarily match what I was doing in the swim stroke. And I feel like a lot of athletes also run into that, that they think that they are doing the swim drill correctly. They think that they're making these changes, but they may not actually be. Just what I was saying what Jeff did with me, videoing me as I was thinking I was making those changes. That's an excellent test that any athlete can do. Have somebody go to the pool with them, just with their phone, take a video of them swimming down and back, then make a change, such as moving your hand out a little bit wider. See if you notice a difference in that video. If so, then great, you may have that body awareness and are able to make those changes. If not, then you're probably going to require some feedback to make sure that you're doing those drills correctly and actually seeing some improvement from the technique corrections you're targeting. Jeff: I'd love to echo what Elizabeth said about that proprioception and just really stress the differences between swim training and cycling and running. Not only is the swim training, the technique, so much more important, but in cycling, you can look down when you're riding and you can see your body position, you can see the way your legs are moving. When you're running, same thing. You can see your arm movement; you can see those things. When you're swimming, the most important arm movements are either behind you, up above, out in front. When your head’s straight down, you can't see them. And not to mention your head’s down and you’re rolling from side to side, so your frame of reference, your head is constantly moving. And so you have this path that’s supposed to be precise, to have the streamlined recovery, catch and pull. Meanwhile, you can't see any of that. So, when you're trying to make changes to something that you can't see, it's incredibly difficult. Andrew: That is great. Barrier number seven, many athletes are used to breathing on both sides and exclusively do that in practice since they plan to breathe bilaterally on race day. Likewise, many athletes are most comfortable on one side and continue to breathe unilaterally in the pool. Jeff, unpack how this can be a barrier to developing good swim form. Jeff: Yeah, so there's a lot of misperceptions about how you should swim, what's best. Just like everything else, you should be very intentional when you're breathing. And race day doesn't necessarily need to be bilateral breathing. I’d say the longer the distance is – you get a third less oxygen when you're breathing every third versus every single stroke. So, it's a lot more aerobically efficient to breathe every stroke. However, if you are always breathe unilaterally one side, like always to the right side, if you're always going to do that, then you can have some symmetry issues where you start favoring [one side], and your form deteriorates over time favoring one side over the other. Andrew: I never thought about that. Jeff: And so there's a few things to think about here. One is, when you're mastering swim form, making a change, doing drills, it’s best to swim unilaterally. So, that's swimming and breathing always to one side, every single stroke. And when you're doing a lap there, you're able to focus repeated efforts, one stroke after another being exactly the same. To the right side, your balance changes minimally, and so you're able to repeat the exact same movement, there habituating, that movement for the entire length. And yeah, when you start out swimming, you might get off and you gradually dial it in by the time you're at the other end of the pool. Well, if you're switching from the right side to the left side, you're changing your roll, your body position, head position, everything's changing, you don't have enough repetitions of the same thing because you're constantly switching from the right side to the left side. So, at first, just do the unilateral breathing to one side, master that one side, when you go down that lane. Then when you come back, switch to the other side. And so you're still doing an even amount of work on the right side on the left side, but don't introduce the dynamics of bilateral going to both sides until you've mastered the fundamentals of that stroke or that technique or whatever you're trying to change. Andrew: So, the Jeff Booher-endorsed way to properly do drills in the pool is breathing on one side, but switching that side with each length of the pool? Jeff: Yes, with the exception of there is that point where the drill becomes switching. And when the drill is switching and alternating that dynamic balance, from the right side to the left side, then absolutely bring it to both sides. Andrew: And finally, the eighth barrier holding you back from swim improvement and I’ve got to be honest, guys, this one is 100% me at the pool. An athlete uses their swim fins, buoys and other pool toys incorrectly, or they don't even use them at all. Jeff, why is this such a barrier for people? Jeff: Yeah, this is a great one too. I love this one. I guess you preempted Elizabeth talking about it a little earlier, teased us that this was one of the barriers that was coming up. Andrew: Because again, this one is for me. I wanted to talk about this. Jeff: Yeah, well there's a lot of people that don't understand how they're used or really underestimate the impact of how important they are. Some use them wrong. I'm going to focus just on a couple. There's a bunch of pool toys that you can use. I’m going to focus on the fins and the snorkel. The fins are the most important by far. Some people grab and they just want to swim faster, maintain their body position, that's not the purpose of fins. It'll help you with ankle flexibility, there's some benefits like that, but we're focusing just on that form development. The first thing that's most important, or that's very important, there's three to four, that are just very, very important. One is it helps you to not fatigue when you're doing drills. So, you're able to get across the pool moving, you generally don't have a lot of propulsion when you're swimming one-arm drills and some of those, so that gives you the propulsion. So, with a lot less effort, you can get across the pool and back. So, you're able to focus on the form without just exhausting yourself kicking really hard. Second thing is it helps you maintain that speed and the body position. So, it keeps your feet up more toward the surface, so that you're able to have an accurate body position as when you are swimming and when you're stroking with both arms. So, the worst thing in the world you can do is develop a form, you're developing your proprioception, all of those things, you're trying to develop the whole purpose of the drills, but you're doing it with incorrect body position. So, you're teaching yourself, even doing the right drill right with the wrong body position. So, your whole foundation is askew when you're doing your drill. And so you’re building – Andrew: The drill isn't about swimming with fins. Swimming with fins can’t help you do the drill correctly. Jeff: Exactly. Whether you're doing a single-arm-leads drill, you're doing one arm swimming, you're doing the high elbow, there's all kinds of different drills that you can do. Andrew: Breathing in the pocket correctly. Jeff: Exactly. Well, that's the next thing. So, first is just maintaining that body position so that you're able to have that proper orientation in the water. And so all your reference points of your body, your alignment, head position is aligned so that when you start creating the muscle memory of your arm motion relative to your body position, it stays the same. Second thing is that speed and that's the bow wake, the all-important bow wake, the wake that happens on your head when your head is pushing through the water, it creates that wake in the front of your head just like a boat, and then there's a trough right behind it. And so that trough is where you need to breathe. So, a lot of swimmers either kick really slow, even with fins they don't kick fast enough. And so they're going through the water, not fast enough to create that bow wake so they don't have the trough. So, now they find themselves over rotating to get to the oxygen So, they’ve got to get to the surface – Andrew: They’re really turning their head to the side to get that breath. Jeff: Right. So, normally if the bow wake is there, you have the trough to breathe and your mouth can be lower and you have a better proper body position so you're breathing. But without that you're training and again, you're drilling, teaching yourself from the necessity of having oxygen to breathe to rotate much too far, or to lift your head up. So, you either going to rotate, over rotate, or you're going to lift your head out of the water to get to the water. So, you're teaching yourself, you're creating that habituating form that's incorrect because you're not going fast enough to simulate the bow wake and the trough behind it, that will be present when you start swimming with a full stroke. Andrew: And so for people who know, okay, I'm not a fast swimmer, I know I am not producing that speed when I'm drilling, you would recommend swim fins especially to help them swim correctly? Jeff: Absolutely, absolutely. Elizabeth: Well, goes back to the muscle memory but I mean, you need to be doing that correctly. Otherwise, if you're looking for that pocket of air and over rotating as you're doing those drills, then you're going to be over rotating once you translate that into your swim stroke as well. Andrew: And tell me just a little bit before we go, you mentioned that the fins and the snorkel are kind of a one-two punch of the two that you feel are the most important. What benefit does the snorkel bring to a swim training session? Jeff: Some of the listeners may not be familiar with that. It's not the scuba diving snorkel that comes on the side of your head. They are these snorkels that fit, they come from your mouth and go straight over your nose and straight up the center line of your head and have a little brace on your forehead, where they secure with a band around your head. And so that helps you not – you just basically factor out the breathing. So, if you're if struggling with body roll, if you're struggling with your arm position during the catch and the pull, it does a couple of things. One is you don't have to worry about breathing if you're having trouble, and you're also developing that. So, you can focus on those things separately: your breathing on one hand, and then your arm path on the other. The second thing it does for you, it allows you to keep your head constant in one place so you have a solid frame of reference for your arm motion, and then you're able to see. So, if you're working on your underwater catch, your hand should be inside your elbow, the path underneath your body during your catch and your pull. You're able to see it more. You're not having to turn away to breathe to the right side or the left side. So, a lot of athletes will have really good form on the hand that's the side that they're breathing to. Andrew: Because they can see it. Jeff: So, if they’re breathing to the right, they see the right hand and then as they turn to the right to breathe to the right, they don't have any idea what that left hand is doing. And the same thing when they flip to breathe to the other side. Now their left hand is good, the right hand is bad. And so this allows you to see both hands going through correctly and, more importantly than seeing them, is establish that muscle memory. And imagine that whole, the whole layering of the foundation, the first floor, second floor, all of that. If your head position is wrong, your breathing is wrong. Whether it's not using fins, and so you're over rotating or lifting your head, or you're not using a snorkel, as soon as you over rotate, now the extended arm in the front is going to also over rotate to your left side. Now that setup is incorrect for your catch and your pull, so now you're going to be pulling across your body from left to right, right to left. And so there's a chain reaction of flaws that happen all starting with that very first fundamental foundation that you're trying to lay. Great set everyone. Let's cool down. Andrew: And with that, we're going to cool things down with a little race recon. No matter what race you're thinking about tackling next, odds are someone from the TriDot family can tell you all about it. Today TriDot coach, John Mayfield, is fresh off his Ironman Louisville finish. And so he is primed and ready to give us all the details about his first-hand experience. John, thanks for jumping on just in time for the cooldown. John: Yes, my favorite part of the workout, so right on time. Andrew: John, this was your fifth Ironman, but it's been a few years since you've raced this distance. What made you pick Ironman Louisville for your comeback? John: Yeah, it's been a couple years since I raced Ironman. I've attended lots in that time. I think I counted 17 Ironman races that I've been at since the last time I had the privilege of crossing the finish line. So, I thought it was time for me to get back at it. Every race I attended pretty much lit the fire in me and gave me that desire. Andrew: Yeah. How can it not? John: So, yeah, it’s very inspirational and if you've been there you want to be back. So, it was a privilege and real exciting just to get the wristband on and be inside the ropes and all that for the first time in a long time. So, I've attended Ironman Louisville the last couple years and just fell in love with the city and the race. So when it came time to pick a race that I wanted to do, it was definitely on the shortlist. And I had some athletes that I work with as well as some friends that were doing it, great local athletes, and some of our TriDot ambassadors in the area. So, it was really kind of a natural, easy pick with everything aligning for Ironman Louisville. Andrew: Briefly talk us through the race, especially for anyone considering signing up for Ironman Louisville. What should they know about the course? John: It really is a great course. This year, unfortunately, the swim was canceled due to some water quality issues. So, I had actually really looked forward to a river swim. I've done the open water swims in the Gulf at Ironman Florida. I've done the lakes at Ironman Texas and Arizona, but I've never done a river swim. So, I was really looking forward to that, but guess that'll have to wait for another day. Andrew: You just have to go back and do it next year. John: Yeah, have to go back again. So, the course that I got to do, the bike and the run, both really high quality, especially the bike course. The bike course is kind of special I would even say, the first 10 miles, which becomes the last 10 miles are pretty flat. They go right along that river, very scenic, shaded. And then once that initial 10 miles, you really don't have any flat sections for a very long time, which makes for a fun course. I would say it's a fair course. The hills are rolling. They're not particularly steep. They're not particularly long, which is great for me. I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, so I don't train at elevation or elevation gain. Andrew: You can’t, how can you? John: Yeah I don't have the hills to train on. That said, my training had me completely ready for that even though I never had more than literally 100-200 feet on my 100-mile rides and then did the 5,000 feet of gain at Ironman Louisville. So, it's very possible to train for those races even if you live on the flats or never get off your trainer. So, it's just in about the specific training that gets you ready for that. It's a beautiful bike course. It's through Kentucky. There's horse farms, there's horse tracks. It’s all about Kentucky Derby-type stuff. Great crowd support out there. All of the aid stations were fantastic. All the tougher hills had folks that were kind of Tour de France-style cheering. And it was just a really enjoyable, really fun bike course. You know, you're out there for 112 miles, five, six hours, but really the time passed by just because it was so engaging. There was always seeming like another hill to go up or go down, something beautiful to see and great encouragement from all the folks that were out there on the course. The run was a new course this year, so it's a new three-loop course that tended to stay closer to the river, which was great. It provided a lot of opportunities for spectators – Andrew: And I've been in Louisville. That riverfront is just – it's beautiful. John: It's a very nice path. It's wide. So, there was plenty of room for all the athletes. And then off on the backside, there was actually some elevation that was kind of a little bit of a surprise. I thought I had done my course recon, and the elevation map showed 1,000 feet of gain. But when we went out we did like the first four miles, I was like well, I just don't see it so maybe – Well, I found it on race day, which – Andrew: Isn't that always the case? John: Yeah, and you would have thought I'd learned by now, but it was fine. It was a good course. It was entertaining. Kind of had different feels, which I always enjoy in a course where it doesn't all look exactly the same, and for me, especially with the three loops, that helped segment. So, there was the part along the transition area, then we were down through more the neighborhood part, then we got into the riverfront. So, those are the kinds of things that helped me kind of mentally to break it down, eat the elephant one bite at a time kind of thing. And then, of course, the finish line is just about second to none. So, you do the three loops and then it's about, I guess it was about maybe a half mile off of the loop to the finish line at Fourth Street Live, which is an entertainment district downtown that – Andrew: It’s right in the heart of the city. John: It’s lined with restaurants and bars, and it's a great pedestrian area. So, there's just, I can't think offhand of a finish line that has more noise, more support in a probably more party atmosphere than that. And that was really one of the things that drew me to that race was getting to experience that. So, yeah, once I made the turn around there onto Fourth Street, that's when it really got good. Andrew: I'm glad it was the finish that drew you there, not the swim because you'd be really sad if it was the – John: Yeah, that would have been a bummer. Andrew: Well, telling just a little bit about the logistics of getting ready for race day in Louisville. How is the host city and where would you recommend future athletes stay? John: I mentioned before, I love Louisville. It's a very hospitable town. You're in the Deep South and they're living up to the southern hospitality that they're known for. I travel a lot so I've seen a lot of these airports and Louisville airport is one of my favorites. It’s so easy to get in and get out of. It's maybe a 10-minute drive to the Ironman village so it's very convenient, real close. There are lots of hotels right there in the transition area, either at the transition area or near the finish line, just a couple blocks apart. Lots of great restaurants, just logistically, it's probably one of the best on the Ironman circuit. Andrew: John, before we go and wrap up today, what was your favorite moment from race day? John: Man, there's so many. So, say the finish line would be kind of cheating and taking the easy route. I will say I got to see lots of friends and training partners out on the run course. There were moments where you see folks and they're just having a fantastic race, they're crushing it, and you know they're going to have a great result. I would say those were probably the highlights for me. And those are the things that kind of fueled me and kept me going, feeding off that energy of seeing other people thrive. Andrew: So, even on course, you're just in coach mode, just cheering on those athletes that you knew. John: Well, yeah. And I would say that’s even beyond coach mode. I think we’re all in that mode. There was a great comment at one of the athlete briefings that said, “It's your job to finish but it's also your job to make sure that somebody else finishes.” Andrew: Wow, that's great. John: So, I thought that was really cool and there really is a special camaraderie when you're out there on the Ironman course of “we're all in it together.” And yeah, we're trying to get to the finish line, but we want everybody else get in there as well. So, yeah, it's just a great source of fuel and energy just to keep going. Andrew: Well, John, swim or no swim, it's still an Ironman finish to be proud of, so congrats, friend. If you are listening and you are interested in more information about racing Ironman Louisville, head over to our YouTube channel, TriDot Triathlon Training, and find our full-length Louisville race recon webinar. There, John talks you through all the helpful details of the experience. Well that's it for today folks. I want to personally thank TriDot CEO, Jeff Booher, and coach Elizabeth James for taking the time to walk us through overcoming barriers that hold us back in the pool. A big thanks to our friends at Generation UCAN for bringing us today's show. There is a reason so many of us at TriDot use UCAN, and it's because it's the best stuff for sustained energy in training and on race day. I encourage everyone to give UCAN’s nutrition products a try. Head to GenerationUCAN.com and use coupon code TRIDOT for 15% off your entire order. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Email us at Podcast@TriDot.com and let us know what you're thinking. Again, that's Podcast@TriDot.com. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training. Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.