Coach’s corner with Coach Yanti

Making the transition from breaststroke to freestyle

Breaststroke provides useful mental images and drills that’ve helped many beginning swimmers/triathletes who are more comfortable with breaststroke start make the transition to a solid freestyle pull. Most beginner swimmers who can manage the breaststroke are a lot closer to freestyle than they think. The pull in breaststroke and freestyle are nearly identical.

I’ve asked newer swimmers to try doing the breaststroke with the same pull they do in freestyle (usually a straight arm windmill pull). They can’t. Somewhere here, it clicks that doing freestyle with a breaststroke pull is the way to go.

Ignoring legs/kick for the moment, I have them glide, then pull breastroke with one arm only. (Similar to several sculling drills). At some point, I get them to rotate their bodies slightly to the pull side so they can breathe as they pull.

This is a start, and one of several likely helpful breast-to-free drills. There’s no one magic formula or trick, and different images and metaphors will help make things click for different swimmers. It’s just that this one has helped so many okay-breaststrokers struggling-freestylers to make that transition, so I wanted to share it.

In my own training I do breaststroke very mindfully in the pull, thinking about freestyle, and I don’t swim it competition style anymore, since some of the motion is used to pull the head and upper body up out of the water (instead of forward the way you want in freestyle). I pull back as much as possible and stay much flatter in the water than I would doing a competition breaststroke.

I also do breaststroke pulling (with or without pull buoy). Really helps isolate pull mechanics since you WILL NOT go anywhere if you aren’t doing it right!

One last point. Most swimmers steadily exhale while underwater doing breaststroke, but “hold” their breath during freestyle, only exhaling toward the end of the stroke and finishing the exhale while their head is out of water, then inhaling. In breast and in free, anytime your face is in the water, exhale!

Athlete Profile – Justine T

Nickname:  Jussi, Juzzi, JT, Tenners and Just Jeans

How long have you been in tri?: About 2 years 

How did you get into tri?: I was trying to get fit and then I saw the advertisement for the Pink Tri – thought it might be good fun so I bought a bike and signed up. 

How many bikes do you have?:  Three (roadie, tri-bike and a mountain bike)

Something we wouldn’t already know about you?: I spent 3.5 years in the Pilbara chasing Manganese deposits as a Project Exploration Geologist so I’m pretty good at roughing it and 4WDing

What do you want to achieve this season?: I’m hoping to swim at Busso 70.3 (third time lucky) and take on my first marathon (don’t ask me which one I haven’t decided- suggestions/thoughts welcomed)

Big weekend of racing

The wolves were all over the state this weekend, from Bunbury to Mullaloo, racing, supporting and enjoying the tail end of the season.

Mullaloo Tri

XTR’s Mullaloo triathlon was another fantastic event on the club race series with a choice of junior, sprint, olympic, duathlon and enticer events. Ten athletes made the trip north to gain some valuable club points to help secure the wolves in second place. Conditions on the day were fair. Although there were some gusty winds, the ocean was relatively calm but the bike leg had some challenging headwinds heading north.

Snelly had a great race and said of the conditions, “It was tricky, but also made it a bit of fun with some of the downhills hitting 50 plus km/h.”

Bunbury City Classic

The wolves also had a good showing down south for the Bunbury City Classic and the State standard distance championship. Sadly another swim was cancelled, this time due to a freak swell which TWA and safety officials determined to be too dangerous to continue. Jenny was one of the few enticers to have gotten in to the water but it was rough going and a number of people had to be rescued. Certainly, it created a lot of debate amongst some seasoned open water swimmers who thought athletes should be given the right to choose. However many agreed it was a good call to prioritise safety in such conditions.Congratulations to everyone who raced and especially to Emma Moon who took out a prize for her age group.

Weetbix Kids Try

Big congratulations to newly-minted junior triathlete, Ally, on her maiden race. The smiles say it all!

Freo Corporate Tri

Freo was a small event with about half the field from Kolbe Catholic College and Scotch College. The corporate teams also made up a large number of competitors. The swim was at Bathers Beach in nicer conditions tan last year’s rain and choppy swell.  The water was calm and very little swell. A long run to T1 made sense as the swim was only 400m for the sprint distance. The bike course started with a look around a roundabout before joining the main course and consisted of 6×3km laps. Tight twisty course down one end and a flat, fast section to the far turnaround. The run course across the train line was a 2 lap flat out and back with a slight headwind heading out which meant an easier run back to the start/finish. Congrats Floora and her corporate partner who won a gold in the duos.

Athlete Profile – James M

Nickname: None really but my sister calls me Wamesey….

How long have you been in tri?: On and off since I was 16. I had a three year career break whilst I studied/drank at University.

How did you get into tri?:
I’ve always enjoyed long distance running and was part of a club in England. A few members would do the local tri’s so I joined them in the first of the season. We all finished close to each other and had a great time so I entered the rest for that season and continued from there.

How many bikes do you have?:
Just one in Australia – Cannondale Supersix. Plus one in England – Giant TCR Advanced. I love both but I get a lot of bike envy so one day I’ll get a TT bike!

Something we wouldn’t already know about you?:
I spent four months working at a cattle station on the Nullabor, I learnt to ride a motor bike and muster cattle. Before that, I was petrified of cows.

What do you want to achieve this season?:
My goal was to go sub-5 hours at Bunbury Sufferfest which I achieved. I want to race a couple more times this year but I have no real goals in mind.

Confessions of a triathlete

It’s not a glamorous sport. Sweat, chaffing, dehydration, blisters, sunburn, butt cream, black toenails and the full body lycra suits that leave nothing to the imagination! We go to bed early on a Friday night and get up early on Sundays. Most of our ‘normal’ friends have abandoned us as lost causes.

But the truth is we love this sport, warts and all, so we laugh at ourselves and others and keep on swimming, riding and running.

Here are some of the true confessions of the PHTC triathletes and the dumbest, funniest and worst moments of their #trilife

Confession#1 – I was riding with the group and about 50km into the 112km ride someone mentioned that my bib shorts may be a bit too old…I cycled at the back of the crew after that.

Confession#2 – I stacked my bike on a group ride doing something stupid and was too embarrassed to tell the truth so I made up a crazy story about a big dog running in front of me. It was just so outrageous I thought it would get a laugh and divert attention from the real cause, but everyone believed it.

Confession#3 – I did my first “real” triathlon (a national qualifier no less) with a plastic tote as transition bag, turtle-honky-horn on the cruiser-bars of my bike and a “YOU DID IT!” self-congratulatory balloon on my bike so I could find it in transition.

Confession#4 – At the Mandurah interclubs event, I swapped another athletes run shoes around as a joke after he had set up in transition. I asked him after the race how his shoes were for the run. Any issues? He said nope had his fastest run ever??? I had actually put them the right way around so it backfired!

Confession#5 – I put a mocha flavoured gel in the back pocket of my race suit and it exploded making me look like I’d crapped my pants during the race.

Confession#6 – During my first Busselton half ironman team race in 2015 I thought peanut M&Ms were good nutrition. Perhaps, but having chocolate all over your face and teeth is not a good look out there!

Confession#7 – I was 15 in my very first triathlon at Port beach, it was the perfect day for it. I had this very basic ali road bike, I was actually pretty chuffed with at the time, even had some cleats and shoes. I was all set up for a wicked race. The swim went well, managed to navigate through transition and onto the bike ok. Yay! At that point, i was passed by almost every other competitor on course (told myself it’s ok, cause I can run). But one thing I had not practiced, or even thought about, was that before you stop, you need to uncleat your shoe from the pedals. So at the end of my ride (thank goodness that was over) I approach the transition line, everyone is there, clapping and cheering, (go me!) and I get to the line, and I suddenly realise can’t get my foot out. The officials are yelling at me to take my foot out, I’m yelling back, then I got that momentary hover you get, you know the one when you know your about to fall and there’s bugger all you can do. So I fell. In front of everyone. ON the swim/bike/run transition sign. I was so embarrassed! But at least my foot came out and I could finish the race. I don’t know what the end result was, but I will never, ever forget my first race.

Confession#8 – I rode 15km with a flat at Cairns and only realised when I went around a corner and the bike went from underneath me in front of 50 cars waiting at the traffic lights. I had 5 km to go so rode on my rims back to transition.

Confession#9 – At the Australia Day tri this year I didn’t realize I had but my helmet on backwards. Abdul just kept laughing at me. Then the lady at T2 so politely said, “Just for next time dear, you’ve got your helmet on backwards.” Absolutely no where to hide…

Confession#10 – I once had to leave a group ride early because of bad gut. I didn’t make it back to the car – the vibrations caused by crossing a rail line caused some bad sh*t to go down and I ended up in a roadside drain with my knicks around my ankles hoping no cars would drive past and stop to help the poor cyclist who looked to have crashed in the gutter. On a positive note, I found a good use for the squirt nozzle on bidons.

Confession#11 – During my first 70.3 it was so hot I put ice down the back of my tri suit to cool off. Mistake! I was hopping round like an idiot as it slipped straight down my bum crack.

Confession#11 – I peed my self in transition because I couldn’t wait and couldn’t get a good flow going on the bike at busso 70.3 last year.

Confession#12 – I won my category at my first Olympic-distance triathlon but had no idea because it was really hot and I fell asleep under a tree and missed the awards ceremony.

Sunsmart Women’s Tri

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Always a fantastic event, the 2018 Sunsmart Women’s Tri was a windy but enjoyable day out.

Anna did the mini which has lit a fire under her after missing a podium place in her age group. She will be working extra hard in the pool over coming months.

Jenny did her first sprint. She said of the event, “Great course, cross wind on the ride was a bit challenging, but it was also a blessing having the wind on the run course.” She is already planning her next race.

The blokes were down there supporting with unofficial club photographer Alex capturing the event and Coach Rob helping as a TO.

Shoalwater Classic seals second place for the wolf pack

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The Rockingham Tri Club Shoalwater Classic was a battle for club points. PHTC was third on the clubs ladder and a good turnout at Shoalwater ensured we jumped up to second place.

The night before the race was wild and windy but mother nature turned on a beautiful morning. Everyone had a great race and a dedicated crew of supporters from the wolf pack rode the blustery freeway to support the crew.

The Prez got back in the saddle and Nikky and Leanne took the plunge and did their first Olympic distance race.

Fun and racing on the coral coast

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It was a fantastic road trip for the wolf pack with lots of family fun and podiums at the Allbarnone Jurien Bay triathlon.

The weather was warm and windy with bonus kms on the bike course but this was made up with the run course being a few hundred metres short. It seems the stingers were out to play (but thankfully no sharks!) with a few people copping a sting or seven.

Coach Peta thought it was a cracker day.

“One of the highlights of the day for the pack was supporting each other, all the big smiles and high fives throughout the race in spite of it being a pretty tough challenge,” she said.

“Turquoise Bay is a tough course, particularly the bike, but I highly recommend getting behind it and getting your clubs down there. It’s a terrific course and a great place for a weekend away.”

Big congratulations to Brett on his first medal, to Ian and Alex on their first full Olympic and young Caitlin who had her OWS race.

Podiums

Brett McCrum – BRONZE in the Male 50-59 Fun

Caitlin Gray – GOLD in the Female 14-19 Fun

Jenny Watson – BRONZE in the Female 40-49 Novice

Matt Snell – SILVER in the Male 40-49 Olympic

Could breathing better make you faster?

The part of breathing we generally think about is all to do with enough oxygen getting to the right places fast enough for us to do what we want to. Our bodies are pretty good at this in the absence of any serious health issues.

But you probably don’t realise our breathing also has a major impact on our overall posture and movement and our nervous system, particularly that crucial balance we need between our ‘ready for action’ stress response versus rest, recover and repair.

Breathing in sport is becoming hot news! We put emphasis on strength training especially when it comes to legs, but does anyone really target the breathing muscles?

The case for breathing training

In the last couple of decades it was discovered that like any other muscles our breathing muscles fatigue, swimming being the biggest culprit here. When they fatigue, there then follows a literal blood steal reflex shifting blood from the leg/arms to the breathing muscles. This happens because the brain reckons it’s more important to keep breathing than run faster!

So what can you do? Specific inspiratory muscle training (weight lifting for the diaphragm) will:

  • delay the blood steal reflex;
  • reduce our sense of effort (our heads are a huge barrier to performance);
  • hasten the removal of lactic acid;
  • speed up your recovery.

Breathing in triathlon

If that’s not a good enough reason then consider all the challenges put on your breathing muscles during triathlon.

Swimming – Our breathing muscles have to overcome hydrostatic pressure and need to achieve rapid inhales to maintain buoyancy and propulsion.
Running – we are permanently unstable when we run and breathing muscles have to both pull air in, push it out and keep the pelvis stable.
Cycling – horrible position for breathing! The breathing muscles need all the help they can get to overcome the restrictions imposed by crouching and again stabilising the pelvis to maximise efficient pedalling.

Breathing in recovery

Recovery is not talked about nearly enough in coaching yet the ability to bring ourselves back to baseline calm (think heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, relaxation, digestion, inflammation, immune response) is crucial to our ability to recover from our last race/training session and the success of our next one.

Outside of training/racing is another crucial area where sub-optimal breathing can play havoc. Recovery, otherwise known as all the hours we spend at work and home, awake and asleep is where breathing plays a crucial role.

You lot are by nature pretty busy and pretty driven! This is great for being out there on the run/swim etc but for adequate rest and recovery we need to bring our nervous system back to calm.

Breathing is a powerful regulator of our autonomic nervous system – that balance between emergency response (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure up, muscles tense) and our rest, digest, repair, immune boosting state. Nearly all the athletes I see have a few things in common…

  1. They over-breathe at rest. This lowers the level of carbon dioxide in the body resulting in poor oxygen delivery, muscle spasms/tension, and airway and blood flow restrictions.
  2. They breathe into the upper chest. This results in fatigue of the accessory muscles (neck/shoulders i.e. muscles we need for effort) and a whipping up of the stress response (see above – not great for recovery).
  3. They are ab suckers. Your diaphragm is your prime muscle for breathing and core strength to name just two of it’s functions. It cannot work effectively against an abdominal corset.
  4. They frequently feel the need for sighs and often mouth breathe – this is hyperventilating, (see point 1).

Have a look at your own breathing

  • Do you nose breathe 100% outside of hard effort?
  • Do you have exercise induced asthma/ chest tightness/wheeze/tightening in the throat?
  • Do you sigh/yawn a lot?
  • Does your chest or belly move as you inhale/exhale at rest?

If you would like to read more about this, check out the series of articles by Robin McNelis for Runners World UK. He talks about running but of course this is relevant for all sport and life in general. It really is worth a read.

Pip Windsor is a physiotherapist and specialises in Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) and Asthma Education. She runs Physio2breathe which has offices in Darlington and North Perth and can help athletes improve their breathing for peak performance. In her free time Pip is an ultra trail runner and level 2 recreational running coach. She has dipped her toe in the triathlon pool but decided she prefers running up steep hills. Pip can be contacted via email at physio2breathe@gmail.com

Athlete Profile – Karen A.

How long have you been doing tri?: This is my second season

How did you get into tri?: I lost weight and decided I needed goals to help me go further so my psychologist suggested I enter the womens tri in March 2017 (it was October 2016) so I googled Tri Series and entered the whole of the 16/17 series, as you do!  Then joined the PHTC, went to one session and decided I did not want to be “that” fit but sussed everyone out from afar at each event!  Then I entered the whole series again this year and thought I should be brave and get a little fitter and meet you all so that I keep up the training better.

How many bikes do you have?: Well I started last season on a free road side collection mountain bike (which I still have) but once I enrolled to do the novice course last year, everyone had lovely bikes so I bought a second hand road bike which lives inside my house much to the jealousy of the mountain bike that lives outside.

Something we wouldn’t already know about you?: I was born in Zimbabwe and immigrated here when I was 16. In my real life I am a boring accountant. I have a 19 year old son who is a second year roof carpentry apprentice.