Swim faster without spending more time in the water
Discover the 4 most common swim killers and how to fix them so that you can shave minutes off your swim time.
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BRAD BROWN: Welcome back onto The Kona Edge, it’s good to have you with us and it’s time to chat some swimming and we head to Melbourne, Australia where Nathan Shearer joins us. Nathan, welcome back onto the podcast, thanks for chatting to us today.
NATHAN SHEARER: Thanks Brad for having me.
BRAD BROWN: Nathan, you’ve made some big gains in the water over your fairly short Ironman career, it’s been a pretty intense rise, you’ve gotten much quicker.
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, it has, it’s meteoric, some would say, but it’s not without had work.
BRAD BROWN: In the water it would be called ‘motor boatish’.
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, I don’t know about that.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about some of those gains, can you put it down to one thing that you’ve done that you think has given you, let’s say, one thing that you’ve done over your Ironman career that’s given you the maximum benefits and improvements in the water?
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, the biggest change I made, which improved my swimming out of sight was nothing to do with actually swimming. It was all mental, I changed my mental approach and my perception of swimming and really recalibrated what I needed to do to become a swimmer, per se and that was the biggest change I ever made and it’s paid dividends, times, heaps, in the last probably 12 months.
BRAD BROWN: Can you tell me a bit more, what did you change from a mental perspective?
Improving your Ironman swim, mentally
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, so when I first started, I was pretty much like every other triathlete who is starting out, I hated swimming. I didn’t come from a swimming background, I didn’t swim as a kid, I’d never done squad and ask anyone, any amateur triathlete who doesn’t come from a swim background and if there’s a session they miss during the week, it’s a swim and I was the same. I couldn’t mentally get excited about swimming, it was the chore of the three sports and I didn’t give it enough respect because I sort of got to a certain point and the gains started to get really small and I got a bit complacent with that for a season, a summer. It wasn’t until I did Ironman Melbourne the second time and I had a decent swim, but I was still like nearly 10 minutes behind the front age groupers and I qualified for Kona, it was that that kind of kicked me into gear with changing my mental approach to swimming. It was, all right, if I really want to progress in this sport and I’m serious about it, I’ve got to take swimming more seriously and I’ve got to give it more respect and treat it, give it more importance. I changed how often I was swimming, I didn’t change what I was doing a lot, but I definitely got more consistent in the water. I started swimming 5,6,7 sessions a week as opposed to three or four maybe and honestly, that changed everything. I started to really enjoy it because that consistency afforded better feel for the water, I was able to swim consistently better with less effort and then I got, I started to get enjoyment out of it, like I’m getting better, this kind of competitiveness kicked in, like I can see progress and I can see where I’m headed and it became a addictive.
BRAD BROWN: From a time perspective, if you look at your first Ironman Melbourne swim time to what you did recently in Ironman New Zealand, you’ve taken just over 10 minutes off your swim time in an Ironman swim, which is incredible.
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, in a pretty much bang on a two year period. So, you know, first Ironman Melbourne to second Ironman Melbourne, I think I took six minutes off and that was going from just being a competitor to trying to race, I put a bit more importance on it, but I still didn’t have that, all right, this is really important, I need to be nailing consistent swimming. I sort of did more volume, but it was still inconsistent and I got quicker just from having another year of swimming behind me, but yeah, I think I was afforded some pretty nice conditions that day whereas in New Zealand, I had 12 months probably of very specific, very consistent swimming behind me, I think that made all the difference.
BRAD BROWN: If you have to put it down to one workout, what’s your favourite set to do in the water?
NATHAN SHEARER: My favourite set? Pre-Kona, there’s probably two, pre-Kona I was doing 8 to 10 to 12 200’s in the threshold, so basically as fast as you could hold all 10 or 12 and it sucked. It was the hardest swim I did all week, but I always did it by myself and always really pushed myself to be better every time. I think mentally that was amazing for me because I didn’t feel like I needed the swim squad to push me to swim those times, I was able to do it on my own, no one to help, no one to pace or anything. That was probably one before Kona that I loved and then probably for Ironman New Zealand, I started doing a lot more paddles work, just to get the strength there, so the long endurance, like 10 x 400 off of a pretty hard time cycle, which for me is about 6 minutes, paddles pull, 6 minute cycles for 400 x 10, that was pretty hard and pretty tough, but more endurance, so yeah, that was probably my other one.
BRAD BROWN: Awesome stuff. Nathan Shearer thank you so much for joining us once again on The Kona Edge, look forward to catching up next time to find out what you’ve done on the bike, but we’ll save that for another day, thanks for your time mate.
NATHAN SHEARER: No worries, cheers Brad.
Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).
Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.
He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.
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