On this edition of The Kona Edge we catch up with Sam Long and chat about using specialist triathlon coaches in our Ironman training. We find out his views on having one coach for swimming, cycling, running and nutrition and why he feels it’s so hard for one person to have the knowledge base to deal with everything.
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SAM LONG: Good to be back.
BRAD BROWN: Sam, last time we spoke we ended off the conversation on you saying that you’ve decided that you’re self-coaching from an overall triathlon perspective, but you do work with a specialist swim coach, what’s the reason behind that?
Find people who specialize in each discipline
SAM LONG: I’ll talk a little bit about just having specialists in general, I think it’s really hard for any one person to be a true source of knowledge in all the fields of triathlon. There’s swimming, there’s cycling, there’s running, there’s nutrition, there’s flexibility, there’s strength work. All of that stuff, there’s weight control, all that stuff, they’re dealing with temperature and heat, it’s so hard for one person to have the knowledge base to deal with all of that. I really think finding people who are specialized in each field can offer you more. I’ve been working with a specialist swim coach now, I’ve been working with them for three years.
BRAD BROWN: That’s probably the best explanation why someone should have a specialist swim coach I’ve ever heard. I think that’s brilliant. Let’s talk about some of the things you’ve done in the water over the last three years. Can you pin it down to a handful of things that you think has given you the biggest gains in the water, things that you’ve done?
Control your breathing and improve your Ironman swim
SAM LONG: Absolutely. Let’s put it into perspective. I just started swimming four years ago. There were big gains to be made at first and so that’s simple stuff like body position and breathing. And when I say breathing, I don’t mean how long you’re breathing. I mostly mean like a quick breath and that’s still something I’m working on, cause it’s so hard when you’re used to running. Like growing up, being a runner and a cyclist where you can bring in oxygen whenever you want, but a disciplined breath has been one of the biggest things because it really helps decrease drag if you can eliminate that breath.
Every time you have a long breath, your feet are going to drop and then it’s going to splay your legs out, which is going to cause you to not look like a swimmer, let’s put it that way! Those were two things but if we get into some more exact things, I don’t want to talk about the basics which are like breath control, body position, stuff like that, I think everyone can get benefit from.
It’s pretty easy to get that stuff down, but the stuff that has really helped me was raising my cadence, working on my pull, so really finishing through, I never wanted to finish through. Figuring out the right amount to glide and I don’t even really want to use the word ‘glide’ cause that’s not really the right word, but figuring out the right amount to stretch long as opposed to short, quick strokes I think is something that everyone needs to work on.
Those were the things, for me as well as stabilizing my core so I could really keep my legs strong and learning to minimize the kick were the biggest things.
BRAD BROWN: The core side of things is not something we touch on often, but it is vital. The stronger your core and the more control you have, the better your technique and form in the water is going to be, but you also touched on an interesting one and that’s your swim cadence and often people want to get faster and I know it sounds really basic, but if you want to swim faster, you need to swim faster , that’s what it boils down to. You need to turn those arms over quicker and again, it’s easy to turn it over quick, but shorten the stroke, you’ve got to get all the aspects working together.
SAM LONG: Exactly and that’s why it can become a dangerous game because I see so many, it’s almost like a dichotomy with coaches where they want like 40 strokes per minute, super long, almost catch up freestyle, or then you get coaches who are saying: Go as quick as you possibly can, let’s say 100 strokes per minute and then your arms are entering right at your head and you’re just generating no power and so it’s really finding a combination between the two.
BRAD BROWN: How much time would you generally spend in the water in a week? It’s obviously, like you say, you haven’t been swimming that long and it’s something you get lots of gain out of and you obviously still need to do quite a bit of work on it.
SAM LONG: Yeah, I have a lot of work to do. My typical week is generally between 20-25km in the pool, but the biggest week I’ve done was 45km and that was, and I did that for a few weeks in a row and I was doing a big swim block, that was rough.
BRAD BROWN: I’m sure. What are some of the workouts you love doing in the water?
How to spend a good day in the water
SAM LONG: Some of my favourite workouts, I’ve gotten this from Eney Jones who is my swim coach, is really kinda like stimulate a fast race. Get out, cause that’s one of the biggest things is getting out fast in a race is so key and learning how to calm your nervous system down, so that you’re not going to be so worked up.
Get out and maybe do, it could be 10 x 25 it could be an all-out hundred, and then right after that I like to go into pulling. I do maybe, let’s say 2 x 100 all out, very minimal rest between it because you’re trying to stimulate a race, you’re trying to get yourself worked up. So maybe 5 seconds of rest, so 2 x 100 on 1:15 or 1:20. Throw your paddles on right away and then try and do a 500 at race pace with paddles and a pool buoy. So then maybe do a hundred easy between that. Do that five times.
BRAD BROWN: Sounds like a good day in the water.
SAM LONG: I think that helps a lot as well as on easy days. Just really working on form and technique and swimming easy. I do most of my swimming, hard swimming with masters groups, which I think is very beneficial to do your hard swimming with a group.
BRAD BROWN: I couldn’t agree more, getting with a bunch of guys and girls who generally are stronger than you and push you really hard, that’s what you need in the water.
SAM LONG: Yeah, exactly, especially on sprint days. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s a person out there that likes to do sprints in the pool alone!
BRAD BROWN: You’re right, no doubt about that. Sam, thanks a lot again for your time here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated. We look forward to catching up about your bike next time out but we’ll save that for next week. Thanks for your time today.
SAM LONG: Great, see you later.
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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