Tag Archives: training


As Galileo said ‘measure the measureable, and make measureable what is not so’

This current season I have made a concerted effort to measure as accurately as possible how much work we do and at what intensity. Now obviously I have always recorded this, but this season I took it to the next level (for us) and tracted intensity, volume and rest for every individual athlete. 

We got nice wee graphs like this

For the overall cycle.

And this for each individual

Which is kinda cool. It showed very clearly where people where getting sick for example. 

So having this information is great and it got me thinking, what else can I record that will provide me usefull information about the state of the athletes in my program.

A few day thinking and I came up with a list of things that, if I could record and track them,  could potentially provide useful insight.

(I am 100% sure that there are better coaches than me out there already recording this stuff and much more)

  1. Hours sleep
  2. Sleep quality
  3. Mood
  4. Resting Heart Rate
  5. Hours of training
  6. PRE
  7. Weight

Hours sleep is easy, every morning they tell me how many hours they had.

Sleep quality is rated out of 5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being insomnia. Right now we are going with them rating it but I think that some sort of sleep tracker and a raio of restlessness to sleep would be better. To give me a figure I can track I simply multiply the hours by the quality

Mood is done a day behind so they give me a rating on how they felt yesterday.

I plot a graph of Mood and Sleep quality to see if there is any correlation

(Blue is mood

Orange is sleep)

Resting HR they take in the morning before training on an app on their phone.

PRE and Hours of work I collect after each session. Hours of work is not how long the session lasted but rather how  much time was spent working (session length – rest intervals)

After a quick google search I found that I could use this information to measure Acute (ATL) and Cronic (CTL) training load or Fatigue and Fitness. Lots of formulas later and these combine to give a Training Stress Score (TSS) or ‘form’ so in theory I can see at a glance when they are getting more fatigued and I need to back off a little or when I can push them. 

The blue bars are fatigue and  the orange line is fitness. When the orange line goes above the blue bars this represents a more rested state (very basically) 

Anyway…..it takes weeks of collecting this stuff for it to be at all representative of whats happening so I have started now hoping that it proves usefull next season.

As yet I havent started recording weight as I cant beside if using base metabolic rate and body composition is providing me useful enough information for the time spent collecting it


‘Beware the ides of March’


1st of all……how is it March already!!!

Im pretty sure Christmas was last week!!!
Secondly……I have no idea what ides are but im pretty sure Shakespear made the whole thing up for dramatic effect.
A quick google search reveals that every months has ides …. they were supposed to be determined by the full moon. Romans earliest calendars March wpuld have been the 1st month of the year so the ides of march would have been the first full moon of the year.

Generally they occur around the middle of the month and were considered unlucky……so I guess they a bit like a Roman hump day.

Anyway…….all of this is completely irrelevant but for the happy coinsidence that the 1st pulse point test set of the cycle is on the 15th of march ….. et tu brute 🗡

Thats your lot 2day just a little 1


​For me swimming is a closed skill.  It is a skill that is not affected by external influences; it is just your body moving through water. We do not have opponents in our lanes or obstacles to overcome. A closed skill set can be practiced until the mechanics become second nature.  However, the danger when we say it should become second nature is, that you switch off mentally and just go through the motions.  I am not an authority on this by any stretch of the imagination, so I may be wrong, but I’m not entirely sure this is what we should be aiming for.

If we think of another sport for a second.  Rory McIlroy practices his swing every day for hours to achieve perfection and to make sure that it is repeatable multiple times. Has his swing become automated? It is definitely second nature but is it automatic?

The dictionary defines automation as:

1. The technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, reducing human intervention to a minimum.

2. A device that functions without input from the operator.

So, Rory steps up to strike the ball and halfway through his back-swing someone calls out and distracts him.  An automated swing would continue, strike the ball and mess up the shot.  However, he has the ability to stop mid-swing, step back, re-address and start again. 
To me this is not automated performance; this is a world class practitioner performing at the top of his game, being in the moment, entirely focused on what he is doing.  

Therefore, if we practice perfectly every session, and the mechanics of what we do become second nature, has our swimming become automated?

I don’t believe so, no.

I believe we practice so much in order to avoid automation.

Automation to me implies that the athlete has disengaged from whatever activity they are doing. I want my athletes to be actively in the moment at every stage. I want them to know how to react to every situation and have the ability to respond.

When we train or practice any skill we are seeking to operate in a sweet spot.  It does not matter if we are playing the piano, hitting a golf ball or swimming, we are striving for perfect practice. 

The way I interpret this is, we are looking to practice at the very limit of our current ability. 

With this in mind I actively encourage the athletes in my squad to fail. 

Now that may seem a bit of a strange thing to say as we automatically consider failure as a negative but, if we are practicing at the very limit of our ability, failure is not only a positive, it’s an inevitability. When a swimmer fails a set or a challenge, they analyze the failed repeat and find out why it failed.  They look at what was different from the successful repeats, correct it, and go again. 

So for me perfect practice is about working to the limit in everything (drill sets should challenge you as well, albeit in a different way), working to the point of failure:  pause, analyze, repeat.  This is continued to the point where the correct skill cannot be performed through fatigue and then rest. In this way you push the limits of what you can do and, over time, be able to do more.

So how can this be applied to swim training?

The simplest and easiest to understand why is in relation to Race Pace work. Race pace should be about more than achieving a time, it should be about the ‘HOW’ of that time, the correct stroke count and correct stroke rate. All 3 elements make race pace. So when we do race pace sets we might spend 30 minutes swimming at pace but if 1 of those 3 elements slips then we rest, reassess and then go again. This means that these sets become highly specific to each athlete. 

But it’s not just in race pace training that we can do this, if stroke count or technique fails during any set I am a big believer in stopping and assessing what is happening before returning to work. There is,in my opinion, limited value in performing at a level where technique has failed. Far better to take 30 sec and get back to perfect practice.

In my opinion, we, as coaches need to teach our athletes to think for themselves, to assess what they are doing in every set and actively learn from each experience. I don’t want them to become automated in their approach to training; I want them to learn that when thy are senior athletes, they will need to be able to react to unexpected tactics around them in racing situations to get to the wall 1st. 

I try to encourage every athlete in the club system to become more thoughtful in what they do, more considered in their approach and to try things. When they fail, they learn and they improve.


4 Year Plans & Olympic Dreams

I love it when swimming is on TV, and I love the Olympics so im basically in heaven this week, a very tired heaven with finals on at 2A.M. 

In a weeks time it will all be over for another 4 years and the next 4 year cycle will begin on Monday with the start of another season. 

I also love this week before the season, a chance to put my feet up and apply the finishing touches going into the season plan.

The possibilities are endless right now, Tokyo 2020 beckons for anyone with enough drive and ambition to get there. We are at the very start of a new Olympic cycle, the very start of a journey that could fulfill all our ambitions.

We are building a team of National team members in Larne proving that international success can be achieved in a club program and for the 1st time in my coaching career I have written 2 four year plans both ending in Tokyo, VERY exciting.

After a season where I experimented a little with intensity last year I am going a little old school this year (initially). I like the adaptability that last season gave me in the session and the individualisation it afforded but, in my heart, I like the work.
I learnt some stuff last year with the experimentation that we will be carrying forwards this year so not entirely old school, a bit of a mixture.

We have a new squad designed to push towards national and international success, added more accountability for the athletes, more in depth race analysis and testing both in and out of competition as well as sports psych for the 1st time.

We also plan on racing less in Ireland and travelling to Europe and UK for more meets in an effort to leave no stone unturned.

The future is bright, The future is RED & WHITE