• Swimrun: Your Ultimate Guide By A National Aquathlon Champion

    The newest kid on the multi-sport block is the crazy sport of Swimrun. There are many elements to this event that make it stand out from the crowd. My name is Alex Hemsley, English National Aquathlon Champion, and it’s my job to introduce you to this unique sport and how to train for such an event.

    What is Swimrun Aquathlon swimming running Sundried

    What is swimrun?

    You might be thinking, "well that’s obvious, it’s swimming and running". Well yes, but maybe not as you think. Swimrun is an endurance event with distances often equalling that of a marathon or more. But oh no, you won’t just be running those miles on a road! The swim and run are broken up into multiple small runs/swims of varying distances, alternating between the two sports. Often, swimming in multiple lakes or around a shoreline and running across fells, through rivers, and over mountains. Swimrun events take place in the most beautiful locations in both the UK and abroad and you just have to remember to appreciate it while you're racing!

    Transitions

    If you're a triathlete or multi-sport athlete, you will be familiar with transitioning from one discipline to another. In swimrun, there are no transitions: you swim in your running shoes and run in your wetsuit. Because of this, there is some specialist equipment you will want to invest in before your race.

    Swimrun Equipment

    Swimrun Wetsuit

     A specific swimrun wetsuit is a must if you don’t want to get too hot on the run. There are plenty available online and more are becoming available in stores. My top tip is to make sure you follow the size guide if you don’t want horrific chafing from running in a wetsuit!  Specialist Swimrun wetsuits have a built-in whistle which can be an essential item and clever pockets so you can carry gels.

    Trail shoes

    Due to the uneven terrains on the run, a good trail shoe is well worth investing in as you will also be running with wet feet from the start. It is crucial that your shoes are clean before a race due to the unique biodiversity of the areas you are racing in. So no trail shoes that have lingered in a cupboard for months since last winter!

    Fuel/drink container

    Swimrun events have pioneered plastic-free racing which, in these times of environmental decline, is so important. This means you need a container that you can use for water/electrolytes at the feed stations. My preference is a soft flask that can be folded up and put in a pocket on my swimrun suit. You can often buy them at events.

    Hand paddles and pull buoys

    Another aspect that makes swimrun unique is you can use whatever equipment you want... but before you think of taking your fins, everything you start the race with you have to finish the race with. So you need to be cunning with your swimming aids! Many people use paddles and pull buoys as swimming in shoes creates a lot of drag.

    Pull buoys can either be altered to make some ties so you can attach it to the outside of your leg for the run or you can buy specific swimrun ones. With hand paddles, make sure you can quickly get them on and off otherwise you’ll be running with your goggles on as your hands won’t be free to take them off.

    A partner

    One final aspect of this is that swimrun is a team event and you can only compete in pairs. You can’t be more than 10 meters apart from each other at any one time. Some teams tether themselves together with a piece of rope cut to the specific length of 10m. 

    swimming running aquathlon

    How do you train for swimrun?

    You'll need to do lots of endurance swim sets both in the pool and outdoors. Make sure you follow your swim sets with a run as it feels very alien at first and feels different to running after cycling, which is the more traditional transition.

    Get out on the trails and hit the hills in all weathers as it might not be a nice day when you are racing so don’t dodge the weather in training!

    Train as much as you can with your partner as you need to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work out what works best for you as a team. Is one person going to lead on the swim and the other on the run? Or one person does one swim and run and the other does the next. You might not follow it on race day but it’s worth having a strategy. Training together also helps you know each other’s natural cadence in swim and run so you can try to match this.

    Before the race, go and do a recce where you swim in your swimrun suit and running shoes and run in your suit and wet shoes. This will help you work out what might happen on race day. Here's a recce checklist:

    • Do you want to wear socks or not?
    • Do you want to undo your swimrun suit?
    • Will you get blisters from running in wet shoes?
    • Which gels do you want and how many?
    • Will you run with your hat and goggles on and if not where will you put them? 

    swimrun racing

    How do swimrun races work?

    Prior to race day, there will be a map and details of the number of swims/runs and their distance and elevation. Study these carefully as you want to know how many you’ve got on race day and when you’ve finished the hills it’s good to know this!

    Registration and race briefing will either be the day of the event or the day before. Make sure you attend and pay attention as they will tell you what the markers look like as the whole course isn’t marked so you need to pay attention! They will often inspect your trainers, so make sure they are clean.

    Lay all your kit out so you know you have what you need. You will be given number bibs and these must be on you and visible at all times.

    On race day, make sure you eat a good breakfast no sooner than 2 hours before otherwise running in your tight suit will make you feel very sick!

    The meeting point is often close to the finish of the race so it’s all aboard a coach to take you to the start, often driving along some of the route you will be running and swimming.

    And then the fun begins – you swim and run your way back to the finish! There will be feed stations along the route; these are well stocked with everything you could need including new potatoes! But remember not to get carried away or stop for too long or you might seize up or get a stitch.

    At the finish, bask in the glory of completing one of the toughest but most fun multi-sports around.

    This is by far my favourite event as you get to swim and run in the most beautiful locations with one of your friends. What’s not to love?

    About the author: Alex Hemsley is a Team GB Age Group athlete and National Aquathlon Champion. 

    Posted by Guest Account
  • How To Get Better At Swimming In Open Water

    open water swimming tips

    Getting in cold, open water can hold fear or confusion for many athletes, or others just simply don’t enjoy it. Whatever happens, it’s good to be prepared; follow these tips for preparing for the open water.

    Acclimatise

    When you get in open water, take time to familiarise yourself and if you can't get comfortable, at least get acclimatised. The number one issue for panic is people setting off too quickly, either just to get on or to get warm. This spikes your heart rate and your breathing and will likely set off any anxiety that will become more difficult to control. Let your wetsuit float you up in the water and try to relax back so you can float on your back – and then on your front too.

    triathlon swimming tips open water

    Identify the struggles of swimming in open water

    Going off course. Panicking. Swimming into people. Letting your form collapse. Maybe you’re not being used to swimming in a wetsuit. Unforeseen conditions like strong currents and surf/chop.

    The number one remedy to the majority if not all of the above is practice, practice, practice. 

    It's true that it is hard to get a lot of practice in open water because of schedules, weather conditions, and other commitments. So continue to swim your regular sessions every week. But as the race approaches take one or two of those swims into open water, whether it be a lake, estuary, or ocean. Make it as high a priority as possible.

    Swimming in the pool is not completely different from swimming in the open water – but it does have its own vagaries. So to get faster at the latter, you need to do it more. And not just on race day.

    Use these swims to test your wetsuit, practice sighting, get used to not seeing the bottom, and practice with others. Also, work on longer intervals at race pace. Some people will benefit from maintaining a more constant rhythm – others will need to readjust from having a rest and a push off at the end of every length!

    swimming pool triathlete training

    Prepare as much as you can in the pool

    Swimming in the pool still has its place. Even though you race in the open water, you should still keep up your regular weekly pool sessions, especially if your form is still weak. Of course, you can work on technique in the lake or sea, but it becomes more challenging. Pool swims are important to develop speed and improve technique without the distractions that open water provides. Use the pool to focus on your form and drill work as well as a few race pace speed sets for time so that you can monitor your splits.

    If open water is simply out of the question, simulate the chop, surf, and congestion by trying to swim in a lane with three to four other people at the same time. It is tough but it will mimic that race start well. Also, close your eyes while swimming to mimic losing your ability to guide yourself with the black line (obviously only do this if you have an empty lane!) Turning before the wall is also a great way to simulate the stop-go of open water swimming, and not resting between lengths.

    Swimming in open water – at least with a wetsuit – should be quicker than swimming in the pool. So make sure that you are prepared for swimming in open water. Practise putting your wetsuit on so that it fits properly over your shoulders. Get yourself comfortable entering the water so that your heart rate doesn’t take such a shock to the system come race day.

    Read more: Tips For Swimming In Open Water

    About the author: John Wood is a triathlete, triathlon coach, and Sundried ambassador.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Catherine Cremona Athlete Ambassador

    gym workout get fit

    Catherine is a swimmer who still competes around her work and family life. She talks to Sundried about life in the pool. 

    Have you always been into sport?

    For as long as I can remember, I have been busy in the world of sport! My mum will tell you a tale that I could swim before I could walk and (apparently) when I was only a few months old I could swim naturally.

    What made you decide to enter the world of swimming?

    When I was younger, I was interested in a few sports. Unfortunately, I had an accident when I was 9 or 10 where I broke my arm and it needed pinning. It was so bad that the doctors said I would need to exercise my arm every day or I may lose some of the movement. They recommended swimming and I haven’t looked back since!

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Our swimming club travelled to Holland, Belgium and Germany to compete. I still remember winning against clubs from other countries and feeling such a sense of achievement. I giggle when I look back at the pictures because even though I am on the first-place podium, the other two swimmers are still taller than me.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Definitely coming back to swimming as a ‘master’ even though I have a family and a career.

    swimmer swimming dive

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I think about all the factors that have led me to my setback and I think ‘What can I do next time to make sure this doesn’t happen again?’

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    It doesn’t matter how big a person is, long distance swimming is about technique.

    What are your goals for 2020?

    To continue to train hard for the 400 metres Individual Medley. This truly is an endurance swim. This will mean stepping up the training both in the water and dry land training (gym work). I aim to have learnt from this year and take on more competitions. 

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    It’s got to be the first British Olympic champion: Lucy Morton. Lucy Morton won the 200m breaststroke event at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. She is also from my hometown, Blackpool. Lucy was known to be very modest about her wins and when she retired, she opened a swimming school for disabled children. It’s just a shame I didn’t have the £8,400 to buy her medal when it was auctioned in August!

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I always use my Sundried swim cap and goggles when I train in the water. When I am sat on the poolside or doing conditioning in the gym I love a hoodie, top and shorts combination. So, for me it is the Matterhorn Women's Zip Up Hoodie, La Singla Women's Vest and the Les Rouies 2-In-1 Women's Shorts.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Train Like A Pro: Strength Training For Triathletes

    triathlete strength training

    Swimming, cycling, and running will inevitably take up most of your time as a triathlete, but hitting the gym and doing strength training is just as important. We chat with two professional triathletes to get the low down on how they strength train to improve their performance and get the most out of their training.

    Matt Leeman - professional triathlete

    Matt doesn't do strength training in the typical sense. Instead of hitting the gym and lifting weights, he uses natural factors like hills to help him improve his strength and increase his muscular endurance. 

    Triathlete strength training

    Strength training is a big component of any sport, the common definition of strength is "the ability to exert a force against a resistance". Each sport has different demands and hence requires different classifications of strength, triathlon predominantly requires strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over.

    Although I personally do not lift weights, which are commonly associated with strength training, I do triathlon-specific strength training, adapting the training of the disciplines to a strength based way of training.

    Swim

    There are swim specific tools that can be utilised to enhance swimming strength, the main ones I use are the pull buoy, hand paddles, and band. The muscles used in swimming are predominantly the lats (side of the back) and triceps. The pull buoy enables swimming with less kicking to maintain the body position so that the upper body can be worked more. The hand paddles create a larger surface area to increase the resistance of a stroke. The band is used to take leg kicking out of the equation and rather get propulsion from the overall movement of the body and core muscles.

    Matt Leeman pro triathlete swimming training triathlon

    Bike

    The majority of the time in a triathlon is spent on the bike so having good bike strength is essential for putting together a good race, both directly, making you ride faster, and indirectly, the less the bike takes out of you, the more you’ll have left for the run. The two things that can be utilised for bike strength are the bike's gears and hills.

    By doing specific intervals ‘over-gearing’ i.e. using a bigger gear than you would usually use to train your leg muscles to produce a greater force so that when we are racing we are working at a lower percentage of our overall capacity. Hills obviously give a great stimulus for developing strength, ensuring you ride on different terrain is important for developing a well rounded strong athlete.

    strength training cycling

    Run

    The main ways in which I train my running strength is using hills and mixed surface terrain. I will often do a specific hill repeat session where one specific hill is targeted and run up multiple times. The beauty of hills is that it prevents you from over-striding and promotes glute engagement, which improves our ability to utilise the bigger muscles in the legs such as glutes and quads that handle fatigue better than the smaller muscles of the leg, which is very important in an endurance sport.

    winner triathlon strength training

    Claire Steels - World Champion duathlete

    Claire tells us about her three favourite strength training exercises and why they are well suited to an endurance athlete.

    Bulgarian Split Squat

    This exercise is great for running and cycling power but also glute, hip and core stability. Unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat are fantastic for developing the individual leg strength required for sports such as running and cycling, where each leg is required to produce power independently.

    duathlon strength training

    TRX Mountain Climbers

    This exercise requires core stability and control whilst moving each leg independently. This replicates the physiological control that is required in a duathlon as a strong core is essential for efficient running and cycling.

    TRX mountain climbers strength training for duathletes

    Kettlebell Swings

    This is a fantastic exercise for developing power through the posterior chain along the back of the body. It challenges the strength of the whole body but primarily the glutes and hamstrings. It is also a fantastic exercise for testing the cardiovascular system while also trying to produce power making it yet another great exercise for duathletes.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Karen Tait Athlete Ambassador

    running cross country triathlon racing outdoors

    Karen is an aquathlete who got back into competing after a serious injury. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, I swan competitively from the age of 8 until 16. I had been also doing some running for a few years so when I gave up swimming, I then focused on running.

    What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

    I got a serious injury 4 years ago and started swimming again with a pull buoy to keep fit as it was the only form of exercise I could do pain-free. Last year, I started running again and I was still swimming and saw that Glasgow University was holding an aquathlon. I decided to enter as I was keen to compete again even though I was only running twice a week.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    The Scottish Aquathlon Championships last July when I became the Scottish Champion and overall winner. It was my 3rd aquathlon ever and 1st open water and I loved every minute of it. The swim went better than I expected along with the run. Also, to have my friends, family and partner there supporting me in the rain was a special day. I didn't realise I was in the lead until the last 400m so had been running without any pressure.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Being a Scottish champion in two sports - athletics and Aquathlon. Especially winning the Scottish Aquathlon title last year as it was unexpected as I was very new to the sport.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    My first aquathlon last March as I hadn't raced in 4 years and had only recently got back into running, which isn't great preparation to run a hard 5k after a swim. The 5k run was very hard and hilly and I hated every minute of it.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    By being determined and never giving up. At the end of 2018, I still had a lot of pain in my knee and I was told that I would never run again. However, I found a way with support from my partner that meant I could get back competing and manage the pain in my knee.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    To put Vaseline or sports balm on your feet as well as your body. My shoes cut my feet in my first aquathlon.

    What are your goals for 2020?

    To run close to or break some of my running PBs from 2014, and also to perform well at the World and European Aquathlon Championships.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Rose Reilly, she was the first Scottish woman to win the World Cup and is from the same town as me. She was so determined to play football that she first played with boys and then moved to Italy so she could pursue her love of football.

    Also, my mum, as she is such a hardworking person and brought me and my sisters up as a single parent and even when times were tough in terms of money she encouraged us to take part in lots of different sports.

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I like the ethos of the brand as it appeals to me. My sister works for The Scottish Fair Trade Forum so I have become more conscious of where my clothes come from and the rights of the workers. My favourite piece of kit is the trisuit which is comfortable and looks good.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren