• 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
  • 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
  • Getting Started With Swimming

    beginner swimming technique triathlon

    Getting in the water can be incredibly daunting for some people. 20% of the UK’s adults are scared of the water or can’t swim. A lot of people doing triathlon or contemplating doing one don’t enjoy swimming or are new to the concept. So, starting out can be a tense process.

    There are 3 main steps when getting started with swimming:

    Putting your face in the water

    This will make your life easier and you won’t then get a horrible shock if you get splashed.

    Learning to float

    Most humans will naturally float to some degree. Maybe not perfectly (men especially), but if you can learn to trust the water to support your body weight, you can learn to allow your body to relax.

    Reducing panic

    Frantically trying to kick and pull will spike your heart rate and breathing rate, which are counter-intuitive to feeling that calm and zen feeling that being in the water can give.

    swimming coaching getting started beginner swimming

      My go-to when teaching to swim is to get people floating on their back – aiming for some sort of starfish type position. It takes some confidence that you might not entirely have, but the trick is to try and stay still and fight the urge to kick or pull to keep yourself stable on the surface. These things will lift you in the water, but then you will sink again to your starting point so there is no real gain. Once you find that you can trust the water to support you, you’ll be a fair bit calmer!

      The second thing to do when getting water-ready is to do some sink downs. Take a big breath of air, sink under the water/push yourself under and breath out – then stand up. Simple! In practise, if you’re not so comfortable it can be a little challenging to start with, so really force the air out of your lungs. When you come to swim this will be key, as it will allow you to breathe in efficiently when the time comes.

      The final stage to getting started in the water is getting comfortable on your front. My favourite drill to teach this skill is the dead man float.

      Start face down, completely relaxed and floppy. You should feel your legs and arms hang down (for the vast majority). Then repeat the float but with 3 distinct changes:

      1. Lengthen your spine – pull your ears away from your shoulders, keeping your neck neutral
      2. Lift your arms up in front of you so that your ears are between your biceps (keeping your hands in the water)
      3. Engage your core – pull your belly button toward your spine, and squeeze your glute muscles.

      For the most part, people should feel their legs raise up toward the surface – if not completely then at least in part. This gives us a starting position to work from in the water. From here, you can practically do anything with your arms and legs, and you should get smooth forward movement.

      One point to remember; swimming is incredibly counter-intuitive. Human nature is to want to look where you are going – but this will drop your legs in the water and make it harder to pull and to breathe. Survival instinct is to want to lift your head to take a breath – but the same thing happens. Your brain will tell you to frantically kick your legs to keep you afloat and moving, but a smooth relaxed and slower kick will be far more productive and less energy-sapping. If you can overrule your panic and discomfort reactions, it will make your life in the water far easier.

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

      Posted by Alexandra Parren
    • Neil Stewart Athlete Ambassador

      open water swimming

      Neil is an open water swimmer whose big challenge this year is to swim the English Channel solo. He talks to Sundried about life in the water.

      Have you always been into sport?

      I’ve been a huge sports enthusiast since I was a kid. If there’s competition, I’m on it, if it's live, I’m there.

      What made you decide to enter the world of swimming?

      I swam competitively from the age of 8 with my local swimming club representing the club, county and country over a period of 9 years. My foray into open water swimming and more specifically marathon swimming was about taking on a new challenge.

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

      My favourite organised event has to be the Big Welsh Swim (Lyn Padarn) which is 9km (or 3 lengths of the lake!) Despite cramping up after 7km, the beautiful scenery and camaraderie around the event was amazing, and it was my first!

      In terms of favourite swim locations, it has to be the Lake District. I was part of a relay team that swam Ullswater and Windermere 2-way, non-stop last year. Windermere in the dark is magical!

      And your proudest achievement?

      The most recent would have to be completing the three-person English Channel relay in under 12 hours with two of my best swimming buddies. But my proudest of all time is seeing how my son has been inspired by my swimming and his determination to be the youngest to swim Windermere (he’s 8!)

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

      The Channel relay was pretty horrendous. After my first leg I suffered from awful sea sickness and as a result didn’t eat for the rest of the challenge; I had to curl up and hold on to the boat for comfort! It's funny looking back on it but at the time all I wanted to do was get back in the water.

      How do you overcome setbacks?

      Over the years of my competitive swimming, I’ve developed a resilience and more recently become quite analytical in reflections on an event. I’m a positive person and I find that processing it all helps get it out of the system and identify areas I can be better at. Every lap, whether in a pool, lake or the sea, is a learning curve.

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

      This is a difficult one; you pick up lots on the way such as what to drink before and after an event, how to warm up, and how to cope with the cold. But for open water swimming, it would have to be to take time in the water to look around and take it all in. The water can be a healing place. However when racing, get your head down and go for it!

      What are your goals for 2020?

      I have several B swims this year including a 2-way solo Ullswater swim, a 36km overnight challenge, and a triple 10km sea swim. The big one is in August –The English Channel solo.

      Who do you take your inspiration from?

      My open water swimming inspiration comes from the magazine Swimming Times. When I was 13 I read the edition when Alison Streeter had just completed her 3-way swim of the Channel – I thought, how could I do that? Since then, I have dreamed of completing it. More recently, I have drawn inspiration from the adventures and teachings of Ross Edgeley, the first person to swim around the UK.

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

      I came across Sundried whilst Christmas shopping. I wanted to find a practical, ethical product from a company that promoted the sustainable fashion culture. The more I read the more I wanted to tell people about Sundried. What I like is the look and feel of the garments is fantastic and it's all at affordable prices. I’m looking forward to showing off my new gear in Pilates class next week!

      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
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