High-Level Biomechanics For Weekend Warriors with Ryan Hodierne

The podcast that helps you improve your swimming, love the water and live a better life.


Ryan Hodierne is the Biomechanist for NSWIS (New South Wales Institute of Sport). He has worked with a lot of high-level swimmers including Cate and Bronte Campbell, and we talk about how everyday swimmers can use high-level biomechanics to improve their swimming.

01:06 Thoughts about Sensarii
02:31 Simplifying Data To Make It Useful
05:02 Communicating With Swimmers And Coaches
09:31 Putting Fundamentals In Place First
10:59 “We are a Proof To The Coach If What He Is Doing Is Right or Wrong”
13:16 Providing Expectations To Athletes
17:46 Visual Learning
18:28 Contrast Drills
22:18 Kick Is More Effective If It Is Tied In With A Stroke
23:21 Drills For Connecting The Timing Of The Kick And Stroke
28:05 Timing Goes A Long Way
31:38 Connecting The Purpose Of The Drill To The Swim Stroke
34:20 Consistency
35:21 Leave The Watch In Your Gear Bag

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Brenton Ford: Welcome to episode 138 of The Effortless Swimming podcast. My guest today is Ryan Hodierne, who is the biomechanist for NSWIS, which the New South Wales Institute of Sport. And the title for this episode is High-Level Biomechanics for Weekend Warriors.

Brenton Ford: Ryan you work with a very high level of swimmer. What I want to chat today about is everything that you do with those top-level guys, but how people who are maybe training for a triathlon or swimming, they might be swimming two or three times a week, how can they apply some of the stuff that you work on to their own swimming. First of all, welcome to the podcast and thanks for joining me.

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, great. Cheers. Thanks for having me on.

Brenton Ford: The way that we got introduced was we’re both advisors for a company called Sensari, which are developing a pretty cool power … Not power meter but a device that measures the force and the direction of the force for swimmers, so that’s how we got introduced. We’ve both had the chance to test that stuff out. There’s some pretty cool stuff that’s coming out of that. What were your thoughts on the device and how do you see it being used?

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah. Well, I obviously showed a lot of interest in the device to start off with. I know there are means of obviously extrapolating similar types of information from other devices, but this device just seemed to hit home to me because they had obviously spent a heap of time through the phase of R&D to produce something out the backend that would make a difference to swimming. So just looking at it and the way they’re actually displaying a lot of the information or the output that was coming from there, from pressure sensors on the hand, just made sense to me. Yeah, we show a keen interest in that. Obviously trying to push it more, not necessarily just routine use like a [holocrack 00:01:54] might. But ultimately trying to jazz up the device. That it’s actually going to give us the more worth or more direct output of force during swimming as well.

Brenton Ford: How have you seen your job change over time with the use of technology? Because obviously there’s so much data that we can get these days. How do you simplify it to make it useful and to be able to obviously communicate that as well to the swimmers and the coaches?

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah. Great question. Yeah, that’s something we always grapple with on a daily basis from our end, because there is just so much out there. In our day and age, obviously, we’re at the mercy of all the technology that comes out. Often there is so much. I mean if you could almost relate it back to the types of athletes you have on your device everything sounds great until you download the thing and then you find it’s actually worthless or that there might be potentially a better one out there. But you end up downloading all these things and trying to work it out from there. That’s ultimately what we do with a lot of the stuff that comes out, in particular, to obviously the discipline we’re in, biomechanics, and the different fields of analysis we’ll do there. In this case [inaudible 00:03:06] more pertinent to swimming.

Ryan Hodierne: There are a lot of devices that come out that … Especially equipment, and paddles, fins, kickboards, all that type of thing. They change and people seem to think that they’re going to reinvent swimming. We technically become the gatekeepers of those things and really need to look into it in greater depths to understand actually what that device is … The value that the device is going to potentially add or whether it just is a gimmick and we don’t need to look in that direction at all. That’s ultimately what we’re doing almost on a daily basis.

Ryan Hodierne: We’re also looking for new and great ideas out there. Hence, you look towards Sensari to say, “Okay well that definitely is something we could make better use of down the track once we start understanding the outputs that they are delivering.” We obviously go through a whole process of validation as well to ultimately make sure that whatever those devices are putting out is valid, and accurate, and replicable over periods of time. That’s ultimately what we do, because at our level I mean if things are changing and shifting from one day to the next we lose that trust. That trust relationship with coach and athlete at the highest level is crucial to, obviously, the impact we have as scientists and to the relationship, and overall performance, at the end of the day too.

Brenton Ford: What do you do to … How do you prefer to communicate with the swimmer and the coach? You’re working with them together. Are you using video or is it just through constant communication, like seeing them on a daily basis? How does that typically look for you?

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah. At the highest level generally, my interaction with the program, or with different squads, or athletes and coaches is scheduled in the upfront. So it’s not very ad hoc at all. It’s definitely planned into the schedule. The rest of the service providers in a high-performance team, which would include the physiologist, the nutritionists, strength, conditioning, physiotherapy, all of that type of stuff. All of them are included in a plan right at the beginning of a season. Obviously interaction with us ebbs and flows over a period of time, and from one athlete to the next. They have different interactions with different specialists at different times as well. That’s all guided or lead by the coach I would say. All specifically around that particular athlete.

Ryan Hodierne: Then as time progresses we obviously ensure that we’re progressing in the right direction through a lot of the stuff that we do. If we’re adjusting technique I mean you would know very well in this regard. If you’re adjusting technique quite often you expect regression to start off with. So people potentially get slower or feel a little more awkward in the pool and it just doesn’t feel quite right. But through persistence, we hope to take those two steps forward following that one step back. That’s ultimately what we’re trying to do over a period of time.

Ryan Hodierne: Then if we look at some of the high-performance programs that I’m dealing with, ultimately my interaction is through the coach. He directs, obviously, the service I provide. But when it gets to the nitty-gritty, and right at the cracks, my involvement with the athlete and that connection is very, very close. I ultimately need to understand what they’re trying to do, and how they feel or think about whatever they’re trying to do, and refine that in a way that is going to make them better. This is really looking for marginal gains. That’s where that trust comes in again, as I mentioned earlier on because now we’re talking about things that are very groundbreaking. It’s things that potentially haven’t been seen before and all that type of thing.

Ryan Hodierne: Now if we go back a few steps and consider age group development swimming or your average Joe just trying to get better often you can take quite a blanket approach on things and conform to a certain norm. But at our level, dealing at the highest level, the best is always doing something different. We’re trying to, obviously, make better use of that difference to get more out of them.

Brenton Ford: Is there something that comes to mind when you think of something that’s groundbreaking? Is there something over the last couple of years that you may have thought differently about in the past? You’ve looked at it, and studied it further, and gone, “Oh actually this is how it is”? Or just-

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, probably a few things I could think of but over a period of time my biggest realization, and you find it quite strange … I mean I deal with technology at very different levels. We have state-of-the-art devices that we use measuring outgoing velocity, measuring acceleration in different directions on the swimmer wearing this. Yeah, we just … There is just so much information we can get from athletes and all of that. We obviously use 2D motion capture, where we actually calibrate it to certain space and can actually give you an indication as to kick frequencies, kick amplitudes, and underwater kicks. Different metrics in stroke too. We could look at all of that in massive depths, but at the end of the day it’s how you interpret that information that’s key. I find a really happy space dealing with information and showing the information that I feel is going to make the most impact on athletes, and coaches. That’s probably the space I like dealing in.

Ryan Hodierne: Ultimately, through my years working with swimming, it always comes down to fundamentals. What are they fundamentally doing correctly? That needs to be in place first. I mean obviously the audience … From your view, I think it’s quite easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. The guy in the lane next to you might be doing something which you think might better suit you or it just looks great because he’s swimming five minutes quicker over his initial swim in a triathlon. That you must be doing what he is doing. But ultimately we just need to go back to consider what we’re doing well first. What got us there in the first place. Then ensure that we have all those fundamentals in place. That we can build off of those to obviously get better or more out of what we’re trying to do in the end of the day.

Brenton Ford: Yeah. That’s something that I’ve come to learn over the last 12 years of coaching, is there are so many different ways to do every single stroke. So you want to work with the strengths of each swimmer and work with all of the things that they’ve got. Different heights, different wingspans, just different strengths within their stroke and tailoring it that way. Similar to you though we work with a lot of different swimmers. Just seeing that wide range of styles. Then there’s so much knowledge there … Or so much data, I guess, to interpret. Then to be able to interpret that and give them the advice that you think will be best for that swimmer based on what you’ve seen in the past. Do you find that’s like the art of what you do?

Ryan Hodierne: Oh I know, definitely. Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. That ultimately is what it comes down to. We’re scientists and we think in a very scientific way. We love information, we love very complex graphs and very complex information, but ultimately that makes no sense to the athlete. Right? If you tell him to move his arm or his leg two degrees difference, and it’s going to make that impact, he’s going to look at you with a frown on his face. Well, some swimmers, mind you, probably go to that extent and want that level of detail. But ultimately they’re not wanting you to be that specific. They’re wanting you to give more of an overarching idea as to what they need to do better, and how they could potentially do it, and what the potential outcome’s going to be as well.

Ryan Hodierne: In that, we often deal with heaps of information. Sometimes that information is going to prove to us that what they’re doing is totally incorrect and they need to change drastically or ultimately it proves to us that what they’re doing is incredibly good and we can just refine whatever they’re doing there. That’s how, ultimately, we look at a lot of the information we gather over a period of time. We need to align with the coach and the coach obviously has his certain concepts, and ideas, and philosophies that he sticks to. Down the track, he gets different athletes through his hands. His ways and means of dealing with athletes or successes he’s had in the past are probably always going to tend toward … Having different athletes is going to force that coach to actually think in a slightly different manner. If we produce similar information to that coach, over a period of time, we either prove to him that what he’s doing is probably right or we try and prove to him in a way that obviously what he needs to be doing should be slightly different to get a different outcome of that athlete.

Brenton Ford: Yeah. In terms of getting them to make those changes one of the things that I’ve found has worked well over the past few years, with swimmers, is explaining … Similar to what you mentioned. Explaining this is how it might feel when you make the change. This is what you’ll probably need to expect. It’s that discomfort, it’s that awkwardness and possible regression as well. Explaining those two things has made a big difference, especially compared to just telling them what they need to do, because if they’re not expecting that it’s … If they’re expecting to get faster straight away or if they’re expecting it just to feel fine then they’re not going triathlon you actually make that change. Because they want to steer away from that discomfort. Because they think it’s wrong. Just the communication and framing it upfront, for me at least with the athletes I’ve worked with, I’ve seen that make a big difference. I try to be very clear upfront every time I’m working with a new swimmer that this is what to expect and this is how it may feel.

Brenton Ford: Even at that top level is that something that you’ve had to make very clear with them?

Ryan Hodierne: Yes it is. Often … I mean dealing in fluid environments … I mean the water … The human beings are not necessarily made to be in that space, the duration of time that the top-level athletes spend in the water. Ultimately you regard your elite level swimmer as amphibious but still looking very human. It almost doesn’t make sense to move the human body through a body of water as quickly as possible. It is almost … It doesn’t make sense, but ultimately we do that quite well.

Ryan Hodierne: Charging on … I mean we see world records being broken now. The swimming performance has just lifted in recent years I would say. We do incredibly well as non-water beings moving through the water really fast. But in saying that it’s also a very unnatural environment to be in. Sometimes just doing something slightly different will come up with a very different outcome. That’s often where I try and explore different ranges on a continuum. I’m a big fan of shifting or exploring that continuum from the polar opposites or carrying extremes.

Ryan Hodierne: I was watching the video of you have improved your technique in the past year or something. You were saying that you were looking at just improving the crossover at the front end of your stroke, both left and right. That’s quite a common thing and probably one of the go-tos of fundamental things that you need to not do in freestyle is cross the midline on entry. Watching you do that ultimately my approach would then be to say to you, “Okay well try and reach out as far as you possibly can. Way out of shoulder width. Try and almost touch the side of the pool, and enter there.” I shift you to that next extreme. You might even, just by thinking in the extreme, you would probably go to where it’s more central. As opposed to going out to touch the side of the pool you probably are going to go a little more central, because your extreme, or your average, or your middle ground on the continuum is that skewed to crossing that midline that something that drastic would probably find a better middle ground than the actual extreme. Does that make sense?

Brenton Ford: Yeah, absolutely. That’s something I try and do with swimmers is if they do … Let’s say … Because my crossover there it was a bit of a crossover but much, much less than I’ve seen with a lot of the guys who have come through our clinics. Some really big crossovers. For me to actually get in line with the shoulder it still had to feel really wide. So for someone who’s away across the center, for them, it’s going to have to feel like they’re not even anywhere close to the center. By having it as a “This is the time to experiment. This is the time … If you overcorrect that’s fine. We can always come back into where you were,” but encouraging them to really overdo the thing that they’re trying to do. I love that as a way to help people at least start to make that change or get a sense of where they are.

Ryan Hodierne: Yep, for sure. I mean that the whole level of implicit learning there, and creating awareness for themselves, is where it’s all at in that regard. People feel the water in a very different way. Swimming is a very kinesthetic sport. Obviously you have your visual learners, you have your audio learners. You’ve got various different levels of learning. But I find the visual always brings home what you’re trying to get at. Although it’s awkward and that type of thing, just seeing that the hand is potentially passing in more of a correct line people start readjusting their own awareness of sensory perception in their head as to what is correct. You almost fast track that whole process with a visual, I feel.

Brenton Ford: Yeah, that’s good. I like to try and do basically what you’re talking about, contrast drills. Where you … To get them to develop that awareness is you get them to go extreme in one way and extreme in the other way. Then obviously that middle ground is probably where they want to be. But just yeah that’s a great way for developing that awareness.

Brenton Ford: I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a physio and I was telling him how … He was actually talking about a swimmer who … He’s a long-distance swimmer. Came to him with some shoulder issues. He was just talking to him about, all right why’s his shoulder hurting? There’s a lot of reasons why his shoulder could be hurting. But one of the things that the physio found was this swimmer wasn’t kicking at all and everything was just coming from basically above the … From the shoulders upwards, so there was very little hip rotation. There was no connection through the hips and through the torso. One of the things he got him to do was just to start doing some kicking within his training sessions. Over the course of a couple of weeks, it took a lot of the pain out of the shoulder because everything wasn’t originating from the shoulders. It was much more connected. The thing he mentioned there was if something down the chain is hurting you usually want to look at something closer into where it all starts.

Brenton Ford: I think that’s a … At least for me, when I’m analyzing strokes, that’s an interesting way to approach it and a good way to approach it, because if someones… Maybe someone’s coming under the body it could be that their posture in through their hips and through their core, maybe there’s something going on there that they need to fix in order to fix that thing down the chain.

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, very much so. It is the case. I mean shoulder is probably one of the more prevalent injuries in swimming. Often even at the highest level the athletes and the fatigue all resort to wanting to stroke harder or feeling greater pressure on their hand. But being in a very compromised position, and the fatigue, and that’s generally when the shoulders start getting overloaded and little needles start popping up. Then obviously go into the deep doldrums of injury and are laid up for a while.

Ryan Hodierne: I can often pick inklings of that happening with a lot of freestyle swimmers in particular. I always try and go to the kick as well. The benefit of the kick in absolute improving stroke length. The kick has a compounding factor to increasing stroke length. It’s not necessarily over kicking but consistency in the kick. Then bringing the consistency of the kick to the timing of the stroke is crucial. So whether it’s two beats, or four beats, or a six beat kick it needs to be timed in with the actual stroke to get the outcome or the benefit of the kick itself.

Ryan Hodierne: If we consider the kick in isolation, and we do kick sets just with a kickboard or head down with a snorkel, and you get your top performer in the kick set comes out. Right? We all know who that is. Then we go to a pull set with pull buoy and bands, with paddles. The guys go down. We probably get to know who the best puller is on the squad. But very seldom, in the squads I’ve worked with, that sub-elites, even to elite level, are those two individuals, the best kicker or the guy that won the kick set and the guy that won the stroke set, are they the best swimmer. More often potentially the best stroker is the best swimmer, but very seldom are they the best swimmer. It’s the one that’s more or less average, or just above average in both kick and pull, that generally is the guy that is the best swimmer.

Ryan Hodierne: Ultimately then the kick is only of … Well, the kick is of greater worth tied in with the stroke. If that makes sense. The propulsion we get from the kick is compounded when it’s actually tied into the timing of the actual stroke. What you mentioned there about your physio friend, and the athlete with the shoulder injury, and all that type of thing. Going back down to kick and just understanding the concept of the kick. We see that at the highest level too. A lot of athletes are rendered out for a period of time and they need to get back in the water. We need them in the water as soon as possible because it is just such an unnatural environment. A lot of the coaches just resort to kick. Often with a lot of them, who were average kickers to start off with, become really good kickers. The moment they turn the stroke on all of a sudden you just see them swimming in a totally different way. It just seems … Well, it’s often much better than they were to start off with.

Brenton Ford: Is there certain drills or ways you try and get those swimmers to feel, in order to help them connect up the timing of their kick and the rest of their stroke? Is there a couple of go-tos that you have?

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, there is. There’s actually one that I do regularly. It’s very, very difficult to workout. I even have top level swimmers, guys who have been making finals out of world championships in freestyle, struggle with this one. But I feel if you can master this, at any level, I feel you’re winning or you’re definitely on the right track. This is one you could potentially use yourself or share with the guys out there. But the whole understanding of timing.

Ryan Hodierne: Now we have different rhythms or rates that we swim at. We all have more or less of an idealistic rating that we conform to. So subconsciously if we’re just swimming nicely in the water we generally have a certain rate that we conform to. Let’s consider that rate as your average, your middle ground. Now if we develop a kick, and let’s say we keep the kick a four beat kick, so four beats of the kick within one stroke cycle. From the right-hand entry into the right-hand entry in there are four kicks. Now we keep the four-beat kick going consistently. I like the athletes shifting from a lower rating to what their norm was. From a lower rating through to the first third of the pool and then shifting to their middle ground rating. Then shifting to a slightly higher rating.

Ryan Hodierne: For you, as the coach, or someone on the side of the pool deck looking in you need to see those very definite gear shifts over the three ratings. So kick stays exactly the same but the rating changes over three-thirds of the pool. Then what you do is once you get to the opposite side, say in a 50-meter pool, then you try and aim to keep your stroke rate at that middle ground. Keep your stroke rate at that middle ground and then you start altering your kick around your actual stroke rate. This is where it gets really tough because ultimately if we think about running even, if we’re running on the spot the faster we move our arms the faster we move our legs, right?

Ryan Hodierne: In swimming, it doesn’t necessarily need to work that way. The moment we rate up we have this tendency to kick more and often over kick. That becomes a very reactive inefficient type stroke. Overcoming this one is probably the biggest challenge for most, but generally comes with the best outcome. If we can adjust kick tempo around consistent stroke rate. Again, going through the three gears but the kick changes from a two beat, to a four beat, to a six beat kick. Your rating stays exactly the same.

Brenton Ford: That’s within that last 50 were you saying or you’d go through say three 50s, where the first one would be a two beat, then a four beat, and then a six beat?

Ryan Hodierne: No, so just through the 50. Yeah.

Brenton Ford: Oh got you. Okay.

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, so through the 50 you would go through three segments of the 50. Break it into three segments. Literally to 15 meters. Don’t do any underwater but through 15, through 30, then to 45. Do it through the … Well to the 15 you’d be doing rating at your lower rate, keeping the kick consistent. Then from 15 to 30 you would be at your middle ground rate, keeping the kick consistent. Then from 30 to 45, or to the end of the pool, you’d be a higher rate, keeping your kick consistent. Then rest at the other end of the pool. Push off. Then keeping your … Try and get up, and get your stroke at your normal, at your middle ground to start off with and don’t even kick. Then start bringing a two beat kick through the 15. At 15 to 30 increase the kick beat to like four kicks. Stroke stays exactly the same. Then through the 30 into the wall you’d probably pick the kick up to around a six beat kick but the stroke rate stays exactly the same.

Ryan Hodierne: The person on the side of the pool, if you start switching it up and you start getting good at this, well the coach, or your fellow athlete, or peer should be looking into the pool and saying, “You adjusted stroke on that one and you adjusted kick on that one.” If you get to that and it’s very defined then I think you’ve come a long way.

Brenton Ford: Oh that’s good. I was becoming a lot more aware of this probably a year and a half ago when I started doing … I did some filming with a swimmer up in Queensland, Andrew Spore. He was a 200 freestyler. He used … He was very good with a four beat kick and for … I was looking at that and he spoke a bit about it. Then I started to look a little bit deeper into that and started to play around with it myself. I found over the course of that 18 months I’ve gotten a lot better at being able to shift gears from your two beat, four beat to six beat. Especially for distance swimming I’ve found, or anything 200 meters or more really, but particularly distance swimming being able to control your effort, and output, and be a lot more efficient by choosing a two or a four beat for those longer swims it really gives you a lot of … Well can save a lot of effort and energy but it really helps-

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, for sure.

Brenton Ford: … me control my speed very well, because with the timing of that kick you can just really settle into a good rhythm. That’s what I find can set it like the … A consistent breathing pattern and a good kick is at the basis of a good rhythm there.

Ryan Hodierne: For sure.

Brenton Ford: Yeah. It’s something that I’d never … I hadn’t really ever considered much before. Having swum since I was four years of age and only just figuring it out now, and I’ve been coaching for that long, it’s like well I can see how some of those guys at the very top have made … Been able to do it straight away because it’s just one of those extra things that I don’t think a lot of people get taught early on.

Ryan Hodierne: Oh for sure. Definitely. Timing’s key in all strokes. Just how propulsive means from the kick and the stroke work together is crucial. Ultimately if you talk about efficiency in swimming that timing goes a very, very long way. Often if we come up to another rotation in the freestyle for breathing, over-rotating to the breathing side, often that throws the timing up. As we fatigue we breath for longer. Then all of a sudden we’ve just become so inefficient because we’re rotating so much more to the one side and through our core are unable to keep our hips up, hips start dropping. Then all of a sudden we start working against ourselves and the timing just goes out of whack.

Ryan Hodierne: Even at the highest level often if you see guys and maybe the 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle, you’d see that one guy he’d be going up quite strong. He might be leading the race, let’s say. Then if he senses through the middle portion of the race or to the backend of the race that people are starting to come up on him, and he can feel that he is losing ground, and then he reacts. Once they react they often lose the timing of their stroke. All of a sudden you just see them go straight out the back. That’s what we try and prevent athletes from doing. Especially if you are that athlete that is a little bit stronger out the front end of your race. Then the guys are probably going to be coming back at you towards the end, but even sensing that you just need to maintain relative efficiency within your stroke. Good length, good pressure on the water and all that type of thing. It all comes down to that rhythm and flow, and that connectiveness of your stroke.

Brenton Ford: Yeah.

Ryan Hodierne: That makes a difference. Yeah.

Brenton Ford: That’s a big one. What I’ve started to teach at clinics is we’ll … We go through drills and then we do some swimming in between, because we want to connect the purpose of the drill to the swim stroke. One of the things that I’ve found helpful with that is getting them to think about what you’re trying to achieve in the drill. Be in your thinking brain, that’s where you want to be. But when you come to swimming, to the swim portion of that, try and go a bit more by feel because as soon as you’re overthinking it when you’re swimming you’re going to lose that timing by .05 of a second or .1 of a second. As soon as you lose it even by that much … Completely yeah. It disconnects. That’s when you really want to go for that more sort of feeling brain. That’s when the timing comes in, and that rhythm, and connection. It doesn’t take much to lose it.

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, for sure. I mean a great way to try and go around that … I like the way you talk about your feeling brain you kind of speak …

Ryan Hodierne: If we consider a particular drill, and we isolate that drill to one particular thing that we’re trying to improve for athlete, then it could be quite contrasting or quite far removed from the stroke itself. But we need to think about what that drill’s trying to achieve. That’s where we’re very much in that thinking space, in your example. We need to do it the right way and appropriately to the intention.

Ryan Hodierne: … with drills are just done to get that 400 drill out of the way. Drill and swim type of thing in a warmup. To me drills are probably the most important part of the actual warmup because that’s what sets us up. If you think of priming your stove when we’re camping. We don’t really do that these days, but priming your stove in camping you’re ultimately getting that stove ready to burn. That’s how I feel drills serve that purpose. Drills could change from one day to the next with a group of athletes, but ultimately they are there to prime us to get the job done when the main set hits. The way we’ve looked through drills there then could be very isolated and very left of center, but we need to understand what they’re trying to achieve. We’re in that thinking space.

Ryan Hodierne: Then progressively move that drill into what makes better sense and how it could potentially tie into swimming. Then we get into levels where it actually starts tying into swimming. Then all of a sudden it’s in our stroke. Then we start feeling it within our stroke. That’s how we generally float around progressive means within a skill acquisition type space.

Brenton Ford: It’s good to hear you say that because that’s what I’ve tried to do and do that with the swimmers that come to our clinics. Is that when they leave the way we like them to incorporate it into their training is as part of their warmup every session, if they can. Otherwise just as often as they can. Do some drills that are specific to those things that you want to work on. Do them in the warmup, get a feel for those things that you want to change in your stroke. Then just go about your main set and your session. Obviously keep that in the back of your mind, but you set up the feel for it with the drills. Doing that regularly and consistently is how you’ll change that habit, and acquire that skill. It’s not about doing one session focused on technique once every two or three weeks, because it’s not going to change anything there. It’s about that consistency.

Ryan Hodierne: For sure. In this environment as I say as an unnatural environment as it is in the water we need to do it consistently in order for it to get the carryover, for sure.

Brenton Ford: Before we … I know you’ve got to go soon. Is there anything that you feel we haven’t talked about that could be helpful for some? Say a triathlete or an open water swimmer out there who might be stuck in a bit of a plateau and they just want to get faster, or they’re frustrated with their swimming. Is there some advice that you have for someone out there who wants to get better but they feel a little bit stuck?

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, for sure. I mean I come from a bit of a triathlon background myself. Was part of age group swimmer at school and all of that. I got into triathlon as well and was relatively competitive. Well, mostly off-road triathlon. Yeah, I’ve been in that position before and being stuck in a rut, especially on the swimming front. Ultimately with triathletes I feel the struggle … The biggest struggle with triathletes is while you’re doing one thing you’re thinking about the other two disciplines. That was always my issue. Is I always liked dealing with a lot of information, so I never really got to grips with one particular thing or where … When I was doing swimming I was thinking about the bike and the run, but I wasn’t really thinking about swimming. We really need to, I mean in the triathlon space, get our heads around actually dealing with the sport that we’re currently doing. Really getting our teeth into it while we’re doing it.

Ryan Hodierne: That, to me, would probably be some advice I would give to triathletes. Just having been in that space before, because that’s something I feel I could have done better for sure.

Ryan Hodierne: Then yeah, open water swimmers, just generally as where it’s at with them. And heaps and heaps of laps up and down the pool or laps around open water, whatever it is. What I say here could probably speak to anyone but just trying to think of your stroke in a slightly different way, or breaking your stroke, or breaking your … I’m going to say your set. Break it into proportions or bite-sized portions and having a different focus on each of those.

Ryan Hodierne: If we think about a 1500 meter in a Olympic event, those athletes, the way they think about it is some of them actually think about it in 500 meter portions. Others think about it in 300 meter portions. But ultimately when we do analysis on those races I can see a characteristic trait for each swimmer as to what they’re trying to focus on. Sometimes it might be every second turn. Sometimes it might be every third 50 that they’re focused on something different. The rate might change every third 50. Their turn might be improved every second turn or they might be trying to even split the third and the fourth 200, something like that. It’s just there always seems to be a strategy around that.

Ryan Hodierne: With open water in particular they like getting out there, and getting into a rhythm, and getting a flow as well. But ultimately to start thinking around not necessarily pacing strategy but just different … A thinking strategy or queuing strategy, let me probably phrase it in that way. That if we go out there we want to feel good, easy, efficient flow in the way we’re doing it. Obviously we’re not fatigued to start off with, so we can find that easy connectiveness and that flow. Not try and overdo it out front.

Ryan Hodierne: Then the moment fatigue starts setting in it might onset slightly early with some, it might onset slightly later with others. Then we just need to have a queuing mechanism as to what that might be. Often in open water that might relate to the breathing pattern. How we’re breathing. Is the timing of our breath impeding elements of our stroke? Often it does. If I could wish anything upon any swimmer in this world it would be that we didn’t have to breath, because breathing throws a spanner in the works with regards to swimming, often. Even at my level I’ve only see very, very few athletes breath properly in a freestyle space. That queue could be potentially around timing of the breath and what that looks like.

Ryan Hodierne: Then moving on from there it might be timing of the kick in relation to the stroke. I’ve challenged all athletes, doing longer distances, to try and find out what that particular point is that they know whether the timing’s on or not. Whether it’s entry of the right hand stroke and the kick down on the left leg. There needs to be a critical point that you feel if you nail that you feel your timing’s on. That might be something you could think about, that little portion, to back end of your race.

Ryan Hodierne: Then really towards the back end of a race, whether it’s a 10K, a 5K, or 3K, or a 1500, to not feel like you need to shift it up a gear and all of a sudden swim a very different type of stroke. That gear adjustment could be quite progressive. You need to maintain relative efficiency in doing that. Often I feel if they try and shift gears they react, and that’s where we start to get in that disconnectedness that we spoke about a little earlier.

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, does that make sense or-

Brenton Ford: Yeah. I think that’s great. Especially I mean the first thing is being present when you are in the water. Especially, again, try and focus on the thing that you’re doing. It’s very easy to get distracted and think about what you’ve got coming up or just wanting to get through the session. Particularly with … I’ve spoken about this before but particularly with swim watches, where people are always on them, starting, stopping. It’s a massive distraction from your technique.

Brenton Ford: I think so many people could improve so much faster if they just left the watch in their swimming bag and didn’t use it while they were swimming, because you are going to get a lot more benefit from actually being present, and feeling the water, and feeling what your stroke is doing, and feeling how much effort you’re putting in for the pace that you’re getting. Get that time just from the 60-second clock. You’ll get so much more out of that then buy uploading it to Strava and seeing that over the course of a year your pace has improved that way. But nah I think leave that in your gear bag. It doesn’t help you most of the time.

Ryan Hodierne: Yep, I couldn’t agree more. When I was running my fastest I used to leave my heart rate monitor at home. That’s when I’d usually run my fastest.

Brenton Ford: Yeah. That’s right because you’re just too worried about, “Ah geez my heart rate’s up this high.” It’s-

Ryan Hodierne: Yeah, exactly. You start regulating yourself around that or if it’s not looking good you almost start subduing yourself, or try and outdo yourself. [inaudible 00:42:02] they’re there for good reason I would say. A lot of these smart devices nowadays give us so much information it’s awesome, but yeah we get too caught up in it. Triathletes, and a space that I’ve been in for quite a period of time, we get too caught up in that space. The more gimmicks the better. Ultimately then it’s just they become a huge impedance to our overall performance in the end of the day. Yep.

Brenton Ford: Yeah, couldn’t agree more.

Brenton Ford: Well Ryan thank you so much for being on the podcast. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you. I’m sure that those people listening have got a lot out of it as well. Thank you very much. For anyone who maybe wants to get in touch with you what’s the best way?

Ryan Hodierne: Generally I’m a phone call, no problem. Otherwise on email. That’s probably the easiest I would say. I’m always open for sharing my ideas and all that type of thing. Ultimately to me regardless of what level of athlete you are I’d always love people super exceeding their own expectations. That’s ultimately what I’m here for. At the highest level it’s really tricky. We look for marginal gains. It’s not one-percenters it’s 0.01 percenters that we’re generally looking for. We celebrate those. But at a lower level there definitely are different ways of thinking about things that could create an outcome. That’s …

Ryan Hodierne: Obviously appreciate the work you do as well. Just seeing some of the [Tire Drops 00:43:31] guys have had in their triathlon and open water swims, the work you’re doing clearly is having an impact. But I’m all in in that regards, so people are wanting to come to me with questions, thoughts or ideas I welcome them all. Yeah, phone call or email is probably the best way.

Brenton Ford: If you enjoyed today’s podcast and you’re interested in improving your own technique we have a number of camps coming up in 2020 that if you are an adult, you swim in any capacity, whether it’s for fitness, whether you’re doing pool swimming, competitive swimming, or triathlon, or open water swimming, we have a number of camps coming up in Thailand, Hawaii, and Noosa, which is in Queensland, Australia. If you go to our website at effortlessswimming.com you’ll see the details of each of those camps.

Brenton Ford: What we do at those camps is each day … Well at the very start of the camps we do underwater filming and analysis with you. We look at the two to three aspects of your stroke that are worth working on and improving. Those things that will give you the biggest benefit over the course of three to six months. Then throughout the camp, every single day, we work with you very closely, one-on-one, where we help you improve your technique and make those changes over the course of the camp. Then you leave the camp not only having had a great time, had a lot of fun, but you will have improved your technique. Your times will more than likely have come down over the course of the five or seven days. You’ll have an action plan. You’ll know exactly what you need to do and you’ll have started that process to find yourself swimming faster three to six months down the track.

Brenton Ford: If that sounds like something you would enjoy, having a swimming holiday and a swimming camp in Hawaii, Thailand or Noosa, then check out the website at effortlessswimming.com. I run all of those camps. We also have two to three other coaches on each of the camps as well. It’s not just me that you work with but a number of other coaches. Other coaches we have onboard are ones like Gary Hurring, who’s a former Olympic swimmer and Olympic coach from New Zealand. Professional triathlete Mitchell Kibby. We have Phil Rush, who has the fastest two- and three-way crossing of the English Channel. We have Amy Jones, who you’ve probably heard on this podcast a number of times. There’s a wide range of other coaches who do attend the clinics, and coach with me, and who you’ll be working with on those camps. So hope to see you at one of them in 2020. Most of them are at least half full and some of them are already sold out. Just make sure you do book that early if you are interested.

Brenton Ford: Thanks very much for listening. I hope you enjoyed it. I will see you on another episode of The Effortless Swimming podcast.

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Amazing swimming and fitness podcast

Love, love, love listening to Brenton and his guests. Always learning something new to add to my swim sets with drills or training sets. Also very motivational guests with great tips to add to your fitness routine. I love the stories of the longer distant swims and what’s involved. I’m always smiling after listening to these podcasts!! Thank you so much !!!!



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Brenton and Mitch were great to work with at the clinic, Good to get video analysis to work on straight away, practice some new drills and go home knowing what you need to work on.

Alex McFadyen