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Fresh Freestyle https://freshfreestyle.com Fresh Practices for Triathletes & Swimmers Sun, 02 Dec 2018 02:32:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.3 Swimming Through Change https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/12/02/swimming-through-change/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/12/02/swimming-through-change/#comments Sun, 02 Dec 2018 01:52:13 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=777 What do you love about swimming?

For me, I’ve just always loved being in the water and playing games with my friends. Starting from when I was 7 or 8 years old, I walked to our neighborhood pool, met my friends, and we played cards during adult swim, and sharks & minnows when there were enough of us there, and I swam on the swim team until I was 15 years old.  The swimming pool was the fabric of my summer existence.

During & after high school, other priorities came up, other sports, other interests, academics and eventually a job.  My first job out of college was with Voyageur Outward Bound School where we took groups of teenagers on backcountry wilderness canoe trips.  We taught them life skills and expedition skills. But my favorite days were teaching the kids whitewater kayaking skills. It seemed that again, water became the fabric of my existence.  It’s a miracle I never developed trench foot during a 3 week expedition in which it rained every day but one.

Dusting Off the Clubs

By the time I was 26 I longed for work that was more meaningful and impactful and in a roundabout way I decided to try to get into medical school.   The day I took my MCATs (Medical College Admission Test), I thought to myself, “If I’m going to become a doctor, I need to learn how to golf.”   So I dug around in the garage, found some dusty old clubs that my parents had owned and enjoyed when they were 20 years younger, and took myself and a few balls up to the ballfield that I had played in as a kid…the same ballfield that was on the way to the pool from my youth.

Let’s just say that it didn’t go well. I decided I would be a non-golfing doctor.

Diving Back in…

Fast forward five years, I had matched into residency, and somehow made the bizarre decision that training for a triathlon, rather than pure running for exercise, would give me more free time.  What was I thinking??  I started riding my bicycle to the rec center and took up swimming again after about 10 years away from the water sports I’d loved during my childhood and those first years after college.

It was…just as I had remembered it.  Smooth. Silent. Silky. Weightless. Magical. Mystical. Mysterious. Consistent. It was an activity where I could both disappear from the demands of Emergency Medicine training, and immerse myself into something familiar and comforting.  “You have a nice stroke,” was something I heard often.

Let’s fast forward again.   Since then…Back Surgery. Total Immersion. Pain free Swimming. Triathlon Coach. Youtube Host, interviewing legends like Mark Allen, Terry Laughlin, Gwen Jorgensen, Leanda Cave. Did I mention Mark Allen? Kirsten Sass. Volker Winkler.  (Look them all up)

My pursuit of triathlon became it’s own career path, and throughout it all the water was my place that was both familiar and challenging. Endless improvement and ingrained patterns from my youth. New friendships and YouTube “fame” had people introducing themselves to me at the World Championships…”You’re Suzanne Atkinson, I love your podcasts and interviews.”

Holding Things Together

The water was the glue. It always brought things back together. Even things that had fallen apart, like my body from a bucket tear disc injury, back surgery, car accident, physical therapy, ankle arthritis (those soccer moves!), and most recently being a temporary caregiver for my partner who had a cardiac arrest (he’s fine now, 1 in 10,000 survivor of 3 cardiac arrests…now we train together), and navigating my mothers progression with dementia, aricept overdoses, and the relentless march of time.  I submerged myself in the water and the water made me whole again.

At 50, I suddenly feel fit and fresh. I’m not in the same physical shape or the same weight I was at 47, or even 48…but 50 feels different. It feels fresh.  It feels ready. It feels forward. I’m optimistic.   The water is still there as it has been the past 45 years of my life.

What do I love about swimming? Everything.


What do YOU love about swimming? Post in the comments…

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Better breathing from the beginning… https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/08/17/better-breathing-from-the-beginning/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/08/17/better-breathing-from-the-beginning/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2018 21:06:37 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=603 Have you ever felt that slight discomfort in breathing during the warm up of your workouts? Think about how that feels in your run or bike warm up? And now how does it compare to your swim warm up? Just the change from a land to water environment can make your initial breathing feel more uncomfortable than you would like.

We had one swimmer describe it as a feeling of ‘impending doom’ lurking over her as she gets in the water and begins swimming. So we delved into what was happening physiologically during this time, and were able to connect her emotional response to the uncomfortable signals from her body, and develop strategies to ease into the workout with better breathing.

Humans are a finely tuned and balanced organization of complex systems. Broadly speaking and in relevance to this discussion, the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, endocrine system, musculoskeletal system and energy systems are all working together to maintain harmony. This harmony is particularly disrupted when you begin exercise, going from inactivity to activity, creating demands on the body and on the organization of these systems. These complex systems function to meet the demands of the increased workload of exercise which, broadly speaking, is the delivery of nutrients and oxygen, and the removal of waste and heat.

One waste product, carbon dioxide (CO2),  can create some unpleasant sensations during the first minutes of exercise.  During this time, a huge increase in demands on the body is occurring and matched by an increase in CO2 production.  CO2 is harmful to the human body and the body works hard to transport it to the lungs where it is exhaled and exchanged for oxygen.

It is fascinating to look at how the body knows CO2 is on the rise. When CO2 rises, the pH of the blood changes. It becomes more acidic. There are special receptors located in the brain and heart that are sensitive to pH. When these receptors sense a deviation from normal balance and harmonious conditions, the lungs are stimulated to increase breathing rate and volume, with the end goal to remove the CO2.

This is a wonderful system. On land. Where you can easily allow the increased rate and depth of breathing to occur.

How about when you are swimming freestyle? The moment to inhale oxygen is brief and delicately timed.  Finding a harmonious exchange of CO2 for O2 can be challenging for many, even once the body has adjusted to the increased workload. The first few minutes create extra challenges with the steep rise of CO2 and lack of freedom to breathe in when you would like.

This sensation of not being able to regulate the amounts of CO2 and O2 can lead to panic, fear, anxiety and in this case ‘impending doom’.

Here are some strategies to help the body adjust to the initial CO2 rise that occurs during the first few minutes of swimming:

  • warm up on land to get the gas exchange happening in an environment where you can breathe in and out as you like – light jog, elliptical, dynamic stretching, stationary bike
  • make your warm up swim pace easy and comfortable, ease into your practice
  • keep exhalation soft and gentle through mouth and nose, sense if you are holding breath, release it
  • breathe more often during the warm up – perhaps every 2nd stroke to your favorite side
  • use a swim snorkel during warm up until you are confident to try without
  • learn about your reaction to unpleasant sensations, acknowledge and accept, try not to react

If you need a plan for better breathing in the beginning of your workout, try these and let us know how you get on!

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Breathing in Swimming – Instinct, Reflex or Choice? https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/08/01/breathing-in-swimming-instinct-reflex-or-choice/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/08/01/breathing-in-swimming-instinct-reflex-or-choice/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2018 18:43:33 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=583

When I am totally race fit, I don’t worry about breathing or technique – they take care of themselves. -Frank Shorter


Breathing isn’t optional, but it IS a choice.

It is one of those body functions that your brain maintains whether you’re aware of it or not…like your heartbeat.   However there are many circumstances in which you can choose to breath in a different pattern…faster, shallower or just differently.

Imagine how hard it would be to sing or even have a conversation if we had no willful control of when we breathe in and when we exhale? When speaking or singing, we’re able to use breath control to create phrases, delaying an inhalation until the end of a musical phrase or sentence in speech. Yet, as soon as we’re done with that activity, the brain immediately takes over again and continues respiration, in and out, indefinitely as long as we’re alive.

It’s one part autonomous, one part reflex and one part choice.   When we swim we get to choose how and when we breath…and also why.  My goal with swimming is to make my breathing seem so seamless that I get a sensation I’m breathing under the water.  My breathing no longer becomes a conscious choice, nor an instinct of survival, but an automatic part of my stroke matched with my effort at that time.

Rocky Mountain Swimming High

I recall the first time I experienced this sensation and it was a direct result of TWO things combined that might have otherwise derailed me for that summer.   The first was dislocating my thumb on my first day of work in Colorado.  The second was the fact that I was working and living at 7500 feet of altitude…thin air for sure!

With the thumb injury, I was unable to ride a bike or go fly fishing for several weeks while my hand was splinted.   The occupational therapist I saw made me a waterproof splint I could wear for working and swimming, so off to the pool I went for my daily exercise.  Two new problems cropped up once I was int he pool.   However I was so in love with swimming that I couldn’t imagine these stopping me. Instead i found a way to make these into assets for improving my breathing.

The first problem was the altitude.  At 7500 feet, most folks who do not live there and are acclimated will experience an increased breathing rate both at rest and while exercising.  That’s no consequence when you’re riding a bike or fly fishing. It happens and you don’t have to think about it.  However in the pool, where I chose to get my main exercise those first few weeks of injury, having to breath more often was almost enough to make me question if I should even bother.

My breathing wasn’t bad by any measure, but it wasn’t ideal, and I didn’t realize how many flows there were until I was forced to breath every stroke even when swimming easily.    Essentially I had created an environment not dissimilar to a beginner in which they feel the need to breath every stroke not because of a lack of oxygen, but because they are swimming inefficiently and using up a lot of oxygen…basically the same situation I was in.

While i hadn’t noticed any major flaws in my breathing before arriving at altitude, once I was there, the errors were many!


Breathing Skills Practice – Intermediate to Advanced Skill Level

Here are some of the skills I practiced during those weeks of recovering from my hand injury and adjusting to the altitude.  There was no other time in my swimming career where my breathing improved so much, because I was forced to work on it under those circumstances.

Breathing Skills Practice: (total ~ 2000 – 3200) 

Dry land:

Practice tall posture, pulling up through the crown of the head, draw chin back just a bit since most of us tend to slouch a little bit.  Check your posture from the side with a selfie, in the mirror or with your back against the wall.

Look for these checkpoints:

  • Are your ears over your shoulders? (if not where are they?)
  • Are your eyes looking directly forward? (if not where are they looking?)
  • Can you inhale fully drawing air downward through your diaphragm?
  • Are your glutes engaged with your hips over your heels?
  • Bonus points:  Can you stand on your tip toes without losing balance and posture?
  • Finally… are you relaxed and comfortable?

If you can’t answer yes to each of these questions, don’t worry, nothing is wrong, you’ve just highlighted some elements of your posture, flexibility and build that may need to be addressed through some daily exercises (or physical therapy).  But now that you’ve practiced that in the locker room head to the pool

Tune up: (150) 

  • 4 x 5 yards – head lead tall posture, gentle kick. I call this “toy soldier” because it reminds me of a wooden nutcracker toy, tall and toned.
  • 4 x 10 yds – start with arms extended, tall posture, gentle kick for a 5-10 seconds then add a few strokes
  • 4 x 25 yds – Start as above with soldier drill, arms extended, then swim to the end, gently focusing on posture

4 x 50  “Catch & Push” Drill, alternating right arm and left arm focus.  (200)

  • 1st 25 down:   With each push extend the lead arm and let your chin rotate towards the air along with your hips and shoulder on that same side.  When you need to breath, take a full stroke with each arm and breath to the same side.
  • 2nd 25 back:   Swim full stroke freestyle breathing to the same side as the first 25. Try to stay relaxed in the recovery arm while extending the lead arm as you breathe.

4 x 150 (600)

  • Within each 150, swim as follows:
    1st 50 breath every 4 to the right on the way down, and every 4 on the left on the way back. Easy effort
    2nd 50 breath every 3rd stroke for the entire 50.  note that you can increase your speed a little since you’re exchanging air more often
    3rd 50 breath every 2nd stroke to the right on the way down and to the left on the way back.  You can increase your effort even more since you’re exchanging air every time you stroke.

2-4 Rounds of (200 + 2 x 100 + 4 x 50) (1200-2400)

  • 200s Swim very easy breathing every 4 strokes to the same side. Alternate right and left every length.  Compare your posture in breathing strokes with your posture in non breathing strokes. Do you still feel tall and aligned like in the dry land activity?
  • 100s Swim moderately breathing every 3rd stroke (alternating breathing sides regularly).  Note that with a slight speed increase your body must rotate around a skewer in order to maintain access to air on each side.
  • 50s Swim faster, breathing every 2nd stroke, switching for the 2nd half.  Again note that your posture remains tall and with even more speed, you’ll have a better pocket to breath into making it seem as if you’re almost breathing under the surface of the water.
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Independence Day https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/07/04/independence-day/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/07/04/independence-day/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 20:09:52 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=557 On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed confirming the formation of the United States of America.

We celebrate by swimming and sharing with you our practice. 

The practice consists of 3 rounds. Each round is made of 4 x (1×100, 1×50) followed by 4×25, 4×50, 4×25.  Give yourself just enough rest to return to conversational breathing before moving forward.

Round 1 is an opportunity to build skill. Coach Suzanne chooses to look for the horizon from her exposed goggle during the breath. Coach Dinah chooses to feel consistency in hip position (depth and length) during right and left rotation.

Round 2 is an opportunity to build speed. Coach Suzanne uses the gradual build in speed to examine how just a little increase in speed makes finding the horizon easier. Coach Dinah uses a build in speed to find fastest 100 pace while maintaining hip alignment.

Round 3 is an opportunity to sustain speed. Coach Suzanne finds her sustainable speed and feels the ease of breathing and the brief look at the horizon. Coach Dinah finds that 100 pace and manages hip alignment as the set progresses.

We wish you happy swimming and independence!


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Earn and Learn in October https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/06/25/earn-and-learn-in-october/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2018/06/25/earn-and-learn-in-october/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 19:58:13 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=549 We are excited to announce details for our Fresh Freestyle Interseason Training Camp in Clermont Florida, October 6-7.

In this two day camp, coaches and athletes will have the opportunity to learn the Fresh Freestyle TripleQ™ system to improve swimming and performance for the upcoming season. Fresh Freestyle delivers quality swim education by integrating Technical Intelligence™, Physical Intelligence™ and Emotional Intelligence™.

For each of these three facets you will learn practical methods to assess current skills as well as how to plan a pathway forward. This camp will have a particular emphasis on improving neuromuscular awareness, connection and evaluation – Technical Intelligence™, and its application to interseason training.

Check out the camp page here for details and schedule:

Fresh Freestyle Interseason Training Camp – Clermont Florida, October 2018

We are also excited to announce that this camp is a USAT approved continuing education course. Certified coaches can claim 10 CEUs – come learn and earn with us!

Hope to see y’all soon!


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Swim Workouts that Give and Receive https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/12/22/swim-workouts-that-give-and-receive/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/12/22/swim-workouts-that-give-and-receive/#respond Fri, 22 Dec 2017 18:29:03 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=381 The frosty mornings are here on the northern hemisphere, and who doesn’t cringe just a little at the thought of diving into a cold pool first thing in the morning to get your day started? Well I do…which is why I prefer to swim mid day when possible. My ideal swim time is after breakfast has had a chance to digest a little, or possibly swimming on an empty stomach around 9 or 10 in the AM.

Regardless of what time you get your swimming practice in here are three practices written by Fresh Freestyle coaches Celeste, Dinah & Suzanne.  They are all holiday themed…giving & receiving, or decorating your swim stroke.  Huh?

Try them out, and comment with any questions, or how well you enjoyed the practice. What did you learn from it?

Note that that these are short sets and can be incorporated into any swim practice you have on your docket

From Coach Celeste:

It is tradition in this culture at this time of year to practice giving and receiving. Did you know you can
apply this give and receive ritual to the water as well! No money needed!

It is counter intuitive but give into the water through Surrender and the water gives support back. By
letting go, you can then allow yourself to feel the support of the water. This means, getting your body
balanced and streamlined shape. This practice is to experience just that, give by letting go to receive support.

The key is to spend time getting into your superman first to feel your float, surrender the weight of your
body to the water, let go, settle into the support of the water. Like a boat finding it’s ballast in the
water. Once you have found your float in superman, change your shape by slightly shifting your weight
to one side in lead-arm position, yet maintain your “floaty” feeling.

Give and Receive (1000 y/m +/-) 

2-5 x 50 with 10 seconds rest by taking relaxing breathes to feel your muscles soften, loosen, letting go
of any unnecessary tension (shoulders, hands, neck, belly, groin muscles). Check in if you are gripping
anywhere in the body, note it then soften.

3- 5 x 50 start each length with superman float and a gentle kick taking this moment to feel your body
weight settle into the water-get heavy. As you feel the surrender, notice if you feel the “push back” or
support of the body. Feel your float as you shift to lead-arm then into swimming-the focus is to feel the
sensation of surrender and support as you go. Rest between 50’s with relaxing breathes.

2-5 x 100  as above to practice keeping your sense of surrender and support by starting each length with
a superman. Of course, you must maintain a little bit of muscle to move, be straight and aligned. This is
the practice, how much surrendering the body weight, the tension, can there be but still move? Yet, not
let tension creep in. Do you still feel “floaty”, supported? Rest between 100’s with relaxing breathes.


From Coach Dinah:   Give and you shall receive practice

The water loves to receive….just the right amount of gift though! Too much and we will find it feels greedy….too
little and the water feels undervalued.

Enjoy this practice that explores giving just enough!

Warm Up
200 freestyle – as you begin swimming, feel the body’s need to rid carbon dioxide. Stay relaxed and gently exhale
just enough to satisfy the body’s need to remove waste and just enough that you can inhale back the cleared
volume. Too much and you will be gasping, too little and you will be holding back carbon dioxide.

Tune Up
Use this set to dial in some focal points that require just enough execution. Use just enough rest to regroup and be
ready for the next interval.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough length through the spine to find a tall posture that allows neck muscles to
relax, and head to fall into alignment with the spine. Too much and the spine may arc, too little and the core will
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough extension through the lats and armpit of the low side edge of the body to
create a hydrodynamic shape. Too much push and the shoulder may drop and the arm tense, too little and you
may not be as sleek.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough tempo in the recovery arm – keep the arm moving at a briskness that allows it
to stay relaxed. Too much and you may pull the shoulder out of a stable position, too little and you may sink.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough twist from the core to slide from long edge to long edge. Too much and you
may over rotate, too little and the body may move slowly from edge to edge.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough press back on the water during the pull phase, aim to match momentum from
the high side edge of the body moving forward. Too much, and you may create unstable water, too little and you
will just be floating by.

Your choice:
1. 5×200 with 30 seconds rest.
2. 10×100 with 20 seconds rest.
3. 8×25, 6×50, 4×75, 2×100 with 10-20 seconds rest.
Choose one focal point, and aim to give just enough. Test the focal point as the interval repeats by giving just
enough plus a little bit more. Time your repeats. You will see if adding more is producing a balance of giving effort
for receiving speed gains. Is just enough, enough?

Cool Down
200 easy swim – what was your favorite just enough area to explore?

From Coach Suzanne: Choose the best tree for your home and Decorate it! 

Did you ever have the opportunity as a child (or adult) to choose your own tree from a farm, cut it down and haul it back home…only  to discover it was too tall or too short?  I recall setting up a beautiful spruce in our living room when I was 9, 10, 11, 12…(it was a yearly ritual), only to have my father curse, take the tree out of the (&@#%) tree stand, Lay it down one the coffee table and slice off a 1/2″ segment with a orange handled hand saw.   Some years this ritual repeated itself half a dozen times before the cursing stopped.  Only when the tree was just the right height and standing up straight, did we string the lights–starting at the top– and then finally begin to decorate the tree.

This practice is inspired by that yearly ritual in three parts

  • A) Choose the right tree for the house
  • B) String the lights evenly form top to bottom
  • C) Decorate and hang the ornaments.

Warmup: 500 – Choose the right tree
The tree you bring into your home needs to be just the right height. Not too tall and not to short.  When you swim too tall, you risk stressing your shoulder, neck or lower back.  Strive to have your posture “just right” so you’re tall from crown of head through heels, and your arm extends forward, but only enough to keep the line of posture and not force you to arch too tall when you extend

4 x 25 sequential focal points. Repeat three times total for 300 y/m total

  • Point the crown of your head in the direction you’re swimming (Laser beam)
  • lengthen your spine by imagining a rope pulling you forward from the crown of your head.
  • Gently squeeze your glutes as you extend the arm, feeling how good posture crosses the waist into the lower limbs as well
  • Point your toes as you feel a long line form crown of head through your feet.

200 continues freestyle, rotating through any focal points above that felt most helpful

Set 1:  String the Lights 1000
We String the lights starting at the top and try to space them evenly.   IN this set you’ll do a body scan from head to toe as you did in the posture focused warmup.   Look for symmetry between right and left sides as you do so.

5 x 50 sequential focal points. Repeat for a total of 500 yds

  • Head Stable – head doesn’t wobble side to side as you rotate the body with each stroke
  • Arms extend on tracks – send arm forward as the body rotates, not across the body. Slide the arm out a little bit away from the center if you sense any crossing in front. Make each side even
  • Shoulder Blade (not full shoulder) clears the water with each rotation.  How far do you rotate? See if you can rotate “just enough”, so that the shoulder blade and back of shoulder clear the water, but the entire shoulder doesn’t come to air.
  • Hips align with shoulders. The hips should rotate as a unit with the shoulders. Pay attention that when the right shoulder blade clears the water and comes to the surface, the right hip should come to the surface as well.
  • Legs quietly respond – Try to quite the legs instead of kicking the legs. Allow them to respond to the symmetrical rotation and stability created with the focal points above.

500 Freestyle Swim – Rotate or pick and choose from any of the preceeding “top down” focal points as you string the lights on your tree.  Occasionally check in to make sure that the height of your tree is still the right size for your room. In other words check in on your posture once every hundred or so.


Set 2:  “Decorate the tree”

In swimming we can think of decorations as all the fine points that happen in the periphery of your stroke.  Fingertips, toes, elbows, knees, nose, chin etc.   These small body parts are of course attached to the bigger parts and usually follow where the core, shoulders and hips go. But directing awareness and attention to them can heighten your ability to improve quickly and make a smoother, more efficent and faster stroke.

4 x 75 rotate focus by 25

  • Chin – is your chin jutted forward, pulled back, teeth clenched or face puckered?  Focus on a soft chin gently drawn back to help align your cervical spine wiht good posture
  • Elbow – allow your elbows to swing toward the sides of the pool building during your recovery rather than up towards the ceiling or behind your back.  Pair this with the torso rotation focal point to really stabilize your side to side rotation with each stroke
  • Knee – Focus on the back fold of the knee and try to keep it open and pressing gently toward the ceiling when you bring your leg up prior to your kick. This helps lengthen the legs by helping remove excess knee bend. Soften the knee during the down beat of the kci, then press the back of the knee toward the ceiling again.

300 Freestyle Swim – Rotate through each of these three “decorations” as you swim a continuous 300.






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Race Report: XTerra World Championship https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/12/06/race-report-xterra-world-championship/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/12/06/race-report-xterra-world-championship/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2017 16:59:17 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=376

The Xterra World Championship off-road triathlon was held in Kapalua, Maui on October 29, 2017 and I was there to compete for my 5th time. For you readers who are not familiar with Xterra, it is off-road triathlon which means swimming that includes a mid-swim run across the beach, mountain biking, then trail running.
Xterra holds events around the country and around the world. These events tend to have a laid-back air about them yet are often very physically and mentally demanding because the venue is often challenging. World’s is no different.
The World’s ocean swim course consists of two triangles resulting in an “M” shape-going out into the big surf and swells, come in to the beach for a 10 yd run before heading back into the surf again. What this means is swimmers get to be pummeled 4 times-both on the way out and again on the two return trips to shore! Sometimes a swimmer can be lucky with good timing with the waves. This was not me this year.
Race morning the swells were big rising up far out then building on the way in. A few weeks before the event I had a dream about swimming in the big waves. During my dream I stood knee deep facing the waves, a big set was coming at me, I turned to run, but then a little voice said not to run away but to run toward. So, I did, diving under each cresting wave. Now actually in the swim facing such big waves, I did just that, dive through the low part of the wave. I felt their power as the wave energy moved over me as I held my “skate shape” to reduce my drag to avoid being pushed back to where I started. Popping up on the other side, looking up for the next big one, taking a few strokes toward the rising curl of water, diving under, hold skate, pop up and repeat. As the waves came I thought of my two friends Terry and Dave who both died this year after each outliving their cancer prognosis. Dave loved Xterra, and Terry was instrumental in improving my swim stroke and then some. I thought of them both having fun with me by sending me, all of us out here today the big surf- “You want an adventure and test of your strength Celeste, then here you go, we know you got this!”
And I did. I felt my confidence, my strength of body and mind, and my gratitude to be here doing this today. All these things crossed my mind as I stroked.
As I found myself rounding the first buoy in peace, I fell in with a young woman who kept smacking me in the head with her recovery arm. All the women started in the last wave, 5 minutes behind the men. As we caught up with them things got very congested. The group took the first buoy a little too wide, I was attempting to push my way back but the pack was a little to thick. I would have to settle in with a wide arc with everyone else out on the edge.
Finishing our first triangle, I was watching and sighting behind me to watch for waves that might pick me up and toss me down. I could feel the “suck back”, too deep to stand, so I kept stroking to hold my place and hoped to be able to surf in. Good news is the woman was no longer hitting me in the head. A little tumbling like a drunk to find the ground to stand up. Me and everyone around me was scrambling. But we made it, ran across the beach then dove back into the waves again. This time for me a bit calmer, less people, just as much skate shape. I did have to make a few adjustments with my stroke rate to keep from getting hung up in the waves or losing energy to fighting against the waves.
Coming in to shore to finish up the second triangle, I looked behind me again, felt the suck, then tried to body surf in, but I missed my chance. It was like being in an endless pool! But eventually my feet found the ground, shin deep so I just picked up my feet and ran before the next wave caught me.
It was a blast of a swim, the water not as clear as years past, but beautiful nonetheless. I felt I had the best swim of my life to this point! After many years of swimming, training, coaching it is all this experience that helps me have such great swims. To feel that confidence and sense awareness and aliveness!
I went on to the mountain bike, then the run. I had a great ride, amazing views from the trail! In hind sight I could have pushed it a little bit more, but I didn’t know that until the second part of the run. I felt a little to good on the run. Oh well, nothing I can do once it is over! Except learn from it, trust myself a little more, trust my training a little more.

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Ave atque vale, Terry Laughlin https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/29/ave-atque-vale-terry-laughlin/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/29/ave-atque-vale-terry-laughlin/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2017 09:00:35 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=297 Hail and Farewell.

This week we have cried, reminisced, laughed, and cried all over again. Our friend, mentor and inspiration Terry Laughlin passed away on Friday October 20th after living with metastatic prostate cancer for two years. Throughout the time we have known him, including the time living with the aggressive form of metastatic cancer, there are many truths about Terry that we will never forget.

His extreme passion for anything swimming – teaching, coaching, practicing, writing or racing, was always done with a smile and sense of complete fulfillment. We would often hear him say ‘that was the best swim of my life’.

Combined with his passion was an unwavering projection of optimism. On a recent phone call that occurred during his treatment, he spoke to us with such a positive outlook, and almost glowed through his words that when he was in the water he felt no pain.

He would jump at the chance to swim…..with anyone at anytime. It truly was his cocoon of contentment.

Happiness is Swimming – Terry, Celeste, Suzanne and Dinah, Lake Minnewaska NY 2013

Terry truly was so excited to see people – kids, swim teams, fitness swimmers, triathletes, open water swimmers, fearful swimmers, beginner swimmers, anyone at all, develop a love for the water, and more importantly develop a love for never ending improvement in their swimming. His creation of the successful Total Immersion swimming methodology will continue to reach a broad range of swimmers and enable many people to swim, and swim well.

At the beginning of September, Coach Dinah had sent Terry some photos and updates from a Total Immersion open water camp she was directing. In two sessions all swimmers had already exceeded their goals and set new ones. He replied ‘Thank you for sharing. Wish I could be there with you right now.’ Words from his heart.

Teaching with Passion, St John USVI 2015


Terry had a warm sense of humor and an infectious belly laugh to match. Coach Suzanne had recently texted with Terry and shares their last exchange…

“This speaks to his traveling nature and sense of humor. He loved to travel, try new foods, and especially seemed to appreciate artisan breads and unique lodgings.

The last time I saw Terry in person was at a Total Immersion clinic in Yellow Springs Ohio. For the clinic, fellow TI Coach Vicky and I stayed at a grand hotel in downtown Yellow Springs. Terry bought two loaves of bread for us,  they were sold as ‘his’ and ‘her’, fresh, whole grain seeded loaves. ‘Hers’ had seeds on the inside and ‘his’ had seeds on the outside. We texted about the amazing bread and the clean lodgings with the cute café.And the best part of this memory was how funny he thought the names were and his belly laugh when he explained why they were called his and hers loaves.

His last text to me was ‘Everyone here enjoyed your company and Vicky’s’. Heartwarming.”

Friends teaching together, Clermont Florida 2016


Having Terry as a friend and mentor indeed was a privilege. His input into our swimming over the years has shaped us as athletes, teachers, coaches and people.

We would like to take some time individually to reflect, and as Terry would have taken delight in reading, a main set for a swim practice from each of us that conveys some of our memorable experiences from our time with Terry. Please take your time to enjoy the sets, and may your ‘laps be as happy as Terry’s’.

From Coach Celeste

I am grateful for the many opportunities that have come up over the years through TI. Meeting people,traveling, teaching, learning: I am most grateful for Terry and for TI. I am amazed at his ability to recall people, and stroke counts, and swims he has had! He lived the Kaizen philosophy by continuously looking for simpler, clearer ways to teach TI. He was a very trusting, open, and curious person. I will just offer that i am grateful for all the opportunities that have been available to me because of Terry and TI.

On reflecting back to my early exposure to Terry, I would say that starting to practice stroke counting and combining that with my time was very helpful. Swimming golf as it was referred to was an extremely insightful approach to measuring whether or not I was swimming efficiently, especially when ,attempting, swimming fast.

For a main set: 1200y/m
4 x 25 counting strokes– no focal point except to count. Rest as needed between. What was your average over the 25’s?.
4 x 25 noting time, no focal point. Rest as needed. What was your average time?
3 (4 x 25) focus on counting strokes and gathering time. At the end of each 25 take a moment to ad them to get your score. Between each 4 x 25 rest :30 sec to 1:00. After the set is done note any consistency in your score.
3 (4 x 25) same as above, but see if you can lower your score by either taking one less stroke or going a little faster. Use the following focal point as a method of lowering your score.. Practice a neutral, relaxed, stable head position. Be sure to return to neutral after each breathe. Rest as need between 25’s and record your score. Between each 4 x 25 rest :30 sec to 1:00. After the set is done note any consistency in your score. Did things change when you added the focal point?
3 (4 x 25) same as above, but see if you can lower your score by either taking one less stroke or going a little faster. Use the following focal point as a method of lowering your score. Practice feeling the entry of your recovery arm with the shifting of the hips- feel the hand entry connected to hip rotation going down and forward together. Rest as need between 25’s and record your score. Between each 4 x 25 rest :30 sec to 1:00. After the set is done note any consistency in your score. Did things change when you changed the focal point?
4 x 25 see if you can clear your mind to go back to counting strokes and adding time to get your score without a focal point. What, if anything changed from the first set of 25’s to now.

Use this set for fun, curiosity as in what changes when You pay attention to “x”? Is it more challenging to swim, count, and have a specific focus? Let go of any judgement about what happens in the swim, enjoy any differences that can open new doors to, insights, cause and effect. Have fun with it. Make it the best swim of your life.

From Coach Dinah

One of the most admirable qualities of Terry was his outside the box thinking. Swimming efficiently, and one of the reasons Total Immersion methodology is so successful across a broad range of athletes, was Terrys deep understanding of how the human brain learns. I love that he ignored traditional and tangible, and delved into literature that explained learning and mastery at a neurological level. From there he developed sequences to teach anyone to excel in the water. My main set is a reflection of some focal points that explore this, his use of feeling the water combined with specific thoughts to create movements – focal points I had never even considered in my decades worth of swimming before meeting Terry. It includes some breaststroke as it was my worst stroke growing up in traditional swimming environments – I asked Terry one day, why didn’t someone correct me? I was almost mad at years of swimming so poorly in that stroke. He said so calmly and with no judgment – they simply didn’t know. Enjoy the exploration and know that he would be happy to see you swimming!

Main Set 1000y/m, rest as you need
4×50 Freestyle -at the beginning of every length as you push off the wall, feel the thickness of the water cushion the body, and as you lengthen into a tall and relaxed streamline position, feel the water return you to the surface to begin freestyle.
1×50 Breaststroke – as you lengthen and streamline at the end of each stroke, feel the position of the body return towards the water surface – just as you reach the top of your position begin the next stroke.
4×50 Freestyle – as your lead arm hinges into catch, with the palm facing back – feel the same thickness of the water under the forearm – gathering moonbeams as Terry and his friends would say – how many can you trap with firm consistent pressure?
1×50 Breaststroke – feel the same hinge and pressure in the breaststroke catch – do you feel double the moonbeams?
4×50 Freestyle – as you swim this interval press against the water keeping the palm facing back, and try to keep the water as still as possible, feel the least amount of movement around your fingers and hands.
1×50 Breaststroke – as you press back and scoop inwards towards the body, can you gather and send energy forward with the least amount of turbulence, swimming as quietly as possible.
1×200 Freestyle – build pace every 50 during this interval by adjusting the firmness of your press on the water. Swim as quietly as possible, disturbing the water the least.
1×50 Breaststroke – use this interval to reconnect with a long tall body line, the cushioning of the water, and a gentle smile for a swim well done!


From Coach Suzanne

The first time I met Terry was at my coach training course. When he walked in the room, he illuminated it with his smile, and greeted me by name without hesitation. I felt as if we had known each other for years, even though we had only corresponded by email for a few weeks. His capacity for remembering names, details, focal points and moments of mastery, even after years had elapsed mesmerized me. Every time I listened to Terry speak or coach, I learned something new from him. His capacity for bringing in fields seemingly unrelated to swimming and tying them into the sport was uniquely academic, insightful and set him apart from any other coach I’ve ever met.

During my coach training course, we discussed a test set at the deep end of the 50m pool. He leaned over the edge, while sitting on the diving block and asked me for my times and stroke counts. He took the time to not only suggest how I modify the set to try and achieve better master, but also explained his thought process and multiple options. He empowered me to become a better coach, not just a better swimmer.

Here is my set, inspired by that first impression of Terry coaching me in a sunny California pool.

Terry’s Mile (1600 y/m total)
(200) Swim 2 Rounds of 4 x 25, 10 seconds rest. count strokes for the 25 as follows. #1 Count hand entries. #2 Count hip rotations, #3 count kicks (can you do it?) #4 count what felt easiest.
(300) 4 x [3 x 25] rest 5 seconds between 25s, leave “on the top” of the pace clock for each set. Use the stroke count from swim #4 above as “N”, and for each 25 swim “N-1”, “N”, “N+1” Try to calibrate your recovery speed to hit your stroke count. Slow your recovery to lower count, speed up recovery to increase stroke count
(600) 4 x [3 x 50] Rotating through these three focal points focusing on “shaping the vessel”
#1) Let the hand and forearm slice into the water through a small hole
#2) Let the lead arm part the water as it extends forward
#3) Let the body follow the path created by the lead arm
(300) 4 x [3×25] use each focal point above and while counting strokes (do the streamlining thoughts decrease stroke count?)
(200) 2 x [4×25] Count strokes as follows #1 Hand entries #2 Hip rotations #3 Count kicks (2bk), #4 count what felt best. Did your SPL decrease from set #1?

Thank you for becoming a part of our memories with Terry. Documenting our thoughts and feelings has been difficult as we process the raw emotions of the week. With time we hope that these memories bring only happiness and joy, and a continued love of swimming and learning.

Natet in pace, Terry, Swim in peace.

Celeste, Dinah and Suzanne

Rainbow of Peace, St John USVI 2015

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Great Close-up video of Open Water Breathing Technique https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/12/great-close-up-video-of-open-water-breathing-technique/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/12/great-close-up-video-of-open-water-breathing-technique/#comments Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:50 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=293 Coach Celeste St. Pierre demonstrates some great open water breathing and sighting techniques in the tannin colored waters of Lake Minneola, Clermont, FL.   Some things to note in her style:

Alligator Eyes breathing. Her eyes raised just above the surface of the water, no higher than necessary.  Her nose and mouth remain underwater until she turns her head to breath.

Smooth Breath with horizontal head – despite peeking forward to sight, when she turns her head to breath the head goes back to level and she enjoys breathing behind her bow wave.  This helps her maintain good body position and balance during sighting and breathing together.

Continuous and unbroken tempo of swimming.    Her arm tempo remains continuous and she fits in breathing and sighting within the rhythm she has already established.  There is no disruption and she’s able to maintain forward movement.

Sighting on an outstretched arm.  The outstretched arm allows the alligator eyes to pop up for a split second before she begins her stroke. She is not wasting any propulsive effort by pushing down to get her head out of the water.

Sighting is quick, like a “slideshow”.   Her sighting is very brief, just long enough to gather information from what’s in front of her. She processes what she saw after the head returns to the water.  This minimizes the duration of the heads up portion of the stroke, maintaining better body position, continuous forward movement and reduces neck and shoulder strain.

What other skills do you recognize here? Which skills do you need more help with?

Register for our next Swim Training camp in Clermont, FL before October 31st and get an earlybird discount!

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Video Analysis is a Strong Component of Fresh Freestyle Training Camp – Testimonial https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/10/video-analysis-is-a-strong-component-of-fresh-freestyle-training-camp-testimonial/ https://freshfreestyle.com/2017/10/10/video-analysis-is-a-strong-component-of-fresh-freestyle-training-camp-testimonial/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:28:03 +0000 http://freshfreestyle.com/?p=290 Listen to Terri Bower discuss the highlights of her training camp in January of 2017.  Fresh Freestyle Training camp in 2017 was 3 days long with 6 pool sessions, extracurricular bikes & runs, and classroom discussion with ample time for video review.   3 Pool sessions and 3 open water sessions helped campers apply pool skills to open water immediately.  Terry finished her 2017 season by finishing 2nd in her age group at Ironman Chattanooga.   Here’s to a KQ coming soon!

You can register for our 2018 Winter Training Camp and get an earlybird discount if you sign up by October 31st, 2018.


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