Jodie Swallow: Anything But Boring

The Hawaii Ironman is tomorrow (Saturday) and if you're a triathlon fan (like us) we bet you can't wait to see the best long course athletes in the world duke it out in the extreme heat and humidity of the lava fields of Kona. The event has a great live internet feed you can tune into here:

The women's pro field has a real wildcard in it in the form of Britain's Jodie Swallow. Jodie is an ITU Long Course World Champion (Perth 2009) and Ironman 70.3 World Champion (2011) but is racing in only her third Ironman and her first in Hawaii. Her fantastic win at Ironman Kalmar in August qualified her for Kona with a brilliant 8:54 clocking over the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run distance.

Back in 2009 in Perth, the very next day after her World Championship win, Jodie was keen to jump in the water with us at Claremont Pool and have a little video analysis on her swimming. Watch Paul Newsome's summary of her stroke from that footage here:

We'll let that clip speak for itself but suffice to say Jodie epitomises the Swinger Swim Type with a ton of rhythm and momentum in her stroke. It's important to understand that she's not hacking at the water, she is actually working with it, just with a lot of purpose and rhythm!

If Jodie's bike and run form in the extreme heat and humidity of Kona is an unknown quantity, in the water her ability is anything but unknown. Jodie is one of the best female triathlon swimmers in the world - in fact in Perth in 2009 she caught and swam through half of the men's pro field who started two minutes ahead of her over the 3km distance!

That day the conditions in the Swan River were very challenging with a short chop blown up by a strong easterly wind making it very hard for the swimmers to find a rhythm in their stroke. It wasn't easy for Jodie either but versus anyone trying to swim with a long smooth stroke, her natural style was a huge advantage and Jodie quickly broke away from the entire women's field and continued to dominate the race from there.

Jodie's stroke technique is a deliberate choice of hers as it's ideally suited to triathlon open water swimming. Make no mistake, she's a very skilled swimmer and she can swim with a nice long smooth stroke if she wants to. You can watch her doing that here (make sure you watch right until the end of the clip when she tells us just what she thinks of it in no uncertain terms!):

That's Jodie all over, a no-nonsense athlete and person. The non-wetsuit rough water swim in Kona should really play to her strengths so watch out for her exiting the water with the leaders on Saturday morning - let's hope we get a good shot of her working her rhythmical magic in the water before they get to T1.

Jodie's a friend of Swim Smooth and we're rooting for her to have a fantastic race. Good luck to everyone else competing - the swim is always hard so tough it out and keep a great rhythm in your stroke, there's plenty of time to recover afterwards on the bike ;)-

Swim Smooth!

PS. Why not tweet Jodie your best wishes here: @jodieswallow

PPS. The race starts at 6:30am Saturday local time, that's 5:30pm Sat UK, 6:30pm Sat Europe, 12:30pm Sat EDT, 9:30am Sat PDT, 3:30am Sun Sydney, 12:30am Sun Perth.


Anonymous said...

I get a 404 error on the second clip.

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous, hmmm that's odd, does this link work any better?:

Anonymous said...

I find her breathing pattern interesting. Looks like 5 strokes on one side and 3 on the other? Is this how she normally breathes or was she just doing that for a short distance for the video. I would like to know what her normal breathing pattern is.

Jonas said...

Sometimes, after hand entry, her elbow is below her wrist ! That's not the correct technique.

Jonas said...

And also, after hand entry, she's extending her arm to near the surface: just the opposite correct technique explained in last's week blog ("don't start too near the surface").

Adam Young said...

Hi Jonas, yes absolutely, her stroke isn't perfect and that could do with a little tune-up! If I was coaching her I'd like to see her on a 'normal' day, she had smashed a long world championship race the day before so it's quite possible she was a little stiff.

Anonymous, I'm not sure with her breathing pattern. She's obviously natural breathing bilaterally and it's quite possible that she swaps around from side to side without really thinking about it, just breathing when she needs to.

With her high stroke rate, she can probably breathe less frequently than every 3 strokes and when that happens with a swimmer it often becomes a little 'random' in terms of a pattern.

Cheers, Adam

Rudolf said...

Please please please, this video show is the perfect point for me to ask what i wanted to ask you already for a rather long time - open up your secret and tell us what underwater camera you are using!!

Is it one we all could just go and shop at the next best electronics store or a special camera that would cost us quite a bit ??

Adam Young said...

Hi Rudolf, that was actually filmed with an old camera that is no long made but no, there is no secret expensive camera system we use. You can use any small-ish camera in a waterproof housing and mount on the end of a pole to get footage like this.

Anonymous said...

I have changed my breathing pattern to exhale the entire time my head is under water, but still feel more comfortable when I go back to exhaling just before turning my head. Now, I see that Jodie does the same thing. I have also had coaches tell me to go back to my original breathing pattern. Should I..., thinking I might after seeing this.

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous, yes this is something not perfect in her stroke!

When you say you were exhaling, were you doing some smoothly, letting go of the air like you were sighing into the water? You definitely won't feel the benefit if you don't do that as you won't be letting enough out.



Unknown said...

I was very interested to see these two clips, I've seen myself on video, and think I look exactly like Jodie - on the second clip! I'd love to speed up a bit, just not sure how...I've read your book, my technique has improved loads, but I'm still slow...

Cyndy@swimsmooth said...

Hi Sarah,

It can be frustrating sometimes when you're not going as fast as you'd hoped, but stick with it- you'll get there with perseverance and consistency in you training!

Nicky P said...

Hi, Regarding Jodie's high stroke rate, and the general advice that a higher stroke rate is more effective for open water swimming, I'd be really interested to know if you have noticed whether an 'ideal stroke rate' for any particular individual (the 'sweet spot' from your ramp test) correlates to a swimmer's build. So, is it that shorter stockier build versus long, tall and lean build tends to work better with a particular stroke rhythm?

Adam Young said...

Hi Nicky,

Yes there are lots of factors that effect stroke rate but build and height is definitely one of them. The 'optimum' for taller swimmers will be a slightly lower stroke rate, but speaking as someone tall and rangey themselves, it doesn't necessarily feel slower!

We have a bit of a chart half way down the page here which gives an indication for different speeds of swimmer:

The width of the white lines relates to the differences in build, race environment and natural stroke style between individuals.

Hope that's useful.


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