Super-Fish Lucy Charles - The World's Fastest Female Triathlete In Water?

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A few weeks ago whilst testing the new HUUB Mad system at the fantastic Best Centre Mallorca, we had the opportunity to meet up again with two of the very fastest swimmers in triathlon - Lucy Charles and Reece Barclay from the UK.

Lucy made headlines at Ironman Hawaii last year when she set the fastest female swim split... racing as an age grouper! Jodie Swallow had a fantastic swim leading out the female Pro field by over a minute in 55:04 before Lucy decimated the age group field and shattered Jodie's time in a scarcely believable 52:20!

Lucy waiting for the start in Kona

After that fantastic performance Lucy turned Pro, finishing 3rd overall at Ironman Lanzarote (47:11 swim - first female) and 4th overall at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire (23:36 swim - first female).

Lanzarote Ironman 2016

So what does this super-fish look like in the water and what can we learn from her swimming to improve our own performances? Just for you we took some footage if Lucy's stroke in Mallorca and have uploaded our analysis into The Swim Smooth Guru:

(If you're not a Guru subscriber yet you can subscribe to the standard version for just US$2.99 / GB£1.99 per month and study all of our elite swimmers, use every SS drill, correct your stroke using our fault fixers and follow our complete Learn To Swim Program!)

Three Key Aspects Of Lucy's Stroke

Lucy credits the strength of her swimming to the great work done by her coach Roy Shepherdson as a junior swimmer. Funnily enough Roy swam with Paul Newsome as a child in Bridlington and is still one of his best mates - swimming is a small world!

To get a full appreciation of Lucy's brilliance in the water watch the video footage of her swimming in the Guru from a range of different angles. For this post we've pulled out some key elements for you:

1. Keeping The Head Low When Breathing

When breathing Lucy keeps her head as low as possible in the water, this keeps her front end down and her legs up, reducing drag. Notice the shape of the bow wave to the side of her head and how it falls away creating a trough right by her mouth to breathe from:

Notice how Lucy keeps her lower goggle in the water as she breathes. Try this the next time you swim - get it right and you can see above and below the water at the same time: "split screen vision"!

2. Straight Legs And Pointed Toes

As you'd expect from a swimmer of her abilities, Lucy has a very high body position in the water with the chest, hips and legs sitting very near the surface. This keeps drag to a minimum.

One way she achieves this great position is to keep her legs nice and straight as she kicks with only a slight softness at the knee. Her ankles are flexible and feet nicely pointed behind her:

She's not looking to generate a huge amount of propulsion from her kick but to keep her body high with minimum effort.

3. A Perfect Open Water Arm Recovery

Lucy chooses to use a straighter arm recovery style with the arms swinging a little around the side of her body:

As you might have guessed, like most Pro triathletes and open water swimmers Lucy has the classic Swinger stroke style which is brilliantly effective for open water swimming.

This arm recovery gives her great clearance over waves and chop in open water and works brilliantly to overcome the restriction of a wetsuit. If you feel uncomfortable swimming in open water give this a try, it can make a world a difference!

4. A Phenomenal Catch And Pull!

Lucy has an incredible catch and pull under the water giving her huge amounts of propulsion from her arm stroke. To view this part of her stroke you need to be a Guru subscriber:

A big thanks to HUUB wetsuits for arranging the shoot in Mallorca and to Lucy for letting us show her stroke to the world. Follow Lucy on her blog and twitter feed here, she's a fantastic athlete who's cycling and running are quickly catching up with her truly brilliant swimming:

Swim Smooth!

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galbraithian said...

Super video! I am a very fit 51 year old triathlete, 5'5" medium build ape index about Zero. My coach has been drilling into me smooth smooth for nearly a year, I have gotten better in run and bike as I get fitter but stuck on a swim pace of just below 2:00 and rarely can get below 1:50 even if I really try. I think I need to secretly start 'swinging' when she is not around and see how it goes. I can hear her now telling me I'm not getting long enough, not rotating enough...0:) Have any other short male athletes had this experience?

Adam Young said...

Hi galbraithian,

When you say she's drilling "Swim Smooth" into you, do you mean our coaching methodology? Or is she trying to make you long and smooth?

Yes it's possible that long and smooth will never suit you, so don't be afraid to add a little RHYTHM into your stroke too. Keep working on all aspects of your stroke, there's quite likely to be other things at play too, such as improving your body position and perhaps a crossover or scissor kick.

Very best!


galbraithian said...

Thanks very much Adam, its is very much to be "long and smooth" that she coaches all her students, getting very much on their side before pulling. I tend to use around 60 SPM in this style which is quite a lot of effort. (I have a pretty decent catch and pull with an effective kick after lots of sessions) More interestingly...Using my watch I timed the Lucy Charles video and she swims at between 87 and 88! Am I right that to maintain that stroke rate it will be a much shorter stroke with a less rotation? Also keen to understand what you mean by "rhythm' is it just 'tempo'?

galbraithian said...

...its explained in the Sky Draper video isn't it... that if you were to make her go 'long and smooth' she'd likely slow down quite a bit because her 'swinger' style suits her!!!

Adam Young said...

Hi galbraithian,

Yes it sounds like you want to experiment with lifting your stroke rate slightly, although don't over-do it, 88SPM will almost certainly be too much for you. Lucy has the stroke technique and swim fitness to be able to do that but it does go to show there's no "one way" that everyone should swim.

The best way to proceed is probably to use a Tempo Trainer Pro - try 63, 66 and perhaps even 69SPM and see how it works for you.

Don't try and swim flat either - you should rotate on every stroke, this is more about getting the trade off between rhythm/tempo and stroke length for you as an individual.


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