The Development of World Champion James Gibson by Ben Titley (2004)


Ben Titley, Swim Coach at Loughborough University, England.  MSc Sports Science (pending- final project only) BSc Physical Education, Sports Science & Rec. Management 5 A-Levels.  1996-present Swim Coach at Loughborough University; 1998, gained ASA Coach Certificate; 2003, Coached 1st  British swimmer in 28 years to win a World LC Title;  2003, awarded the BSTCA Award for Coaching Excellence; 2003. Keynote Speaker at UK Sport World Class Coaching  Conference 2004. Invited to be International Speaker at the American Swim Coaches Association World Clinic in Indianapolis, 2004. At present he has 5 swimmers selected to  swim at the Olympics (most by any British Swim Coach this year).   Has coached 17 Swimmers to break National Records.   Has coached swimmers to 95 National Records.  Coached swimmers onto Great Britain, England, Wales,  Scotland, Ireland, France, Sweden, and Norway National Teams. Swimmers have held World, European, and Commonwealth Records. Swimmers have won 21 medals at  the World, World University, European and Commonwealth Level.




Thanks again for inviting me over to speak to you guys.  This is my second and final talk wearing the same suit, so not a lot has changed there. A lot of the first few slides are the same also – just to give you a background of where I am from and what it is I guess I have done.


It has been good for me to come here this week and be able to watch the swimming without having to coach anybody, and secondly, the fact that I get to sit in the American Swimming Coaches Association’s posh box! I have been lucky enough to sit next to some very, very knowledgeable people in the last couple of days and I have probably gotten more out of that than I have actually from watching the swimming.  It has also been good to listen to a lot of the talks by some of your best coaches – your top college coaches and the like.  For me, I have picked up a lot of things.  I think that is the main thing.  If you can pick up one thing from my talk today I will probably be surprised, but if you do then I am glad.


My talk today is mostly going to be about James Gibson.  I will give you a brief overview of his history if you like and how he has developed, but also towards the end, give you insights into the individualization of the training that he actually does and hopefully you will find that pretty interesting.


This is probably the boring bit in me – same thing – I apologize if you were here for my first talk – it is the same stuff that you have seen before – I haven’t gotten any older – I still have my BSC and I still haven’t finished my masters so nothing has changed. Five years and still going.  From 1996 until the present day I have been employed by Loughborough University, which is the premier University Swim Team in Great Britain. I have coached 17 swimmers to break 95 National, World, European and Commonwealth records and they have won 21 medals; 12 gold at the World University,  World, European and Commonwealth levels.


I have to actually now tell a story and it might embarrass Forbes Carlile a little bit.  He probably does not actually remember, but my biggest claim to fame probably goes back to 1998.  1998 was the first time where I placed a swimmer on a major games team and I was only 20 or 21 I think. I coached a girl called Sara Hopkins who swam for Wales, which is part of Great Britain at the Commonwealth Games. I was not accredited by Wales, so they sort of said well, you know, we will help fund you to go over and that, but you kind of have to look after yourself when you are there. A big thing for me is that I like being nice to people and I guess kind of getting my own way so what I did when I went out to Kuala Lumpur where the Commonwealth Games were, was actually pretend to be a journalist for a newspaper and I got a press pass that got me into all of the areas of, well, everything – I could go and watch my friends who play badminton – I could watch the athletics and for the swimming it got me into the press area for the Commonwealth Games.  I also threw green chocolate bars and cans of Pepsi to the security people and managed to get on the poolside and things like that, so a good security system!


But at the time when I was sitting up in the stands watching the swimming I was sitting between a young red haired lady, who was a journalist for some newspaper and an older distinguished gentleman, who I used to bring cans of Pepsi for and the like.


Anyway, my girl, Sara Hopkins, broke five national records at that meet and she came 5th  I think in the 400 freestyle and set a lifetime best.  I was sitting next to this older guy and he said to me – he was asking me questions about how she had swum and I said well, you just want to watch, she does quite a lot of strokes. So she dived in and she had an amazing tempo, I mean she did, looking back it was pretty stupid, but she did an amazing amount of strokes and the guy next to me counted the strokes. As the race finished and he looked at me and he said, that is the most strokes I have ever seen anybody do for the 400 freestyle.


I then went back to the University, finishing my final year of my degree and my swimming teacher at the time gave me a couple of books to help with my dissertation. On the back of the books was a picture of some guy and I looked at this picture and I thought, I recognize this guy, I had been sitting next to him for the last two weeks.  Anyway, that guy was Forbes Carlile so good knowledge by Ben on that one.


I also had five swimmers qualify to swim at this year’s 2004 Olympic Games from the program where I have worked up until this point. The Director of Swimming is called Ian Arminger – a very good friend of mine, and a great team builder.  From 1996 to 2002 we trained in a 4 lane 25 yard pool, built back in the 30’s – asbestos ridden and a real health hazard.  Since 2002 to the present we have trained in an 8 lane, 50 meter pool with a moveable bulkhead, where we have full Sports Science Support and everything else.  It is actually turning into the national center when I get back.  We have three university squads, or I did have three university squads – approximately 70 swimmers, as well as the Great Britain high performance center squad.


The program achievements in the last few years from 1998 till the present – we – and I say we because there are others coaching the program;


We have placed swimmers on every major championship team; 41 swimmers at this year’s British Olympic Trials which logistically is a bit of a pain in the ass, but it makes for a good team atmosphere. We placed in total, 9 swimmers on the 2004 Olympic team.


Now I guess the advantages I have in coaching where I am at the moment with regards to individualization of training for swimmers is that we don’t have any parents phoning you up every day or seeing you every day.  It is a university setup and we don’t really have any committee pressures with regards to that so it makes it easier to give that special treatment – that isn’t really questioned.  You can kind of do what you want.  If you want to give someone more attention you are more than welcome to as long as everybody kind of stays happy and it acts as a reward for those swimmers.


So this is the guy that I am going to talk about today.  If I refer to him as Gibo, that is just because that is how he refers to himself – “the Gibo”, and it is what I call him every day, so if you do hear me say that instead of James that is who I am talking about.  He is 190 centimeters in height and weighs 79-80 kilos – depending – actually 81 at the moment if we are being honest. He joined Loughborough back in September of 1998.


This is a picture of him at Buckingham Palace with his MBE which he received last year. That is probably one of my proudest achievements – not that – well I haven’t got one, but I helped a young man achieve something like that – free upgrades for the rest of his life on air planes, so at least I have done something right.


His history before he came to Loughborough.  He swam in a very, very small club in a place called Essex in England – a very, very small background and four to five pool sessions a week. But that would have been a good week for him to be honest.  He liked doing other things.  He liked to see himself as a sprinter.  He could sprint freestyle pretty quick – he still can.  It’s not very pretty, but he can. But he had a good technique on breaststroke and when he came to Loughborough at the age of 18 – that summer, he actually finished dead last at our summer nationals in the 100 meter breaststroke with a time of 1:11. So coming into the program that was the sort of athlete that he was, so it wasn’t that we were super excited about him, but beggars can’t be choosers.

So in 1998-1999 when he first joined the university, he joined every sports team he could.  He was like a kid so the tennis team T-shirt, he had it, the athletics team T-shirt, he had it – he didn’t do any of those sports – he just liked having the shirt.


So swimming wasn’t really on the top of his agenda.  He was a fun time guy.  He still kind of is.  He really enjoyed going out and getting drunk.  That was probably his best pastime and four times a week at the minimum he would be out getting drunk.  Doing what normal first years at university do I guess.


Not so much because of that, I guess more because of his 1:11 and dead last at the summer nationals, he was in our third squad which only had pool time at the time for maybe four or five sessions a week, but, for him that was, what we thought, plenty.  However, he kept coming up to me and saying Ben, is it possible if I come and do another session with you – can I do a little bit more training.  I want to take it a bit more seriously.  I mean, he is telling me these things and he is still drunk – I can see it in his face so I was like no – I haven’t got space.  I would love to help you out but I really can’t – I can’t find space.


You have got to remember that at the time we only had the four lane, 25 yard pool and we had about 20-22 swimmers in the squad it was quite full you know, for sessions – sometimes we only had 45 minutes to train them. However, our version of your NCAA’S or our short course version of your NCAA’S happened in about November. So he had been at the University for maybe two months and our second string breaststroker pulled a groin or did something and couldn’t swim so we needed someone to fill a place and so Gibo was I guess the next best alternative. So we asked him to come and swim for the team.  He finished 7th in the final of the 50 breast with a 31.8 short course meters.  A reasonable time and for us, you know, we were quite happy with that. So we offered him the opportunity to come and train a bit more with the team.


Now, given his famous statement, to this day is that no matter how good I get, Ben is never going to make me do a Thursday morning.  Wednesday night out in Loughborough is a big night out and people like to go out and have a good time. His big thing was, bear in mind – he only trained one morning a week at this point and that was a Tuesday – Ben will never get me to do a Thursday morning.  I will never do two mornings in a week – no matter how good I get.


Well obviously now that has changed.  He actually does five mornings a week sometimes, but back then that was his sort of attitude.  He did about seven sessions a week – that not including that Thursday morning – short course yards – it can’t have been much more than around 30, 35 – maybe 40,000 yards a week, but that would be a pretty impressive week for him.


He swam towards the end of 1999 in a Grand Prix meet we had in England and he swam 30.1 long course for the 50 breaststroke. Then when I was away in 1999 – I was head coach to the World University Games in New York I think it was, and I remember I was getting onto a bus and I got a text on my phone saying – Hi Ben – this is Gibo – I have just won the final of the 50 breast at Nationals in 28.9. I personally thought he was trying to wind me up, so until I got back to England I didn’t believe him, but he was not lying.


So in the terms of his first year of swimming he went from a 1:11 breaststroke to actually winning nationals in a 28.9 so he was obviously a talented guy and everything that I take you through today has got a lot more to do with his talent than it has my coaching ability.


He actually started doing the Thursday morning in 1999-2000, but still, for him the speed and the power focus was his main thing.  Aerobically he developed, but that was just because he was swimming more than four times a week and I don’t think that it was anything that was overly planned.  He had a comprehensive land work program.  You will probably see some pictures later on. He is a big guy. He is a muscular guy and even back then, he was not the same size he is now – he enjoyed his land work, so that was a way for him to maybe make up for pool time that we didn’t have at the time.


The 2000 World Championships short course was his first international meet and again, I had to kind of pay my own way to go there.  We have a cheap airline in Great Britain called Easy Jet and the flight only cost me about 40 Pounds so that wasn’t too bad.  He came 9th in the 50 breast and 12th in the 100 breast.  For him – quite a big thing. In our 2000 Olympic trials he came third in the 100 breast with a 63.5.


Going into 2001 the training was pretty similar to the year previous.  We didn’t have any extra pool time – there was not a lot else we could do but his aerobic development began just because he was swimming more than he had done when he was a young guy.  At our trials the 50 breast – he did 28.0 in the heats – 27.8 in the semis and 27.7 in the final – at the time – all Commonwealth records and you have got to bear in mind that two years previous – this guy had never even dreamed about swimming at that sort of level, so that was a pretty good thing for him. His 100 breaststroke dropped to a 62.8 which was 4th at our trials for that which meant that the first international competition he had long course was the World Championships in Japan. I was on the team for that meet and it was one of the worst experiences I guess – going all the way there – the swimmers didn’t medal at the meet and James actually got disqualified in the final of the 50 breaststroke. So for me that was well, you do all this work – you go to a meet thousands and thousands and thousands of miles away and you got nothing to show for it so, but he was progressing pretty good and he started believing he could swim at the world level.


2002 was our Commonwealth Games here, and again, a slight increase in his swimming and his intensity. His 100 meter time actually dropped a lot.  Again, I think this was more just because of a continued development through the years. But with that development came a bit of higher risk.  He got injured quite a lot and it is something that has stopped now, but back then it was something that happened quite a bit.  His 100 breaststroke long course dropped down to a 60.6, but that really was a bit of a one-off swim.  His real sort of best time probably would have been around a 61 low on a consistent level. He got injured just before Commonwealth Games – he still swam well.  He got a 1st and a 3rd and then we went to Greek Nationals.


Greek Nationals was again for him a place where he proved something to himself.  He was someone that could do a great one-off swim, but that would be it. Swimming well at World Championships or an Olympic Games is more about putting in a series of swims. At Greek nationals he put in a couple of swims straight off the Commonwealth Games that were about the same speed he swam at Commonwealth Games, back to back without fully shaving and being able to rest for that, which I think again proves to him that he could be tough despite his relatively low level background.


2002-2003 we got our new pool so we had more pool time.  He could do more volume – still not great leaps and bounds – 45-50,000 but short course meters and long course meters which was quite a big jump from the yard swimming that we were doing.  Certainly in terms of strokes – if I was to ask James to swim 100 breaststroke, short course yards he would probably hold four strokes a length, but for a 100 yards he is 16 strokes.  If he was to do it long course meters he would probably hold somewhere around 30-32 strokes with that same method.  See, it took him twice as much energy expenditure.


Insoles and weights – this makes me sound like a bit of a voodoo king and I am not.  When I was in Florida back in 1998, I was at Pinecrest for a training camp before I went to Commonwealth Games and a lady who was quite attractive came up to me and said you know, do you fancy knowledge with a South African friend of mine, she fancied coming around for dinner – I will make some dinner and I will show you the stuff. Obviously being 20-21 years old I was quite excited and off we went. So we got around to her house and she was actually a saleswoman for some insole company or something or some magnetic stuff called Niken.


Now I didn’t think much else of it until James or Gibo started getting injured, but these insoles that he put in and adjusting some exercise out of his weights routine actually stopped his injuries pretty much in their tracks and until this date, he still gets probably 20% of the injuries that he used to get.


That helped him have a lot more consistency of racing and more importantly, a lot more consistency of training. He now could do breaststroke all of the time rather than just a couple of sessions through the week. So 2003 actually ended up with him swimming and whether this was straight through so any meets – it didn’t matter whether it was heats, or semis or finals – it didn’t matter whether it was his mid-season, in a good pool, in a crappy pool – it didn’t matter.  He actually swam 18 straight 100 breaststrokes where the slowest was 61.  He never went a 62 in that period of time which kind of led him to think that he could do pretty well at worlds – which he did.


He became the first male World Championships winner for Great Britain in over 20 years – I think it was 26 years or something – I can’t remember; in the 50 breaststroke though 27.4 and he actually came third in the 100 breaststroke – bear in mind – if you don’t include Commonwealth Games – it was the first time that he had swum internationally at 100 breaststroke and he came 3rd in 60.3.  I am actually going to show you those two videos – it gives me a time to have a little drink and it gets a chance to give you to see him swim.


This first one that you see is the 50 breaststroke which he won in the World Championships – now if it works! Well – right – I don’t think that this is going to work which probably means the second one won’t work either.  We will try it again in a bit.  This one is his 100 meter breaststroke and this I guess gets to point in the talk which is really going to start to change things.  From this 100 meter breaststroke we were able to or from other 100 meter breaststrokes we were able to identify areas in his training which he needed to do to improve.  The chances of this one working are probably pretty slim as well – oh nice one – this was really going to fill out my talk and now I am going to have to keep talking – anyway – I don’t think it is going to go – anyway – we will move on – from which we get something like this.


Now if you can see this sheet – this is produced for us by our biomechanics for Great Britain swimming – velocity – distance per stroke – stroke rate – stroke index – as you go down there are three areas that are circled for him – basically on his speed.  The first one there – the red oval – is that he slows down going into turns.  It is pretty obvious if you had seen the videos that next to ——— and the like he actually slows down going into the turn, despite the fact that he is still swimming quicker and the last ones are obviously in his last 15.  That is why it is a bit of a pain that you didn’t get to see the video.


At worlds in 2003 he obviously won the 50 breaststroke and in the 100 breaststroke I think he was out in 27.7 or 27.8, but only in 18 strokes and at 75 was pretty much clear. At the finish he wasn’t so clear, he actually finished 3rd and Brendan Hansen just came over the top of him on the last stroke, but they were areas where we tried to improve and this is important because later on I will show you a set or a session that I think is a great set or a great session, but it wasn’t a great set or a great session for him. If that makes sense. In my mind it was clever. It was well thought out. It was planned.  It was specific to him, which a lot of the sets that I am going to show you are, but for the sort of athlete that he is and the sort of background that he came from – with hindsight now, I don’t think it was the best set.


So, with regards to his training within a group of 22 swimmers we had limited pool time and limited pool space so we did land work – it was a sprint type program and with his changing role in terms of maturity and change in role in terms of being one of the better swimmers then in the program, he obviously got a little bit more attention as he went through.  Back when we worked in a 25 yard pool we maybe had one session on Thursday where we had about a three hour session.  However, we only had two lanes in that 25 yard pool for that three hours and so with a group of 22 swimmers I had to kind of work through a rolling type thing where it was about an hour and 20 minutes of each where one group would come in for the swim down of the the others. They would warm up and then I would have maybe 40 minutes – 45 minutes to work with that one group in the two lanes and so that was one way we tried to get through as many swimmers, but giving them as much pool space as possible.


Also in the small pool that we had it was a lot easier to control everything.  The atmosphere of the team was really, really good – I mean, you are in a very small environment where, as a coach, I can see everything.  So, it was not like in a 50 meter pool, if I am maybe not looking someone can duck under the water and then pop up and then you realize – well, I have missed a 50, but you didn’t even see it. In this little pool – in this atmosphere – everything was rolling and everything was kind of high energy I guess and that was a real big plus for our program.  Moving into the new pool – something like this is what we kind of look at for their development.  If you can see the athletic performance at the top and then the different subsections of what you can look at for their performance.


With Gibo’s we actually broke it down to something a little bit more simple. Whereby we drew a bar chart in 2002 and said well, what are your strengths and your weaknesses and I didn’t want to confuse him with giving him too many things.  If I gave him this it would confuse him.  It confuses me sometimes to be honest, but we just gave him four and if I drew a bar chart now – if you can imagine – the highest bar was his strength.


He is a strong guy and for someone of his weight – he is not going to get an awful lot stronger. He can bench 150 kilos and he only weighs 79 or whatever.  He doesn’t need to get any stronger.  He also couldn’t get much faster.  The world record at the time for 50 breaststroke I think was 27.1 or 27.2 and he swims 27.4 so he is not going to get a lot quicker, however, the two areas that were lower down were firstly, his core strength – very strong in the big muscles – pretty weak in the little muscles. He now has a pretty comprehensive Swiss ball program that I have seen a lot of coaches speak about this week, so I won’t go into that too much. Also his endurance was a little bit down. By moving to the long course pool we could improve that a little bit, however, I think, in my opinion – we lost as much as we gained – that high energy – that control of workout that you had when swimmers were in that 4 lane, 25 yard pool. It was difficult for us to re-create that moving to a long course facility straight away. I think it is coming back now, but certainly initially, we lost just as much as we gained. Losing the asbestos – I don’t lose sleep about that at night.


For me, trying to get the results that I wanted to get, it also meant that I had to split swimmers off.  I don’t have the luxury of having assistant coaches in my program.  I can’t give swimmers to other people to look after, I pretty much have to run it myself, as I am sure most of you do. So it meant doing a lot of pool time and a lot of work on the poolside.  It is not a pleasant environment.  It is not an outdoor pool with the sunshine.  It is an indoor pool with cold weather outside with silly temperatures on the poolside and a slanted pool deck that gives you a backache. But it meant that if I wanted to get the results that I wanted to get I had to put the work in for it. So what I tend to do is run a two hour session in the morning with my University group and then take away maybe my Olympians or the potential Olympians into the next two hour slot or 2 ½ hour slot to give them a little bit more special attention. That meant that five days a week I was actually doing 9 hours a day on poolside in those conditions which probably wasn’t the best for my health.


It also meant at Loughborough we could use – we have these turning boards we can clip on for lane lines and I will show you a sprint set that I do with them later on, or with him later on, that actually involves swimming short course and long course in the same session for different reps. I think that helped, but it meant that you really had to organize your time – specific work within the main session had to be specific. One example of that I guess – if this thing comes with me – one of the sessions that I did on a training camp and I guess I am trying to explain to you the way that, if it is just me coaching the group of swimmers, I can get out of one workout the best thing for all swimmers involved.


Now obviously it is easy for me to give them different workouts and give them different target times, but if I want them more to do the session at the same time and I am the only one to watch it, I need to find a way where I can control and monitor everything we do. So a set we did in Florida a while back was ten rounds through – I hope you can see this in the back and I will put both sets up:  Melanie Marshall and somebody else- the more distance people – went ten rounds through of a 150 and a 50 – pretty big rest – 2:45 and 1:15 and I will use Mel as an example – the 150 had to be under 1:40 – she held it around 1:38 so – and the 50 had to be under 200 race pace so around 29.6 for the push 50’s and it went straight through 10 times.  No easy swimming, but it was something where it is not complicated alright?  So I could walk down the pool – I could time everything and they report their own times.


For James Gibson, doing the same thing at the same time for the same duration with a different set – he went 10 rounds through of 100 breaststroke at about a –20 effort – a 50 recovery freestyle – he could do that at whatever pace he wanted and then a 50 breaststroke again – trying to get to return 50 pace of his 100 breaststroke so around a 32:1. The 100 was on 1:30 – he didn’t need much rest for that because this was his recovery – the 50’s on 1:15 and the fast 50 on 1:15.  Now this meant that I could time all swimmers in the group effectively the same session right?  Because this and this takes the same time as that as the 150 did for the more distance swimming type of guys or the middle distance guys, but it meant that I could time these guys and James held around 1:13’s for these hundreds and the 50’s around 32 flats to 32 mid, but it meant that they were doing work that was specific to them – James with more recovery and maybe faster speeds; Mel – a more prolonged effort, but I could keep them as one.


On this training camp with me was Ian Edmond, 200 meter breaststroker – also medaled at Worlds in 2003 and he alternated through so he would do two sets with Gibo – two sets with the ladies and then alternated through so in terms of doing one session or one set actually the work was pretty specific for the guys that were there and I guess that is what I mean by organization of the time as you work through the main session.


Also, with his injuries, it was important that we were adaptive.  A lot of the time he couldn’t kick. As I say – it is not so much of a problem now, but going back we used to just do squats with him on the poolside so I would pop a kickboard underneath his ankles – just to lessen the angle – he would put a stick behind his neck and he would just do squats so whatever time they did kicking he would do squats and if then he could swim with it, when they went into a fast swim straight after the kick – he could then go into the swim. His actual leg endurance would be done through squats rather than kicking because it was too much pressure on his groin.  I guess now really the main part of it – I am just going to take you through some sets.  I hope you find it interesting – as I say – most of them are ones that I think work very well.  I am also going to give you one that, although I think it is a good set, I don’t think it was a good set for him – with hindsight.


This is a very general overview of the week for him.  It changes week to week, but on the whole he would swim pretty steady on a Monday morning with skills and what we are going to start from now is that Monday mornings for him he is going to have starts and turns timed and filmed and he can watch them back.  We have that facility now.  In the evening we would do a kick set – I have put heart rate next to it because it is pretty much a max kick set and I would still class it as a heart rate or a lactate kind of set with pacing.


Tuesday – pretty general in the morning with a fast short course session in the evening – just to make things a bit clearer – we actually swim short course on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and long course on the other days.  I think that is pretty good for a breaststroker to train short course, certainly him – it keeps him a lot higher in the water and speeds he gets short course are a lot greater than they are long course.  He swims easy on Wednesday.  Thursday morning with a little bit of speed, but mostly general – a proper speed workout on the afternoon.


Friday morning – to make 10 sessions a week he would probably only do that in the first half of each cycle – rather than the back half and then he would drop to 9 sessions and Friday morning would then become more of a land work power sessions.  The swimmers have a sort of circuit that you saw Auburn doing – he would now actually go into the gym and maybe this time we will only do a 5 or 6 exercises, but it will take an hour.  It would be like a two minute max bike, 1,000 meter max row and that sort of thing. Something that stimulates him but isn’t too specific to swimming.

Friday night – pretty low level with some kick and then something fast on Saturday.  It depends on what I want to get out of that week so he kind of has four main sessions I guess.  They tend to all be in the afternoons – sometimes though we will start him in the mornings.  Speed work is usually done every session.  It is all timed – it is all recorded and it all has target times.  Land work – again – pretty general.  This doesn’t include core work.  Core work and stretching is done before all the sessions, but weights three times a week and either medicine ball or circuit work – again – similar to what you have seen many times this week, done on the alternate days.


So, this is an example session from a training camp that we did in Australia and what I am trying to do now is to show how it can be specific to the athletes that you do and the athlete I am really going to talk about here isn’t so much Gibo – because he actually was able to do this set. The times on here are pretty awful. This was when we were in Australia – we had to go and do this maybe in the first week of the cycle and I am sure some of you have probably got 12 year old girls that will beat the times that I am about to show you so don’t get too excited about those.


The more important thing is how the set then changed if they were not able to hold the times.  So in the warm-up they did a three 200 swim on their #1 stroke where the back end 100 of each was written down and then you extrapolated up to on the graph to find their max heart rate and then you went down and got a corresponding time.  If they were not able to hold those times for the 100’s then the repeat distance dropped to a 75 and the target time was then adjusted.  If they couldn’t hold the 75’s they would drop back to the 50’s and if they couldn’t hold the 50’s then they stopped the set, but the fact was that they should be able to hold the 50’s. These target times after doing these three 200’s were pretty slow. He only had to go 1:24’s for his 100’s – if he couldn’t do those he would drop to 75’s and if he couldn’t do those he dropped to the 50’s. He was actually not too bad on this day and he held his time – no problem.


The one I am going to show you now is for Chris Cook. Now I have asked Chris if this was alright for me to show and he said it was is. His target time for the 100 was a 1:22 from the graph on that day and it is on any given day.  If he were to do the same the next day his target time might well be at 1:19, however, on this day – for whatever reason – whether he was fatigued or the pool was cold or whatever it was – those were his times and you can see by the first two 100’s over on the left hand side – he was pretty way off his 100’s so we dropped him down to 75’s with a target time of 61.  He held one – the second one he was way off so he had to drop down to 50’s.  The 50’s – it took him again a while to get into it and the rule was – you had to hold four reps at that speed to be able to go back up to the top level again. If you couldn’t hold four then you couldn’t go back up – you just stayed on those reps so he managed to get back into his rhythm and his pacing if you like on the 50’s and then went back onto the 100’s and then held 100’s for the last 8 reps and that is what I am trying to say in terms of the individualization of training – same set – Gibo and Chris Cook, however, one could perform it that day and one couldn’t and so how do you then change the set to get the most out of it for that swimmer?


This is more of a heart rate set that he would do mid-season.  This is short course meters – again – the target times are pretty specific for him – 6 rounds through of a 100 breaststroke on 2 minutes at 20 beats below and then two 50’s on 1:15 – trying to hit his 200 pace.  His best times are there on the left for short course meters and so the times correspond with that and six rounds through after a recovery swim – six rounds through of a 50 breaststroke on 1:20 and two 25’s on a 50 at the pace he was on there.


It is a lot different to the sets I guess that the more endurance type athletes would do, but the total amount of fast swimming there is very, very high.  If you add it up it is 1800 worth of swimming at a pretty good pace.  There are the times that he went for those swims and this is going back some time now but, 11’s and 10’s to 9’s on the 100’s and 32 mid to 32 lows – the occasional 31 on his push 50’s.  So, it is all pretty specific.


Going over to the set of 50’s and 25’s – again – holding times pretty much no problem – 32’s and 31’s on the 50’s with 14 lows to 13 on the push 25’s, but the point was that he has to hold stroke rates also. He can’t ever go above eight strokes a length for his swimming or for his speed swimming, because he doesn’t do that in a race.


This now – I will take you through a couple of sprint sets. Now, it was interesting last night seeing some of the sets that Coach Rose put up for the distance guy that you guys have and also it is interesting when he spoke about David Davis.  David Davies actually, in the holding camp before the Olympics, swam 30 100’s on 1:40 with the first 27 being at 57. and the last three being 56.0.


The sets I am now going to put up are abut a million miles away from that sort of swimming and I mean a million miles away so this set went four rounds through.  This is the set I was saying before that went short course and long course – we are lucky that we could put the boom in or the turning board in so you want to push 15 sprint on 45 and a push 20 on 60 and push 15 on 1:15, a push 20 on 1:30 and then a push 30 on 1:30 and then a 10 meter finish on 30.  The four 100’s, although the recovery was controlled so it was freestyle on 1:45 where you had to hit those target times there and then a 50 choice where he could do as he pleased.  The target times there on the right hand side were targets for those swims and they added up to his best time, but for 110 meters of swimming. I will put up a table in a little bit that will explain some of these sprint times I hope, but it is based on – and I worked this out – again – from the statistics that I am given, but I work out for his sprint speed. He is not allowed to slow down as he goes down to 50 and I think that is quite important.


If Stefan Widmer had gone through some of the stuff that Libby Lenton does I think some of the stuff they do is pretty similar in terms if you have got to hold the speed for as long as you can with the same stroke rate or stroke count.


So these were the target times – if you look at the 30 compared to the 20, compared to the 15 – we are basing him swimming 3.4 seconds for each 5 meters which if you carried it on for the 50 and you took off a couple of tenths or 3/10 for the finish gives you a 30.7.  If the last set was going well – it is four rounds – if the last set was going well it was going to be pushed up to three 20 meter sprints – then a 40 and then a 10, but again – the pace had to be the same all the way through.  If he slowed going from 20 to 30 we would stay on this set where the reps were maybe less distance. So there are the times that he went – he actually went a lot quicker than the target times for one and two – ten eights for his 20’s – 30 meters there – 17.2 for most of them so we dropped him down for the last set and the three 20’s then the 40 and then the 10 and again – the times he did were pretty quick; 10.5, 10.7, 10.5, 23.5 for the 40 meters and 62 again on the finish.


There is just an explanation down at the bottom there of what those sort of times would correlate to if you carried on with the same speed and I think that that is the important thing that he is trying to do. So, he is swimming at or above his race pace for the return 50 of the 100.


This second sprint set was done all short course.  His first set through:  this is 4 rounds through.  The first set was actually done in freestyle so three 15 sprints, an easy 25 and then a full push 25 X 2 makes up your ten 25’s.  Three 100’s freestyle again at the recovery and then four 50’s breaststroke, two drills and then two techniques before we went into set 2, 3 and 4.  we did this set with a guy called Morton who is from Norway – swims 62. long course 100 breaststroke – he came over to train with me for a few weeks and Adam Wade came up to swim this set with him as well.


The total speed work we would like to keep around 7-800 meters through those sets. Sets 2, 3 and 4 were done breaststroke and they were done as such so a push 20 which was timed, push 15 which was purely racing, push 25 timed, push 15 which was purely racing.  So on and so forth all the way down.  The last two 25’s of the ten were done as a 50 so instead of – so I guess it was eight 25’s and a 50. The 50 was done where the three swimmers during each of the three sets took it in turns to lead at the 25.  They set the pace for the first 25 so that they touched first and then everybody then raced home the return 25 so mixed in with it was racing and times.  Their target times were also given and came out to be six seconds faster than the world record for the 95 meters that was timed and that had to me more –it would have to be 5 seconds which I think for most of the sets that they did, but I haven’t got the results.


This is the speed work table that I was talking about before and this is what a lot of his speed work is done off.  Hopefully, it is pretty self-explanatory.  The column on your furthest left is what we call his 200 meter type pace.  It is not as fast in this 200 – his best long course time is only 2:15 so a 33.2 is actually a little bit quicker than what he can do. But those times are about holding a constant time all the way through so the 200 pace is for 3.7 every 5 meters and the 3.3 to finish. The 100 pace is for a 3.5 meters – 3.5 seconds for 5 meters for the 3.1 finish and so on and so forth for the times through.  They were all long course so the 25 – they were all timed ahead through the whichever distance it is.


But I guess what I am trying to say is that he has a copy of this and so he knows for him what times he has to hold on certain sets and I think it is quite important that he can hit them.  If he can’t hit – say if we are trying to do 35 meter sprints or 35 meter efforts and he can’t make those times then you drop him back to 30’s. It is a lot better that he hits those, with underwater pull-outs, yeah.


Kick sets – again hopefully – it is pretty specific for him – he would have gone a 300, two rounds through of a 300 where he went 50 as three kicks, one pull. Long course 50 is three kicks one pull long course 50 as two kicks one pull 50 meter swim.  Five 100’s kick under 1:35 on 2 minutes.  None of my guys are great kickers.  For them that is pretty fast kicking.  He can, on his best kicks, probably go about a 1:24 or 1:25 on an all out effort, but in terms of holding constantly around 1:30 for him that is pretty good, but the important thing now is that we went straight into 250 swim.


Now if you were here when I spoke about Melanie she would probably go a push 75 or something like that at maybe 44 pace, but Gibbo he wouldn’t get anywhere near race speed or race pace for that sort of duration so I have to break it down so he would go a push 20 on the way out and a push 40 on the second 50 – plenty of rest – target times again – very specific to him and then 200 recovery.  The times are there on the right and he was okay on most.


A second kick set, again – mixes in fast swimming with the kick sets.  For me, I feel that is pretty important for my sprint swimmers when we are doing kick.  I like to try and overload their legs and then make them swim at race stroke rate or race pace, however long they can – the best they can.  So, three 100’s kick under 1:40 and then a 20 meter swim at race pace – target time is there on the right.  Anyway 100’s kick then getting faster under 1:35 and then a 40 meter swim – I think that is supposed to say 30 there on that first one – not 20 and then a one 100 kick under 1:30, followed by a 50 meter swim trying to beat his return pace of his 100 breast and then a 100 freestyle recovery.


I guess this is why I put them down in the week as a heart rate type set, but that is a pretty intensive session.  One, in terms of the swimming that he is doing, but also the kicking that he is doing – he is not far off max. His times are there on the right hand side and really I guess the last slide in terms of this set.


This is the set that I mentioned before, and you are more than welcome to use it, you probably won’t want it now, but I think it was a very, very good set.  When I came up with this set it was because we sat down and we discussed things and he felt that maybe he didn’t do too many 100 breaststrokes long course in training as he would have liked and also if the bloody videos worked you could have seen that the big problem in his racing was the last 25 – actually more specifically – about the last 12 ½ – last 15 and this was a set that I tried to come up with to I guess address those issues.


Three 100’s of breaststroke where the last 25 is timed.  The total time is given, but it is the last 25 that really is the main focus then a 200 easy, two 100’s of breaststroke and then a 200 easy, one 100 breaststroke and a 200 easy – twice through – so you have twelve 100’s of breaststroke.  It was always done on a Monday or usually done on a Monday – the second session of the week so he was pretty fresh and using the statistics his last of his best last of a 25 on a 100 meter breaststroke – that was of a 60. in type volume and I think he has done about ten or eleven  60. now – he would obviously have been slightly quicker if he was swimming slow down the first 50 and could come back – it was about a 17.2. He was also not allowed to do that in more than 12-13 strokes so he couldn’t spin it – that is the sort of stroke count that you would want to do for the last 25 and it is a lot easier for him to hold that than it is for him to hold a stroke rate, because you can see the line on the bottom at 25 and  he knows that he has to do it in 12-13 strokes, but those backend times – the backend 25’s stayed constant through the whole season or through the whole cycle.  They didn’t change.  The targets for that didn’t change so from week 3 when he first did it – all the way through the week #13 – they were the target times he had to hit for the last 25.  What it gave him through the cycle and we did this set I think every 9 times – there were certain days you would have to change because he just couldn’t make the times – it would have given him 102 100 meter breaststrokes with a finish time equal to or quicker than his best time.  Hopefully, addressing the fact that he then wouldn’t finish like he has got all of Noah’s Ark on his shoulders.


The total time – no change to the cycle – remember how I said that those backend 50’s or the backend 25’s didn’t.  For example Brendan Hansen probably finishes in a what? Well I know he finishes in around a 16.2 – 16.3 which means that he is about .8 or .9 quicker than Gibbo in the last 25, but  Gibbo is probably .5, .4, .5 quicker than him over the first 75 so the target times for the last 25 didn’t change, but the overall time changed so in week 3 it was a pretty soft time – for all the 100’s breaststroke he had to hold under 1:24.  The following week under 1:22 and the next week under 1:20, but the finish time stayed the same – that is the important thing.  He then had a week where he didn’t perform the set – a low level week or whatever you would want to call it – we probably had some racing.


The next week his target time would be what was second in the set of 3 before the week off so a sub 22. the rest would also go up to reach 3 and then the third time through under 1:20, 1:18, 1:16 and the plan would be that three or so weeks out from the Olympics he could hold a 100 meter breaststroke – holding 1:15 or quicker, but holding fast finish times which he kind of did to some extent, but he didn’t also to some extent.


2003-2004 – the first part of the year was really good.  Un-rested he swam a 58.0 at the European short course – I say un-rested – he probably swam about 40-45,000 meters that week, but normally he swims about 50,000 so it wasn’t like he was properly rested.  His 200 was sort of like 3 and he also swam a lifetime best this year at 2:15. At the Olympics however, he only got 6th place and that is why I am saying that set – the back end set for me I feel was a good set – it was a clever set, but maybe not for him and so if I can stress anything to you it would be that no matter how smart sometimes you think you are being – sometimes you need to look a bit more closely at the athlete and with regards to that set.


I guess just to finish off – it is the same thing as I kind of finished with the last time is always keep learning and the point for me I really do hope will come, that I can stop learning and maybe I think I will actually know something, but maybe for me it was a good thing that at the Olympics they didn’t swim as well as they could of.  If they had come back with what they really – I mean, should of – a gold and a bronze – two of my swimmers, then maybe I would of thought that I knew quite a lot of stuff and maybe I would have thought that you know, I am becoming a great coach and it is pretty obvious to me now that I am not and I need to make sure that I do keep learning, right?


And I could have blown through and maybe I would have a bit more money and maybe I would have a – I don’t know – a better looking girlfriend – I have no idea, but for me personally as a coach I think it is probably a good thing in the long-run that I didn’t have a great Olympics – sounds stupid and I probably feel pretty stupid just saying it, but for me personally it is important that now I do keep on learning.


Coming here and speaking with the quality of coaches I have had an opportunity to speak to obviously helped that so I hope in some way this talk has helped you.  I will get this slide off because I don’t look too good on that one and that’s it and I guess I will open it up to any questions anyone has got.


Question: What would you have done differently?


Answer: Well it’s not so much – well I guess it is hindsight – what I will probably do with him more now is the set that we used to do.  The question was – with hindsight with regards to the back-end set that I put up – this one – for me this was clever.  Actually he starts off with his best ever back ends and it goes down, however, what it did for him was promote mediocrity I think because he is only holding whatever the times were – you know, 20 and 22’s for the first bit.  I was teaching him to go out slow and then try and finish strong.


Now that is not the sort of athlete he is and I have in – not so much trouble in the past from performance directors or head coaches, but the fact that he has gone out quick and then sometimes died off and they always say, well why can’t you know, control the first 50 and finish strong.  That is not the sort of athlete he is.  He is controlled when he goes out in 27.8 or whatever for the first 50, he is controlling it – it is in 18 strokes and trying to change that – trying to change the natural way he swims – I think was a stuff up.  I am sure for an athlete like Ian Edmond or I mean, you guys – probably someone like maybe Ed Moses or someone who is probably a better trainer than Gibbo could be on anything past sprints or heart rate type stuff – maybe the set would be great for them, but for him I would probably now – or not so much, I would probably do five or six rounds through of something like a dive 100 breaststroke with maybe a 300 easy in between, where the 100 meter breaststroke was based on the last 50 so the first 50 maybe would go through the five sets 42, 40, 38, 36, 34, but the back end 50 had to be a 31 high or 32 low whereby then his total time for the 100 is coming down to like a 66 by the last set, but he is getting more active recovery as he goes through.  I mean by him doing three back to back, yes – he could hold the overall times pretty comfortably, but by the end of the sets he couldn’t hold 16.2’s – he couldn’t get down to 16.2’s and so I think by doing this set, maybe helping his overall endurance. His 200 PB’s for example which came right down in that 12 months, but maybe I curtailed some of the stuff that made him great to start with.


Ah, you mean the target times or how I timed them?  I just time them – oh alright okay – the question was – the guy is waving to me from the booth at the back again – the question was how do I get so specific on the times that he can hold for his sprint times – yeah – I time him from his head through to the markers on the bottom of the pool we have markers at 5 meters, 7 ½, 10 and 15 and so it is pretty easy for me to see as he goes through. Most of the stuff that we do when we do sprint sets he is on a pretty big rest and so it is easy for me to time swimmers through the group as we go through.  Also, by mixing in reps where some of them are purely racing and some of them are purely timed I can maybe time half the group on the ones that are going this way and then when they are coming back and racing I can time another half of the group who will be purely being timed – if that makes sense – probably not too much.


Question: You said that you don’t have an assistant coach and I am concerned about that – do you need some help or why don’t you have an assistant coach?


Answer: Ahhhhh – no one wants to work with me – I don’t know – no – well for me personally the program that we are at – it doesn’t have an awful lot of money – and my role is changing I think when I get back anyway. But I was from 1998 all the way through till pretty much 2002 when I was doing my degree and doing my Masters and I’m still doing the Masters – I wasn’t really paid either and so I kind of did it just because it is what I wanted to do and my academic suffered a little bit. I still got a pretty good degree though 021 and all that stuff, but we don’t have money in the program to employ coaches to come and help with that.  What I am doing when I get back is that one of my interns that I actually nearly killed – through no fault, well, it probably was through fault of mine. At this year’s Olympic trials he comes up to me and is like oh – I feel a bit tired – I’m just – me legs feel dead and I am, oh don’t worry about it – it is just the first day of the meet – you will be fine as it goes through, but it actually turned out on the last day of the meet he had to be hospitalized and got a drip and nearly died of pneumonia, so he can’t swim any more so he actually came to me and asked if he can come and help out. So hopefully now when we get back I will have someone who is there to run portions of the sessions for me, but it is difficult where we are at – the sessions now when I do coach are going to be from 7:30 until 10 and from 3:45 until 6 and that is when students are at school and so it is a little bit difficult for me to get people who are willing to give up that time to come and work in that environment for nothing, but –hopefully I can convince some people.


The question was, “Were James’ injury situations caused through land work or in the pool?”  I would say probably both.  Back then when we trained short course yards it was a very intensive program.  It had to be because we didn’t have much pool time.  Everything that you could think of in the lower half of the body would pretty much hurt a lot of the time, groins, knees and ankles, his foot – which still isn’t too good – you can’t use fins on it. He cant swim any other strokes that good anyway, but he can’t use fins on those sets, but by using those insoles and cutting weight exercise out of the land work, it pretty much solved the issue.


Thank you very much.


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