“With butterfly, my focus is the underwater part of the stroke – the ‘keyhole’ pull pattern as we call it (so called because the swimmer’s hands describe the shape of a keyhole). I need to concentrate on pushing my hands back to get me ‘clearing’ the water. Freestyle’s the same – the focus is what happens underwater. I have to concentrate on pushing as much water behind me as I possibly can. The kick’s similar to the backstroke kick – short, sharp kicks without bending the knees.”

Achilles Heel

“I find breaststroke the hardest – it’s definitely not my favourite stroke. Because I’m not particularly strong at it, I find it incredibly physically demanding to do a lot of it. I try to do a lot of breaststroke during my sessions – so I get used to the physical stress of the stroke – but I tend to find I get really sore shins when I do the breaststroke kick. This is because the breaststroke kick is such a whole-leg exercise. I find it really difficult to go fast with my breaststroke kick; it takes me a long time to do a single kick. When I try to speed it up, it puts a huge amount of pressure on my legs ... There are a lot of technical things I need to work on with my breaststroke.”

Different Strokes

“Most of the sessions Matt has me doing are designed so that I can incorporate different strokes throughout the workout. Sometimes a session will only incorporate two strokes, sometimes four. This morning, for example, I did a session where I was doing efforts over 15m, 25m, 35m and 50m. I had to work three times through that progression in each set, so I just rotated through the different strokes. Occasionally Matt will say he wants a certain session completed in a certain stroke, but generally he leaves it up to me. I find it pretty easy to cover all the strokes in a session.”

The Pointy End

“As a big competition – like the World Champs – approaches we’ll gradually start cutting down the kays in the pool. This is when we’ll start doing a lot of speed work to get us prepared for racing. During our peak training phase we’ll normally snap out around 6km in a session, so 12km a day. I don’t find that load too bad. I’ve been with Matt for a while now so I know what to expect from his sessions. I don’t go in to a session groaning, thinking, ‘Oh no, what have we got today? ’