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Team Nagi Coaching Newsletter – March 2021

Hi Guys,

We are very nearly there…

For all the toil, anguish and misery people have been through the light is now shining a little bit brighter ahead. With the worst months finally behind us we can now start to breathe a collective sigh of relief. There is much excitement to look forward to during April and beyond.

This month will prove to be the cross roads for many things as restrictions are progressively lowered. Most importantly we will see the return to swimming, which will be such a welcome relief for us all. Make no bones this has been the longest break from swimming many of us have ever had so the build back in has to reflect that. The message from me will be clear to all my swimmers; we are going to ease in very gently for the first 4 weeks as we slowly start to wake the body back up again. Patience will be key to avoid over stressing the shoulder muscles & tendons, remember the last thing you want to do is injure yourself. It really doesn’t matter how fit you’ve kept yourself in other disciplines; you are starting from ground zero again once you get back in the pool.

I think many of you will have learned some useful lessons about how to build back in from previous lockdowns but one statement an athlete made to me really stuck with me. After watching the swimmer thrash himself to death for a few sets (it was meant to be easy pace endurance work) I asked him about the pace he swimming at, looking at his watch he replied “I’m just swimming at the pace where I think my fitness should be”. How I rolled my eyes and shook my head when I heard this because unfortunately nonsensical thinking like this isn’t uncommon. It’s not where you think your fitness should be after time out that matters; it’s where your fitness actually is that is important. This is the new baseline you are working from so be sure to keep things well within your comfort zone initially.

A few swimmers have already asked me what they should be focussing on when they get back in the water so here goes:

  1. Just be very grateful for being back in the water. Think of it as reuniting with a dear old friend.
  2. Initially don’t worry too much about technique, it will more than likely feel quite odd & out of sync for the first few sessions. It doesn’t mean to say you are doing something wrong.
  3. Just enjoy opening up your senses again to the wonderful feelings & sensations that swimming provides. Embrace it’s meditative qualities and just enjoy feeling that flow.
  4. Pace wise, swim really easy and lose the watch. Swim speed is irrelevant.
  5. Aim to swim 2-3 times per week for the first 3-4 weeks keeping the sets well within you comfort zone. Think of multiple repeats of 25’s, 50’s, 75’s, 100’s with plenty of rest in between.
  6. Use drills sparingly and prioritise swim fitness for the first few weeks. It’s important to just get moving again.
  7. Don’t moan about how unfit, how sluggish or how slow you are, everyone is in the same boat! It will comeback as soon as you’ve put the work in, along with that much sort after ‘feel for the water’.

I would also highly recommend doing some pre-swim prep work in the weeks leading into your return to swimming. So start to wake the shoulder girdle and associated muscle groups (rotator cuff, pecs, lats, deltoids, traps, rhomboids) up by doing some gentle dry land resistance exercises. These can be done with bands or resistance cords.

April is also a time where your training plan will start to evolve to a new and exciting phase. Many of you have put in some terrific work on both developing  bike and run fitness individually these past few months. This has been easily accommodated along with huge developments in additional work that includes yoga, Pilates, mobility & activation work and strength & conditioning. Now we need to add swimming into the mix again so it’s time to see what will be possible at your local pools over the next few weeks and work that into your new training plans. The next phase is all about specificity as we edge that little bit closer to race season.

In relation to races my message to all of my athletes has been very clear since October of last year. Do not put all your eggs in one basket for doing International races this year. A few might get lucky, others wont and if we look at the state Europe is in right now where many of you have planned races, it isn’t looking good. So it’s essential that you have back up options for UK based races where there is a much higher chance of these events going ahead as the season progresses.  It’s been great to see how so many of you have done your homework and already built those race calendars for this year. Others have been dragging their feet and have needed the proverbially kick up the backside to get on top of this. I just don’t want to see any of you losing out, leaving it too late and not getting the chance to put all of the quality training you’ve put into good use. Races don’t need to be Ironman branded events either, far from it, we have such an amazing variety of races in the UK over every distance that will suit your own unique set of circumstances. You just need to find them by doing some research.

One form of racing to consider which can have a huge impact on your ability to race well is doing outdoor cycling time trials. Again we are blessed in this country with a huge calendar of these types of races over all sorts of distances. Typically 10 & 25mile distances are the most frequent and popular and they go all the way up to 100-mile challenges. They are also very easy to put on with current restrictions. So if you want to learn how to take that fitness you’ve built up on the turbo trainer throughout the winter months and transfer it into pure raw power and speed on the road, there is nothing you could do to better yourself as a triathlon cyclist. Holding pace & power in an aero position on the dynamics of the road is so different to what you do indoors. It’s a little bit like going from the pool to the open water. Many fail to transfer turbo fitness to races because of a lack of this kind of specific work. It’s also the reason you see some of the best triathlon cyclists in the country now racing frequently in cycling time trials all over the UK. These events usually friendly and fun but all too often triathletes seem to think it isn’t a world that will be welcoming to them, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every great cyclist has needed to take this step into the unknown at some point and you only find once over this initial hurdle they’d only just wished they’d done it sooner. The ability level is vast from beginners to more seasoned cyclists and it’s usually the triathletes that seem to have the best bikes/kit at these types of races!

This type of racing will kick off from the 29th March onwards and the website to go to is for more information. All you need to do to enter any of these races is to join a cycling or triathlon club near to you that is affiliated with Cycling Time Trials. It’s usually cheap and easy to do but will give you access to any number of fantastic races out there for you.

Looking ahead it’s an extraordinary fact that when you think about it some of you wont have raced for nearly 2 years. I’m hopeful that this is going to change in a very big way for the better in 2021. But just be mindful of how you set your expectations of yourself for the season ahead. After so much time out from racing, this year will be more about re-discovering yourself as triathletes once again and seeing where you are at. It will also be a time to just revel in the fact that you are able to go out there and put all that training to good use.

Who you are as triathletes and where you want to get to really does start all over again 2021, so lower those expectations in favour of having some fun for the moment. Once you get a few races under your belt you’ll be in a far better position to understand where you are and what you need to do next to get to where you want to be.

Tribute to a triathlon legend  – RIP Dick Hoyt

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The world of triathlon lost a truly great man earlier this week; it saddened hugely to hear of the passing of Dick Hoyt at the age of 80. Words can’t express just how much these two amazing human beings inspired me when I first became a triathlete and continue to do so to this very day. Back then they had an almost mythical status within the sport. Their story and relationship is nothing short of incredible, their achievements at the Ironman World Championships and beyond were legendary.

This simply is one of the greatest stories of overcoming you will ever read. Doctors told Dick that his son Rick would be a vegetable for the rest of his life and should be institutionalised. Dick knew better as he sensed there was something in his son’s eyes that was telling him there was a person alive in there. Thank God he trusted his parental instincts and chose to ignore them and prove everyone wrong.

Team Hoyt eventually competed in 1,130 endurance events, including 72 marathons and six Ironman’s. They run the Boston Marathon 32 times. Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles (6,011 km) in 45 days.

Rick went on to graduate from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in special education. He later worked at Boston College in a computer lab helping to develop systems to aid in communication and other tasks for people with disabilities.

Time and time again I’ve thought about them over the years as a source of inspiration whenever life has got tough. This is my favourite quote from Dick Hoyt that I never forgot:

“The best that has happened to me in my life has come from handling the worst that’s happened to me in my life”

It made me realise that greatest challenges we have in life often lead to our greatest successes, we just don’t know it at the time. So no matter what happens we should always keep pushing on and making the best of any situation we find ourselves in however insurmountable they maybe.

I consider myself one of the privileged few to have to have met them and witnessed at first hand the wonderful father/son relationship that they had. 10 years ago I was at a race in the US called Timberman and they were launching their book ‘It’s only a mountain’ which I can’t recommend highly enough. I can’t remember being more nervous meeting two people but Dick immediately put me at ease. He had a mischievous twinkle in his eye and so did Rick. They were unable to communicate verbally with each due to Rick’s disability so the communication was all done through the eyes and bodily gestures. You had to see it to believe it; Dick just knew what his son was thinking by looking at his face and reactions. They continually laughed and joked with each other like any close father and son would do. It was day I have never forgotten as it was such a privilege to be in their company.

There was always talk that their story would be made into a film one day, I know they got quite far down the line with Disney who wanted to make it but for some reason it never happened. I hope one day it does because it’s a story that needs to be told.

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Film of the month

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Against the tides

Where to start with this one?! It promised so much and I so wanted to love it if some of the reviews were anything to go by. But unfortunately I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down by it. I think this is one film that will polarise many and I’m really interested to hear of others views on it.

This is the story of Beth French and her attempt to become the first female swimmer to complete the Oceans 7 challenge within one year. What makes the story unique is she is a single parent with an autistic child, she also spent most of her early life bed bound with M.E.

To complete the challenge she would have to complete the 7 swims listed below:

  1. The North Channel: between Ireland and Scotland, 21 miles (34 km)
  2. The Cook Strait: between New Zealand’s North and South Islands, 16 miles (26 km)
  3. The Moloka’i Channel: between Moloka’i and O’ahu, 27 miles (44 km)
  4. The English Channel: between England and France, 21 miles (34 km)
  5. The Catalina Channel: between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles, 20 miles (32 km)
  6. The Tsugaru Strait: between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, 12 miles (20 km)
  7. The Strait of Gibraltar: between Spain and Morocco, 10 miles (16 km)

I wont say much more, I’ll leave you to make your own judgement. Did she make the right call? Let me know your thoughts.

Book of the month

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Bundini: Believe the hype

“In my personal conversations with some of the individuals who knew Ali best, it became abundantly clear that Bundini’s contributions are more appropriately described in the metaphysical sense. “I think Bundini was the source of Muhammad Ali’s spirit. I wouldn’t even call him a trainer or cornerman—he was more important than a trainer. Ali had an unmeasurable determination and he got it from Bundini,” two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman said to me. “When you talk about Bundini, you are talking about the mouth of Muhammad Ali, an extension of Muhammad Ali’s spirit. There would never have been a Muhammad Ali without Drew Bundini Brown,” Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the Champ’s second wife, suggested, echoing Foreman’s comments. “He was Ali’s spirit man. A motivator. I can’t explain it. It was a feeling thing. He fed the soul, he fed the spirit,” James “Quick” Tillis reminisced. “In training camp, Bundini kept everything going. Kept everything lively. Bundini gave Ali his entire heart,” former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said to me, looking back on his five years working for Ali as a sparring partner. “Bundini played a very important part in Ali’s career. He was Ali’s right-hand man. He knew exactly how to motivate him. He was the one guy who could really get him up to train and get him ready to fight,” (from “Bundini: Don’t Believe The Hype” by Todd D. Snyder)

I could have written my own thoughts on who Drew Bundini Brown was but thought it was best summed up from the quotes of the legendary boxers shown above. There is no more fitting tribute to the man who was such a big part of Muhammad Ali’s entourage (and Sugar Ray Robsinon’s before that).

This is the story of the man that was the assistant trainer, spiritual guide and motivator to two of the greatest boxers of all time. The famous quote that so many people associate with Ali “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was actually the creation of Bundini Brown, in fact many of Ali’s most poetic rhymes came from him. He was as flawed as he was a genius and there might never be another person quite like him.

I loved this book for so many reasons, most importantly it shows us the search for greatness or self actualisation can never be done alone. The people we let it in to our lives have an enormous impact on where we get to in life and who we become. We just need to choose our team members wisely.

To sum up the impact Bundini had on Ali, he simply said “He made me the greatest”. What a compliment from the man regarded by many as ‘The Greatest’.

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TN Swimmer Q & A


Name: Nikki Murray-Smith

Age: 30-35

Star sign: Virgo

Years swimming: 30+

Occupation: Lawyer

In another life you would have been

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Probably something more nature related or environmental, anything that involves less screen time, more fresh air and being by the sea!

Who is your athletic alter ego?

I have no idea……I’ll leave that one for you to answer Coach (please don’t say Homer Simpson!)

Favourite training session:

I’d take any training session at the moment (even a red mist)…..I think progressive intensity ones are my favourites though.

Least favourite training session:

That one where coach says “just swim”. No kit, no chat, no rest. Just get on with it!

Favourite swimmer:

Mark Foster, his stroke is beautiful to watch.

Favourite book:

I’ve read a lot of good books over the years and couldn’t choose just one book (non-committal, I know!).

Last book you read:

The Beekeeper of Aleppo – it got me through lockdown 3 by appreciating that staying at home is a privilege compared to being forced to flee your home.

Favourite swim venue/location:

The sea, without a doubt!

Favourite event experience:

Croatia – 26km over two days, a mixture of coastal and island to island swims, with friends, finished off with a spa break in a vineyard.

If you could choose 3 famous people to come to dinner with you who would they be & why?

After the last year, I’d be grateful to host anyone for dinner, let alone someone famous. David Attenborough because he’s had some amazing experiences with nature that few others have had.

Nelson Mandela because I’d learn something about endurance and resilience.

Michelle Obama for her inspiration.

Training hours per week:

This feels more like a confession to coach…..6-9, but hoping that will be more consistent as lockdown decreases!

Goals for 2021?

I’d like to do a 10k or more open water swim but I think this year will mostly be enjoying swimming again rather than for the pressure of an event. I also want to carry on winter swimming – I crave the cold water!


Instagram posts of the month