Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
5x Ironman Champion/ 4x 70.3 Champion

Magnolia Master’s Swim Camp Report

Magnolia Masters (1)As many of you know, I spent much of the month of January participating in a training camp in The Woodlands, Texas. My swim coach, Tim with Magnolia Aquatics Masters, decided to host a swim emphasis training camp. There were a number of pro triathletes there with ranging abilities and experience when it came to swimming. The fact that the camp was located essentially on the IMTX course was definitely an added bonus as I could train on the bike and run course where the North American Championships will be in May. Having coach David with PhysFarm and many of his other athletes in town was great as well. While we were focusing on the swim, I was able to get a lot of quality riding and running in throughout the month.

DCIM100GOPROMy main focus of the camp was to build as much volume in the water as I could. I remember talking with Tim prior to the camp about how I was expecting my speed to get a bit slower as the volume went up. He basically told me I was selling myself short…and he was right. We put in a ton of yards compared to what I’ve been doing in the past. The best part is, none of the yards were “garbage.” The weekly volume was nearly double what I’ve been training at. I certainly did have a few days where I had to force it and the form tried to break down. However Tim did a great job of manipulating volume and intensity to get the most out of every one of us. He would often pull a few people out of the water during a set if they were struggling. Basically, once form breaks down you just reinforce bad habits if you keep pushing.

Each day had a very specific goal. Mondays were a density day so we swam two longer sets of repeats on a fairly tight interval. Tuesdays were a speed/endurance day so we typically did quite a few 25s, 50s, and 75s at a specific pace. Wednesday was sprint night where we did a completely anaerobic set. Thursday was essentially a bridge so we got either one or two sets of a fairly “dense” workout that was a bit lower in intensity. Friday was definitely the hardest day of the week but also proved to be the most rewarding. The focus was speed/endurance again but the sets were typically repeat 100s on a tight interval and a specific hold pace. Saturday was a longer swim and Tim would judge what he could get out of us based on how we all looked during the warm up.
Monday-Day17-MorningI’ve done this basic weekly structure with Tim since we started working together. However, the benefit of swimming with other people who are faster and similar speeds as you is astounding. I had a number of break throughs (both physically and mentally) throughout the month and most of them happened when I was swimming right along side another person who was able to push me. Plus you have an added level of accountability when swimming with a group like that. On the Tuesday and Friday swims, you are given a hold pace. If you miss the hold pace you are PUNISHED by having to sit the next rep out to recover. NO ONE wants to sit on the wall and watch the competition swim another set. One morning workout, that happened to me when I was nearing the end of a set and it was much more painful than swimming that 100 1 second faster would have been. It was a feeling I didn’t want to have again, so I vowed not to miss any more times. There were a number of days where Tim told me my hold pace…with his usual “this is gonna kick your arse” smirk…and I’m thinking to myself that he was nuts. But, I’m happy to say that I did not have to sit out for any reps after the first time. With Tim on the deck, he could allow us to increase the volume while ensuring our form stayed in check. We definitely loaded up on volume the first two weeks, then scaled back the last two. We certainly could have kept the volume high for the last few weeks, but intensity would have suffered significantly and many of the yards would turn to “garbage” which is fairly pointless when it comes to training for an IM swim. Tim has really showed me that you can’t approach swim training like you do the bike or run. It is a completely different beast. There is very little benefit to swimming just long and slow when training for an Ironman swim, that just isn’t going to help in most cases. This is very different than the way most approach swim training, however I think we will be able to quantitatively prove this shortly (more on this later soon!)

MattHanson FitI am impressed every time I go to The Woodlands to train. The weather is usually great and the triathlon community is AMAZING. Training with the AGers on the Magnolia team is always a highlight. Tim has done a great job creating a team environment with the group. Everyone gets personalized attention, everyone feels as if they fit in. They joke around, go to “steak night” after the sprint session from the week, and hang out together for coffee, drinks, or whatever. It is always fun to chat with the team, even though we are only there for a short time they accept us as one of their own right away. The camp would have been such a different experience without this component. We weren’t working out every waking minute and it was great to be able to go out and socialize with so many people from the area. There were a number of businesses from the Woodlands and the surrounding area who supported the camp as well. A special thank you to Payton and Sam Ruddock of Ruddock Visuals, Brian at Bicycle Speed Shop, Dr. Johnson and the crew from Sterling Ridge Orthopedics, Tim Monk with Klean Athlete, as well as Dr. Clouthier from Alternative Health Center for all of the support throughout the camp.

I was fortunate enough to have an amazing home stay for the month as well. What a great family. The two young girls were swimmers and seemed to enjoy the fact that they could wax me in the pool if they wanted to. I remember feeling good about myself one evening for the main set of approximately 3k during our evening set. One of the girls passively mentioned that their main set was 90×100… #humbled!!! I know the other pros agree that the triathlon community in The Woodlands definitely greeted us with open arms.

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