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

2016 Magnolia Masters Swim Camp

Matts back_zpsixfkqest   2015 showed some good progress in the swim. My times in the pool dropped significantly. I had a few races where I felt really good about how I swam. But in no way am I content with the gains that we have made over the last few years. In order to accomplish what I want to in the sport, I need to improve my swim fitness, get more consistent swimming in all water conditions, and eliminate a number of the tactical errors I have made. Some of the tactical issues will come with gaining race experience, I am still fairly young in the sport. But the other things will only come by putting in the time and effort in the water. I definitely have high expectations of where my swim should be, and swimming will continue to be an area of focus in my training moving forward.

Morning Steam Recovery_zpspuokmxepLast year when I came to the first swim camp down in The Woodlands, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming back this year, I had a better idea of what I was in store for. Tim has no secrets about his approach to swim training. Since working with him, I’ve gone from a 1:00+ IM swimmer to mid-to-low 50s, so I definitely believe in his philosophy. Tim posted a full report of every day of the camp including the workouts that we did here so I am not going to talk much about the specific training that we did. The primary focus of this report is going to discuss the benefits of of this camp specifically as well as the benefits of the general camp environment.

group photo_zpszxsrmcpbI’ve been down to Texas to swim with Coach Tim and the Magnolia crew there a number of times and seem to perform much more consistently in workouts than I do when swimming alone here in Iowa. There are a few reasons for this. First, I am swimming with other people…and usually other people who are faster than me. This definitely provides some external motivation and healthy competition. I don’t necessarily mean competition against each other. We do a lot of specific ‘hold pace’ sets with Tim and if you miss your pace, you sit on the wall for the next rep while everyone else pushes off. That is not a very pleasant feeling to watch everyone push off but you have to stay on the wall because you didn’t make your time. Second, having Tim on deck watching every stroke is definitely a bonus. He can give constant technique reminders throughout the set. To me, it is usually about my stroke tempo, not finishing my stroke, or my butt is too low in the water….or all of these at the same time when things really start to get ugly.Group at the wall_zps2r5zzzxuThe instant feedback is really helpful and helps keep things tight. When your form starts to slip due to fatigue, the constant reminders to adjust help prevent the pace from slipping away as well. Tim constantly preaches that gains are made by holding your form deeper and deeper into long sets. A few times I would really fight to make my hold pace, and be excited that I made it…only to have Tim waiting on the wall to tell me that something was wrong with my form and I was working way too hard. When form goes, efficiency goes. And, if you follow anything Tim posts…it’s all about efficiency.

This year was a bit different. We did a morning swim and an afternoon swim Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri and just an a.m. swim on Sat. Wednesday was completely off and Sunday was an opportunity for Tim to do some film sessions with us. I got my turn for film early on. Here is some of the video Tim took of where my stoke is at right now. As you can see, it has come a long way from when I first started working with Tim (see initial videos HERE). I mentioned in the previous paragraph the specific things we are working on. If you watch the videos, you can see times where my finish is good, my hips are high, and my tempo is in the 1.5 range. Then there are a few moments where the hips drop and the finish isn’t there…I tend to tempo up when I get fatigued, so that isn’t too much of an issue in these videos. Despite the gains, my stroke remains a work in progress.


Aside from the technique changes, we are also working on depth of fitness. I’m pretty happy with where my top end speed is at right now. When we were doing repeat 25s, I was consistently in the high 12s to low 13s (scy of course) and was doing repeat 50s comfortably holding 29/30. I need to dmatt break out_zpsxvd9qtenevelop the depth of fitness to be able to carry this speed into longer intervals and into deeper sets. This is difficult to do on just the hour per day I have available to swim most days in Iowa. The camp environment allows Tim to really push the volume with us. Since he can see every stroke, he can provide feedback to keep form and prevent injury. He also is able to tell when he needs to back us off because we are getting too tired. I didn’t get kicked out of the pool at all this January, but when I was down in September, I was booted a time or two because Tim felt that I was carrying too much fatigue. By the end of the camp, many of our main sets were as long as the typical workout including warm up that I do at home. We hit 6k in one of our Saturday workouts and nearly 9k total on a few of the Monday “dense” double swim days.

bridge_tm (1)Another thing that Tim has introduced with me is swim specific strength training. Shortly before the camp, I started working with Bridge Athletic for strength training. With my educational and teaching background, I’m obviously quite critical with any strength training program. I can honestly say after 2 month of working with Bridge Athletic that I am really impressed. They are extremely responsive to any questions or issues that come up. The prescribed workouts are very functional and typically focus on whole body activities. I have noticed a difference in the water already. The increase in strength is definitely adding to the depth of fitness. I am able to put pressure on the water deeper into sets which helps keep my tempo low and hips high…the main things I need to work on for this year. I really think this is going to translate well into open water swims when you have to power through choppy water as well.

scary photoObviously, my bike and run volume was pretty low during the swim camp. The focus was maintaining bike and run fitness while growing in the swim. At the end of the 3 weeks of the official camp, we were all pretty tired. That seems to be the right amount of time for a big swim push. I’m happy with the improvements that I’m leaving the camp with. It was another great experience in the Woodlands.

I definitely need to thank my AMAZING host family again for their hospitality for the month. They truly have made me feel like a part of their family over the last year that I’ve been visiting them. Also, I can’t thank Sterling Ridge Orthopedics enough for all of the treatment on a nagging injury I had been fighting for a few months. It isn’t often that I leave a camp feeling better than when I started! My home is in Iowa, but the Woodlands Community has really welcomed me in and made it a great place for me to train. Looking forward to coming back down again in May.

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