With less than a month to go until the 2014 Commonwealth Games officially kicks off in Glasgow, I was delighted to be invited by official sponsors to the Games, Strathmore Water, to play a part in their Do More campaign. This campaign sees Strathmore team up with some of Team Scotland’s brightest medal hopefuls in order to inspire people to get active and Do More through the sharing of inspiring stories and motivational tips.
As an ex-competitve swimmer myself, I was over the moon to hear that I would be spending the morning training in the pool with, and interviewing, local lad Robbie Renwick. For those of you who don’t follow swimming, Robbie won a gold medal for Scotland in the 200m freestyle at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Dehli, a crown he hopes to retain this summer at the Games in Glasgow.
Jump In The Pool
Having not raced competitively for around fifteen years, my hopes for the Do More session were that Robbie would motivate the competitive fire in my belly and also inspire me to up-the-anti on my current “training regime,” typically consisting of swimming a fairly leisurely mile once a week (without getting my hair wet), followed by a coffee and a slice of cake.
Having met my lovely co-conspirators for the day, I anxiously donned my swimming cozzie hoping that no swan dives were to be expected too early on in proceedings!
Poolside, Robbie put us all at ease immediately with his calm and friendly manner. He started off by doing a demo of his specialist stroke, freestyle, and then invited us to do a couple of lengths by way of warm up so that he could provide us with some tailored training pointers. Robbie went on to talk us through some techniques that we could easily apply to our training to help us to build up strength, stamina and speed in the water.
Robbie explained that the key aspect of becoming a more efficient swimmer is streamlining, as without mastering this, we could lose valuable seconds and energy in competitions.
Streamlining is all about getting one’s body as elongated or “tucked in” whilst in the water as possible. Serious athletes will even shave all body hair to achieve the ultimate in streamlining. Once our techniques were suitably homed, Robbie then coached us in some fun (but challenging) swimming drills and gave us some tumble turn lessons.
We then put everything that we had learnt together to compete in a two team Scottish blogger relay race. Im pleased to report that my team won – but not without a fierce battle – yay!
Operation Motivate successfully executed
Robbie’s training tips really put me through my paces and participating in this session has definitely given me a kick up the backside on some of my more lazy swimming habits. An example of this is keeping my head above the water when swimming, which I have discovered actually uses more energy for less gain as opposed to ducking down and getting streamlined. I also picked up lots of simple tips that could be incorporated to make swimming easier, regardless of ability. The session was great fun and thankfully no swan dives were required!! I have inserted the official video of the training below:
After we had dried off, it was off upstairs for lunch and a Q&A with Robbie.
Training and Diet
Robbie told us about his gruelling training schedule, which can involve up to 5 hours swimming and 1.5 hours in the gym everyday 6 days a week. He explained that professional swimmers tend to follow a high intensity swimming programme for most of the year, and then several weeks before a big meet, will switch to a “taper” training mode, which drastically reduces the time spent in training, thus recalibrating the body, leaving it fresh for the big race.
Food wise, a healthy balanced diet making use of all food groups is important to Robbie, who feels whilst the odd bit of cake is fine (good man), his philosophy is firmly “rubbish in, rubbish out.”
Hopes and Aspirations
Robbie intends to defend his gold medal winning title in the 200m freestyle at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this summer. After Glasgow 14, his focus will shift towards competing for a place on the podium at the Swimming World Championships next summer and then his next project will be qualifying and winning a medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 – his ultimate dream.
I asked Robbie about what life holds for him after competitive swimming is over. He intends to stay involved in the swimming world in some capacity and would also like to finish his university degree, of which he still has a year to complete but has deferred in order to race.
On Pressure and a homecoming
We asked Robbie about how he is dealing with the mounting pressure to retain his Commonwealth title in his home town. He explained that all Team 14 swimmers have regular sessions with a sports psychologist, which helps all the athletes to remain focused. Avoiding distractions, particularly in the form of media hype around the Games is also important (but extremely difficult whilst living in the host city), as is the ability to switch off to what other competitors are doing around him, so as to enable sole focus on his own performance.
I asked Robbie if he has any pre-race superstitions. He said he hasn’t, and has actively avoided getting into the ritual side of things. Although Robbie suffers nerves before a big race, he sees this as a good thing, and channels this adrenalin into his performance.
Glasgow 14 Legacy
Robbie believes very strongly in the importance of building a strong sporting legacy after Glasgow 14 and sees part of this legacy as spreading his passion for swimming through campaigns like Strathmore’s Do More events. He believes that one of the best ways to get people in the pool is by fostering access to swimming lessons for children from primary school age through to adulthood. He is extremely encouraged by the surge of interest in swimming that he has seen at the event venue, Tollcross pool, over the last few weeks in the build up to the Games, and hopes that the local authorities can harness this enthusiasm into the future.
For anyone wondering from the pictures, Robbie confirmed that he prefers to shave his body hair rather than wax! 🙂
Big thanks go to Robbie for the all the brilliant training tips and motivation in the pool and for giving us an inspiring insight into life as a world class athelete. Go Robbie and Team Scotland! You can follow Robbie’s journey through the Games on twitter @RobbieRenwick and #TeamStrathmore. Thanks also go to to all at Strathmore Water and Stripe Communications for inviting me along to this fantastic event. You can read more about Strathmore Water’s Do More campaign, which includes a free couch to 5k training guide, here: http://www.strathmore-water.co.uk/do-more