Sophie Pascoe is New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian ever. Sophie has won four Commonwealth Golds, sixteen World Championship medals and an incredible fifteen Paralympic Golds.
In the Pool
Like all professional swimmers, Sophie does a lot of training both in and out of the pool. In the pool, she incorporates training aids and drills to mix up her training and work on her technique.
“I use a few training aids. I love my pull buoy as it lifts the body right up when training. I also love fins as they’re really versatile. I love them for speed training as well as focusing on technique and skill. I also really enjoy adding drills to my training. There are two I like, one is clapping hands with your friend, but that’s more for fun. My favourite serious drill is ‘paddle-on-head,’ where you swim, and tumble turn with a paddle on your head to keep your alignment straight.”
Also referred to as the “Top Hat Drill”, Sophie’s favourite paddle-on-head drill, involves the innovative use of a paddle to help improve your body positioning. It’s a great drill for swimmers who often lift their head when breathing.
To try the drill, you’ll need one of your favourite Speedo paddles. Place the paddle at the crown of your head and start to swim, pushing the paddle in front of you. The water pressure should keep the paddle in front of your head. If you lift or move your head too much, the paddle will fall meaning that your alignment is out. When you start to do the drill, you may find that the paddle falls away when you breathe. To combat this, keep your head in line with your spine and take quick breaths without lifting your head. This will keep the paddle in place.
If the drill is a little too difficult at first, then try using fins to make it easier. Going at a faster pace helps to keep the paddle in place. Try to avoid trying this drill in a lane full of swimmers, as the moving water will make it much more difficult.
Got this drill perfected? For a fun challenge you can try doing a flip turn whilst keeping the paddle in place! It may sound impossible, but give it a try with your swim buddies, you might be surprised!
Out of the Pool
All swimmers know how important cross-training is, and Sophie is no exception. Before every swim Sophie does physio exercise to manage previous shoulder and back issues. Sophie also does 4-5 land training sessions a week, depending on where she’s at in her training cycle.
“For me, land training consists of all sorts. I do HIIT, rock climbing, strength training, boxing, yoga, and Pilates. During taper I focus on speed training in the gym using lots of bands, while continuing yoga and Pilates.”
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Like any athlete, Sophie faces challenges and off-days. Below is some of her advice to you on how to overcome them and come back stronger.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, which in itself can be a challenge. Over time, I’ve surrounded myself with an amazing team that I can be open and honest with. I’m not afraid to ask them for help, and they’ve been a huge driving force, reminding me of my ‘why’ when things get tough. I’ve also learnt to use the pressure I put on myself in a positive way.”
“My advice is to always make time to relax after a big race. I usually sleep-in and have some ice cream! Also, at the end of each swim season I like to go on holiday by myself to take some time to reflect and refresh before embarking on the next goal.”
Like Sophie, make sure you take some time out after big races. No matter how well they went it’s important to relax, reflect and let your body recover.
Find out more about Sophie here.