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Speedo Says...

Pedal to Pool episode 3

Cyclist Juliet Elliott shares her progress in the pool since her personal swim fitness lesson with record-breaking swimmer Mark Foster.

‘I was pretty unsure exactly what swimming could do for a cyclist at first, but that’s exactly why I was interested in trying it out (see episode one). I’m glad I did, as swimming now feels like a natural complement to my cycling and I really look forward to time in the pool.

“I particularly like that swimming stretches out my body with long, fluid movements”

‘I particularly like that swimming stretches out my body with long, fluid movements and is the direct opposite to the tighter, hunched position I’m in on the bike. I find my lower back, glutes and hips get quite tight from cycling and the swimming helps to loosen them up.

‘It also helps with shoulder pain, so that’s a win. I recently took my husband swimming and we both agreed that it helped rid us of that horrid pain you get between your shoulders, just below your neck. He’s now keen on coming with me regularly as he’s convinced it’s beneficial to cyclists and he’s keen on anything that helps improve his performance.

‘Already I feel like swimming is part of my routine. At first, it felt like something I was meant to be doing rather than something I wanted to do. Now I’m feeling the benefits, I’m more motivated to make time for swimming as I enjoy it so much.

“Being in the water really makes me smile”

‘Over the past few months, I’ve had a bit of a revelation about what I enjoy doing and I’ve discovered that swimming fits in pretty neatly. Firstly, I like things that are fun and playful, so splashing around in a pool, a river or the sea fills that need. Being in the water really makes me smile and reminds me of being a kid, as I have so many memories of swimming lessons, holidays, swim club and going to the pool with my family. It’s so relaxing.

‘The other side of me likes things that are difficult, so I’ve really enjoyed following some of the swim workouts that British champion swimmer Mark Foster suggested (see episode two) because they can be challenging.

“I’ve really enjoyed following the swim workouts that Mark Foster suggested because they can be challenging”

‘I particularly like switching between different exercises using the swimming aids: it’s fun to mix things up; it gives you targets throughout the session; and also because it makes front crawl seem easy once you return to it. Swimming with a pull buoy in-between my legs and just using my arms is SO tough, but I can feel the improvement in my stroke after I’ve done it and the increased upper body strength is superb for my sprinting and mountain biking.

‘Just as with cycling, I enjoy tracking my swimming. Of course, there are no ‘Queen of The Mountains’ to be won in the pool, but I like to log my swims to see how far I’ve swum and also to see if I’m getting faster. There’s no need whatsoever for me to be a fast swimmer, but that’s just what I’m like – competitive and interested in data. While I also enjoy uploading pictures of all the nice pools I’ve swum in.

“At the moment, I’m trying to build up my endurance in the pool and start doing longer sessions because the cycling benefits will be greater”

‘At the moment, I’m trying to build up my endurance in the pool and start doing longer sessions. Some of Mark’s suggested sessions are 2,500m long and I was daunted by that at first. Sometimes, I’m not sure which is more beneficial; long, steady endurance sessions or shorter, more intense sessions that leave me panting. I guess that, as with cycling, they both have a place in my training schedule.

‘The fast-paced interval sessions are helpful for my crit racing where any improvement to my cardiovascular system is very welcome. It’s hard to truly gauge but I think the breath work I’m doing (I take a breath less frequently while still maintaining pace) could be paying off, even if it’s just psychological – on a bike I can take a breath when I like and there’s no water in the way, so it seems easier by comparison. I’ve clocked up some of my best times in recent races, so maybe swimming might have contributed in some way.

‘So many cycling friends have asked me about the swimming I’ve been doing as it’s pretty clear I find it both fun and helpful. My advice would be to just give it a go. I know of several who, like me, have decided to get back in the pool for the first time since school and are already feeling better for it.’

Get the latest on Juliet’s Pedal to Pool challenge on her own social channels.