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Team ENVE Featured Athlete
Alex grew up a competitive short distance swimmer in South Carolina and earned all-state honors in the 50 backstroke in high school. It wasn't until 10 years later that he started cycling and got into triathlon, discovering that the sport elicits his best qualities while providing a constructive outlet for his competitive spirit. Alex is a 2019 USA Triathlon national championships qualifier in the Olympic distance, but is committed to becoming competitive at the 70.3 half Ironman distance.
What is your swim background?
I grew up a swimmer, first for my local summer team before year-round competitive swimming and high school swimming. I was a very strong in the 50 backstroke and the 100 IM. I was never particularly interested in becoming a swimmer and stopped after my freshman year in college. I didn't pick it back up again for about 10 years. Once I began triathlon, I was surprised at how little I had forgotten with respect to technique but how much I had lost in terms of fitness.
What do you feel are the keys to successful training? Successful racing?
The key to successful training is making sure you have a strong purpose, or a "why". Whether performance-related (to place top 5, top 10 etc) or more broad (to test your limits, to finish), having a strong "why" in your training will keep you on schedule and help you improve towards that goal or objective. If you lack that component, training becomes more of a chore and you lose the joy associated with training sessions.
How important do you think focusing on swim form is? How often do you work on yours?
Swim form and stroke is of utmost importance; I would suggest getting that right before worrying about speed, distance, endurance, or anything else. I see a lot of swimmers that struggle to keep their hips up or cross their hand in front of their head while swimming. They end up spending a lot of practicing with these bad habits, ultimately limiting how fast they can swim in a race. Many triathletes spend money to take full advantage of aerodynamics on the bike but ignore correcting the hydrodynamic deficiencies in their swim. You can't win a triathlon off of a good swim alone, but you can certainly lose it.
I work on my swim form during every single swim workout that I do. I like to incorporate sets of fingertip drills (elbow high, drag fingertips along waterline) or swimming with my ankles bound to practice increasing my stroke rate. By including these technique sets early in a swim session, it helps set my form for the rest of the workout.
Are there particular aspects to technique you focus on?
The other area that I focus on for the entirety of a swim workout session is hand placement. When you plunge your hand into the water at or just outside of shoulder width, you are ultimately carrying your body forward with that stroke. When you cross-stroke, or cross your hand over in front of your head, you are basically getting in your own way and it becomes hard to swim in a straight line. I like to imprint where my hand should enter the water, and I notice it on almost every stroke I take.