Pro cy­clist Richie Porte and Olympic swim­mer Mark Foster re­veal why time in the pool will shave min­utes off your per­sonal best

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Words Ash­ley Quin­lan

We talk to ex­perts Richie Port and Mark Foster on how to max­imise pool work­outs.

We’ve said it time and again in these pages: swim­ming is of­ten the Achillesʼ heel of triath­letes, reg­u­larly es­chewed in favour of cy­cling and run­ning. How­ever, a quick chat with pro cy­clist, Richie Porte, un­cov­ers why swim­ming formed a ba­sis for his in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful ca­reer in pro cy­cling.

“I was a swim­mer orig­i­nally, grow­ing up in Aus­tralia,” says Porte. “That’s where it all started for me. But, you can prob­a­bly tell why I’m not a swim­mer any more!” he jokes. Porte refers to his size – he’s only 1.72m tall – com­par­a­tively minia­ture com­pared to most pro-level swim­mers, which lim­its his reach in the wa­ter.

“So I took on triathlon as the next step, and found I got out of the wa­ter rel­a­tively quickly and re­ally en­joyed the bike leg, be­cause I had the engine from my swim­ming to do it. But then I’d find ev­ery­one would over­take me on the run, so I switched to the bike, and that’s where I am now.”

You might ex­pect his sin­gle-minded ap­proach to cy­cling to mir­ror other pro­fes­sional ped­allers, but in fact Porte re­turns to his swim­ming roots reg­u­larly to ben­e­fit his cy­cling.

“In the off sea­son es­pe­cially, it’s nice to break up my rou­tine with swim­ming. To be hon­est, it’s prob­a­bly the sport I en­joy the most be­cause you can jump in the pool with all this bag­gage and by the end of it, you get out with a clear mind,” he says, of the psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of wa­ter work.

“Phys­i­cally, I’m fixed to a bike for five or six hours at a time in one po­si­tion, so get­ting in the pool is a great way to free my body up and re­lease ten­sion. For me, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than get­ting on a kick­board and kick­ing the legs out,” he says. “It’s about ac­tive re­cov­ery, and in my opin­ion the pool's the best place to do that.”

Porte speaks from ex­pe­ri­ence. Cy­clists un­dergo sim­i­lar time and en­ergy taxes on their bod­ies as triath­letes, and 2014 marked a wa­ter­shed year for him. He’d had a promis­ing early sea­son, in­clud­ing sec­ond over­all at the week-long Vuelta a An­dalu­cia stage race, but then a se­ri­ous chest in­fec­tion de­railed his plans, as he failed to take over from Bri­tain’s Chris Froome at the Tour de France when Froome crashed out, fin­ish­ing 23rd.

“At Team Sky, I was work­ing with Tim Ker­ri­son, who came from Bri­tish Swim­ming, work­ing with some of the best swim­mers in the world, and he ac­tu­ally pushed me to­wards swim­ming. I can main­tain stamina with­out stress­ing out my body. He and the team doc­tors told me to get back in the pool and it re­ally helped me get over that ill­ness.”

He’s now moved onto pas­tures new at the BMC team, but has con­tin­ued to in­te­grate his swim­ming into his cy­cling ca­reer. “I feel I’m at the op­ti­mum pe­riod of my ca­reer,” the 31-year-old says. “I’m still get­ting in and do­ing a few kilo­me­tres ev­ery now and then, be­cause I re­ally do feel the ben­e­fits."

Nat­u­rally, Porte uses his swim­ming to sup­ple­ment his cy­cling, rather than us­ing it as a fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent of over­all per­for­mance in a given race. Now, in a col­lab­o­ra­tion with ex-world cham­pion swim­mer, Mark Foster, the pair claim swim­ming it­self can help im­prove your cy­cling and run­ning per­for­mance, too.

“You can jump in the pool with all this bag­gage and by the end of it, you get out with a clear mind”

Im­ages Cour­tesy of Speedo

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