How elite Tom Bishop evolves and adapts his training during lockdown

It's the first day of England's new lockdown and GB triathlete Tom Bishop goes back to training solo

Tom Bishop on lockdown triathlon training

It’s Thursday 5 November and lockdown day. Lie-ins are back, baby. Time to catch up on some sleep! I usually average eight hours but I’m pushing it out to 10. Sleep is a game-changer.


8.30am. Coffee, toast, check the weather app, check the news. Still a national lockdown, though finally a break from the storms. Without swimming, I might know what it feels like to be dry again.

I notice a weird sensation, a loss gnawing away at me, maybe a slight feeling of guilt. Do I miss swimming that much? Surely not. I have a responsibility to the British team to do my best in any circumstance, so I do need to do what I can to hold onto my swimming conditioning. I dealt with a summer of reduced swimming and it didn’t affect me. Time to do my dryland swim session again.

The dryland plan

Here’s Tom’s dry-land winter swimming session, a pragmatic solution on how not to get crap at swimming during lockdown…

It’s important to consider that dryland training can quickly become boring and so this programme is designed to keep the ‘would-be’ swimmer engaged for a short yet effective training session to stimulate and maintain swimming physiology*.

*This is purely my theory, which I figured out this summer. Hence, it’s all anecdotal. I simply designed this programme around the demands of a 1,500m swim during a triathlon race…

Warm-up; pre-swim blood flow and activation

Equipment required: swim bands, space to swing your arms. Avoid low hanging lights, house plants and fragile ornaments… I speak from experience.

5mins of various arm swings in all planes of movement. Stretch some bands for a bit too.

The start: 10 x burpees max; 10 x tricep dips max; 10 x press-ups max; pull-ups (up to 10) max! Twice through.

To me, this simulates the mad start to a triathlon swim, a sprint to the first buoy. Get aggressive.

The oxygen debt 

Walk around the garden holding your breath for 20 steps at a time. This is surfing a technique called rock walking we learned in Oz taught by the legendary Phil Clayton. It’s an attempt to reduce oxygen to the muscles, which you’ve just used in the sprint. Be safe, though – you can become faint. Never try this unattended.

The endurance

Basically, this is about 10 minutes of swim-cord exercises, core work and boxing, which should activate all the muscles used in swimming, from the front of the catch to the powerful push at the end. It should also add some endurance signalling to the muscles. You’ll be sore the next day, punish until you feel the burn.

The finish

Repeat one round of ‘the start’ to replicate a sprint to exit the water.

Dry-land swimming routine complete. I’m going to hurt tomorrow! How to kill time between training? Check emails, check Twitter, check Insta, repeat. A good news email, the best kind. Our high-performance squad may have access to swimming. The perks of high-performance sport. Cav (Mike Cavendish, PD) may have negotiated a deal with the EU, I mean the local swimming pool. Looks like sessions are back on – socially distanced mind – and swimming in sanitiser (that was a joke). No more lie-ins, though – back to bed after Bake Off! While away this morning, read a few chapters of my epic fantasy series.

The group chat pings.

“Anyone riding?”

“Nah, we can’t anymore, gotta stick to the rules.”

“You’re right, we need to do our bit, set an example.”

“I’ve got an idea, why don’t we create a weekly segment challenge just to give that extra bit of motivation for solo sessions?”

“Nice one, how about Norwood Edge this week? That’s a pretty brutal climb.”

“Decent, I’ll head there now, gonna do three reps. I’m on my heavy winter bike so it won’t be fast.”


“Have a good ride, lads.”

Keeping squad morale high, is something I’m keen to do during the lockdown. It’s a battle for everyone out there. Checking in, to make sure your mates and training partners are okay will be vital during this time.

Hit the hills

Right then, best get ready for some hills. One more coffee, sugar this time. I’m getting nervous, need the carbs for this. Begin to get ready… 20 minutes later, ready. Cons of winter – the time it takes to change and wrap up against the cold! Headwind out, brilliant. That means headwind up the climb, too. Stop at the bottom. Jettison extra clothes, gel, bottle and spares (need to improve the power-to-weight ratio).

Rep 1. Just build throughout, it’s fast to the top. The average gradient is 9%, the maximum gradient is 19%. 7.19, a warm-up.

Rep 2. Okay, attack this one, get the hard bit done fast. 7.06. Getting better. Wasn’t this a six-minute climb? Check Strava, KOM is 5.15. Shouldn’t have checked Strava.

Rep 3. All in! 6.25. It’s only November. I catch my breath and take in the views, it’s a clear day and the acidosis is reducing.

Descend to stash. Need gels and water. Consume gels and water. Set off home, tailwind, phew. Grovel up the last hill. I’m done. Decent session, another brick in the foundations. Post time on the group chat, but it’s not up there. Neither were my watts.

Lunchtime, scotch broth soup, bread and butter and a pot of tea. Time to rest up. A 60-minute run to go. Sunset is 16.30.

Long siesta

Wake up, 16.55! ‘Sofa nap’ overran. 60-minute run in the dark coming up. Grab head torch. Lace-up trail shoes. Blind first dog walker in the alley, “Sorry mate.” Head into the woods. I’ve run these trails for 10 years, no chance I’ll get lost. The ground is wet and soggy underfoot. A wise shoe choice. Running in the dark. Feel like I’m flying. Is this what Kipchoge feels like running 2.50/km? Exhilarating. I dance across roots and stones. It’s a bright waning gibbous moon. I turn the head torch-off. It’s a rare chance to run by moonlight. Twinkling lights ahead. I see a fox, a backyard lamp reflecting in his eyes. You see some cool things out training. 60-minute run, 5.05 min/km, 125bpm average HR. It isn’t fast in the woods but it’s a low-level endurance run. Saving the legs for Saturday.

Hose the trail shoes down. Run the bath. Add the Epsom salts. New favourite recovery method after a solid day. And, of course, a cheeky pale ale.

Follow more of Tom’s day-to-day activities and work outs on Instagram: @tomwbish


Top image by Aflo Sports/British Triathlon