Paul Newsome: “Don’t become a technique hermit this winter”

Top swimming coach shares his winter training advice

Paul Newsome

We asked Paul Newsome, founder and head coach at Swim Smooth, what triathletes should focus on over winter, the training mistakes to avoid, and the kit he recommends.


Paul will be speaking at The Triathlon Show 2014, taking place at Sandown Park, Surrey on 28 February to 2 March. For more information head to

What are your favourite swimming drills for the cold months?

I don’t have favourite drills for the winter months as such, as key drills specific to areas needed for improvement appropriate to your own stroke are required year-round. 

However, a good general goal as a triathlete over the winter would be to improve your alignment and ability to swim straight in the open water and this all starts with posture. 

We ran two very popular blogs on this here and here, which would be great to implement over the winter months to get you swimming straighter. 

With the advent of waterproof GPS devices we have been able to track a significant number of swimmers during race season and it might surprise you that quite a number of triathletes swim 10-15% too far in an open water triathlon event, some even +20%! 

Working on improving this could be a major time saver for you this coming season.

What is the most common swim training mistake that many triathletes make at this time of year?

Believing it’s all just about long, slow “base work” or focusing only on honing technique with countless drills. 

Of course improving your technique and working on your endurance are very important, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of keeping your finger in with the all-important threshold development work. 

Contrary to popular belief, threshold work is not about eyeballs-out sprints, but more about identifying what your current threshold or CSS (Critical Swim Speed) pace is (i.e. the speed you’d be able to maintain for 1500m), then working diligently to improve this week in, week out throughout the entire year. 

It adds a great challenge to your training and as discussed here it doesn’t have to be too daunting either. So, don’t become a technique hermit this winter or a slow plodder because come the summer months that’s all you’ll – a slow drill meister.

Get working on your threshold development and become much more holistic and balanced in your approach to your overall swim programme.

Any advice for people looking to do their first triathlon in 2014?

Enjoy it! Seriously though, if this is going to be your first season make sure there’s only one thing you remember before the start of the swim and that’s to breathe – out! 

It sounds too simple to be true but the major thing new (and even experienced athletes) make the mistake of in their first race is setting off like a bat out of hell whilst clamming up and holding onto their breath. 

This is recipe for disaster or at best a panic attack through hyper-ventilation. Keep it simple, focus on your exhalation and follow the tips here and you won’t go far wrong.

Do you have any favourite off-season training kit that you can’t do without?

Yes – a Finis Tempo Trainer PRO is an invaluable piece of kit to not only work on developing your threshold speed by incrementally improving this each week, but to also work on your pace awareness. 

Let’s say your threshold pace works out to be 1:40min per 100m. Set the beeper to beep every 25secs and simply aim to be at the end of each 25m marker as it beeps – not a moment before, not a moment after. 

Sounds simple? It is, but it’s incredibly beneficial for identifying just how good your pace awareness is. 

Next week, dial it in to 24.85 seconds (just 15/100th of a second faster) – this minuscule improvement doesn’t sound like much, but that’s 0.6secs per 100m or about 10secs over 1500m. 

Still doesn’t sound like much? Do that consistently over 10 weeks – tiny, incremental/precise improvements – and you’ll be 1:30min faster over 1,500m. To find out more head here.

What do you plan to talk about at the upcoming Triathlon Show?


All of the above, and lots, lots more! We’ve got some exciting new developments at Swim Smooth which we’ll also be sharing at the show, but for now, that’s all top secret stuff, so get on with the above and we’ll see you there!