Spotlight on... land training at Spinroom Studio
Few amateur swimming clubs can boast the outstanding land training facilities and expert guidance that members of Deepings enjoy on a weekly basis.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, swimmers aged from 10 to 17-plus troop down to Spinroom Studio for 35-40 minutes of functional performance training under the watchful eye of professional instructors Claire and Dave Cross.
The sessions are tailored to complement the swimming programme designed by Deepings head coach Lynn Chapman and encompass a range of endurance and high intensity exercises to boost swimmers’ performances in the pool, but which also benefit them in their everyday lives.
Dave, who runs most of the sessions, is a highly experienced and fully qualified sports coach who, in his day job, trains apprentices to become fitness instructors. After completing a 1st Class honours degree in sports science at university, Dave held a number of management positions at leisure centres in Lincolnshire before retaking many of his personal training qualifications.
As well as a level three personal trainer, his considerable list of qualifications include level three trainer for disabled people, level three for GP referrals (allowing him to work with those that are recovering from illness such as cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure), level three sports therapist to support sports-related injuries through massage and level two for adolescents training.
Spinroom owner and wife Claire is a former Deepings Leisure Centre manager with an equally impressive list of credentials, including qualified personal trainer, exercise to music and spin instructor. An excellent breaststroker in her youth, Claire competed at national level where she finished second in the 100m breaststroke.
Son Louis Metselaar is now emulating her achievements after qualifying for his second English National Championships this year in the breaststroke.
Now retired from swimming, Claire often helps Lynn out on poolside and at open meet competitions as well as supporting Dave’s land training sessions for the club.
Dave and Claire set up Spinroom in 2012, with 12 bikes based out of a room at the leisure centre. It took, Dave says, “every last penny and was a massive gamble”, but one which paid off thanks to their hard work and dedication. They moved to their current premises on Spalding Road in 2014 and installed their extensive functional training kit three years later.
We caught up with Dave during Sunday morning training to find out more about his land training programme and the important role it plays in the development of our club swimmers.
How do your land training sessions support the swimmers?
We provide functional training that is designed for swimmers but will also make them stronger in general, especially their core. I meet Lynn on the first Monday every month to look at the competition calendar, what’s coming up, which open meets she’s happy for us to train through and which ones we have to reduce the intensity. We match the intensity at Spinroom with the pool; for example, if they have hell week, we increase the intensity of the land training.
How do you structure the training during the course of the season?
From September to December, we focus on high volume aerobic endurance training with lots of repetitions. As we get into the season, we move to explosive exercises, such as sprint and jog back, to get anaerobic improvements. We increase the resistance training as well with more weight and shorter reps to boost their power. It links to the times in their race when they need power; for example, off the start, in the turns and when they finish.
Then, as we come close to key competitions, we drop the volume to short periods of higher intensity work and, in the week into the competition, we focus on stretching and light cardio. Before Midlands, for example, we might do a 15-minute session with light stretching.
What are the key principles of high quality land training?
Functional training is built on seven foundational movements (pull, push, squat, lunge, hinge, rotation and gait). These stimulate all the major muscle groups in the body and makes you seriously strong if you do it right. If you go to the gym, each piece of equipment isolates the muscles but our training works all the muscles around the core. And we always have an all-over body approach – we never just do a leg or body session.
Our movements are compound movements where there are two actions, not just one joint working. It’s also controlled movement and body weight exercises, so they can’t overload themselves. So, if they listen to me, it should keep them injury-free when they swim.
With such a wide range of ages and abilities, how do you adapt or individualise the training for each swimmer?
All swimmers work within their means. With every exercise, there is always an alternative. For example, we have different tyre-flip options, from 40kg to 80kg, and sledge from no weight to 200kg. We also have equipment that uses their body weight, so it will adapt to them.
But we aren’t just training the body, we are also training the mind. It’s too easy to stop when it gets hard and we try to focus on this with the kids. Often they think I’m not watching but they forget we have mirrors all around the room! When they stop exercising and I ask why, they say it hurts – but that’s their mind not their body.
It’s about pushing them without overloading them so that when they are in the water near the end of a race and it hurts, they don’t slow down.
What tricks do you use to get them to put in maximum effort?
If I see someone stop, then I stop the timer and sometimes they all have to start again. Sometimes they stop because their mind has switched off, not because it hurts. I may also say this is a 45-second exercise but then I’ll extend it and I won’t tell them when it will end. This pushes them psychologically.
What about the importance of pre- and post-stretching, for both land and pool training?
We do a dynamic warm-up before land training, which is about preparing the body for the session. If it’s going to be an intense session, then the warm-up will reflect that. We build movement plans in to the warm-up that will be in the session. The post-stretch is designed to ensure they walk away from us in the same or better condition than they came.
We do developmental stretches, especially on the muscles that are general tight. For example, 30-second hold on hamstrings. We also do a lot on the back, chest and posture because they have to be strong there.
Flexibility is also important. If you watch a tumble turn, it’s like a pike in gymnastics. They have to have the flexibility to go into and out of the turn.
Tight muscles lead to injury and they pull on other muscles; for example, a tight back will affect your shoulders because they have to support it more.
All these principles are exactly the same whether you are training on land or training in the pool.
What advice do you have for swim parents?
All the children know what stretches to do but sometimes time is at a premium at the pool. So I’d encourage the parents to support their children in this. Have you heard of ‘Ys and Ts’? You lie flat on your back in a ‘T’ shape for five minutes then go into a ‘Y’. Then do it on your front. This opens up the chest and especially helps if you spend a lot of time sitting down.
Every swimmer should find 20 minutes every day for stretching. It will have massive benefits by loosening the muscles. It doesn’t have to be painful; you should hold a mild discomfort for 30 seconds.
You must’ve seen huge improvements with the swimmers since you started taking the sessions?
I sometimes wish I could video them when they first come to us and then again in a years’ time to show parents the difference. We see improvements in just a few months and Lynn believes it makes a massive difference in their swimming. Few clubs have access to this level of facility.
Spinroom occasionally brings in additional experts for variety and to keep the sessions fresh – Dave prides himself on never having repeated the same session twice.
One time, the Spinroom’s yoga instructor took the senior squads, an experience many of the swimmers remember all too well.
“They hated it because it hurt so much,” says Dave. “So then we knew we had to really focus on their flexibility.”
For little more than an hour for the senior squads and half an hour for the juniors per week, the land training sessions have a significant impact on swimmers’ power, endurance and mental strength.
Dave adds: “Some train 16 hours a week and go to school and they rarely get injured which shows that their bodies are strong. The key thing to remember is, as well as benefiting their swimming, the land training will benefit them in life.”