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Welcome to the Triswimcoach podcast. This is Kevin, and this is episode number 39. Today I have coming up an interview with a guy named Hazen Kent, and this is a really important topic that I wanted to cover that kind of hammers home what I have been saying for a few years now. Basically, do you want to become a faster swimmer or you want to be faster triathlete. That’s kind of the gist of our conversation. This is a long podcast so I apologize for the length of it but I do want to emphasize the importance of it, and he gives some gold nuggets and again reiterates what I have been saying; it’s good stuff. The other thing I was thinking about today is this idea that (and I wrote an article a couple of years ago called “Do You Hate Swimming”. I kind of regret writing that now. It’s out there in a few places). I think that you have to, in order to get better at swimming and get better at triathlon, you have to look at swimming and kind of change your attitude about it and not think of it like a love-hate thing. It should be something that you take on as a challenge. And if you enjoy challenges which most people that do triathlon or that want to do triathlon do enjoy challenges, then swimming is just another one of those challenges. So, it’s not a necessary evil like a lot of people will say. It should be just as fun as biking and running and exercise in general if you’re going to do triathlon. I think that’s the key is to make that (and I say this on my web site) make swimming your friend; befriend the swim. That’s something that I have been thinking about lately because I think not enough people lout there are befriending the swim.
I think there are a lot of people that are just trying to get by and do the least amount possible to just survive and then get on to the rest of the race, get on to the rest of their workout whatever it is. So changing the attitude there is important. It just applies to everything else in life too. I think that’s about all I had. I didn’t want to keep this too long because it’s a pretty long interview. Interestingly though, just one more point about the interview, I interviewed two people this week. This week I have Hazen Kent; next week is a guy named Mark Pomery, and we talk about nutrition in that one and diet which is a really interesting interview. But there is a similarity, and they both mentioned a guy named Phil Maffitone who was Mark Allen’s old coach, the guy that won six Ironmans I think in the late 80’s and maybe early 90’s. They both mentioned Phil Maffitone and that’s interesting because that’s a guy that I had read a ton of books from early on when I was first getting into coaching and triathlon and swimming or swim coaching. I read a lot of Phil Maffitone; I really believe in his stuff. It’s really, really solid, and I think it’s coming back around. It was there; it was really popular for a little bit and then it faded away. But I think that this stuff is really coming back. I gave aerobic training; I really still believe in it and you’ll hear a little bit more about that today in this interview. So keep that in mind, and I think that’s it. Also check out the web site. I have some new stuff up on the web site. Go to triswimcoachonline.com and you’ll see there is a new video up there. And you can put in your email address and get more information and we’ll be in touch. So have a great week of training and we’ll talk to you soon.
I’m really happy to have Hazen Kent on the show today. As a former All-American swimmer in the 200 and 500 freestyle, Hazen has spent many years as a competitive triathlete and now coach of both triathletes and swimmers. He also runs the award-winning trinewbies.com, a resources for triathletes and not just beginner triathletes. It’s been around since 1999 and provides some topnotch training plans. Hazen, welcome to the show.
Hazen Kent: Thanks! I’m glad to be here. Great to meet you and great to be here.
Kevin: Yeah. Awesome. I have been aware of your site for a long time, and I was just kind of looking around for good content out there, and I came across one of your articles which we’ll talk about. That’s kind of the focus of the show today. There is one point that we’re definitely aligned on that I’ve been harping on for a while, and I didn’t know anyone else was saying this, but I wanted to get a little bit of your background first. How did you get your start in triathlon originally?
Hazen Kent: It was in 1991 only because I can remember the day that I was in Charleston at the time, Ironman ’91, I guess it was around October; I say later because it was on TV, I don’t know late November or whatever, early December registering for the following year or for the upcoming Winter semester for grad school and was in my hotel room turning on the TV and remember seeing Wolfgang Dietrich on his bicycle and thought “That’s a really cool bike.” I missed the swimming portion unfortunately, but called at the last half and saw Mark Allen win and thought this is really cool. I knew I was entering grad school. I spent the last 10 or 11 years in Atlanta which I graduated from the University of Georgia. Atlanta was nothing more than just another extension of college really for a lot of the young folks and so I thought “What am I going to do with myself. I’ll be in grad school; I have a lot of time on my hands and so thought this was perfect.” Wonderfully, Charleston, South Carolina, has an incredible master’s swimming program; they’ve got an incredible Triclub, an incredible running club, an incredible cycling group. I have always called it the San Diego without the weather. It’s beautiful but we don’t have that picture-perfect weather that seems to be all year round with you guys, but it’s just a huge wonderful multisport and sport-specific area and so it was just kind of a natural. I just kind of got hooked and like anything else, once you start feeling good and getting into it and getting in shape, it just kind of snowballs. And they have a series; they have a sprint series every year, a four-race series and so it was kind of easy. We had a lot of stuff in our back yard and it was just a neat community. So I got hooked in the early 90’s and have loved it ever since.
Kevin: That’s cool, and Charleston is a big music town, is that right?
Hazen Kent: You know, it’s funny. When I was there in grad school in the late—I was teaching there for a couple of years and then went to grad school, I mean, it really is. Athens was real big in my day, the alternative groups, and then Charleston became a really cool alternative music scene, and I think it still is. I haven’t been back in a while, but it’s a cool town.
Kevin: Definitely. It’s on my list of places to visit; I still haven’t been out there.
Hazen Kent: Historically and everything else; it’s a college town.
Kevin: So how then did Trinebites come about?
Hazen Kent: Well, it was around, I guess ’98, the end of ’98. In ’95 I was I think when I got my first my very own computer. In grad school we were using Macs, but the Internet, even in the early 90’s, you still had your phone, you put the phone on the dial, this little hookup modem. By the late 80’s it was still Triathlete Magazine and Inside Tri were the only two discussion forums out there. I found myself out there and I found myself answering a lot of swim questions as a matter of fact. And I then came up with these couple of training programs I have now. I had forty requests over a two-day period. It was a free program I created. In 1998, trying to send these things as attachments, it just took forever so I needed to put them up on a web site, and I didn’t know that much about web design at all. I called up my wife’s uncle and he kind of walked me through the generics of just getting these things up so somebody could print it. That’s basically how it got started. Then it just kind of snowballed. We were ahead of our time, and I don’t mean that as a pat yourself on the back, it was just we were at the right place at the right time. The down side of that was as the site exploded in the early 2000’s, we were outpacing the programs that were coming to help make money and to help generate revenues and that kind of thing. I mean, people were like “why are you giving your programs for free?” I have been into it long enough that I thought I’m not going to lock the door and throw away the key now that people are coming. The discussion forum with the key—the site was just exploding and goring. The numbers with that, the expense was growing. It didn’t dawn on me until I exceeded my first bandwidth for my local guy. I got this 300-dollar bill in the mail that said “you’ve exceeded your bandwidth. Throughout the course, people rescued me just out of the blue, the folks at Training Pete’s at the time, we had a wonderful mutual exchange. We had plenty of numbers and they were building Training Pete’s at the time and so I got to sit on their server for a while. And then they introduced me to a guy where I am now, and so I really had a lot of nice people help me out with the numbers. By 2005 even Google Ads hadn’t come out yet. AdSense and this type of stuff really hadn’t been developed yet. If it had, I was kind of unaware of it. I had advertising, and all of a sudden I found myself collecting money and doing all this. I just thought “golly, you know, I bet the costs were going up.” And I certainly didn’t have the knowledge to run my own server out of my house. I’m not a techie by any means. So, eventually I settled into a nice place. We’re not the biggest kid on the block anymore and that’s okay. The training programs are the catalyst now, and I can help people. When you get big, like anything else, a lot of stuff happens. I sort of purposely pulled the plug a little bit. I realized in 2005 that I wasn’t going to make a living running this web site and more power to those who can and are doing it. That’s how it got started just with those training programs, and they have pretty much been the catalyst to the survival of it. It’s a wrap as long as I’m willing to pay the monthly bill and that’s what’s great.
Kevin: Right. Cool. It sounds like a good resource. I’ve been on the discussion forum a few times.
Hazen Kent: We’ve gone from just walking the roads to really not having a whole bunch of traffic, that’s fine. I had to start babysitting almost the forum and, you know, big brother, you know, you can’t do this. It just kind of got a little out of hand. Now it’s the training programs, and I get wonderful mail for the programs. I’m really doing, believe it or not, more mail and emails back for correspondence because of the training programs and that’s what’s fun.
Kevin: Cool. I was on there, and that’s where I found your article. The title of this article is “So what do you want to be, A Fast Swimmer or a fast Triathlete?” And I think because we both have the swimming background, that we can kind of see that a little more clearly maybe than some people out there because what a lot of people do is with triathletes, what a lot of coaches do is they just teach them to swim fast. That may be their goal. For some percentage out there, that may be their goal, but overall especially trinewbies, beginner triathletes are looking to just finish that swim and have enough energy left over for the rest of the race. So that’s where I have been trying to drive this point, and it gets lost out there for sure. Because every time I talk to a lot of coaches out there, they don’t get it. It’s like well, they have to swim fast. Let’s teach them how to swim fast. A quote that I took from your article, “As a triathlete training like a swimmer, hard and anaerobic can negatively affect your overall aerobic fitness level as well as your overall performance in a triathlon.” What exactly do you mean by that?
Hazen Kent: This article was created (1) From my own mistakes and finally going to my old swim coach who is now at the University of Florida and Greg Troy who is a phenomenal swim coach and produced a [0:13:12.0]. What am I doing wrong? I’m back in the pool; I was the best shape of my life. I’m coming out of the water, that 15 seconds of glory; you’re running up the beach and all of a sudden come run time it was like “where’s that guy who came out of the water first. Somewhere around I came in contact with either the Devil or God or somebody, and I hit the wall. And it really started with the swim. The balk began with the swim. He asked, “how are you swimming?” I said I’m swimming the way you taught me to swim. I’m busting my butt. I’m doing hundreds on these crazy intervals. He wasn’t even a triathlete. He said well, first of all, how are you breathing? I said, “Well, I breathe every three strokes.” He said, “you need to breathe every stroke. You need to be aerobic. You’ve got to take in more air.” I said, Well, that’s not what you told me.” He said, “Yeah, you were a swimmer then.” I kind of thought “You’re right.” And it dawned on me, and I kind of took what he said. He said, “I don’t know that much about triathlon training.” He said, “can you stop and get water in the swim?” I said, “well, unfortunately you can’t.” The fact is you can get dehydrated in the swim. I realized that and so this came about because of my own mistakes I made. I realized that the number one thing first is the idea of a sprint especially for you and I who are swimmers. The idea of a sprint is short, quick, fast. Well, the idea of a sprint triathlon is kind of a misconception because, yes, compared to an ironman, it, indeed, can be considered a sprint by distance-wise, but you’re talking about a 45-minute, to an hour to an hour and 15 minute event, and the longest swim distance event is the 1650, these guys are doing it in 14 or 15 minutes. Even the 200 and 500 free is becoming sprints today. So, 45 minutes is an endurance event and this idea of a sprint, you just can’t be engaged for 45 minutes. You cannot be anaerobic for 45 minutes. You’re going to immediately see a downward trend in your performance. You think you’re maintaining that level, your returns will decrease and so I realized that I’m coming out of the water at a heart rate of 172 beats per minute, and I’m hitting the bike with an active recovery rate of 15 to 20 beats, I’m down at now 150 to 155 beats. I’m training at 130 to 135 beats per minute, I’m on the bike ride, and I’m already at 155, I’m gone. I’m 20 beats above what I’m training, and I haven’t started to run yet. The first idea is that this really isn’t a sprint even though the sprint triathlon, and I saw it with the sprint because of site of Trinewbies, that’s where most people start. That’s their first triathlon. You need to treat it like it’s an endurance event and you need to treat it holistically. It begins with the swim. (2) You race how you practice. You race how you train. You can’t sit there and run, do slow easy runs or slow easy cycles or a slow easy swim and expect to go boogey on a swim. By the same token, you can’t swim anaerobic all day every day and then expect to swim relaxed. You’ll find yourself kicking into that anaerobic gear. You’re going to race how you’ve been training. You’re negatively affecting not only your aerobic fitness level at that point. It goes hand in hand with your performance. By shooting off in the swim, setting that heart rate up to a spike and then trying to maintain that, you’re already beaten yourself up on the bike and the run. Yes, you’re going to have people who can do it, but most of the folks I work with are new to the sport or within two years of the sport. And you just can’t maintain that. You just can’t; and it’s not healthy. If you try to do it with your running, injuries can occur, both in swimming and running; it’s pounding and torqueing your shoulders and what have you. So the point is, anaerobically you race how you train. If you train fast all the time, you’re going to screw up your whole triathlon performance because typically you can’t sit there and do a time trial in practice, you can’t do 50’s and 100’s, you just can’t perform that way. I think most people have learned to run easy because of the injuries. Most people learn to ride their cycling a little easier because of the distance and time you have to put in, but we still get in that pool and you jump in and you start swimming. And this is kind of the other problem that you hit on. A lot of coaches don’t realize this. A lot of coaches are thinking swimming. You brought up the point when we talked via email back and forth, the mentality of a swimmer—First of all, triathletes usually have to join a master’s program for the most part. Maybe if there’s a tri group that they form their own swimming group, but for the most part, we jump into a master’s program where swimming as a sport is the main goal here. We jump into a lane, and we’re going to do what that coach wants us to do, and a lot of times that coach is thinking about that swimmer who’s going to be swimming in a swim meet. The reality of it is that you swim 3 [inaudible 0:18:48.9], you won any gold medals; don’t get me wrong and swim 16 times over the course of the prelim and final over an entire week, the down side is he’s always engaged. These swimmers and these swim meets are 100 percent anaerobic engaged. But you swim a two-minute or a 45-second 100 freestyle, you get out of the water, you go jump in the swim-down pool, you relax, you cool off. It may be three or four hours before you swim again. Well, triathlon, you strip off your wet suit, you’re running up the beach; you’ve got to jump on a bicycled and then start hammering on your bike and somehow try to figure out to actively recover on the bike and then get into that mode. So the mentality of a swimmer is you swim fast, hard because your longest event is going to be a 15-minute event. Well, our shortest event is going to be a 45-minute event or longer. My problem was I was training hard and fast. The race would take off, I would take off like a said a little while ago, and I would take off in the water and swim how I’d been trained—fast. I’d get out there; I’d may be negative slip, but the point is I would finish the last half of the swim in the triathlon, I was hammering and feeling great. Well, I’d get on the bike and my heart rate would be 20 beats above what I would normally train on the bike, and by the time I was on the run, my heart rate was 165 beats per minute, and I’m walking. At that point I’m toast. So my whole thought was “so do you want to be a fast swimmer, then great. That’s how you train because you’re going to swim a 50 free, especially for master’s which is mostly 50’s and 100’s. I mean, there is 200, but you know there are a lot of 50’s in master’s. You’re going to swim a 30 or 45-second event, and maybe an hour later you’re going to swim a minute event. You may swim a total of three minutes the entire day. It doesn’t mean you won’t be tired, but you’re going to swim in a triathlon. You’re going to perform for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes for a swim distance. You have to learn to train aerobically. Swimming smart for me is swim slow to race fast more or less. Train fast and expect the learner to swim slow, again, (1) Your body will sink in the water because you’re not used to swimming slow, that motor is not going so you find yourself as you rise up out of the water a little bit, all of a sudden you’re swimming anaerobically. My point is it begins with the swim. The swim can make or break your triathlon I think especially if you’re not doing it right.
Kevin: Absolutely. One of the key points I found in your article, you said, “When a swimmer competes in a swim meet, he/she may swim three or four events over the course of an eight-hour day with the average event lasting anywhere from 25 seconds to two minutes. They will swim each event, climb out of the pool, dry off, rest until their next event sometimes two hours later.” It’s like what you were saying. I’m going to add to that. Even if they’re swimming the 1650 or the mile, it’s really a completely different thing than someone that’s doing a triathlon with a mile at the beginning because they’re not saving anything. It’s like you said, the top in the water, they’re doing 14 minutes or 15 minutes, there’s nothing else after that so it’s still a really kind of a different thing.
Hazen Kent: You’re absolutely right.
Kevin: And even looking at (and it’s just one example so it doesn’t really prove anything particularly), but Grant Hackett was the top distance swimmer in the world for years, and then he tried open-water swimming, not even triathlon but open-water swimming, and I don’t even know what he finished but it wasn’t anywhere near the top. And I think that’s because it’s a different sport. When I look at people, they’re trying to compare everything to Michael Phelps, that’s tough to do. Like you said, he’s sprinting, he’s doing—
Hazen Kent: If that master’s swimmer wants to excel in the 100 fly, and the 200 free, and the 50 free and swim nationals, but if you’re training for triathlons, for the bulk of your workout during the base building phase, that’s okay. The triathlete swimmer when they get off by themselves, and unfortunately it’s kind of boring, but they need to kind of do long or at least do intervals based on their aerobic level and not necessarily fast intervals, twenty 50’s on the 40 seconds, and hold 32, you swim for time in practice because that’s how you get feedback obviously, but no way if you’re swimming in a course, Mother Nature plays such a big role that you can’t say well I averaged 1:07 per hundred. There are no flip turns; there is no wall. It’s not perfect mileage. It’s so subjective that you don’t need to focus on your time; you need to focus on your heart rate and, yes, we use the time in practice to get an idea where we want to be; don’t get me wrong. But you need to learn to develop a feel for that pace. And once you get that pace, it’s long. I believe it’s about doing ten 100’s with 15 seconds rest. Well they think that’s not enough rest. It is if you come to the wall and you’re not throwing up along. You come to the wall; you look at your heart rate monitor or under the neck (we’ll talk about that in a little while), but you find out what your heart rate is; you relax, take a sip of your juice or whatever, and you’re comfortable. And you’re learning to maintain an aerobic pace because it doesn’t matter really if you’re first or second out of the water anymore. Again, Laurie Baum’s the best example I think. In the Ironman, she was once 400th out of the water and ended up winning the ironman.
Kevin: That’s a great point.
Hazen Kent: But at the same time that’s an eight-hour day. In the swim distance that wouldn’t have happened. You have to learn to swim relaxed and slow, and for a seasoned swimmer like you or myself, it’s actually hard to do that. For somebody new the coaches need to learn to kind of divide the two or at least create sets for both, but you just need to learn to swim aerobically, be aware of your heart rate. I created some heart rates that are kind of in line with where recovery rates and what have you and kind of just get a feel for the water; believe it or not, that goes against everything I did as a swimmer, swimming every three strokes is great for balance and it’s great for [0:25:49.8] but you need to take in as much oxygen as you can to stay aerobic. It’s all about preparing for the bike. It’s not about how fast you swim; it’s all about I’ve got to do my swim to get ready for the bicycle. On the bicycle, you get yourself primed for the run. It’s that mentality. You got to kind of think what’s next as opposed to “How am I doing my swim?”
Kevin: Can you discuss specific heart rate training that you do. Can you discuss that a little bit?
Hazen Kent: I’m a firm believer in the Mathatone method which—Phil Mathatone started this back in the early 90’s. He was one of Mark Allen’s coaches I guess. He’s a kinesiologist; I don’t know what he’s doing nowadays. But he wrote a book on fitness and health. He introduced Mark Allen to this idea of training in an aerobic zone. If you were to apply every type of heart rate theory on the various 220 levels, I think if you were to grab everything, they all find that point where you should be. In other words, I don’t think any one of them I think are all the same if you were to study all of it and follow them, you would pretty much be right where you’re supposed to be on all of them. For instance, I’ll be 50 next year so I should train between 120 to 130 beats per minute. That means I want to be around 125, but you have a ten-beat thing to play with. If you took all the various methods, I think everything would say I should be around 125. But I like this method because it’s pretty simple and if it worked for Mark Allen, and it has worked for me. Well, I base these numbers on one of the articles on the web site. I know it’s hard to try to explain this to somebody, but it’s based on active recovery rate, and again what I was talking about. If I come out of the water and swim at 172 beats per minute because I’ve been anaerobic, most of us recover 15 to 20 beats after recovery. Keep in mind, if you stop and relax, you’re going to drop below 100 on your heart rate, but you’ve got to get on a bike and get up to speed. And you’re going to recover about 15 to 20 beats. Well, if I come out of the water at 172 beats per minute, then I’m going to wind up at about 150 to 155; that’s still 20 beats higher than my average training life. Like I said, I’m already a goner at that point. So where do I need to be at the time? For now I would need to be at 125 to 130 beats per minute let’s say. Where do I need to be coming out of the water? Well, I need to be at around 145 to 150 beats per minute. So I started doing a lot of swims. What I would do, say, ten or 21 hundreds on the 115, then try to hold at 1:07 pace, just nice and relaxed. And I would check my heart rate about every five of every six or whatever, and granted, I would do the neck test. Find your pulse on your neck, count to six and add a zero. You have to realize there is a big margin there. You’re not going to get 148.6; you’re going to get 140 or 150, but I was constantly around 150-ish. I couldn’t swim any slower. That was very relaxed, strong pace, not breathing hard, very aerobic. At the time I was 40; now I’m 50, but that zone is not saying recover 15 beats. I’m now around 130 to 135 beats per minute; that’s where I need to be. That’s where I’m doing my bike training doing a 50-mile ride, I’m hovering right around 130 beats per minute. This is where I need to be. We train, we race how we train, and if I’m traveling on the bike at 135 beats per minute, when I jump off and do my run, I’m right where I need to be. That’s kind of worked for me with that heart rate. I kind of used the Mathatone method which is 180 minus your age; you can look this up on the Internet, but it’s 180 minus your age, that marks the high end of your ten-beat zone. Subtract, and so for me let’s say I’m 50 next year, 180 minus 50 is 130 so that’s the high end of my zone; 120 is the low end. My aerobic zone is 120 to 130 beats per minute. I want to be around 150, 145-150 on my swims. A lot of folks like to wear heart rate monitors for their swim; I cannot. I could put them on as tight as I want but the straps always fall off when I do a flip turn, and there’s no need to. You just want to be around 140 to 150. And I have the breakdown in one of the articles on the site. For kids in their 20’s, you want to be at 160 to 170 beats per minute. If they took that 15 to 20-beat recovery they would be based on the Mathatone method, that 180 minus your age method, they would be within their zone; the same for the folks in their 20’s and 30’s, it’s 150 to 160 beats per minute roughly. These aren’t hard and fast, and then for guys 140 is enough at 140 to 150. It just proves trial and error, I realized this was kind of where—it’s not something I invented; I think it just makes sense.
Kevin: Actually I read Mark Allen’s book, it was like maybe 2000 or so, he came out with a book “Workouts for Working People” and then he mentioned the one that you formulated and I started digging into that. I think I bought almost all of Mathatone’s books. I have all those and it definitely makes a lot of sense. I have done it off and on and I like that it’s kind of in that aerobic zone because the most healthy way to be is to be working out that way most of the time and then do some sprints and do some strength training.
Hazen Kent: You add the quality workout. Even in swimming, everything’s relative, but you know a distance swimmer is going to do long sets. But there are times I can remember tapering for swim meets, that’s when you’re doing your “quality work” even though in swimming it’s about swimming fast, but that was your quality workout. You get on the block and we’re going to do five 100’s on the five minutes, you know what I mean? And you’re going to all-out, you chill around, you play, you’re tapering. You get up and you do another one. You get the fast-twitch muscles going. You certainly couldn’t do that all the time, but training the run, especially the older we get and you’re training aerobically, and Mark Allen is a perfect testimony. He went from a seven-minute plus mile in the run to a five-and-a-half-minute mile at the same heart rate. That’s why he could get off the bike, be at 140 beats per minute and blow past people going six-minute miles. He’s at 140 beats per minute going six 15 miles screaming past people. He spent seven, ten to twelve years doing it. That didn’t happen overnight. You can relate all that to swimming; you can do it. It’s just like you mentioned. You’re in contact with a lot more coaches than I am. You’re kind of in swimmer heaven out there as well with the weather and everything. You’re right. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s just that swimmer mentality, I’m not knocking anybody in particular, but I guess swimming isn’t in the mentality but it really needs to be. It looks easy just isn’t easy.
Kevin: What do you recommend for the typical triathlete that didn’t come from a swimming background beyond the heart rate training? Is there anything that you’d do?
Hazen Kent: You’re a coach, and I would say the hardest thing for any triathlete is where can I go to swim. Obviously location, location, location is going to be huge. It’s wonderful for you; you’re in an awesome location, you have great weather. I would seek out a coach. I would seek out a master swimmer like yours. (1) If you could find a coach in a program where they could look at your stroke and give you some ideas and at least find a place that has triathletes in it if you can. Maybe talk to a coach and say “I’m a triathlete.” If you find it’s not working, again, depending on where you are, you may want to find someone else. If you can hook up with some triathletes and find a master’s program, getting coaching no matter what just for the stroke drills and the stroke technique alone is worth its weight in gold. I have been swimming so much to golf and I mean that from the sense that you can change something so intricate. You can swim. You and I could go out and hit four buckets of balls until our hands bleed and we’ll dock on every shot. What’s wrong, I hit four buckets; I practiced for four hours. No one told you what you were doing wrong. You just practiced the wrong thing. You are going to go out and swim for hours and hours and hours, and if you don’t realize that you’re not completing your stroke under the water; you’re raising your elbow too soon, you’re going to say I’m not improving and I swim every day. Well, you need someone to see what you’re doing. In swimming a few little tweaks could make a big difference just like in a gold swing. If you don’t practice the right thing, you’re not doing any good so if you could find a coach that can help you, initially with some of these drills, that’s huge. Well, unfortunately that isn’t always the case and the next would be obviously someone out there like yourself who has written books, if you’ve got videos and that kind of thing that always helps. As you know as well as I, coaching swimming via the written word is so hard to do. And I credit you for having the book; I mean that sincerely. I basically have written a book. And it’s so hard even when I get emails to try to explain to somebody what is breathing every three strokes or alternating breathing, and I literally am trying to write out as your left hand goes through the water, they’re not understanding me. Reading how to swim is like reading how to ride a bike. At some point you have just got to get in the water and do it and try it. That’s all we have sometimes. If you live in a small town like I do, you may not have a swim coach available. We do, but there are a lot of towns that don’t.
The other thing I would do is I get a lot of requests from swimmers or people in triathlons, I get a lot of requests from newbies who are struggling, and I start them on a very beginner’s-type. I’m a big believer in fins, not necessarily the type that are carbons, just fins in general. It seems from the past that runners have a hard time flexible ankles and swimmers have a hard time running, but fins help develop flexible ankles; they help strengthen the calves as long as you’re not cheating with the fins. It’s not about just cruising through the water. You’ve got to push it, and you’re going to get cramps in your calves and you will feel it like you’ve never believed. But I’m a big believer in fins, weaning them off the fins until they develop a feel of using their legs a little bit. I’m not a big kicking fan. I mean, you’ve got to kick, but triathlon again, most of the time they’re going to get to wear a wetsuit. That’s huge, it’s like wearing a pool [0:37:19.1] almost. You’re going to be buoyant for the most part. If you’re in South Florida and you’re in the southeast, you don’t always get to wear wet suits because of the water temperature in the summers, but for the most part, they’re going to let these people wear wet suits because of the safety reasons. And so you’re going to get that instant buoyance so kicking isn’t that important. Again, going back, we’re not training like a swimmer so you don’t have to have this motorboat behind you because the wetsuit’s going to keep you a little bit buoyant. So, learn some good stroke drills and getting some hints and some techniques to help develop a feel for the water. I think you were talking about the closed fist drill too I believe. Right?
Kevin: Absolutely. That’s the best drill in the world for developing a feel for your own in your laps. You close that fist and you realize I’ve been relying on my hands the whole time. That’s an excellent one to help develop a feel for the water. So for the beginner, get a kick board; I’m a big kick board fan only because again it’s more about developing a good kick and strengthening your muscles to get a feel for the water. Pool buoys are great but if you get hooked on pool buoys, as soon as some of these guys take a pool buoy off, they sink in the water three inches and they’re going to start swallowing water. Pool buoys are great for certain things, but don’t get hooked on them.
I just want to interrupt there. I fully agree with that. It was funny because for a while it was like people were starting to say should I never use a buoy. For me it’s like if you’re a beginner or you’re trying to improve and you didn’t come from a swimming background, it’s definitely not going to be something that’s going to help you.
Now if you’re a little bit more of an advanced swimmer and you’re working on specific techniques, trying to get specific things accomplished, there are some drills that a buoy could be good for. It’s the overall, and we’re trying to get to like what you were saying, we’re trying to get to what’s the most efficient way to do this and what’s the most time-saving way? And definitely buoys are not going to get you there faster.
Hazen Kent: And I’d rather you put fins on and swim because the fins are still going to catch a little bit of propulsion so your feet don’t sink essentially. Again, as long as you’re not cheating, if you’re going to do a set with the fins, then you’re going to have to kind of push it a little bit. You’re going to have to work the legs. I like the fins instead of a pool buoy just from that sinking factor. You put that wetsuit on and they’re going to say “Aha, that’s great!” Well, not if you’re using a pool buoy all the time. The drills that a lot of beginners do, you’re careful. You’re there; you’re on deck. It can be complicated to some of these newbies, and I don’t mean that condescendingly but it’s like golf. There is like a ton of little intricate things, and you’re trying to teach the basics to get them from A to B. Again, I think the first thing is if you can to seek out a coach or a master’s program coach. (2) Find good books out there and then practice some drills; get some videos. You know there are a couple swimming videos out there I think, and just get in the water and do it. Go to camps if you can, and I know it costs money but if you’re serious about the sport and if you’re running like you, I think you run camps don’t you?
Hazen Kent: If you can go to a camp, then go to a camp just so someone can videotape you. You and I are swimmers and we love swimming and we’re passionate about it but don’t panic about swimming. As a swimmer, it’s all about getting ready for the bike in triathlon; it’s not about having the best flip turn. It’s not about how far to stretch off a wall. You know, I’m not trying to go against your theories I promise. When I talk to a lot of guys, I don’t worry about streamlining off walls into perfect flip turns. Yes, it can facilitate and make your swim workouts better but you’re never going to have walls in triathlons. So don’t panic about it. Ideally if you could have open-water swims, that would be the best for swimming or swimming in a 50-meter pool, that would be the best. As I say, you are the same way. Write you or write me if you have any questions and we’ll do our best to help walk you through it.
Kevin: This is good and especially because I pretty much agree with about 99 percent.
Hazen Kent: Most of them say “Hazen, I’m having a hard time with my 50 free. Go get some fins and let’s start with 25’s, and all I want you to do is just do a 25 and let’s build up. I’ll walk you through baby steps and start with 25. Don’t worry about your flip turns, just turn around and push off the wall and building endurance. Really it doesn’t take a long time for the heart to catch on. You may not be physically in the best shape, but the heart really does catch on pretty quick physiologically speaking. Start them out with 25’s, a set of ten or twenty 25’s. Get used to swimming. The other down side of swimming is once you start getting tired, you’re defeating any purpose. I compare it to golf. Once you’re tired, if you’re out there hitting four buckets of balls, unless you’re Ben Hogan who used to hit until his hands bled, you’re toast by bucket number two. So anything you do after that, you’re practicing bad habits and the same with swimming. If you’re going to go out there and you’re doing all thismega yardage, unless you’re fresh, you’re not going to learn it. You’re going to start picking up bad habits so that’s why I call them back and say let’s do 25’s. You will stay fresh for 20 yards. You push off for 25, you’ll stay fresh for 20 yards. Push off again. I’d rather you do ten 25’s feeling good than twenty 50’s mega yardage and feel like crud the whole way because you’re going to be practicing bad habits. That’s kind of how I work with a lot of folks that are nervous in the water or new to swimming. Then they go with endurance; then the 50 doesn’t become as tiresome. And then, all of a sudden, they’re able to do a set of ten 100’s and they’re not as tired. And then they’re going “wow, I did ten 100’s and I felt great.” That’s what it’s all about. And I don’t worry about flip turns. You’ve got two things. You’re coaching master swimmers and triathletes. I do too. I don’t coach as much as you do on deck. I wish I could; I loved it and I used to do it quite a bit in the past. You’re juggling two different things, two different ways of swimming and so you have to do both. But for my triathletes, I don’t worry much about flip turns and I don’t worry too much about a lot of that stuff until they get to an advanced situation. Most triathletes are in it for a couple years; we’ve done our homework. And I think master swimmers go forever. It’s neat; I’ve got 70 or 80-year-old friends, but most triathletes do it for a year or two and then they kind of fade. So I’m looking at what can I do to get that beginner to the finish line with a smile on their face? When it gets more advanced, then yes, I will work with you all you want. Go find a coach and blah, blah, blah. But until that time comes, let’s just get you to the end of the swim.
Kevin: Yeah! Definitely! Now, you do have a few programs that we’ve been talking about on your site. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like, how long have you been providing your coaching services.
Hazen Kent: As I said in the beginning, they are the catalyst to the site and have been. I spend most of my time answering emails mostly about swimming questions, and I need to actually get on there and do some editing. I know that I have not but I took it if they’re in the middle of the pendulum-type programs, they’re generic. They’re free, I don’t want to be a liability, and I don’t have the time to go be a certified triathlon coach right now. I’m not a certified swim coach any longer. It’s kind of a catch twenty-two; you can’t become certified unless you have a team. Here where I live, there is a team and I’ve got a couple of great coaches, and I’m certainly not—I don’t have time to go be on the deck at 5:30 in the morning and teach school for eight hours or ten. But that’s okay. I know the swimming, so I give the programs for free. I don’t have a lot of initials at the end of my name or degrees and all that because unless you coach a team, you can’t become a level three and so on and so forth. And so there are free programs; they are middle of the pendulum and the idea is that hopefully you’ll develop a feel for them as you go through and you’ll realize what your strengths and weaknesses might be. But by the same token, I tell this to people who write me and say well, I’m more advanced in my swimming and running. And I’ll say “look, just for the first two or three weeks, do it like it says because this isn’t about—until you do all three sports and you lift weights about two times a week and you go to your job and you take care of your kids, you’ve got to start with baby steps.” You just can’t go run nine miles one day and then—eventually you’re going to get injured if you’re not careful. So I try to walk everybody through a very beginner type situation. A ;lot of times I get “well, this is too easy.” And I’ll say well, then let’s tweak it. Base training is the key, and most don’t have the patience and that’s fine. I didn’t when I was getting into the sport; I wanted to go fast, fast, fast. Then they get injured and they’re like “gosh, I shouldn’t have done it.” The last two years, I have been getting a lot of wonderful emails from people who have done the program and more so than I got in the very beginning when the numbers were swimming. But I have been getting a lot of wonderful feedback, and the theory of mine is nothing I invented; it’s just a very conservative err towards the conservative, very much that Mathatone way of training. You know, be aerobic; don’t force it. I guess I’m practicing what I’m preaching. I’m preaching what I’ve been through I guess because I’m 6 feet, 4, and I’m 200 pounds when I’m racing. I’m right on the verge of the climb but I’ve been injured a lot from running and pounding. With my shoulder, I can’t do butterfly like I used to. But that’s okay because I’m not going to swim butterfly in a triathlon. So I try to keep the folks so they cross the finish line like “wow, I did it” and not so much like they’re blowing up their lunch when they cross the finish line or they hated it. I just kind of tell them, emphasize be patient; that’s what this is all about. I’ve gotten a lot of requests for Ironman training programs. I’m in the process of training somebody now. There will be one up on the site within a few months. I’ve been saying that for a year. It takes a lot to do a training program. When you start doing an Ironman program, an Ironman is not two half Ironmans; I mean it really is a different animal. And now I’m training a good friend who’s great. She’s easy to coach and she’s wonderful to coach, but I’m training her the same way I’ve done my other programs. She is recovering from knee surgery and so she is having to take baby steps and so we’re doing those baby steps like the other programs. So I will have a 22-week program developed. When I started in 2001 for Ironman Florida, I was 35 pounds overweight and started from scratch. I started running a half mile. I slowly built up over 19 to 21 weeks to a 19 to 20-mile run/walk, not just running. And again, the Mathatone method, when I first started, I was running 13-1/2 miles run/walking. All my three-mile runs were my test, and by the time I finished, I was down to a 9-1/2-minute mile. That’s science; that’s physiology. Phil Mathatone kind of found out that that works, but it does work. That’s efficiency, and that’s your heart becoming efficient. It just takes a lot of patience so there will be an Ironman program up there. But the programs have just been the [not understood 0:50:23.6] I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback. That alone is why I’ve kept the site going. People have asked if you’re going to have an advanced program. Well, no because you don’t jump to an advanced program. Mark Allen didn’t just stop what he was doing and kick into it. He did what he did, and he did it year after year. And he pushed himself a little harder. You don’t just click into an advanced program 2. You take maybe the intermediate program that I created on the site, the 18-week one, all of the intermediate programs can be used as advanced programs throughout all of your training. You just have a little bit faster intervals, train a little harder. Your advancement in the sport of triathlon comes from years of building a base, the same with swimming. Michael Phelps puts in the time; he’s very talented, but they put in the time. So an advanced program is all about building blocks, not about creating some program that’s going to make you an advanced triathlete. So I won’t ever have an advanced program. The intermediate can be used as an advanced later. They’re free and I won’t really tweak them that much. I didn’t add bricks to a lot of them. I do get a lot of requests for that, and just because initially bricks can be very injurious. People will go “I’ve got to ride a 25-mile bike and then go run a 10 K run, and then you don’t. You get off the bike and run for 10 or 15 minutes because of the time it takes to acclimate from bike legs to running legs. It should happen within a mile or two. For an Ironman maybe, when I hit mile 13, my IT bands went nuts. Well, I rode a little harder than I should have probably on the last half and that’s probably why. The longest runs I ever did on my bricks were probably 45 minutes. I certainly wasn’t going to run 20-mile runs after a brick. So I didn’t include bricks, but they are very important and I need to add those to the half Ironman especially for longer distance triathlons. For a new triathlete, a sprint is a long-distance triathlon. It’s still a 45-minute to an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. So there are bricks on that, but that’s one of the things I need to readjust the program. But other than that, they’ve been around and they’ve been published and they have really been the catalyst. That’s why I’ve kept the site going. I mean, I’ve paid for the site. It’s not a business. It’s fun and I make a little bit of money, but I do it because it keeps me in the game.
Kevin: Absolutely. That’s great. I’m happy you’re out there doing that.