“Oceans Seven” Adam Walker on ocean swimming technique

January 11, 2016

Those of you who’ve known me (or the blog) for long enough will know about my other life.

Back in the day, I used to be a swimmer. Specifically, a Channel swimmer. I’ve swum the Channel twice and done other long open-water solo swims. (You can read more about all that here).

But Adam Walker‘s sea swimming accomplishments are something else. Adam was the first British person to complete “Oceans Seven”, thought to be the toughest seven sea swims in the world:

– English Channel 2008 (finished 11 hours 35 mins)
– Two-way Gibraltar Straits 2010 (finished 9 hours 39 mins – he broke the British Record one way and was the first Brit to swim back)
– Molokai Straits in Hawaii 2012 (17 hours 2 mins)
– Catalina Channel in USA 2012 (12 hours 15 mins)
– Tsugaru Channel in Japan 2013 (15 hours 31 mins) (the first British person to complete this swim)
– Cook Straits in New Zealand 2014 (8 hours 36 mins)
– North Channel Ireland to Scotland 2014 (10 hours 45 mins)
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So when Adam asked if he could grab a guest-blog spot on TFW, I had no hesitation. If I still have any open-water swimming readers, Adam’s story and stroke technique advice will be golden for you. And for the rest of you? Be inspired by his story, and consider reading his book “Man Vs Ocean” by Adam Walker (published by John Blake Publishing and available at Amazon here – Man Vs Ocean, Adam Walker, Amazon).
Man V Ocean Book Jacket

Over to Adam for some serious technique talk.

On 6 Aug 2014 I became the first British person to swim the hardest seven ocean swims in the world, known as the Oceans Seven.

My swim stroke was the conventional style of a high head and winding my arms, entering long and flat.

I trained with this style for 18 months, resulting in a ruptured bicep tendon whilst swimming the English Channel. Having completed the swim I had to have two operations. The surgeon told me that the bicep tendon had attached itself to the supraspinatus, and they were unable to separate them. He advised me to give up swimming as the arm rotations would irritate it and cause more injury. He said “If you do another long swim you will have serious long term problems!”

Giving up was not an option for me. I love the sport so much. So I began studying the front crawl stroke and how to take pressure off the shoulder, limiting irritation, and becoming more efficient.

At this stage I wasn’t concerned with speed, I just wanted to find a way to prolong my swimming career. Here’s what I learned.

Head position

After many months of practice and video analysis I established that having a still head looking downwards is critical in the stroke: if it’s not still, you could zigzag.

If you immerse your head then your legs will come up if you are on your side. It’s better to work with the water than lift your head up (which takes energy), not beneficial when the head is the heaviest part of the body.

Core movement

I thought about other sports such as golf, cricket, bowling, tennis and cross country skiing – they all use core stomach muscles to instigate the initial phase. Therefore it didn’t make sense for me not to use rotation as part of the swim stroke.

Rotating using the core only, allowing the hips to push the arms forward instead of throwing them overhead had a number of big benefits:

– Using fewer muscles
– Less impact when entering the water
– Reduced pressure on the shoulders
– Stronger propulsion in the stroke
– More length out of the stroke

If I drive the arm/hand into the water, I am using my chest as well to do this, using more muscles than necessary. Using the core helped keep my hand and arms as wide as my hips. If your chest dominates, more often than not they will drive into the centre line, particularly when you breathe.

You will then have to push them out again in order to pull back which takes time and is an added unnecessary movement. By driving them into the centre you have the potential to pinch tendons and cause friction which will eventually tether and cause significant damage (something unfortunately I know a lot about!)

Early arm entry

I was taught to enter my hand into the water as far out in front as possible to gain a good pull. However, if your hand enters the water early with a bent elbow and then extends under water this creates less resistance and will take pressure off your shoulders.

If you think about diving off a block in a race, they only allow you to go 15 metres under water. Why? Because you are faster under water than you are on top of the water. Therefore the sooner you get your hand and arm into the water the better.

Recovery arm

I discovered that by holding the front recovery arm in place until the stroking arm is just about to enter the water, I gained constant momentum. This aids with stability, which is necessary if you get knocked by a competitor or if a wave is about to hit you. This happened to me in the English Channel with my old stroke and I was flipped onto my back.

Pulling

Pulling to your hip only is your ‘power section’ – beyond that it turns into a tricep movement with your power significantly reduced and delaying the time needed to get your hand back in for the catch.

Leg kick

My leg kick is just enough to keep me afloat, nothing too vigorous. 70% of energy is used up in your legs and you don’t get that benefit back. The kick is a sideways kick as you are swimming hip to hip (never flat).

By carrying out a simple two-beat kick I’m not wasting excess energy and am limiting the calories burnt. This is also important in colder temperatures.

My suggestion is to swim the majority of a triathlon with a two-beat kick, then kick a little more in the final 50m or so to get blood flow into the legs in readiness for transition. The limited leg kick will serve you in good stead when you get onto the bike as they have had limited use. On my 17 hour Hawaii swim, when I climbed out of the water, my legs were so fresh they didn’t feel as if they had be used.

How my new stroke technique has saved my career

This stroke, which my clients are calling ‘The Ocean Walker’ technique, has not only saved my swimming career but meant I was the fastest man on a 21-mile two-way swim in Windermere, and completed all seven channels including fastest British crossing of Gibraltar Straits one-way, and became the first British person to do a two-way crossing.

I’ve had three operations in total on my left shoulder, I can’t sleep on that side and I can’t hold over 10 kilos of weight with a straight arm, yet with the ‘Ocean Walker’ stroke I can swim 17 hours and am 1:15 mins faster over 1,500 metres and 5secs faster per 100 metres.

And my stroke rate has gone down from an average of 72 SPM to 52 SPM, showing that holding form in the stroke is generating more speed. I am saving 1200 strokes per hour! I am not pulling any harder than I did previously, actually if anything I am pulling with less power, showing the importance of body position and efficiency.

What I have realised is the key to swimming efficiently is to make the water work with you. By being relaxed, getting body position right and reducing resistance you will go faster.

The best athletes in the world are normally the ones who make it look effortless, use timing to their advantage and are efficient in what they do. Just look at Roger Federer or Usain Bolt!.

(It’s me, Nic, back again…. 😉 )

Thank you Adam, what an incredible amount of information. For more information on the ‘Ocean Walker’ stroke and Adam’s swim camps and 1-1 coaching, go to Ocean Walker.

Want to read more about Adam’s amazing swims? He’s on a “blog tour” and here’s where you’ll find him:
Man vs Ocean blog tour banner

“Oceans Seven” Adam Walker on ocean swimming technique is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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Inspirational readers: Chris and his 14-stone weight loss

July 30, 2013

Welcome to the first in a new blog series where I shine the spotlight on a totally inspirational “real life” person.

To kick us off I’ve got a humdinger of a story. Please read, you won’t believe the stats and photos!

I met Chris through his wife Kat who is a friend of mine. They both came to the NPA Finals, one of my bodybuilding competitions, last year (thanks!) and since then I have been pleased to count Chris as a friend too.

Over the last 13 months, Chris has lost 14 stone. Yes: FOURTEEN stone. About 88kgs. Half his body weight. And he’s still going. This is not a before-and-after story. It’s a before and now, and just watch me achieve even more than I already have story.

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Over to Chris, and his Blackburn-based PT Liam Ainsworth.

Tell us about your amazing weightloss and fatloss – so far!
At my heaviest, I was 28stone – that’s 392lbs or just shy of 178kg. My waist measured 64″, my chest 64″ and my bodyfat was about 80%. That was in June 2012.

Now, 13 months later, I’m 14 stone 3lbs or a shade over 90kg. My waist is 38″, my chest 42″ and my bodyfat about about 24%.

You asked about my target physique goals. This is an interesting point: for whatever reason, I decided on the completely arbitrary figure of 185lbs. But more recently I’ve set myself the goal of 15% bodyfat, with a view to building more muscle and focusing on how I look and feel rather than a number on a scale.

What was the trigger which made you decide to start losing weight?
That’s tough and I’m still not sure it was one thing. At the time, Kat (my then girlfriend, now my wife), had been ill with digestive issues for while and had to have surgery. Seeing her laying in a hospital bed suffering basically because we were eating the wrong things was a wake up call. I had recently suffered a knee injury which turned out to be a completely ruptured ACL and badly torn cartilage which meant my mobility was becoming restricted. I was a mess.

When Kat came out of hospital she was determined to be healthier and bought the first pair of bathroom scales we had ever owned. I stood on them one morning and saw that I weighed 28 stone. I nearly cried.

About this time, I got a new job. My office is 3 miles from my front door and about 500 yards from the gym I’d been a member of for 3 years and not set foot in for 18 months. I decided to make a change.

Had you tried to lose weight and get healthier before?
Of course. At high school aged 14 and weighing 17 stone I had gone on Slim Fast for 6 months, lost a little then piled on even more.

Later I’d been put on diet pills by various doctors. Some were like speed and would leave me wide awake at 4am.

What had the barriers been in the past and why do you think it worked this time?
Honestly I think I just didn’t want to enough, for whatever reason I didn’t care enough about my health to commit to looking after myself.

The day I stood on the bathroom scales and saw that I was 28 stone I said to myself, “you’re going to die. You’ll be walking upstairs and drop dead or you’ll wake up one morning and discover you’ve had a massive stroke.”

I knew then I needed to do something.

I’ve always been a bit a a geek, I love a gadget so I found a phone app that I could use to log my food intake, exercise, weight. This was brilliant in the early days because it kept me honest and helped to break some of the bad habits. I still use the app now, over a year later as I still don’t fully trust myself and having the tool to monitor myself helps, does that make sense.

I went to see Kat’s PT at the gym, Liam, firstly to try and get help with the knee (I didn’t think I needed help getting fit… that was simply a question of eating less and doing boatloads of cardio, right? How wrong was I! 😉 )

Liam has saved my life. I know that sounds incredibly dramatic but hear me out. I have trained once a week with Liam for over a year now and every week without fail I learn something new, whether it’s nutrition advice, physiology or just a new way of making me ache for two days! Without this I would have more than likely got bored after a month and failed again.

What was the one thing you learned, changed or did differently this time which really worked…. your “secret weapon”?
Protein. Liam quickly got me to swap my diet around so I was eating 50%-60% protein. I was shocked by how little I craved the sweet things that had been a regular part of my diet. Protein is my friend. My diet has been approx 1500 calories a day made up from a mixture of tuna, chicken, eggs, the odd steak, broccoli, spinach and sweet potato.

How do you keep going, day after day after day for so long when (I imagine) it sometimes seemed an impossibly long journey?
I’ve been doing this for 415 days now (thank you, clever phone widget!) Always having a goals has been the key.

When I started in June last year we had a friend’s annual BBQ planned in August and I said I wanted to lose 50lbs by then. I managed to lose 54lbs and from then on I have always given myself something to aim for and focus on.

Now, if I don’t hit that particular goal, it feels like a complete disaster… So I know I still have some work to do on keeping things in proportion, but if you don’t push yourself hard who will?

What have you enjoyed the most about it all?
Finding new ways to cook! Crustless quiche was a great find: grilled chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus and eggs all baked in the oven, what’s not to love delicious hot or cold.

I love leaving the gym looking like I’ve been hosed down, barely able to walk or move my arms. There’s no better feeling than knowing that what you’ve just done is going to ache in the morning.

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Looking at your photos I imagine you have some pretty funny/incredible stories to tell…

There have been a number of times when my wife Kat has lost me in a crowd only to look straight at me and not recognise me. At a family function a couple months ago, two of my Uncles ignored me all night, then admitted they hadn’t recognised me.

The story that I like most though is when I went to hospital for my ACL reconstruction in May my surgeon was convinced they had the wrong patient and had to ask for my notes again to double check!

Did you ever feel like giving up?
The odd thing is for the last year I’ve never thought, “sod this I can’t be bothered any more”. I think its because I finally decided for myself I needed to do it.

Did you ever fall off the wagon? How did you get back on?

I struggled after my ACL surgery because I couldn’t train. I got bored and watched Game of Thrones while eating bowls of porridge for two weeks. I had made the decision before the operation not to weigh myself while I was recovering. I knew I was slipping into bad habits so weighed myself and I had gained 4kg in 2weeks – that was the kick I needed to get my focus back.

What has inspired you and kept you motivated? What do you say to yourself, or look at, or watch, or read when you need a boost?
Kat introduced me to your blog and we came and watched you compete (at the NPA Finals last year), a day that I will never forget. I came away thinking, “my god that’s amazing, I may never look like that but there are no excuses for not being as fit and healthy as possible.”

Through your blog and Facebook I found some other inspiring individuals whose knowledge and attitude have helped me enjoy this journey, Phil Learney, Ben Coomber and Andy McKenzie all spring to mind. So thank you for that.

Before my Wednesday PT session with Liam I always send him a text insulting him in some way or another in an attempt to wind him up so he pushes me that little bit more as revenge.

I completely admire your focus and dedication. Leave us with five things you’ve discovered – the Wisdom of Chris – to motivate and inspire us!
1) Squat

2) Make small changes one at a time that you find manageable.

3) Stop wishing for things that require you earn them.

4) Pick up heavy things, put them down, pick them up again.

5) Eat proper food.

5.1) Did I mention squats? 😉

amazing 14 stone weight loss story

Thanks so much for sharing your story and your strengths with us, Chris. Here are a few words from Chris’s PT, Liam Ainsworth, who works around Blackburn and the North West.

Tell me about Chris as a client. Why has he succeeded where so many fail?

On meeting Chris it was pretty clear that he had the mental capacity to succeed in his goals. A couple of things are critical: an achievable timescale and a goal.

Chris was getting married in Cyprus in about 12 months time, and had a wake-up call seriously damaging his knee (deep down believing it probably wouldn’t have happened if he weighed less).

Chris not only listened to the advice and strategy I outlined but lived it. Not 70% or 80% but a lifestyle change both mentally and physically. Chris ‘walked the walk’ (even with a damaged knee).

Did you know when you first met him that he would succeed in such a massive transformation
?
I hoped he would. It was clear at the beginning that he had the desire but I was worried that his knee would stop him. I hate it when I’m wrong but in this case I’m glad I was. To date we are close to a 14 stone weight loss achieved in a little over a year. After the first few had gone, it began to seem that there was no limit. I still train him as hard as we did at the beginning as I know he can do more. The journey hasn’t ended yet, and I make sure he knows that.

What approach/es or protocols did you take with Chris and why?

All the right ones. I’m critical of the industry. It’s more than just making people sweat and taking their money. You need strategy on training and more importantly diet (which is 80% of the process). I’m a CHEK trained professional and keep up to date with my education so I can get results for my clients. Chris did a Metabolic Type test which means we found out what food his body really needed. He came out as a ‘protein type’ which meant 60%+ of his diet needed to be good fresh high quality protein (organic where possible). If you put the wrong fuel in a car how would you expect it to run? Well that’s what most people are doing all the time! Wrong fuel, in pain and on some sort of prescription drugs! It’s my job to help sort that out.

As far as training was concerned that was easy! It all boils down to movement – no machines, no vibration plates, just natural human movement (even with a bad knee). Squat, bend, lunge, push, pull and twist. If you can master these movements you will be pain free and functional. Life is dysfunctional! I don’t know of any animal that doesn’t know how to move naturally or eat correctly. That’s all we are – animals. The more you forget that and sit at a desk 8 hours a day eating microwaved food the worse you will feel and the shorter your lifespan will be.

What advice do you give to clients who have such a long way to go (but who obviously have the mental tools there to achieve it)

What’s the alternative? The definition of madness is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’! Change what you are doing and your body will respond. There are too many excuses and not enough positive action being taken. Take a long look at your life and how you can improve it and take inspiration from others who have achieved great things. The motivation is out there and if you want it bad enough you’ll do it – don’t just join the herd!

What advice would you give my readers who feel they are at the start of a very long fitness/fatloss journey?

Get the right advice, get a goal and a plan and stick with it. DIETS DO NOT WORK! Eat like the animal you are and believe in yourself. We are the pinnacle of evolution and yet the sickest of all living things on the planet. With the correct movement and diet I’ve seen people achieve fantastic things, and no matter what level they start at they can always improve. Never stop learning! Find something that motivates you (for me, it’s my two daughters: I want to see them grow up fit and healthy people not dysfunctional malnourished and unhappy so I train to make that happen).

Get passionate and change your life. No excuses. Chris is a great example and a real pleasure to train.
=

I hope Chris’s story has inspired you, motivated you or given you that little extra push you need to go after your own goals.

If you know someone who would like to feature as an “inspirational reader” story, get in touch with me. 🙂

Inspirational readers: Chris and his 14-stone weight loss is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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