Industry secrets – how fitpros should connect with industry media contacts

February 25, 2014

Ever wondered how people get their names, products and services in front of industry journalists and magazine editors?

How fitpros can get in there with editors, journalists and bloggers

First of all, understand how the chain of command in the media industry works.

There are in-house journalists (staff on magazines or newspapers). Their bosses are editors, commissioning editors and sub-editors. Then you have freelance journalists (like me), who usually specialise in a sector. Freelance journalists will be commissioned by inhouse staff to write features, interviews, kit tests and other bits of content for the publication. Then there are PR (public relations) people. They work on behalf of brands, and part of what they do will be managing relationships with journalists and editorial staff.

What’s the process behind a magazine commission?

There are two ways in which a magazine article can come about: from a pitch (from the journalist to the editor(, or from a commission (from the editor to the journalist). The latter usually – but not always – happens when the editor already knows the journalist by reputation, or if the journalist has previously written for the publication.

For pitches, journalists need to come up with strong, timely ideas. When we get commissioned by an editor, we will usually need to find case studies, expert comment and/or products to fit the brief. We may have to do this extremely quickly and we’ll therefore be looking for fitpros who can help us by getting spot-on product information, fantastic expert comment or strong case studies.

On the topic of kit tests – these are always commissioned. We will never be able to pitch an editor the idea of testing a single product. So, if you want to get your product in front of an editor, you need to send it to them first and then they will send it to one of their freelancers to test. (I can write a blog about press releases if this will help?)

What about fitness blogs?

If publicity via a fitness blog is on something you’re interested in, you need to get in touch with bloggers. Bloggers are our own “editors” and those of us who do product tests can be contacted directly to see if a review of your product would make good content for our readers. Are blogs are a suitable outlet for your product and a worthwhile part of your marketing strategy? That’s your call. But it’s worth bearing in mind that customers are increasingly reading blogs for online reviews and feedback.

You can also try contacting fitness bloggers to see if they need guest bloggers. Personally, I find “cold call” emails offering guest blog posts irritating at best, but that’s usually because they’re very sales-y and not offering anything useful or readable. So, by all means give this strategy a try (but not with me… 😉 )

How can you make the most of freelance fitness journalists?

We want to work with you and hear from you, but you need to know what we need – and what we don’t need – when a deadline is looming. Here are a few tips.

Do contact us, but only with information we have previously stated we’ll find useful or which will fit the commission we’re working on
Don’t send information which doesn’t fit the bill, no matter how strongly you feel the magazine should feature it
Do note our deadline and tell us honestly if you can help us meet it
Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver
Do send complete information, images, case studies, contact details
Don’t send information and then disappear off the face of the earth (at least let us know who else in your team we should speak to)

How do magazine editors want to hear from you?

I asked one of the deputy editors I write – Laura Jones at Body Fit magazine – to give you some advice. Here’s what she had to say:

“Remember that editorial staff at consumer magazines like Body Fit get hundreds of press releases a day. To give yours a chance of being read, make sure it has an eye-catching headline, relevant content and all the contact details we might need. Make sure you read the magazine first so you know what kind of content we do – and don’t cover – and ensure you know who our target readership is.”

How to find a freelance journalist with a relevant commission

“This is all great”, you say, “but how do I begin to find freelance fitness journalists? And how can I know which articles they’re working on?” OK, I’m about to let you into some real industry secrets here… make sure you use these!

Twitter – search the hashtag #journorequest – journalists use this when they need a quote, comment, product for an article they’re writing. Save the search as a stream so you can see it every day.
Responsesource – use the website Responsesource – journalists and editors upload specific requests here
Networking – online and in real life. If you find a journalist in your sector, keep in touch.

Industry secrets – how fitpros should connect with industry media contacts 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.

Nicola Joyce featured on Zars Media

December 17, 2012

I had a nice start to the working week when I saw I’d been featured in Zars Media‘s “Adventures of a Working Woman” series.

Freelance journalist copywriter interview

Freelance journalist copywriter interview

Zars Media exists to encourage and empower women within industry and across all business sectors, and one way in which it does this is by recognising women’s achievements and successes.

The Adventures of a Working Woman feature is a series of interviews with all sorts of women, working in various roles and in various sectors. There are CEOs, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, wealth experts and, er, me. To see all the entire series, view the archive.

I was asked about my working day, what keeps me motivated, what advice I’d give to others and how I measure my success. I’d love it if my interview inspires even one young woman who dreams of working as a freelance journalist or copywriter.

Nicola Joyce featured on Zars Media 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.

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4

August 17, 2011

Hi all! Just a very quick one – remember when I was interviewed by the BBC about triathlon, whilst coaching open-water swimming down at Dorney?

The interview finally aired last night as part of BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight show. You can listen again here I believe. (Tuesday 16th August) I think it’s towards the end of the programme – I haven’t had a chance to listen yet myself!

Here’s the relevant section of the show

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4 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.

Coaching, cold water and the BBC

May 14, 2011

(I’ll wait to see if anyone Googles that exact combination of words!)

Phew, what a day. Lying in bed with my laptop on my knees and typing this is about all I can manage right now.

(Shortly after this was taken, clouds rolled in and wind picked up – brrrr!)

As long-time readers of the blog will remember, a few weekends a year I coach open-water swimming (I do this for triathlon coaching company in partnership with event organisers Human Race). Time rolls around quickly, and here we are at the start of the triathlon season again, so it was time for me to zip up my wetsuit, put on my coaching hat (it looks just like a swimming hat but contains top tips and handy hints) and step into that cold water.

And, maaan, was it cold. I mean, it actually was cold, but it felt even colder. Not surprising really since I’m probably sitting at anywhere between 5-10% less body fat now than I was last year. And, as any Channel swimmer knows, subcutaneous fat makes a big (gooood!) difference when it comes to feeling at home in cold water.

I was in a wetsuit, of course. A wetsuit which was so baggy the other coaches were laughing at me. Yes folks, heavy weight training will not make a woman bulky. The baggy wetsuit didn’t do much to protect me from the cold water. Brrr!

Despite the cold, it was a great day. I truly love coaching and feel it’s a real honour to take people through what is often their very first time in open-water. And I got to see my coaching buddies again, and chat with Bill Black, perhaps one of my favourite people in triathlon. (He always seems to find new ways to introduce us to our coachees: this year I was “that little fish…”)

Last year, I finished off my days coaching at Dorney with a 20+mile bike ride home, having also ridden there. Not this year (no such long cardio for me, certainly not with 7 weeks to go til my comp). Today had a rather unusual ending: being interviewed by the BBC! This is not something which happens to me frequently. Or, ever. But on Thursday I had a call from a nice young woman called Charlotte, a BBC news reporter who works for Radio 4. It seems the BBC are putting together a feature or series of features about the explosion in popularity of triathlon in this country. They found me online via this very blog, decided I’d be able to be vaguely useful to the feature and came along to interview me. Happily, I was decked out in triathlon kit, soaking wet from lake water and set against a backdrop of a supersprint race.

I don’t know where the clip will be used (Charlotte said it could be on Radio4, on TV and/or online) but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. I just hope I was useful to them – I was seriously so cold that I was having trouble speaking (you know when you want to say a word but your mouth won’t form the correct shape?!)

A few people have challenged me with the idea that bodybuilding is a vain sport, and others have suggested I’m vain for working towards a bodybuilding show. I can’t answer for the sport in its entirety, but I’m hoping my willingness to be filmed whilst wearing a wetsuit and woolly hat and without a scrap of makeup on my face (which is tinged blue and chapped from the wind) answers the second challenge. (And remember when I wrote that piece for the Observer book? My portrait photo for that one… yep, me in a swimming costume (!) standing in a lake. In April). Or perhaps bodybuilding allows me to indulge the small scrap of vanity I have left after Channel swimming and open-water triathlons have taken their toll?

Right, I must go. Richard of Richards TransRockies is here because he and my husband are doing some mega-long off road sportive tomorrow. And there’s Eurovision to watch. I hope you had a good Saturday. 🙂

Do you think bodybuilding is a vain pursuit? Do you think it’s possible to engage in a vain sport without being a vain person? Do you find that once you’ve typed “vain” several times you start to doubt that you’ve spelled it correctly?

Coaching, cold water and the BBC is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Giving it a tri

February 27, 2011

I hope you’ve had a nice weekend. I had lots of family over today, including my Auntie Rose, who has decided to take up triathlon. Now, it’s terribly rude to talk about a lady’s age but, if I tell you that I’m 33, you can probably work out for yourself that my Auntie is not quite a teenager. So I think it is fantastic that she is training for her first triathlon.

Auntie Rose and my little sister 20+ years ago yesterday 😉 – sorry both of you, ha ha!

Auntie Rose is no couch potato – she’s a good swimmer and plays tennis (very well, I’m told) regularly. But triathlon is quite a challenge for anyone.

Before lunch, she picked a few products from my cardboard boxes of items I’ve kit tested for magazines (PRs, if you want them back, please just ask – Auntie Rose has only borrowed them). And, over lunch, she picked my brains about the mysteries of brick sessions, transitions, race belts and lock laces.

I’m thrilled to be able to help her out and can’t wait to cheer her on in her first race. And I’m delighted to have someone else sporty in the family!

I’ve asked her if she’ll do a few guests posts on this blog as her training progresses. If there’s any part of the learning curve you’d like her to write about, please let me know.

Did you take up a particular sport later on in life? Would you ever consider doing a triathlon?

I’ve got an exciting day lined up tomorrow with one big bit of kit to test and a talk to give at an industry event. I also owe you a blog post about fitness kit I’ve tested this week – some interesting stuff! I’ll blog again soon…

Giving it a tri is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

The Fit Writer meets Matt Roberts (The Workout Mix 2011 review)

December 17, 2010

Do you train with music? When I just ran (and swam), before I was a member of a gym (imagine!), I used to be sniffy about training with earphones in. “But what about the beautiful sounds of nature?” I’d ask. “Why not lose yourself in the silence?”

Nuts to that. I can listen to nature when I’m walking the dog. Nowadays, the only training I do without music is cycling and swimming, both for rather obvious safety reasons (although I have reviewed a number of waterproof MP3s for triathlon magazines, but the old-school swimmer in me still thinks swimming to music is a bit…radical 😉 )

It’s a sad day for me when my iPod runs out of charge partway through a gym session or a run. Whether I’m listening to podcasts (great for long, steady runs) or the warblings of Beyonce and co, I find that having something to listen to really does motivate me to keep going or to try harder.

Which is why I was happy to go along to the press launch of a new CD. Now before you think “what’s going to be great about this?”, bear with me. First of all, this CD (well it’s three CDs actually) is far more than just music. It’s a really good deal and I’d probably buy it if I hadn’t been given a promo copy (thank you, Leila). Secondly, it’s been done very cleverly, with folk like you and me in mind. Let me tell you about it.

The Workout Mix 2011 is 3 CDs of current music (original artists) mixed to give you 45-60 minute playlists which gradually ramp up the BPM to suit your workout – building, peaking and then giving you time to bring the pace down. There’s a bonus feature in the shape of a downloadable 30 minute training session from “PT to the stars” Matt Roberts, and you also get a free Fitness First gym pass and access to a training plan. It’s a great package, I think, and will be very reasonably priced. Two of the CDs are for cardio workouts and the third is for strength work or endurance sessions. I’ve been listening to them for the past couple of weeks and really really like them.

I met up with Matt Roberts, the personal trainer who was involved in the creation of the CDs and the bonus extras. We chatted about training, music and motivation.

The Fit Writer: Why do you think music helps so many people with training and mental performance?
Matt Roberts: I think it’s an instinctive thing; we move in time to the cadence and rhythm of music. Without realising it, music can help you speed up. On the other hand, some music can flatten your performance and decrease your motivation. So choose your tunes wisely! It goes right back to music being used in gym classes, but it works for running and solo gym workouts in just the same way. The music builds until it reaches an overload point where it helps you push harder, go faster. With these CDs I’ve made sure the tunes build up really naturally, then peak, then decrease gently. They’re between 45-60 minutes, ideal for most workouts, and there’s stuff in there too for interval training (see the website).

TFW: How does the bonus feature – you motivating the listener during their session – work?
I’ve done a voiceover which motivates you, keeps you going and pushes you a little, whilst giving you useful tips. It’s essentially like having me there doing some PT except I’m just in your ear! I’ve taken everything I’ve learned about what motivates PT clients and put them here: we know that clients work harder with me (or whoever their PT is) talking to them and working alongside them. The idea is that it will give you a lift and bring something to your session which you might struggle to find if you were going it alone. It takes what I do with my own clients and puts it onto a download for anyone to access.

TFW: You’re from a sprinting background, aren’t you? How do you manage to fit in your own training these days? What sort of thing do you like doing?
I always make time to train – partly because I have to (I couldn’t be a PT and not train myself) and partly because I absolutely love it and really miss it when I don’t do it. I feel much more energised when I train. I work from 6am to 8pm most days and am really busy, but I just make time for my own training. I try to get a session in at least 4 days per week, and I make sure I work really hard during that time.

TFW: And what’s on your playlist?
All sorts! I have a very eclectic mix. Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta… I make lots of playlists, particularly for running. And, yes, I do use the CDs myself! The music is all really current and it’s a fun mix.

TFW: I blogged about fitness trends recently. What do you think will be big in 2011?
The TRX and other suspension trainers are brilliant and will continue to be a hot bit of kit next year I think. They’re suitable for anyone and can be put to so many diverse uses: home, the gym, hotel rooms – you don’t need much space. You can use them to get a really decent full body workout in and they’re a brilliant fallback if you are pushed for time/space/kit. I also think everyone should have a good HRM with GPS: it gives great feedback and is a good motivational tool. There are a lot of apps out there which I think will be huge once they’re perfected. None are quite there yet but I think apps in general will be the biggest thing in the industry in the near future.

TFW: It’s really cold today. I hate being cold. How do you get around training outside when it’s snowing and icy? Or is it tough luck?
(laughs) There’s always something you can do, regardless of temperature and weather, and that’s what I tell my clients. It’s important to do cardio outside if you’re training for a specific event which demands that kind of training. But, of course it’s OK to head inside and replace that session with something else. A gym gives you that flexibility. And you know what? If you can’t get outside to run, don’t worry about it. Just relax, enjoy an extra bit of rest, or come up with some other way to move. Your fitness isn’t going anywhere in just a couple of days. Having said that, I used the recent snow to give my clients some really challenging sessions. Doing drills in the snow certainly shakes things up! So I’d say, if possible, adapt and get on with it. Get the correct kit and clothing and off you go. I bet you’ll be glad you went once you get out of the door.

Thanks for your time and advice, Matt. It was nice to meet you.

Tell me about your MP3. What’s your favourite playlist? Which podcasts do you listen to? Does a really funny song ever come on whilst you’re in the middle of a workout (This happens to me loads, I swear I don’t even put those songs on there in the first place…)

The Fit Writer meets Matt Roberts (The Workout Mix 2011 review) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Fitness journalist: unplugged (Gravity Training System review)

December 13, 2010

As a writer, I spend most of my time in my home office: head down, researching and writing, speaking only to the dog. Days out are exciting! A week ago, I was invited into London to try out a bit of fitness kit. Here’s how it went down.

I met up with Cheryl and Katherine, two sport and fitness PRs, for a trip to the lovely Nuffield Gym in the City. Our mission: to try out the Gravity Training System.

Now. Here’s the thing. As a freelance journo, I get asked to try out a lot of sport and fitness gadgets and gizmos. A lot of them promise the world and say they can do it all, and I normally reserve a healthy level of skepticism. So it was when I went along to try out the Gravity Training System. As I tend to write for and about multisport and competitive sport, I am always after things which challenge, condition and really cut the mustard. Gravity is a bit of equipment used in 60 minute and 30 minute classes in various Virgin Active, Nuffield Health and independent gyms. (For a list and more info, see here). But I was curious: would the GTS really be all that?

Gravity, please accept my humble apologies. After just a few minutes on the contraption, I was feeling the burn.

As you can see from the pics, the GTS uses…well, gravity (!) to create a challenging body weight workout which can be used for the entire body without having to faff with weights, clips or plates.

I asked the lovely trainer Michael Steel (awesome name for a fitness trainer, don’t you think?) for his explanation of our session. All I can remember is that it was a tough workout which both got the heart-rate up and most definitely challenged my full body. Here’s what Michael had to say:

“We started the workout in an upright supine position to work the legs with bilateral squats. We set the level on the Total Gym to 6 (of 8 levels) and this was perfect for the amount of bodyweight we wanted involved in the activity. This is a great way to get warmed up. To increase the intensity and challenge the core we progressed to unilateral (single leg) squats. This instantly increased the load and, by varying the pace we challenged the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Without stopping, we introduced sports specific plyometrics (jumping activities). This increased the O2 consumption and got the heart rate up but reduced the impact on the joints.

“After training the legs, we adjusted the level to 3 for all the upper body and core exercises that were to follow. In an upright prone position, we lay chest down on the glideboard and we used the cables to work the upper back, lats, triceps and trapezius. We moved from one exercise to another and completed 8-10 reps of each exercise. We completed 6 different exercises in this position and we did the set twice. This ensured that we achieved a level of overload and fatigue. By the way, how did you feel the next day…?

“From this position we simply turned sideways and trained the body in a lateral position. We did exercises in a high kneeling position, but you can also do these exercises seated or low kneeling. The high kneeling challenges stability and requires the body to work as an integrated unit rather than isolating one muscle group at a time. We started with torso rotation (woodchops) and by simply moving the handle from one to the other we worked our chest in a fly position. Then we did a compound bicep/shoulder press using the same side of the body, then swapped hands and did a high row followed by a reverse fly. Although each exercise was targeting the chest or shoulder or bicep, we also felt our back extensors and abs, adductors and glutes firing up to create the stability and support to provide the strength in both the concentric and eccentric phase of each movement. Very effective and very representative of every day movement patterns!

“We then faced the tower in a low kneeling position and started a series of exercises that utilised spinal flexion and extension with arm activities. We call this the ‘surfer’ series: narrow rows, shoulder extension, biceps curls, triceps, upper back and lats as well as shoulder flexion. Every one of these exercises also challenged our core.

“We did a quick change here and rolled down the glideboard onto our backs in an inverted supine position. Here we focused on the front of the arm (biceps) and the deltoid group by doing upright rows, long lever shoulder flexion and deltoid raises. In the same position we also disconnected the cables from the glideboard and used the footholder to do some hamstring work for the posterior muscles of the leg and some reverse crunches.

“To finish we raised the rails again and we did a big set of partial weight bearing pull-ups and chin-ups, varying the pace in both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) phase of the movement. The great thing about this exercise is that most people can not do a pull-up or chin-up. Here we can moderate the load and ensure great technique. To increase the intensity we add plyometric pull-ups which required a combination of speed, power and control….fun and challenging.

“This was just a fun, total body workout that was designed to give you a sense of what working out against your own bodyweight, on a moving glideboard (surface) and controlling your body in space feels like. Total Gym and Gravity really is designed to provide an option or everyone, any client and any trainer in a very efficient and effective way.”

Thank you Michael, it was a fun session, challenging and tough and yes I definitely felt it the next day! Whatever your sport or level of fitness, I urge you to give it this bit of a kit a go if your gym has a Gravity Training System class. If I had access to one, I would use it. Gravity and Michael are on Facebook.

Oh, and that wasn’t the end of my day out. Ha, no. I then went and met my PT Kat and we did an hour’s leg workout together. (We also discussed my next fitness challenge and put some firm plans in place – I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it! So exciting!)

As a fitness journalist, I like to “walk the walk”. Days like this make that a little bit of a challenge. For the next couple of days I could hardly walk at all!

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview

November 12, 2010

This week I was asked by the website Essential Writers to talk a little about my journalistic niche: sport and fitness. The interview is now up on the Essential Writers site; if you’re interested in how to get into sports journalism or just want to read what I have to say about the job, the perks and the challenges, head over and have a look.

Here’s an extract:

It’s difficult to untangle my career as a sportswriter from my own adventures in sport and fitness. In fact, I don’t think I’d be doing this job had it not been for one, rather special, sporting achievement. This is how it happened:

I made the decision to become a freelancer when I was made redundant and moved out of London. It seemed like as good a time as any to pursue a career in writing (something I’d always wanted to do). Initially, I took on copywriting clients, but knew I really wanted to write features for sport and fitness magazines.

I just needed a way to get my foot in the door. At the time, I was just a few weeks away from swimming the English Channel (the first of two successful swims, as it would turn out). If I couldn’t pitch a first-person piece about swimming the Channel, it was unlikely I had what it takes to be a freelance writer of sport-related features…

Thanks to Essential Writers for inviting me to be part of their specialist genres pages.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Tips from the top: swim coaching with Bill Furniss

July 8, 2010

You know Bill Furniss, right? He coaches a swimmer called Rebecca Adlington. You might know her. She’s kind of fast.

Well, last week, poor Bill was coaching me. He was being pimped out by Speedo at a media day in London and Triathlete’s World magazine sent me along to meet him. (Here’s the resulting article.)

Bill Furniss

I wasn’t too sure what the day would consist of. I knew I had interview time with him, but then looked at the PR’s invite which mentioned something about towels and swimsuits, and I realised I’d actually have to swim in front of this GB Olympic coach. Good-oh!


We met at the lovely 33.3m pool at London’s Porchester Centre.

I was in the water with one other journalist and we did a few lengths to warm up whilst Bill cast his expert eye over our splashings. I got to the far end as he was going over a few points with the other chap. I waited til the chap departed down the length to put Bill’s advice into practice, and looked up at Bill….

“Well,” he said. “I saw you start to make your way up the lane and I thought to myself “oh good, this is all OK!” But then…you turned your head to breathe.” Bill made a face and waggled his arm in front of his body to demonstrate how, when I take a breath, my outstretched arm passes the ‘centre line’ in front of me, breaking my body position and slowing me right down.

He asked if I felt as if I was getting slower despite having been swimming for ages, and then asked if I felt like I was slower than I should be yet couldn’t work out why. Erm…yes. Spot on.

The arm thing would be why, he explained. “Everything else is fine. Nice high elbows, good length of stroke, kick’s fine, nice extension. It’s just that crossing of the midline when you breathe. It’s putting the brakes on and wrecking all your good work elsewhere.”

I asked him what could be done and Bill explained that it’s really just a case of being aware of keeping the arm outstretched and the hands wide (in the proper place), whether you’re on a ‘breath’ stroke or not. He said I could try swimming a few strokes with my head up, then a few as normal and so on, just to get a feel for the proper position.

So I did. And you know what it was incredible! I can’t believe what lazy habits I’ve got into over time.

Once I’d got the hang of what I ought to be doing, Bill gave me some Speedo finger paddles to try.

I’ve used a range of hand paddles and gloves before but never finger paddles. Bill explained that they guide the hand as it enters the water and makes it really quite obvious if you deviate from the proper hand position at any point of the stroke. I really liked these little paddles (and they’re only £7!). They made a massive difference and I could really feel it when I took them off and swam a length without them. Definitely the latest addition to my kitbag. 🙂

Towards the end of the session, Bill asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to work on. I said speed. Bill asked, somewhat cryptically, what I meant by speed? He pointed out that swimming faster isn’t about working harder. It’s about slowing the stroke right down and getting the longest length from outstretched fingertip to foot: “the path of least resistance”. The fewer strokes you take, Bill said, the less disruption there is to that long, outstretched period of time you’re cutting through the water.

Bill also spoke to us about the importance of pace and cadence (the latter being something cyclists are used to but not something swimmers often think about). It’s a personal thing, but the point is not to just work off the pace clock like so many of us were told to as kids. Finally, he talked about that elusive “feel” for the water, and said it often comes naturally (he saw it in a 12-year-old Adlington) but can also most definitely be learned.

To finish off, we did a length of swimming with closed fists (and counted our strokes: 30 for me), then a length with our fingers just closed at the knuckle (sort of a half-fist) (26 strokes for me) and then a length full-stroke (24 strokes that time). He then asked us to swim one length at a sprint but holding the glide section of the stroke for just a fraction of a second. His face was a picture: “that was 100% better!” he said.

Bill Furniss is a Speedo coach. For a free online training program try

Thanks to Speedo and Brand Nation for inviting me along and thanks to Bill for his time. Keep an eye on Triathlete’s World magazine for my interview with him – it’s packed with really useful tips for avoiding and correcting the most common freestyle mistakes.

Question: what’s your favourite bit of swim kit and why?

Celebrating Summer with the Observer and Mercedes-Benz

June 3, 2010

I’ve been writing for a long time now, but there are two things I’ve never had the pleasure of being involved in: a book, and national newspaper. I can now announce something I’m really proud about – and it’s a commission which (kind of!) ticks both those boxes.

A while ago I was contacted out of the blue by a commissioning Editor who was working on a book produced by the Observer and done as a tie-in with Mercedes-Benz. She asked me to contribute two chapters to the sport section of the book.

Hm, let me think about this for 0.01 secondsA book…the Observer…Mercedes-Benzhelloyoustillthereyesplease!

The book is being given away as part of a Celebrating Summer promotion from Mercedes-Benz in association with the Observer. I haven’t seen it yet but I have it on good authority that it’s absolutely gorgeous, with some great photography, high production values (and decent writing 😉 ). Of course, I’m delighted to be involved with a project of this calibre.

From the website:
“To celebrate everyone’s favourite time of year the Observer, in association with Mercedes-Benz, is giving away an exclusive book entitled Summer, a 52-page collection of sun-soaked memories and tributes to this scintillating season written by some of the best-known Observer writers and contributors.”

I can’t wait to see it (even if the portrait photo for my first-person piece involved me standing in a lake, in swimwear, in mid-April). To read more about it – and get hold of a copy for yourself – check this link. The promotion runs between 5-7 June, so check back then if it’s not live yet.

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