Training three times a day: it’s mental


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


It was a good day at the pool for Canadian swimmers today. More specifically, it was a very good day for swimmers who train with coach Randy Bennett at the Victoria Swim Academy in B.C. Not only did Ryan Cochrane pick up the country’s first gold, in the 400m free; clubmates Julia Wilkinson and Stefan Hirniak picked up bronzes in the 200m IM and the 200m butterfly, and two others from the same group swam in finals — all this on the first day of competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

So what’s the secret? Hard work, obviously — but not just of the physical kind. After the race, Hirniak talked about a five-week stint of three swim workouts a day over the summer, and how the benefits were as much mental as physical:

I don’t think I would have paid much attention to that kind of comment a few years ago. But the more I read about the latest research into the nature of fatigue and limits of human performance, the more inclined I am to think Hirniak is right on the money with what he says here.

On an unrelated note, I was chatting with one of the Swimming Canada officials about the sports science team they’ve brought with them to Delhi. It’s an impressive contingent, including a couple of physiotherapists, a couple of physiologists, and a couple of biomechanics experts who are filming every lap of every race and producing a rush analysis for the swimmers and coaches every evening. I’m hoping to have a chance to hang out with some of these guys over the next week and find out more about what they’re doing.