By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Swim Speed Secrets, the new book by the consummate athlete/student/coach, Sheila Taormina, provides ways to fix your swim stroke in time for this weekend, then in-depth tools to improve your swim split permanently. Taormina’s Swim Speed Secrets is a compendium and reference, a tool box no triathlon swimmer can afford to ignore. Even the accomplished pool swimmer will benefit. There is so much to like about Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Secrets it’s hard to name one best feature.
“Swim Speed Secrets cuts to the chase, giving triathletes what they need to swim freestyle faster now. “
The concise 174-page Swim Speed Secrets is also a multi-media resource, with a set of QR codes in the index to access exclusive video that provide Sheila’s own approach to what makes your stroke better. The videos are quick and pointed, like having Sheila there at poolside. In the first 1:41 of the first video I learned more about arm position than from any other single resource, as well as picking up a useful drill. She shows you the drill or technique you’ll be practicing then lets you get in the lane and do it. I used the little video guides at the pool as a virtual coach on my iPhone that allows me to stop between sets and quickly review key techniques and drills. This ability to repeat the same concise message is key to ingraining those skills. It’s a little like having Sheila Taormina at poolside.
Part of what I found effective in Taormina’s Speed Secrets is the general layout and organization of the text. Most triathletes don’t want to read a book about swim technique. They likely treat the topic the way a college student treats a text book: they’ll learn what they need in order to get through the course. As a long time coach for triathletes Sheila obviously recognizes this. She organized key nuggets of information, the “things you’ll need to know on the test” and arranged them in a synoptic outline at the end of each chapter. If time and motive mean your first interaction with Swim Speed Secrets is a quick scan at poolside before your workout, you still bring away the high level concepts to improve your stroke. It’s likely these conceptual break-outs will also pull you into the rich text that discusses a long list of hydrodynamics, physics, training philosophies and physiology. You’ll keep going back to Swim Speed Secrets as a resource.
As an author few people are better qualified to write for the rank n’file triathlete than Taormina. She is the consummate athletic student, and teacher. Taormina has proven her ability to adopt to teaching the “beginner’s mind” and to learn new sports herself. First she was an Olympic Gold Medal swimmer, then an ITU World Champion and Olympic Triathlete. She won the 2005 Pan Am Championships in the Olympic Pentathlon. Taormina is the only Olympic athlete in history to qualify for the Olympics in three completely different sports. If you consider her multisport focus she really had to qualify in no less than six different and unrelated sports, all with significant athletic and technical requirements to compete at the Olympic level. Taormina has competed at swimming, cycling, running, shooting, equestrian and fencing on her Olympic dossier. She is a real world Lara Croft; skilled at a wide range of athletics and a scholar as well.
Disclaimer: I have both been a client of and worked with Sheila. More importantly, I’m a big fan of her. Putting my reviewer hat back on and grading her most recent project I see that Taormina has taken what she does so well at poolside with her athletes and distilled that into Swim Speed Secrets. Taormina has seen thousands of open water and competitive swimmers of all levels. The insights and lessons provided in Speed Secrets are the distillation of those decades of experience, thousands of hours of coaching and training and thousands of competitions in only 174 pages. The challenge for Taormina was to fit it all in there. In Swim Speed Secrets she has done that. This book is a more effective training aid than paddles, a kickboard and even a swimming pool.