Athlete of the month: December

Winter often proves to be one of the toughest seasons for athletes. With shorter days, waking up in the dark and finishing training in the dark can be difficult for even the most determined sportsperson. 

Steph Williams from the University of Leeds Swimming Team is use to the early starts and late finishes demanded by performance sport and has managed to make the most of  her time in the darker months.   

What’s your sport?

Swimming, my main events are 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly.

What is your training schedule?

I’m in the pool five to six times a week and have two strength and conditioning sessions. I had been preparing for short course BUCS in November, so we were doing a lot of speed work at training whilst also focusing on technique and refining race skills.

What S&C training do you do?

I go to S&C twice a week. For the first few weeks, sessions were aimed at building whole body strength whilst concentrating on having good form. In the lead up to competition there’s been a switch of focus to generating more speed and power, moving lighter weights fast. At the end of each session we do a series of core exercises which I find hard, but a strong core is really key area to work on as a swimmer as it helps you maintain a good body position in the water.

What is your favourite exercise?

One of my favourite exercises are back squats. They’re good for building strength in my legs which help my swimming because I can increase the power I can get off my dives and turns, which are both important aspects of my race, especially as a sprinter.

What is your least favourite exercise?

My least favourite exercise is probably TRX rows because I’m always aching from them the next day!

How do you feel S&C has helped you develop as an athlete so far?

S&C has improved my performance as a swimmer as it’s building my dynamic strength and core stability which I know is helping me progress towards the goals I want to achieve. I really enjoy having a set program that allows me to see the progression I make through the weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing even more benefits after Christmas during long course season.

Ben has been working to help develop a strong sports specific training program for Steph and the swimmers. Unlike many of the other performance sports that receive S&C coaching swimming is not a weight bearing sport so requires a different approach to muscular strength and endurance. He told us more about Steph’s training programme:

“Steph has made a solid start to her land training programme so far this year. After setting a strong movement skills foundation and mastering basic calisthenic exercises in the first training cycle, she is now focusing on maximum lifting velocities. This is possible through training with a lower volume, using exercises like Jump Squats and Medicine Ball Slams. The overarching goal with Steph is to put her in the best possible position to swim fast.

As she is a sprint specialist her programme will focus on developing her ability to produce force and propel herself through the water. Strength work will feature in the form of Squats, Pull Ups and pressing movements, alongside continued commitment to developing the capacity and control of Steph’s core. She will also be progressing in her gymnastics-style callisthenics work to hopefully provide her with strong and stable shoulders that can thrive on the high-volume nature of her swimming training. I’m looking forward to working with Steph throughout the year and seeing her continued progression in both the gym and the pool.”

We look forward to seeing more great results from Steph in the new year!