Lionel Sanders' improved swimming and partnership with Blueseventy

Four years ago Lionel Sanders was the last pro out of the water at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Last year in Kona he led the chase pack out of the water. Insight on how he has improved his swimming and the announcement of his partnership with Blueseventy.

| April 19, 2018 | PERSONALITY

Photo >Felix Rüdiger / Plan A GmbH

Canadian triathlon star Lionel Sanders, the runner up at last year's Ironman world championship, has partnered with Blueseventy. For years Sanders, renowned for his weakness in the water, resisted signing with a wetsuit sponsor in order to have the flexibility to wear whatever suit he wanted as he worked to improve his swimming. 

Those days are long over. While he hasn't reached the level of the lead pack at major races, he led the chase pack out of the water at the Ironman World Championship last year, a sign of just how far his swimming has come. (In 2014, at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Sanders was the last pro male out of the water.)

“First and foremost, I've tested a lot of wetsuits," Sanders says. "A lot of wetsuits. The blueseventy Helix tested fastest among all that were tested by me, personally.  Additionally, once I got to know the people behind the company and what they stand for, it really resonated well with me and the partnership was very natural. I’m looking forward to a fast year!”

Last week we caught up with Sanders and got some insight into how he's improved his swimming so much.

Teaming up with Gerry Rodriguez

I was on a plateau for three years. I could swim 5 km a week or 30 km per week and I would swim 1:20/ 100 for 400 m or 500 m intervals. Finally, when I got back from Pucon (in January) I started working with Gerry Rodriguez again … I’ve done every set (he's given me) for the last three months to a T, and I’m swimming probably five seconds per 100 faster in the last three months. I’ve been doing this for a long time now, so to have that kind of improvement I think is quite rare.

Using a band

One thing that I wasn’t doing that he suggests – if you’re swimming extra, you should put the pull buoy, band and snorkel on. It takes your leg movement completely out and, if you don’t have any core engagement, you’ll fishtail all over the place. I was using a pull buoy, but not the band.

Increased volume, accountability

Volume is another thing he really believes in. Volume and accountability. On the remote coaching program everyone has to put their results in for everyone to analyze. You don’t want to have bad times in there – that’s the accountability aspect. The other thing he believes in is volume.

This year, since Pucon, I’ve been averaging 30 km a week. That’s a piece of the puzzle – you try to go up against guys whose life was entirely devoted to swimming between six and 18, you can’t make that up. It’s like me with running. I don’t have to put too much effort into running because I have so much running logged. As a week swimmer, you don’t know how to hold your body in the water because you don’t have that experience. I’m basically playing catch up.

The other piece of the puzzle, in terms of the increased volume, too – when you’re swimming more, you’re helping your bike and your run. You increase your aerobic load. You’re keeping your biking and running the same, but you’re swimming three hours more per week.

Improved technique

2017 was the year I really started to work on my swimming. The big change I made in 2017 was I tore my stroke apart. When I started working with Gerry again, he was impressed with how much I had changed my stroke. The model I was using was “you will swim as hard as you can with the exact technique you are trying to ingrain.” I had to slow my pace down to 1:45/ 100 – I regressed about six years in order to make the changes. All those things took me months and months.