Episode 103

Dave Tonge - swimming tips for triathletes

Dave Tonge is a swimming coach and world record holder from south Wales. He's been coaching swimmers and triathletes for 25 years. He played a vital role in 2019 to help rugby star Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas overcome his fear of the water to complete Ironman Wales and break the stigma around HIV. Dave also holds the World Record for completing a 24 hour swim in an endless pool, when he covered a whopping 55km. He's also hilarious, has an infectious passion for swimming and is full of useful tips to help improve your swim leg in triathlon.

You'll hear:

01:30 His background in swimming as a swimmer and a coach 'chlorine is in my blood! Swimming is your time, it's your headspace. Whether you think about stuff or sing songs in your head. I just switch off and enjoy the feeling of the water'

05:45 I spotted a gap in the triathlon market and I now teach all levels of swimmer, from beginner to pro swimmers and former rugby players who decide they want to do an Ironman.

06:30 Where the idea came from to get the World Record for a 24h swim in an Endless pool.

15:15 Why his lack of a night swim in training was on his mind in the run up to his 24 hour swim and how he fuelled his 24 hour swim.

20:00 The side effects of spending 24 hours in water 'my hands looked like they had been steam rollered! The skin was flapping against the bones'

22:00 Dave shares his tips for age group triathletes and why seeing a coach can be really beneficial. Make sure you have a coach and build confidence. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Cold water and wearing a wetsuit can hit you too and acclimatise is really important.

25:00 How he has been teaching an 83 man to swim. 'oh we have had some fun and games! It was all to do with building confidence in the water and it's the same thing that I learnt as a 16 year old to build the confidence with a child.

27:45 Dave talks about teaching Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas to swim so he could complete Ironman Wales in 2019. His journey was documented in the 'HIV and me documentary. 'I had such pressure on me as a coach. There were tears at Long Course Weekend. How I got him back in the water for the second lap, I don't know.' He talks through how he did get Gareth through the swim, making him think about his motivation and his 'why'.

40:10 Dave shares his tips for athletes preparing to take on Ironman Wales and Ironman 70.3 Swansea. 'Smile! Smile at the sea and know that you are going to get out smiling, because you have paid for that and most people are doing it for fun as a hobby, so just enjoy it."

41:45 Can you do an Ironman with just one swim a week? I ask Dave. "You can get through it, but it will be a bad experience. You need to be getting in the pool three times a week. You need to do technique work and a long threshold set. Speak to someone who knows what they are doing, so you can get through it and enjoy it."

43:20 Some of the common techniques that Dave sees as a swimming coach. 'Head too high in the water, crossing the line at the front are both common ones. At the higher end for age groupers, it's not challenging all of the different energy systems.

Find out more about this week's guests

Dave Tonge Instagram

Heathwood Swimming- Dave's private swimming teaching and coaching business

Gareth Thomas 'HIV and me' documentary trailer

Multiple Ironman winner and Oncologist Lucy Gossage interviews Helen for the MOVE against cancer podcast

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About the Podcast

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Inside Tri Show
Triathlon podcast from Helen Murray with awesome interviews

About your host

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Helen Murray

Helen has been working in triathlon for a decade as an athlete, coach and broadcaster.

Helen hosts the Inside Tri Show podcast bringing you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond