The power of feedback in helping you improve

The following post is written by coach Suzie Richards. 

I am a big fan of the Podcast "Finding Mastery" hosted by Dr Michael Gervais. Each week Michael sits down with an expert from a whole range of backgrounds to discuss their ideas around mastery and how they became an expert in their field. 

Shaka smart- feedback.PNG

Last week's podcast was with Shaka Smart, the Men's Head Basketball coach at The University of Texas. Shaka talks about many leadership and coaching skills, the one I will focus on is feedback. 
"You need a healthy and close relationship with feedback to progress. Being open to feedback is imperative for growth." 

Shaka discusses the many forms of feedback and the different ways of responding to it. He mentioned that feedback is often right there in front of you, you just need to open your eyes to see it.

It reminded me of my first Job. I was teaching Geography in London, on the Teach First programme. 

At the end of each day, Comfort, the cleaner, would come into the classroom, scan the room and look at me. I was usually lying on a table, thankful I had survived the day. 

From the state of the room, Comfort knew how my day had unfolded. 32 paper aeroplanes,scattered on the floor, made out of the worksheets I had designed at 2am the previous morning, enough crisp packets and chocolate wrappers to show a huge picnic had occurred rather than any learning about waterfalls or glaciers. It gave pretty clear feedback. 

This was the general theme, every single day. 

I will remember the day, several weeks into my first term. Comfort came into the room and the floor was free of crisp packets, drinks cans, screwed up work sheets, chocolate wrappers, chewed stationary.  We whooped with joy, danced around the room together and celebrated with hi-fives. 

"Your classroom is a mirror of yourself" 

Was one of the most valuable pieces of feedback I have ever received. 

How does this relate to Triathlon, and Shaka's comments regarding sport and feedback for athletic development?

Shaka commented that often the feedback is right in front of you, sometimes it just requires pointing out.

This links in with another podcast interview I listened to recently. The Tri Specific, Fat Black podcast #223 with Brad Kearns. Brad discusses the ideas of preventing burn out, loss of motivation and keeping healthy through taking on feedback from your body. Unable to get up in the morning? lacking motivation to follow the training program? Tired every evening as you collapse onto the sofa? 

This is all feedback, saying "Give me a break, stop hammering me!"

The other week, I took my GoPro to the Club Triathlon club swim session and offered to film people's swim stroke.

Watching the footage in slow motion really highlighted how technique could be improved. 

I tested the GoPro out on myself first. Here are some stills from my swim.

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My arm is pretty wide, with the hand pushing outwards instead of backwards. A large 

amount of my swim cap is under the water, is this the most efficient head position? 

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The above side view shows my ineffective catch. I would ideally ee a bend at my elbow 

so my forearm and and act as an efficient paddle, pushing the water backwards with 

good propulsion. 

Seeing my swim stroke allows me to consider how I can make it more effective and efficient.

I sent the Video to my coach who reviewed it and gave me some feedback and 

suggestions of how I could improve.

Shaka, discusses how feedback is received and how athletes hear and implement feedback. 

He refers to an athlete he coaches who manages feedback as highly impersonal, he views feedback 

as data on his skills, rather than judgement on himself personally. This allows him to view

feedback rationally, therefore avoids becoming personally upset or feeling attacked. 

Feedback, can be hard data such as the time it takes you to swim 400 meters, run 5km or your 

average power for a 20 minute cycle time trial. It can be a coaches analysis on your swim stroke. It could be a physio's mobility assessment of what movements you can or can not do. The list is endless.

The key to progression, is to embrace feedback, hear it and to act on it.

Suzie Richards coaches triathletes for all distances, from sprint through to Iron distance races. She currently has some limited availability for 1 -1 coaching. If you're serious about improving your performance, you can contact her direct via email: 

Suzie (

How can I get better at swimming?

 Coach Suzie Richards details some really useful ways that you can use simple but very effective techniques to rapidly improve your swim times. 



I was coaching a Leeds Bradford Triathlon Club swim session last week.

One part of the session was 9 x 100m off 2 minutes. 

This was to be done as 1- 3 descending, repeated 3 times.

1st 100m to be easy (below css/ threshold

2nd 100m to be  medium (css pace/ threshold)

3rd 100m to be hard (above css/ threshold)


"What time are you aiming for on your easy 100m?" I ask

"Oh I don't know, I don't check the time" was the common response


I was saved by Tony.

"I think I did that one in 1.45"

Great, so if your easy 100m was 1.45, then I suggested Tony make the medium 100m a 1.40 and the hard 100m a 1.35 .10 seconds minimum between the easy and hard 100s is a nice clear distinction in different paces.

There is a big wall clock at the pool, ideal for timing reps. I asked all the athletes to use it. 

After using the clock Tony who had hit 1.45 for his easy rep, then hit 1.44 for the medium rep and 1.44 for the hard rep. 

After reiterating that the aim is to hit different paces for each 100m, Tony decided to aim for 100m as 1.55 (easy rep), 1.50 (medium rep)  and 1.45 (fast rep)

Bingo, the next set of 3 x 100m saw a clear distinction between easy, medium and hard.


As the athletes left the pool, I suggested they write down their times in whatever training diary they used.

More blank looks.

Why is recording your times in a diary a good idea?

The number 1 reason is to keep track of progress.

If you swim 9x100m in January and then every other week or do a similar session then you can see if you are improving.

A training diary that shows your times and distances is useful to show you if you are improving. If you are swimming the same times in July as you were in January, you must be doing something wrong.

Example 1 (part of a diary):

Jan 10th: 9 x 100 as 1.55, 1.50, 1.45 x 3 off 2 mins

Jan 21st 12 x 100 as 1.54, 1.48, 1.45 x 4 off 2 mins

Feb 24th 15 x 100 all best pace 1.48 off 2 mins


Example 2 (part of a diary)

Jan 10th: 9 x 100 as 1.55, 1.50, 145 x 3 off 2 mins

Jan 21st 12 x 100 as 1.56, 1.50, 1.48 x 4 off 2 mins

Feb 24th 15 x 100 all best pace 1.56 off 2 mins


The athlete in example 1, can see good progress in their swimming. So can take confidence in what they are doing is working and is likely to be motivated to continue.

The athlete in example 2 can see that in over a month, they have made limited progress. They can step back, reassess their training plan and make changes.


One of the athletes at the Triathlon Club swim told me he logs all his training on Strava. I was intrigued to know how he logged his swims. He told me he puts total distance swum and time. 

Now I use Strava sometimes, mainly for uploading rides, I think it has some good benefits, comparing your hill rep efforts or 5 minute reps on the same segment each month is useful. But for swimming, I struggle to see the benefits, outside of logging time/ distance swum.

You could have a Strava diary filled with 4 swims/ week but over 3 months your 100m times in a 16 x 100m session maybe the same and that is not transparent to you.

That is why I use Training Peaks with all my athletes. The screen shot bellow shows the detail you can input in a single swim entry


A useful function of Training Peaks is the search tool, that allows you to search through different work outs and allows you to compare them. I like to title work outs, in a way that allows me to easily find them using the search tool, which allows me to compare them.

Here is an example. If one swim each week,  is a distance rep session then you can compare how you are progressing, through using the search tool and viewing them in a list, such as bellow.


A really simple, but key, component to improving your swim times, is to use the clock and record your times. Just by recording your times, you'll focus your mind on improving. What gets measured gets improved! 

Suzie Richards coaches triathletes for all distances, from sprint through to Iron distance races. She currently has some limited availability for 1 -1 coaching. If you're serious about improving your performance, you can contact her direct via email: 

Suzie (

Meg Marquardt: Ironman Canada race report

We love this race report from Team Oxygenaddict member Meg, who's just completed her first Ironman at Whistler, Canada. A great story of overcoming self doubt, and finding just how much she's capable of. Brilliant result, Meg - we look forward to seeing just how much more you will improve over the coming year! 

My race report is a bit late as we left Whistler early the following day after the IM and was off grid for most of the remaining time in Canada when we returned home yesterday. 
Decided to enter last November as a dream to go to Whistler and disbelief that I could really make this happen. After buying an online training plan, I was discouraged as could not fulfill the training and then I found Team Oxygenaddict which I joined in Jan. 2017, and have not looked back. My tri experience limited to a couple of sprint events and one Olympic all several years ago. 
My first 70.3 was in Rapperswill in June during which I thought to pull out of the full as I did not see how I could double the effort with a few short weeks to go. Encouraged by Coach Rob and others in the team,  I hung in there. 
I was pretty anxious the week of the event and felt tired until the day before! I invested in nutrition and hydration knowledge this week as knew all the training had to be in the bag. I am sure this made a difference. The race brief was inspiring and I recalled #DSDQDG often during the event. 

Race morning I was strangely calm and knew I needed to focus on the present throughout the race to complete the distance. The swim was relaxing, I focused just on keeping my stroke long and my sight on the targets and I came in one 1.10. The next 2 hours was depressing as I did not pass one person! I learnt that my uphill power I can work on but as we turned downhill - woosh! I passed loads of people and was so excited was "woohooing" loudly through the wind just having a ball. Then I followed the FTP plan and made it back in 7.23. The first 2 kms of the run was torture, and then I just fell into the usual rhythm. I stuck to my training of 9:1 and added in aid station walks too 🙂. The last 8 kms was tough and I ran the last 5 nonstop, my first marathon less than 5 hours. 
I pulled up really well ( just got a chest infection which exacerbated my asthma), took a week off - needed this mentally - Now ready to go again. What a journey it has been - Thanks to Team Oxygenaddict, I have changed my bike set up and position, changed saddles twice, bought power meters, bought acrobars ( twice), changed hydration system and solution, new wetsuit, new goggles ( now wear under cap ), new trisuit ( tried 3 types ),new bike shoes, new running shoes ( 3 pairs owing to wrong sizing ), and don't wear socks on the bike and ditched the compression socks. 
It all seems so easy now! Finally I thought the race would be harder than it was - it was hard but I was clearly well prepared. I followed the Team OA advice of " just do what Coach Rob says". Looking forward to onwards and upwards! Thank you everyone, the experience has changed me, and my family!