This post briefly reflects on my time working with Middlesbrough Amateur Swimming Club, what we did and what we achieved. I was introduced to the club through now great friend, and rather accomplished athlete, Aimee Willmott (check out her website and accomplishments). Working with her and her coach, Lisa Bates, both now down at the London Aquatic Centre, formed a cornerstone of my BASES accreditation and was a great insight and path into a sport that, in my opinion, is really receptive to and a great model for sports science. Subsequently I worked with Tom Harforth, who took over from Lisa, and working closely with Tom tried to understand the nuances of the sport more, what limits performance and areas in which we could be most effective. Whilst still focusing on nutrition, we would discuss physiology, training philosophy and biomechanics too.
My practice here was unusual, or atypical, in that we looked at supplementation practices before spending any real time on athletes’ diets individually. The rationale being if we see some good performance effects as a result of supplementation (through testing small groups of athletes, calculating effect sizes and asking what does this mean in the pool?) we get swimmers on board and the athletes may be more receptive to making longer term dietary changes.
Over a 3 year period we refined a bicarbonate and beta-alanine co-supplementation protocol (based on this and this paper), trialled beetroot juice, and assessed the effects of L-citrulline on exhaustive swim performance (manuscript in preparation). These protocols were ultimately quite effective, with athletes buying into the process, producing some good PB’s and in a couple of instances gaining international selection.
Below is a brief interview with Tom, the move to NZ has made these a little harder to conduct but I’m hoping to pick Aimee’s and Lisa’s brains for another post at a later date: