video courtesy of Wattie Ink.


Ed. Note—Last week, we talked about looking back at 2020 and deciding what worked and what didn't, and encouraged you to do the same. Heather Jackson has always done the same, trying to get better and better at the aspects of triathlon that hold her back. We caught up with HJ to ask about her most recent foray into swim improvement.

What, in your opinion, is the thing most holding you back in your swimming?

I think the biggest thing holding me back is my mental attitude towards and around the swim. For ten years I've gone to the pool negative and down, with a bad attitude, diving in thinking about how horrible I am and that I'm about to get my ass kicked by everyone around me. I think about how I'm not getting any faster and it's a losing battle and I might as well be biking and running more than swimming. In just a few weeks, I've learned to switch my thinking because all the General Bear does is tell me what an amazing swimmer I am, relatively speaking. He just repeats it over and over and pretty soon you start to believe it.

What did you hope to gain/learn from swim boot camp?

I've had so many coaches and friends help me out and make adjustments to different technical aspects, which has helped me so much, but it's also tough to make sure I'm implementing the improvements I've been advised on every single stroke in every single swim that I do. So, I think having that real-time correction, literally EVERY day is already making a massive difference. Every single length of the pool, or interval that I complete, the Bear is shouting corrections or what to do with my head or hands. I'm hoping to take these corrections away and be able to implement on my own once they've been ingrained. I'm also learning a lot on structuring workouts and including literally all types of speed and drill work in every single workout, rather than seeing each day as a certain type (like a long aerobic day, a recovery day, a "strength" day). We do everything every day.

What's one surprising thing you learned from boot camp, or one different approach that Justin had to swimming that changed your thinking about the discipline?

As I mentioned above, the biggest thing is just my mindset and to stop showing up to the pool with a negative attitude. On that same line, I love the things General Bear says while we are in the middle of a hard set, at the wall for five seconds before the next interval, and he'll say something like, "We are training now...our training has started. This is where the body is taxed...don't look at the clock. If it says 2:30 or 2:40 for a 200 that is irrelevant today. You are just training your body to go as hard as it can for approximately that amount of time." So there's no pressure in the pool. We aren't worried about times: he is watching all of that. We are just training the body.

What are you taking away from camp?

I'm hoping I take away a brand new confidence and skill in the water. I will be working with him this entire year towards October 9th, so that will be the big test! 40 weeks from today.

Coach Slade's RPE Scale