UWTSD helps Shane Williams prepare for this weekend’s IRONMAN Wales


Former Wales rugby star Shane Williams has been using the facilities and expertise at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) Carmarthen to train for forthcoming IRONMAN Wales that takes place in Tenby this Sunday, September 18th.

To improve his swimming technique ahead of the IRONMAN challenge, Shane has been working with Geraint Forster, Programme Director of BSc Outdoor Fitness at UWTSD. Shane has also previously worked with Dr Peter Herbert, a UWTSD physiologist, to complete a V02 Max text at the University’s High Performance Laboratory.

Shane said: “The work with Geraint and Pete here at UWTSD, has been of huge benefit to me. The work we’ve been doing has helped me immensely, that’s why I keep coming back for more training. When I was playing rugby we did a lot of work in the lab and on treadmills, but less so in the water, so I was out of my comfort zone with swimming. As well as improving my technique in the water, the training with Geraint has worked on a psychological level too; I know that my swimming is now stronger and that will help me during the IRONMAN when the going starts to get tough.”

Shane competed in IRONMAN Wales last year and is determined to better his performance.

“I was really panicking about the swimming part of the IRONMAN. After just a few pointers from Geraint I started to get it and relaxed into it. I felt 10 times better after just one session. The reason I’m back now is that I want to continue that progression and beat my time. If what I achieved last year was done in such a short space then this year my results should be even better."

Geraint said: “The training I’ve been doing with Shane has involved a lot of video analysis work. As part of the training I record footage of Shane swimming from the front, side and above. I then take it away and analyse it using performance analysis software. This allows time to freeze frame and pin point exactly where Shane needs to improve.

“Freestyle is a really complex stroke where the arms, legs and head are all doing different things. To watch the footage all in one go and figure out exactly what the swimmer needs to do is really complex. What is beneficial form the filming is that I can see exactly what his hands, legs and head are doing. After analysing I compile a 6 minute video that includes a narrative from myself telling Shane what is happening and highlighting the parts he needs to work on."

Shane continued: “Watching the video was a huge help as I could see exactly what I needed to work on, little things like lifting my head out of the water too much was knocking my whole body offline. I can go in the pool having seen the footage and work on the 3 or 4 pointers that Geraint gave me. Working on 3 pointers at a time has made it much more manageable and a lot less daunting for me.”

According to Geraint the drag in water is about 25 times the drag in air so technique is very important, especially when it comes to a triathlon.

“Running and cycling don’t depend as much on technique,” he adds. “If you can get your swimming technique right, you go faster for less effort. Technique is so much more important than fitness with swimming. Our aim is to get Shane as streamline as possible to minimise the drag so that it takes less effort to go forward and with plenty of energy left for the rest of the challenge.” 

Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, and athletes such as the Brownlee brothers and Welsh triathletes Helen Jenkins and Non Stanford are at the very peak of the sport. The location of IRONMAN Wales in Tenby has resulted in an enormous increase in recreational triathletes in West Wales, with over 200 participants from Pembrokeshire alone in 2015. UWTSD has responded to the popularity of the sport not only through the development of triathlon-focussed degree courses such as BSc Outdoor Fitness, but also by being the headline sponsor of the Swansea Triathlon, hosted by Activity Wales Events.

If you’re interested in Sport, Health and Outdoor Education and would like to know about the degree courses offered at UWTSD, you can contact Geraint Forster directly by emailing g.forster@uwtsd.ac.uk