Karen Pickering trainining session at Speedo HQ

Karen Pickering puts a couple of journos through their paces at Speedo's Finchley HQ

If I worked at Speedo at their Pentland HQ in Finchley I swear I would never be out of the pool. Though I normally swim outdoors up the road at David Lloyd in North Finchley, there is something really quite nice about this indoor pool.

Maybe it’s the lack of loads of other people swimming head up breaststroke towards you (that certainly helps) or the lack of chlorine in the pool which meant that I didn’t have to wear a nose clip. Or maybe it’s the great design of the pool which meant that when I breathed to the side swimming front crawl I was greeted by a subtle light streaming different colours (purples, blues, greens) up a beautiful silver curtain.

Whatever, it was certainly a privilege to be there yesterday for Speedo’s Fitness training session with former World Champion swimmer turned TV and radio commentator Karen Pickering. Though there’s a lot I can’t tell you about Speedo’s direction for the New Year, or about its  new ambassadors and new products, what I can tell you is that Karen Pickering was lovely, patient (she had to be), but – in the nicest possible way – a bit of a slave driver! Today, after a 45 minute training session with her, I’m a bit done in (admittedly not helped by the run that I foolishly went on in Trent Park while my son Archie was doing his football training).

Karen Pickering at Speedo's Pentland Centre. What a beautiful pool!

I suppose the purpose of the session was two fold. The first part was about how to warm up properly (very useful because I am rubbish at doing any kind of warm up) so that you properly make the transition from office/car to the pool. Secondly to show what you can achieve in the pool in a relatively short amount of time. Like many people I tend to swim for relaxation and my swims mostly consist of plodding up and down with my SwiMP3 player (Finis I’m afraid not Speedo) listening to Eminem.  Not only can this get a bit boring, it also means I don’t really get any better in terms of technique which is a little depressing. In fact it’s the main reason why I have stopped using the excellent Speedo Aquacoach watch, a great product but  a constant reminder that I am not swimming any faster or any more efficiently no matter how many times I swim.

What the session taught me was how by mixing things up a little bit – by adjusting your pace and by using different swimming aids – you can relieve the boredom and give yourself a much better work out in a shorter space of time. During the session we got to try out various training products and swim at different speeds using the Speedo clock on the wall. I’ve used training fins before a few times before, but yesterday I used them to do butterfly kick on my back for the first time which I must admit felt great. We also used Power Paddles which really helped pull my arm into the correct position while swimming front crawl. However, perhaps the hardest thing we did was to use a kickboard (a float) in a vertical rather than horizontal position to create as much resistance as possible in order to give our legs a complete work out! That’s what they call a Power Kick apparently.

I wouldn’t say it was fun, but the session was certainly useful and very interesting. As I said, Karen is a lovely person and a true swimming legend. Afterwards I caught up with her to talk to her about how she got into swimming, her chronic asthma and some of the projects she is working on – hopefully I’ll have a full transcript of the interview on the site by Monday. So watch this space.

You can see the full set of images from the Speedo Fitness training session here.