James talks to the Manchester Evening News about his intense preparations for Athens

 

With just weeks to the Athens Olympics here's what training I have left. Returning from a very successful training in camp in Cyprus, conditions there mirror the conditions in Athens, I have a couple more weeks hard endurance training.

It's not all endurance but the length of the sessions and the distance of the sets in training mean that it has endurance qualities. For instance I may be doing a set of 25m swims at faster than race pace to improve my speed. The actual distance I will be swimming in Athens is 100m, but I may do the 25m swim thirty-two times and then there is an endurance element.

In two weeks time the GB team will swim in the National Championships at the Manchester Aquatic centre (15th -18th July). This will signal the end of endurance training for me and most of the swimmers on the team. I will be tired and times might not be fast but I will use this as an opportunity to look at my races as a whole and identify which areas need fine tuning over the last few weeks.

Then the training will be much more specific with a gradually decreasing volume so that I will be much more rested at the games. As the number of meters I swim each session decreases from 5500m to 2500m my muscles will recover and get stronger. I will swim split times at the pace I want to in Athens so I can get my pacing right. I will work on specific technical bits of the race practicing fast starts, tight turns, and stroke technique.

Just over a week before the Olympics we return to Cyprus to acclimatise to the weather and the outdoor conditions again. We will move into Athens just two days before the Opening ceremony and the swimming will begin the following day. The heats of my 100m butterfly race are on the morning of Thursday the 19th of August. I will have a few days to soak in the Olympic atmosphere before I start.

I already know the fine detail of my race. I will dive in and do nine underwater kicks, which will bring me up exactly at the 15m marker, the limit of underwater swimming. I will do nineteen butterfly strokes down the first length. My stroke rate will be 57 strokes per minute. I know my strength will lie in my endurance over the second length of the race, being an ex-200m butterfly swimmer, so I know I may not be first at the turn and I am prepared for that. I will do eleven kicks underwater from the turn again bringing me up at the 15m marker. My legs are my strength and I will make up ground here and that's is why I use the maximum 15m kicking underwater at the start and turn. Then I will do twenty-one strokes down second, and final length. I will be working on keeping my stroke rate at 57 strokes per minute, holding the water with good technique and then touching the wall on a full stroke to swim the fastest 100m butterfly I have ever swam.

That's just the physical, the mental side of the Olympics is equally as challenging if not more. At the moment there is enough training to think about. As the training sessions become shorter and the Olympics gets closer there is more time to think and more time to question.