Ben Proud And Anna Hopkin On Being Sprinters Out Of Water During Lockdown

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Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Ben Proud and Anna Hopkin had weeks of being on dry land and training in unfamiliar surroundings without the water in which they live and breathe.

Both are sprinters – Proud the 2017 world 50 fly champion and 50 free bronze medallist and Hopkin on an upward trajectory following a move to the Arkansas Razorbacks and coach Neil Harper which has seen her go second in the British all-time rankings over 50 and 100 free behind Fran Halsall.

Proud had dashed back from his Energy Standard training base in March to Plymouth in south-west England while Hopkin returned from the United States, the conclusion to her college career cut short without the NCAAs or graduation.

The British Championships, which doubled as Olympic trials, were also cancelled and the Olympics rescheduled for July 2021.

That gave the athletes clarity but it also meant they found themselves in unprecedented times where they were having to train without water and without a competition on the horizon.

Proud is training twice a day Monday to Friday, waking at 8am before heading for the one allotted hour of exercise allowed during lockdown in Britain.

Now he has had a pool delivered which he describes as a “complete game changer”, posting on social media:

Proud’s PB of 21.11 is the sixth-quickest in history but second-fastest all-time in textile behind Caeleb Dressel. They are theonly two in the all-time top 10 alongside those who donned the shiny suits in 2008 and 2009.

His start is a thing of explosive beauty – one of several components that polished and refined can become part of that perfect storm that leads a sprinter to the top of the podium.

It begs the question therefore how the sprinters can replicate that in lockdown regardless of whether they have backyard pools or not.

Proud told Swimming World:

“I’m not a distance swimmer who needs to do 50/60km in a pool a week and a lot of my training is land-based.

“The first few weeks of lockdown I spent clearing out a space so I could set up my own gym. Since then I’ve been working with my coaches from Turkey creating plans and playing around with what we can do and what we can’t do.

“I’ve made it so I can do a lot but I’m lacking some of the heavy lifting which is something I’ll get to later.

“Trying to replicate the sprints or the dives and all of that is not impossible but it’s quite difficult to do.

“As of now we are quite okay because we are keeping it as a bit of a pre-season so we’re doing lots of injury prevention and just some basic land-based stuff.

“We have an okay mindset because with nothing set in stone for the next 15 months we are treating from now until the Olympics as one season.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Proud detailed his gym work, saying:

“Skipping ropes and battle ropes.

“The day-to-day programme is very similar to how I would have it normally with mixing my core work and my strength work and aerobic core work in brackets.

“We do the whole variation of different types of work: I don’t need much of an aerobic base, I don’t need to do so much on the watt bike front.

“We do a lot of body-weight work, a lot of core, lots of TRX work – straps you can hang from the wall that you can do lots of body-weight exercises on – and I’ve got some kettlebells so we do lots of kettlebell swings or push presses.”

He added:

“I made my own concrete barbell which comes in quite handy.

“At my mum’s house it’s still a bit of a construction site because we’ve been renovating it.

“So there’s been concrete and steel bars just hanging around so we split it up so we could pour it into a bucket and did that on both sides.

“It’s not the heaviest thing I’ve used but it’s familiar so I can do things I’m used to.”

Hopkin has moved to Loughborough where she will be coached by Mel Marshall, guide to Olympic champion Adam Peaty and world relay gold medallist Luke Greenbank.

So too has the 24-year-old had a pool delivered, a relief for Hopkin who – like Proud – was experiencing the longest period of her swimming life outside the water.

Hopkin reached the 50 free final on her World Championships debut in Gwangju, South Korea, where she finished seventh in a race won by Simone Manuel, the joint Olympic 100m champion and a contemporary of the Briton during her collegiate career.

Her relief at getting back in the water was palpable and she told Swimming World:

“It is quite tricky finding ways to replicate swimming on land.

“We spend so many hours in the pool and even though I’m a sprinter maintaining fitness is probably the key priority because you lose fitness a lot quicker than you lose your ability to create power.

“I am trying to maintain fitness as the main priority: we’re still doing weights and still maintaining strength work and building in a lot more power-based stuff which will hopefully keep the muscles firing like they would do when I’m sprinting.

“We’re doing circuits as a group so I guess that’s a lot more power stuff and twitch stuff – a lot of jumping and biometrics, stuff like that.

“And then on the watt bike I’ll do 20 or 30-second bursts, multiple of those with a bit of a rest in between which I guess is similar to doing a lac 50 or a lac 25. Bits of that I’m trying to replicate what I would do in the pool but it is difficult.”

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Photo Courtesy: Arkansas Athletics

Of the water, Hopkin said:

“It’s just so strange. It’s the longest I’ve probably been out of the pool. You can maintain fitness all you want and maintain strength and power and stuff but you can’t replicate that feel and catch on the water any other way than being in the pool so that’s definitely quite strange not having that. It’s weird doing so much running and biking which is not something I am really used to doing.

“I’m hoping it won’t take long because I’ve been swimming for so many years, there’s a lot of muscle memory.”

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