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England Sevens stars pool resources with Karen Pickering

21 March 2011

  • Former champion dives into world of rugby in build-up to Hong Kong
  • HSBC Sevens World Series leaders feel benefit of new swim programme
Mark Odejobi listens and learns from Karen Pickering

Photo: Getty Images

England have pooled resources with former swimming World Champion Karen Pickering to boost performance going into the second half of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

England fly out to the Far East this week to prepare for the Cathay Pacific Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens – a pivotal event as they seek to extend their lead in the race for a first ever series title.

And as well as working on the training ground they’ve been raising fitness levels with work in the pool with guidance from the former World, European and Commonwealth gold medallist.

Pickering contacted head coach Ben Ryan via Twitter last year and now runs regular sessions with physiotherapist and conditioner Brett Davison using the KP SWIM Elite programme she has developed.

"I was looking at what various other athletes do as part of their training and lots use swimming as part of their rehab but maybe not enough in terms of general fitness," said Pickering.

"A load of sports use swimming but probably don’t have enough of a background in it to use it as well as they could. I was following some of the players and Ben on Twitter and saw he was taking the guys swimming so I made contact and said ‘are you interested in me looking at the swim programme?’

"Brett has a swimming background so he understands the benefits but even so it’s been great to extend his knowledge and show different ways you can work someone’s arms, work someone’s legs, and if you’ve got a particular injury what you can do so they can still keep fit.

"A lot of it is helping Brett deliver better sessions for the team. I can’t be around all the time, much as I’d like to go to New Zealand and Hong Kong with them! Hopefully they’re getting fitter because they’re able to do another work-out without any impact or pounding or getting the knocks they get in other sports."

Swimming regime impresses Gollings

Ben Gollings gets ready for the pool session

Photo: Getty Images

As well as the team’s power and fitness levels, Pickering’s work on breath control could ultimately lead to a competitive advantage in terms of endurance at the end of exhausting games often played in hot and humid conditions.

"The more they can work on that I think at the end of games – and certainly with back-to-back games –  that they should be able to recover their breathing and play for longer without really blowing,” she said.

"We’ve definitely got the jump on everybody," said Davison.

"Going to places like Hong Kong humidity is a massive issue and Karen’s been able to give us some idea about breathing in the pool. The players have definitely struggled to get to the end and there’s definitely been a big training effect.

"I’d stand there in a one-piece suit if I could poolside but I don’t think I’d cut the same figure as she does. They backchat me all the time but the guys gaze intently at her and just do as she says!"

The new regime has impressed England captain Ben Gollings, still intent on adding new weapons to his armoury as he chases a fifth Hong Kong crown.

"It’s pretty cool being taught to swim by one of the country’s best ever swimmers," said Gollings.

"The sessions are a real bonus. There is a rehab side and then after big trips you can really get the body moving but they’re also a help towards creating more power, for strength work for the legs and to your endurance as well. It’s off your feet and you’re not hammering your body although it is very hard work."

Watch England Sevens in action on May 21 and 22 at Twickenham Stadium in the Emirates Airline London Sevens, the penultimate leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. Tickets are available from £15 via RFU.com.