Friday, October 31, 2014

Swim Types: Understanding The Opposite Sex

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Nov 15th
Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
We released the Swim Types system in 2010 and the gender of the original cartoons was chosen because of a bias towards that sex within each type. For instance there are more female Bambinos than male in the world so we chose a female cartoon. However, there are many of the opposite gender swimmers out there who might have felt a bit left out... until now.

We have created new 'opposite-sex' cartoons for each of the Swim Types, we hope you like them:
(click image to expand)

Although fundamentally you're the same type of swimmer with the same characteristics, sometimes the less common gender can look subtly different both on the pool-deck and when swimming...

So with that in mind here's our quick guide to each of the 'opposite sexes':


The Arnette

The male Arnie is normally quite easy to spot with plenty of fast-twitch lean muscle mass, however the rarer female version (we call them Arnettes) is perhaps less obvious. Arnettes still tend to have an athletic build but are more feminine and perhaps less overtly muscular.
Arnettes are normally just as frustrated with swimming as their male counterparts and also have that tendency to try and muscle or fight the water. They too have that poor body position with low lying legs but they might sit higher in the water due to a lower muscle mass than their male counterpart.

The Male Bambino

Most male Bambinos have a light build and are possibly quite narrow across the shoulders. Whilst Bambinos generally don't have a sporting background, we have found quite a few male Bambinos have a strong running background.
As with their female counterparts, male Bambinos need to work on their stroke timing - improving the lead arm collapsing when they go to breathe (see here). Improving coordination is the name of the game and not being afraid to work hard and put a little 'oomph' into the stroke.

Developing the fitness side of swimming is particularly important for Bambinos as they tend to come into swimming at quite a low level of swim fitness. It's a common trap for male Bambinos to shy away from hard work, which they really need to take big strides forwards.

The Male Kicktastic

Kicktastics have nearly always swum as a child and male Kicktastics are no exception! Much less common than the female version, male Kicktastics may be less obvious than the girls as being that bit taller their kicking rhythm can be slower. To see the power and energy going into their kick we often need to get an underwater view with video analysis.
You might have noticed the new cartoon has tattoos and a hemp bracelet! Kicktastics seem to be quite spiritual earthy people and both sexes often sport small tattoos, particularly on the lower leg and feet (that might sound unbelievable but we see it time and time again!).

Both male and female kicktastics are quite 'reflective learners' meaning they like to think about introducing changes to their stroke rather than crashing forwards like a bull in a china shop. For this reason we've found many Kicktastics like taking notes during video analysis sessions so they can reflect back on things later.

The Female Overglider

Perhaps the most rare of all the opposite-sex Swim Types. Like their male counterparts, most female Overgliders have a background in an analytical or technical profession like science, engineering or computing.
Male Overgliders can carry an air of scepticism with them and have a bit of a habit of frowning when being coached. However as you'd expect from the fairer sex, female Overgliders have better 'soft skills' and may be more willing to compromise and give things a try without a mandatory full intellectual assessment first!

As with male Overgliders, the key to developing their strokes is to tune up their catch mechanics to allow them to swim with greater rhythm and purpose.

The Male Swinger


Just as plentiful as the female version, male Swingers love swimming and tend to be the life and soul of masters swim squads. Normally with a swimming background, male Swingers enjoy getting on with the hard yards and pushing through long sets but may rush through technique work without consideration for what they are doing.
Of course, you won't have missed the new bright bathers worn by our cartoons - Swingers just love them, perhaps a reflection of their uninhibited go-getting personalities!

The Female Smooth

One of the most common Swim Type questions we receive is what does a female smooth look like? The answer is often pretty glamorous:
Normally tall with great posture, female Smooths pay attention to their appearance and hold themselves well at all times.

As you'd expect they are technically brilliant in the water and just as smooth as their male counterparts but since they are not quite as tall or broad, they may not appear quite as long in their stroke.

Stereotyping?

Isn't Swim Types actually stereotyping swimmers? Well yes it is and we would never deny that but sometimes stereotyping can be really valuable!

The beauty of the system is that rather than giving generic one-size-fits-all advice, we can help you understand what is holding you back in the water as an individual - which varies hugely from person to person. If you've tried to improve your swimming but not made as much progress as you'd like then it's likely the advice you were following was the wrong thing for you.

Not only that but if you are a classic of your type then you are likely to have some personality traits which we can point out which also might be holding your swimming development back and remedies to overcome them.

Improving Your Swimming Using Swim Types

You can find out more about the Swim Types system and using it to develop your swimming at www.swimtypes.com


For each Swim Type we've written a tailored Stroke Development Guide for you to follow containing our highly developed step-by-step process for developing your swimming:



Each guide contains all the drills, visualisations and processes you need to take big strides forwards with your individual swimming - highly recommended!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Simone: A Stellar Race At Kona

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Nov 15th
Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Two weeks ago the very best long distance triathletes in the world gathered to compete at the prestigious Ironman World Championships at Kona, Hawaii. This exceptionally tough event over the Ironman triathlon distance has high temperatures, high humidity and high winds to contend with on the 180km bike and 42.2km run, before starting off with a 3.8km rough water non-wetsuit swim:


Let us know if you raced and how you got on in the comments section below… by all accounts it was a very tough swim this year!

Our Swim Smooth Perth Squad had 10 athletes who consulted with us prior to towing the line at Kona, congrats to all these guys for having such fantastic races:

Ryan Baugh: S: 59:11  B: 5:07:03  R: 3:09:44  Overall: 9:23:15  (2nd in Age Group)
Simone Dailey: S: 1:03:18  B: 5:13:34  R: 3:36:16  Overall: 9:59:10  (2nd in Age Group)
Janine Willis:  S: 1:06:29  B: 5:27:05  R: 3:38:48  Overall: 10:18:03  (3rd in Age Group)
Kira Flanagan: S: 1:00:15  B: 5:47:16  R: 3:40:06  Overall: 10:33:44  (8th in Age Group)
Shirley Bell: S: 1:56:09  B: 7:51:51  R: 6:33:19  Overall: 16:42:11  (10th in Age Group)
Jo Kocik: S: 1:10:21  B: 5:26:31  R: 3:57:03  Overall: 10:40:36  (14th in Age Group)
Helen Vagnoni:  S: 1:13:25  B: 6:17:51  R: 4:29:10  Overall: 12:09:11  (14th in Age Group)
Lisa Luckin: S: 1:06:26  B: 5:57:26  R: 3:38:48  Overall: 10:48:25  (15th in Age Group)
Gina Grayson-Cassey: S: 1:10:20  B: 6:14:48  R: 4:17:19  Overall: 11:50:11  (44th in Age Group)
Mark Luckin: S: 1:03:15  B: 5:56:18  R: 3:30:50  Overall: 10:36:53  (75th in Age Group)

Swim Smooth Coach Julian Nagi was out in Kona with his athlete Simone Dailey to see her stellar race performance, we asked Julian to describe how he had developed her swimming and turned her into such a phenomenal all round athlete (who set the fastest overall age-group bike split despite doing all her bike training on an indoor trainer!).

Even more impressively, just over 2 years ago Simone was a complete triathlon novice who could barely swim freestyle (and had a very unusual leg kick):

Before: Simone in 2012 (see below for how she swims now)

And yet in Kona this year she swam 1:03:18, just 3 minutes slower than the professional race winner, Mirinda Carfrae!

How did she make those improvements and become such a phenomenal triathlete? Simone’s coach (and London based Swim Smooth Certified Coach) Julian Nagi gives us the full story below.

To have your swimming developed by a Swim Smooth Certified Coach like Julian, see our full list of coaches here: http://www.swimsmooth.com/certifiedcoaches.html



Improving Simone’s Swimming By Julian Nagi

For more information on Julian and his coaching services see: www.juliannagicoaching.com
And why 
not tweet Simone and congratulate her on her race: twitter.com/SimoneDailey

Julian and Simone celebrating at the awards party.

My first observations of Simone’s stroke when she did her first swim video analysis session with me back in 2012 were that she physically but not technically gifted. She had a huge amount of power to put down but it was all directed in completely the wrong way.

But there was something about the stroke that told me if she could harness her power in the right way she could be a phenomenally strong open water swimmer one day. I could sense she had a natural feel for the water that could be developed with the right drills.

I knew it would be a case of slowly unpicking the faults in the right order to build her confidence and technical ability. At that time she had no confidence in her swim at all and it all felt like just one big battle each time she got in the pool. Everything was misaligned and our number one goal was straighten everything out.

After: Simone in 2014

First off we had to work on the leg kick, the asymmetrical breast-stroke leg kick was quite an eye opener for her when she saw it on video. The leg kick was creating significant drag, so our first goal was to straighten out the legs but also to get her kicking from the glutes not the knees. To do this we used the classic torpedo kicking exercises to help her engage her kicking muscles in the right way. We also made considerable use of fins and a snorkel to help her develop the right kicking motor patterns.

Next up was her alignment as she was crossing over in front of the head making her "wiggle" down the pool with way too much lateral sway. We took a two-pronged attack to this, firstly we developed the higher straighter arm recovery using a variation of the water polo drill. This helped her no end in placing her arm straight into the water in-line with the shoulder rather than across the midline of the body.

We also used the Finis Freestyler alignment hand paddles to get her pointing her hands forwards rather than inwards, visualising two track lines extending down the pool from her shoulder line.

With the above in place she was then in a great position to develop her catch and pull through. Her arms were very straight while pulling through under the water, this was overloading her shoulder muscles leading to early fatigue.

The drills we used to help develop her catch and pull were Scull #1 and #2, which really helped increase her feel for the water. Later in development we introduced resistance hand paddles, she responded to them instantly from both a technical and feel point of view. This helped ingrain good pulling pathways.
Julian and Simone working together in the pool.

Alongside working on these areas early on we continually worked on developing her aerobic endurance with good technique, this created the strong foundation to which the rest of her stroke would be built. Once in place the progression was very quick with the right blend of fitness training and open water technical skill development. (SS: Our “3 Keys” Concept)


Wider Reflections On Preparing For And Racing Kona

Hawaii really is a long long way away. It took 2 flights and nearly 21 hours to get out there, then another 3 flights and 20 hours to get back. In that time I’ve had an enormous amount of time to reflect on what I was expecting out there and then more importantly on the way back I could reflect on whether it all lived up to my expectations. I also wanted to come back with a more in depth knowledge base of what exactly it takes for an athlete to do well out there. I needed to live and breathe the course to help unravel its secrets for the athletes I coach.

You see for many the Ironman World Championships is the pinnacle of our sport, its where it all started back in 1978. I remember as a young boy watching Mark Allen race against Dave Scott through the lava fields on Trans world sport thinking these guys are absolutely crazy, thinking I myself would never dream of doing that in a million years. Hawaii has always had that mystical, spiritual, magical status in my eyes. This mainly stemmed from the amazing battles I read about in the 1980's and the stunning almost brutal location in which it was set. The famous lava fields, heat, humidity and wind all serve to make it a race like no other. It didn’t disappoint, from the moment we arrived I felt like we were in a very special place.


Lumpy conditions at the swim start

My experience was made all the more special because I came to support one of my athletes that I have coached for 3 years - Simone Dailey, who qualified at Ironman Los Cabos in Mexico earlier this year. She’s a very special athlete and we’ve been on an amazing journey together these past few years. When she came to me she was a complete triathlon novice. The first time I saw her swim she had front crawl arms with breastroke leg kick, to this day I’ve never seen anything quite like it. How she moved forwards was a mystery and by her own emission she had no swim background at all. She had also never been on a bike other than to commute.  That being said I saw something in her that made her made her stand out, it was her physicality, work ethic and focused determination that seemed to set her apart. Something inside me just told me that this girl had what it takes. I had a very rough tough diamond in front of me and my personal coaching challenge was to allow her raw talent to blossom.

So how did the race unfold? I think it’s important to split the race into some key areas to understand it better and then show how each one links into the next. We had a very specific plan for this course and not just for race day, the whole build up to race day too. To do well here the training needs to be very specific, you cant just follow any old training plan. It has to be specific to developing your strengths and weaknesses to match the course, you also have to be extremely mentally prepared. The course may not be the hardest one out there but it more than makes up for it with conditions that can crush you.

The Kona "Hype"

Firstly we ignored the Kona "hype", with so many A-type  triathletes in one small location it’s easy to get overawed by the occasion. Over the years I have seen athletes who have failed miserably because they’ve built the race up to be something bigger than it actually is. I’ve always lived by the J.A.R principle with my athletes in regards to big races - its "Just Another Race" and will be treated as such, just because it has a World Championship stamp doesn't mean you do anything different.

With social media serving to stir things up there is virtually nowhere an athlete or coach can escape the media buzz and hype that surrounds the race resulting in a lot of highly pumped up testosterone fuelled athletes. This can be a good thing when directed in the right way but often this isn't the case and athletes end up racing like headless chickens out there leading to poor performances and disappointment. You need to respect the course because if you don’t it can bite like no other.


On paper this looks a little unfair but our money's still on uber-biker Simone

There's also nothing like the pressure an athlete feels just walking around seeing the tanned sculpted bodies walking around Kona. There are also many distractions like the underpants run and the pasta party, and plenty of opportunity to listen to every man and his dog talk to you about their race strategy and training.  We chose to avoid all of this, staying 25miles out of town just so we could focus purely on creating our own environment that would put Simone in her own head space and no one else's.

We were there to do a job so took the weeklong preparation very seriously and did what we feel we needed to do. This worked like a dream, we came into Kona once or twice just to register, do a practice swim and look at the expo and then got out of there into our own little training world. I’ve never seen her more calm and focused going into a race like this, we had the bike course on our doorstep so it was basically train, eat, recover, and repeat each day.

We also avoided all of the training hotspots and found our own parts of the course where we could run through race strategy, pacing and execution. This imprinted the strategy and pace into Simone's mind so it became second nature when she was out on the course race day. Whilst out training together I questioned her a lot about what she was thinking until she gave me the answers I wanted to hear (she would call it nagging) much to her annoyance. It was my way of brainwashing her so at any point in the race she knew what she should be thinking about to get the best out of herself, you simply cant afford to switch off on a course like this. By the end of the week training she was answering my questions with an immediacy that told me she was ready for anything for anything that was thrown at her on race day.

We arrived late Monday evening after nearly 21 hours of travel, both exhausted and in need of sleep. The plan from Monday through to Friday would be to swim, bike and run everyday. This would build from Tuesday to Thursday, Thursday  being the biggest race prep day and then Friday being the easiest day. We chose to do it this way to bring her back to a peak of fitness due to a lost weeks training  the week before due to a knee injury flare up. In this week off  to stop her going stir crazy she did 5km swim sets most days over varying intensities to keep her aerobically fit and strong whilst resting the legs. This played into our hands and left her legs well rested for race week when we would start to test the bike and run again.

The Swim

Sea swims are always notoriously difficult to judge because you never know what conditions you will get on the day. Hawaii is a non-wetsuit swim, which considerably favor’s the stronger more confident swimmers. It also suits swimmers who can navigate and draft well as you can get pulled off course easily due to the currents and swell. This is a swim that suits a higher rhythmic stroke rate, which will help cut through any chop. Typically on the day I saw stroke rates that were anywhere from 80-100 SPM for the faster swimmers.

In the build up to the race we focused on what I call  "high cadence - light gear swimming" due to the expected choppy conditions, we also developed her swinging style of stroke from the first year of working together which perfectly suited the choppy conditions. This has made her a formidable open water swimmer with an Ironman wetsuit PB swim of 57mins. Ideally the turnover here needs to be flowing and rhythmical but the force production is kept to a moderate level so the shoulders don’t feel like they are about to explode (a comment I’ve heard from many swimmers who have done Hawaii over the years who have started too fast). We also focused mainly on critical swim speed training, red mist type endurance sessions, Ironman paced sessions  and we topped that off with plenty of short - fast sprint work to cover all bases for the swim.

Due to the considerable movement of the water you also need to be physically strong to hold your position. We incorporated quite a lot of paddle work into Simone's training to strengthen her shoulders, lats and chest to cope with this. She's a powerful athlete with a strong upper body so absolutely loves working with paddles. This made her so strong that she didn’t really feel too much movement of the water and she managed to finish the non-wetsuit swim in 1hour 3mins, not bad considering she could barely swim 3 years ago. This placed her in 8th position in her age group and only 3 mins behind the winner Miranda Carfrae.



What also really helped was the amazing HUUB SKN-1 Swimskin, which we tested in the weeks leading up to the race. She was very comfortable wearing it and faster which is the perfect combination. During her first sea swim out there it was an incredibly choppy day, she got in and literally flew through the water wearing it much to my amazement as other swimmers were being pulled in all sorts of directions. This was a huge confidence boost for her.

This year they changed the way the swim was started. Male pros went off at 6.25am, female pros went off at 6:35am, Male age groupers at 6:50am and female age groupers at 7am. This was done in hope of a less crowded T1, it seemed to work well.  I also think this worked well for the female swimmers who can easily get swam over by the very competitive men. The only slight problem is that most of the faster female age groupers caught the weaker male swimmers quite quickly and men being men don’t like to be passed so there was a slight problem for the ladies here to navigate through.

The pacing strategy for a swim like this doesn’t need to be complicated. We planned to start just above race pace for 250m from the front left  starting position  (to avoid congested inside right line) then change down gear to race pace until getting back onto the racing line at the first turn. This was practiced time and time again in the training so her body was used to the faster start, thereby reducing the energy cost in the race, she also developed a deep understanding of what was too fast and what was just enough to be able to recover quickly from. As soon as he made the pace change the plan was to draft and sight frequently. The plan was to sight was every 5-6 strokes as it’s just too easy to swim offline when the water is moving so much. Once out of the frantic start her plan was to find a good rhythm and flow, swim in a straight line, draft when possible and keep it that way to the swim exit to T1.

The Bike

Last year in Hawaii the infamous winds just didn’t blow which lead to many course records being broken. This year they more than lived up to their reputation with some say they were the toughest conditions there for 15 years. In the build up to the race I was literally astonished at how hard the wind blows out there and it seems to blow from all directions ! The course is an out and back course through lava fields and the most amazing scenery you can imagine.

Its not the hilliest course or the most demanding but what makes it so tough is the wind, humidity and heat, so if you have over paced the swim you can get crucified on the bike due to too high a heart rate and increased body temperature. If anything its better to undercook the swim slightly than risk going a little bit too hard. Keeping core temperature control down early on is absolutely crucial because the day just gets hotter and hotter.



To do well on this bike course you need certain attributes. You need to have a strong comfortable aero position, you need to be physically strong to control the bike in the cross winds (a few smaller ladies were actually blown off their bikes). You need to be able to embrace the wind not fear it, you also need to be able to hold back and pace the first 56miles and cycle within yourself by sticking to your pacing strategy. Way too many athletes seem to get caught up in the moment and go too hard then die a death in the second half of the bike or when they get onto the run. The smart athletes are the ones that embrace this, control their power and are still running well at the end.

Our plan was simple to keep things smooth and relaxed to Hawi (the turn around point) with strictly no fireworks, then cycle strong but controlled all the way back along the Queen K highway  to T2 in Kona where winds tend to be more in your favor. Simone paced this beautifully until she crashed into the back of a male age grouper and went flying over her handle bars. This locked her out of her big chain ring so she had 56miles with much less power than she wanted. Amazingly she still posted the fastest female amateur bike split of the day - 5hours 13mins. This was also the 19th fastest bike split of the day including the top 35 female pros in the world. The only unfortunate thing was due to the loss of big gearing she had to over spin her legs at extremely high cadences to maintain any kind of momentum on the down hills which impacted her legs for the run.

We worked extensively this year on strength and power development on the bike, Simone also does a huge amount of strength work for her abs, hips, glutes  that gave her so much power and stability in the wind. Before every session in Hawaii she would do 30mins minimum of activation and mobility work on these areas. Sometimes people wonder what the marginal gains are that make an athlete great and this was the perfect example. She also did a lot of big gear work at both moderate and high intensity all with the Kona winds in mind to strengthen her legs. She also did all of her bike training on an indoor Watt bike, which might surprise a few (yes she biked the fastest female age group bike of the day with all indoor bike work), including her long rides. She has the unique ability and mental toughness to do this, she knows she wont get the quality she desires spending an hour cycling out of the London traffic before you get into a good rhythm and then fight your way back through the traffic once again. We wanted quality and intensity with no interruptions so the Watt bike became her weapon of choice. These sessions were tough and long but all designed to re-create the demands of Hawaii bike course. In the build up and on race day she cycled through the winds like they weren’t even there.

The Run

Now this is where the race gets really tough, mainly because the heat and humidity are at their highest levels. If youve done anything that is too far over  your  bike race pace up until this point it could be a very long day.  The run is undulating and relentless, it was even tough just standing there supporting ! This gave me a respect for all the athletes out there that i couldnt have imagined. Somehow they just kept going while I was melting roadside.


Simone toughing it out on the run course

The structure to Simone's run training this year was simple, try to optimise her endurance run speed without getting injured. After an injury prone 2nd year we managed to find the right balance. This consisted of 1 x long endurance negative split run, 1 x track session at a very controlled but progressive 10k pace 1 x brick run at race pace and 1 x easy brick run. This worked like a dream and we had a whole year of progression and consistency, she was definitely in the best run shape she's ever been and the numbers showed it. Unfortunately 2 weeks out  a knee injury appeared from nowhere which hampered and otherwise perfect race build up.

Coming off the bike definitely isnt the time to get excited, its all about control, hydrating well and staying cool. Our plan was to block out the crowds and just get focussed on hitting a comfortable  rhythmic early race pace. You simply have to find your race pace and lock into it and not get caught up in the noise and emotion coming out of T2. You also have to hydrate well and stay as cool as possible because at mile 16 you hit the natural energy lab for about 3 miles considered the toughest part of the run course. It baron, hot, humid and it seems like a long long way from the finish. But once through it youve only got 6miles left to the finish along the Queen K Highway. We had acclimatised her in the 8 weeks leading into the event with steam room and sauna protocol that worked well.



Our run goal was simple, maintain race pace through to mile 20 and then give it everything from that point forwards leaving no juice left in the tank whatsoever. Unfortunately at the start of the run Simone's knee injury flared up, she had only done a few 15-20mins during race week as we couldn't risk re-aggravating it. She was so unlucky, a year of no injuries and then the day after finishing her last tough session before the taper it flared up out of nowhere. Despite this and being in considerable pain she battled on and never gave in showing incredible toughness and mental strength to pull off a 3:36 marathon. Not the time we wanted but in the circumstances I really dont know where she pulled it from. Her nickname isnt "Nails" for nothing.



Simone managed to finish 1st Brit female age grouper,  2nd place in the 25-29 category, 5th fastest female age grouper and 31st female overall including the pro women. A performance a coach couldnt be more proud of. It was a performance born out of sheer guts, courage, hard work and an unbelievable determination to be a better athlete each and ever day. But theres still lots more work to be done and she knows she still has unfinished business out there.

Her first request when I met her at the finish line was....

"I'll have a straight vodka coach"

She was deadly serious.

Coach Julian Nagi
First Ironman Coaching & Swim Smooth Coach
www.juliannagicoaching.com

Friday, October 17, 2014

Struggling To Improve Your Rotation? Try Using A Tech Toc Like This Instead

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Nov 15th
Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
The Finis Tech Toc is a neat swimming gadget to give you feedback on the amount of rotation in your stroke along the long axis of your spine. We use them extensively in our video analysis and stroke correction sessions in Perth with swimmers who are too flat in the water when they swim:


(You can purchase one from our Swim Shop here: www.swimsmooth.com/finis_techtoc.html)

If you know you have insufficient rotation in your stroke or struggle to recover your arms over the surface of the water (like Cyndy below) then a Tech Toc could be the perfect gadget to improve the efficiency of your swimming.

Insufficient rotation in your stroke causes your arms to swim
around the side low to the surface, sometimes catching the water.

A Different Place To Wear A Tech Toc

The Tech Toc is a tube with a large metal ball bearing in it which is normally worn around your lower back. With good rotation (around 45-60 degrees on every stroke, see here) the ball bearing will roll from one end of the tube to the other giving a loud 'toc' sound which you can hear and also feel as you swim:




You should hear the 'toc' on every single stroke - if not you know you're not rotating enough on that stroke. It could be you rotate well to one side but not the other and you'll instantly get that feedback as you swim. You should also find your rotation is naturally much better when you go to breathe.

But here's a different way to use it, rather than wearing the Tech Toc around your waist, try sitting it much higher up around your chest with it sitting between your shoulder blades:



It can be slightly uncomfortable wearing it that high but it gives you a much greater sense of your shoulder and upper thoracic rotation as you swim.

Many Arnie Swim Types and some Swingers who are flat in the water finally get to grips with the idea of rotating in the stroke using a Tech Toc in this way, allowing them to feel more more relaxed and efficient - give it a go yourself!

Over-Rotation?

If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and over-rotate when you swim, you can also make good use of the feedback from a Tech Toc. Try and deliberately reduce your rotation until the Tech Toc stops tocking - quite likely this will be less rotation than you think!

If you normally over-rotate you should feel much more stable and rhythmical in the water once you have corrected this area of your stroke. You might have read in old swimming books about rotating to 90 degrees (completely on your side) on every stroke. Ignore that advice, it will be a disaster for your swimming!

Also be aware that you should hold your head still as you swim, only your body should roll. More on that here.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Could Dory Have The Answer To Improving Your Swimming?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
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Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Nov 15th
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Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
The alarm clock has just gone off on the morning of your weekly threshold swim, or you're sitting in the pool car-park contemplating the long continuous swim ahead, or you're halfway through a tough red-mist set. You feel like quitting, throwing in the towel, packing it in.

We've all been there... but giving in to that feeling and quitting will strike a fatal blow to you reaching your swimming potential.

The mental skill to sustain a strong effort through training or racing is one of the cornerstones of developing your distance swimming. Obviously you need to swim to your maximum in races but you also need to push in training in order to develop that fitness in the first place (and be fit enough to maintain your stroke technique).

It's tempting to reason that you don't need to do the set this week (you do), or that it would be bad for your stroke technique (it isn't) or your stroke is falling apart (it won't). These are all excuses to avoid doing the hard work and get developing those essential mental skills in the first place.

If you are struggling mentally with getting your head around swim training, when you feel like quitting we suggest a little advice offered by Dory to Nemo:



Is This The Thing That's Holding You Back?

You know it could be that you already have all the ingredients you need to be the swimmer you want to be - you have enough knowledge, enough training time and enough natural talent. What if it's actually your head that's holding you back - your inability to come to terms with the effort required to get to where you want to be?

The good news is that sustaining a strong pace isn't about pain tolerance or mental toughness, it's really just a mental skill you need to develop. It's about learning to detach your thoughts from the feelings of hard work and just letting the effort happen. When you get good at this and are really on your game, tough sets don't really hurt much at all, in fact they become kind of fun.

So, when the negative thoughts start to creep in, block them out and Just Keep Swimming. Everything will get easier from there!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Swim Smooth Bathers By Funky Trunks / Funkita!

We thought you'd like to be the first to know that we've just put our new Swim Smooth branded swimwear on sale in the Swim Smooth Shop! Featuring a unique design in Swim Smooth colours, now you can look great and brighten up your pool every time you swim:



Buy here: www.swimsmooth.com/swimsmooth-bathers-funkita-funkytrunks.php

We got together with Funkita / Funky Trunks to bring you this exclusive Aussie style funky design with subtle Swim Smooth logo on the rear, available in men's trunks, women's one piece and women's two piece designs:



If you already own any Funky Trunks or women's Funkita swimwear you'll be well aware of the quality of their kit. This top end brand is famous for brilliant fit combined with fantastic chlorine resistance and durability. They look and feel awesome and if you're lucky they might even make your abs stand out like Renee and Forbes' above!

For more pictures and to buy see them at: www.swimsmooth.com/swimsmooth-bathers-funkita-funkytrunks.php

Swim Smooth!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hypoxic Training - Good, Bad or Just The Wrong Terminology?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Oct 11th
Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here





For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
End Of Season Sale: We have a small selection of brand new 2013 HUUB Archimedes suits now on sale at £395 in our swim shop. Don't miss out and get yourself an incredible end of line bargain! : swimsmooth.com/huub



You may have heard swim coaches use the term Hypoxic Training and wondered exactly what it meant. The literal definition means to swim with fewer breaths per length and so limit the supply of oxygen to your body. The traditional thinking was that oxygen deprivation helps promote your aerobic development - a theory we don't subscribe to at Swim Smooth.

If you have tried a hypoxic set yourself (e.g. breathing every 5, 7 or 9 strokes) you will know that after a short distance you become quite desperate for air and things rapidly become a battle to abstain from taking a breathing for fear of invoking the wrath of the coach! But push too long and too hard during such exercises and there is a risk of blackout, which is obviously very dangerous indeed.

This has been in the press recently here in Australia following a near-drowning incident with a junior swimmer during a coached squad hypoxic set, begging the question should you avoid all controlled breathing sets?

We would say no... Our philosophy is that conducting controlled breathing sets over short distances for the purpose of technique development can be hugely valuable but we never deliberately target oxygen deprivation (or CO2 build-up) for training purposes. Compared to classical hypoxic training our sets give a much lower stress on the body.

One contributing problem here is that coaches commonly refer to reduced breathing sets as 'breath holding' - which is very misleading (and possibly dangerous in its own right). As we shall highlight below, you should never hold your breath when you swim - you should always blow out into the water!

Controlled Breathing & Stroke Technique

Even at the elite swimming level, if a stroke flaw is going to occur it is most likely to occur when going to take a breath. Cross-overs, over-rotation, scissor kicks, pushing down on the water during the catch and loss of stroke rhythm are all issues triggered and exacerbated when breathing:

Ron presses down on the water whilst breathing, lifting him
up at the front and sinking his legs at the rear.

Whilst an elite swimmer suffers a lot less from these issues, if any swimmer were able to swim down the pool without breathing in at all, they'd automatically side-step these potential flaws and so swim significantly faster and more efficiently. Going many strokes between breaths is fine if you're a 50m sprinter racing for less than 30 seconds but if you're swimming anything longer then breathing regularly is essential to take on sufficient oxygen.

So how do we work to overcome stroke flaws whilst breathing? One key way is to swim short distances at moderate pace breathing less frequently, perhaps every 5 or 7 strokes. These are short enough to be perfectly safe but give you plenty of opportunity to learn good motor patterns without the distraction of breathing so that when you do go to breathe they are much more likely to stick.

Note the key here isn't oxygen deprivation but stroke technique development over short distances. The use of fins (kicking gently) and pull-buoys may also reduce your oxygen consumption and make these sets easier to achieve.

The Wrong Terminology?

When you read information about reduced breathing sets, coaches often make the mistake of referring to them as being challenging because of their "breath holding" element. Ironically that is the exact opposite of what they should be - you should never hold your breath when you swim!

Whenever your face is in the water you should exhale in a long continuous stream of bubbles, getting rid of the CO2 you produce. By holding your breath underwater the levels of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood stream start to increase which triggers the urge to breathe in, a condition called hypercania. This can be very stressful indeed and quickly worsens with reducing frequency of inhalation. By exhaling into the water your CO2 levels immediately drop.

Blow out smoothly and continuously through
either your nose or mouth.
In addition CO2 is in itself is poisonous to the body with symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea to eventual black-out. Do you get a headache from swimming? If you don't exhale well into the water then it's quite possibility a CO2 headache.

The problem with the term Hypoxic Training is that it has become synonymous with holding your breath underwater. We propose a change in terminology to call these sets Exhalation Control which accurately describes what they should be about. If you are breathing every 5 strokes you should exhale the same amount as you would over 3 strokes but exhale slightly slower to cover the longer duration.

Whilst we're here, it's also worth mentioning that holding your breath underwater is bad for your swimming in another way. It increases the buoyancy in your chest which lifts you up at the front and sinks the legs. If you have a poor body position then the very first thing you should work on in your stroke is your exhalation technique.

The Benefits of Exhalation Control

Performed over short distances, exhalation control exercises are a very effective way to develop your stroke:

- Allowing you to develop good exhalation technique and appreciate how much air you have in the lungs to exhale. As we posted two weeks ago on the blog, breathing every two strokes is simply not enough time to exhale properly.

- Allowing you to focus on aspects of the stroke such as alignment and the catch phase without being ‘interrupted’ with the process of inhalation.

- Giving you time to recognise what a smooth, fluid stroke feels like and equally how inhalation interrupts that rhythm.

- Bringing you confidence that if you do miss a breath during a rough open water swim, that you can simply complete another stroke and rotate to breathe to the other side without panicking.

- Regaining your rhythm and focus in your longer, continuous swims when you feel you may be starting to daydream.

Using Exhalation Control

Here's our tips on using exhalation control sets:

- Just like in your normal stroke, never ever hold your breath - just reduce the rate of exhalation the longer you go between breaths in, maintaining a smooth steady sigh into the water.

- Never be afraid to take a couple of extra breaths here and there - remember this is not an exercise in how big your lungs are but an opportunity to focus on elements of your stroke which would otherwise be lost to the interruption of breathing in.

- Don't push yourself, literally go with the flow and recognise that by placing the emphasis on your exhalation you will feel much more relaxed.

- Initially limit your exhalation control swims to 25m or 50m, resting between each for 15 to 20 seconds.

- A classic exhalation control exercise to try is to rotate through breathing every 3, 5 and 7 strokes within a length or every 2, 4 and 6 strokes to your least favourite side. After the longer count you’ll really appreciate the brief drop back down to your normal pattern.

- An exhalation control exercise only needs to be one more stroke than normal between breathing - you don't need to go crazy here. Even going from breathing ever 2 to every 3 strokes counts.

- Use a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro set to your normal stroke rhythm and breathing every 5 or 7 strokes notice how you lose timing when breathing - either getting ahead or behind the beeper. This is much easier to discern that when you are breathing every 2 or 3 strokes.

- Try using a pull buoy between your legs and see how that immediately makes the process much easier due to a reduced reliance on the large muscle groups of the legs to provide lift and push you forwards.

- Using paddles (particularly technique paddles such as the Finis Agilities) will give you greater feedback on your stroke technique when breathing every 5 or 7 strokes. Use paddles together with a pull-buoy for best effect.

Lastly…

Remember, when Swim Smooth recommends an exhalation control set we perform it over a short distance to work on your stroke technique, not to challenge your lung capacity or aerobic system. You shouldn't experience significant oxygen deprivation performing these short technique swims at moderate pace. If you have any medical conditions, always seek professional advice from your doctor before commencing. Stay safe and swim smart!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Clearing Up The Confusion About 'Front-Quadrant Swimming'

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Abingdon Clinic Oct 11th
Full information here





For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Newsflash: Marathon Swimming Legend Shelley Taylor Smith is running a series of special swim clinics in the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai on the 24th, 25th and 28th September. Don't miss out if you live in or close to Dubai - you might have seen Shelley on our Catch Masterclass DVD and she is an incredibly inspiring athlete, coach and mentor!

Hurry, the first 30 who register for the Pool2OWS clinic receive a personally signed copy of Dangerous When Wet - The Shelley Taylor-Smith Story: openwaterswimmingmastery.com/pool2openwater/dubai-september-2014/swim-clinics-for-dubai/



You might have heard of something called Front Quadrant Swimming which has to do with the timing of your freestyle stroke. It's widely recognised as being an efficient way to swim and something that you should use in your own stroke technique but there's a lot of confusion about what it actually means:

If you drew two lines, one through the swimmer's head and one at water level you would create four quadrants:


Front quadrant swimming simply means that there is always one of your hands in one of the front quadrants (1 and 2) at any one point in time. Or, put even more simply, when your hands pass above and below the water, that should happen in front of your head, not behind it.

Let's look at some examples. Here's elite swimmer Jono Van Hazel from Perth:


Jono is a classic smooth and as you can see his hands pass in front of his head with classic front-quadrant timing. Jono's got brilliant stroke timing which is one reason why he looks so smooth when he swims. Notice how when the recovering arm is passing the head the lead hand has started the stroke and is catching the water - it's not pausing out front and doing nothing (more on that below):


You can see more of Jono swimming here: youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs

Interestingly, even swimmers using very fast stroke rates normally still have front quadrant timing. Here's former triathlon world champion Tim Don swimming at a rapid 90 strokes per minute:


It's closer but Tim's arms are still clearly passing in front of the head. Also 7 Time World Marathon Swimming Champion Shelley Taylor Smith (see clinics above) who was also famous for using a high stroke rate:


Here's an example of a swimmer with the arms passing behind the head, breaking the front-quadrant rule:


Clare's arm is collapsing downwards whilst she is breathing giving her no support in front of her head and making breathing much harder than it needs to be. If you swallow water when you breathe this is likely to be the reason - try the one-two-stretch mantra here.

Taking It To The Extreme

The confusion with front-quadrant timing is that some swimmers believe it means a full catch-up at the front of the stroke, where the hands pretty much meet at the front:


To achieve this position you must hold the hand out in front of you with a long pause-and-glide whilst the other hand fully catches it up. This long gap between strokes (we call it Overgliding) is very inefficient as you simply decelerate in the water whilst trying to glide and then have to use the next stroke to get up to speed again. Pause-and-glide timing also leads to common stroke flaws such as dropping the wrist and putting on the brakes and the overglider kickstart.

This catch-up timing is technically still front quadrant as the hands do pass in front of the head but it is really taking things to the extreme - it is not what was meant by front-quadrant-timing when the term was created.

The Fear Of Windmilling

The idea with front quadrant timing is that it is trying to avoid a full-windmill in the stroke where the hands are at near opposite positions resulting in the hands passing behind the head:


The key thing here is that even if you tried to do this deliberately you would find it very hard to do - it feels very extreme when you do it and it's unlikely you'll do it naturally, especially if you've been working on your stroke technique for a while.

Try It In Front Of A Mirror!

If you're finding thinking about what both arms are doing in the stroke at the same time a little mind bending, don't worry, it is! One of the best ways to get a feel for it is to stand in front of a mirror, bend forwards slightly and perform some practise strokes.

Try and reproduce your natural stroke as closely as possible and see how your hands pass each other. If they pass in front of the head (even if only slightly in front like Tim and Shelley) then you're doing fine!

Conclusion

Our central point here is that the danger of windmilling is much over-stated. In most instances where the hands pass behind the head the reason is related to breathing and poor awareness of what the lead hand is doing (as with Clare above), not because the swimmer is windmilling in the traditional sense.

A far greater risk is taking things to the opposite extreme and adopting a full catch-up style of stroke. This is a very inefficient stroke style and a very difficult habit to break once developed.

Instead, work on developing all aspects of your stroke technique in a balanced way including: breathing, body position, alignment, kick, catch/pull technique and rhythm. Do that and the resultant stroke is almost guaranteed to give you good front-quadrant timing without you directly focusing too much on it.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Breathing Bilaterally In Races - Harder Or Easier?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Abingdon Clinic Oct 11th
Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here





For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Something that is commonly said by swimming and triathlon coaches is: Breathe bilaterally in training to keep your stroke balanced but in races just breathe to one side, you need the oxygen.

Certainly breathing bilaterally in training is a great idea to help keep your stroke technique symmetrical but will you be faster breathing to one side in races? Is it good advice or not?

Let's consider the most common scenario for open water swimmers and triathletes - racing in a wetsuit in open water:

How should you breathe here?

The irony is that swimming in a wetsuit actually reduces the oxygen demand for swimmers because the body is held higher (reducing drag) and the swimmer barely has to kick. This is true at all levels of effort, including race pace.

If you're not convinced by this, try bilateral breathing in the pool with and without a large pull buoy to simulate a wetsuit - how does it compare? Or even better, try swimming in the pool with your wetsuit on at your current race pace (no faster) - most swimmers are surprised to find they can breathe every three strokes pretty easily doing this, even at target race pace.

As well as reducing kicking effort, the extra speed from swimming in a suit lifts your stroke rate, meaning your breaths come around more frequently.

Breathing Every 3 Is Just The Right Length Of Time

It's interesting to take note that when you feel short of air it is not the lack of oxygen you are feeling but the build up of CO2. That's why it's key to exhale into the water whenever you swim to blow it out into the water - leaving you feeling much more relaxed with your breathing.

For most swimmers breathing every three is about the right length of time to get rid of the CO2 from their system, breathing every two just isn't long enough and causes an uncomfortable build-up in your lungs and bloodstream.

Breathing every three is breathing less frequently than when you cycle or run but the oxygen demands of distance swimming are lower than cycling or running because the you're using smaller muscle groups. Plus exhaling into air is easy, blowing out into water is harder and takes longer to achieve.

A group training session is a great time to practise
breathing patterns in open water.

Bilateral Breathing In Races

So it's surprising but true, once you get your head around it you will find it easier to breathe bilaterally in open water races than when training in the pool... and if you can you should because:

- Flaws appear in your stroke when breathing which reduces speed - so less breathing means more speed.

- Breathing regularly to both sides keeps your stroke symmetrical even within the duration of the race, helping you swim much straighter, as we have seen previously on the blog (here and here). In fact it's common for athletes to swim 10 or 20% too far by moving off course, losing them huge chunks of time.

- You can keep a strategic eye on what's happening to both sides of you, allowing you to pick up on more drafting opportunities or to spot break-aways.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Secret Power Of Cake


Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Salisbury SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here





For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
OK, so let's talk cake...

Your mission if you choose to accept it.

When you train seriously for a sport you make a lot of sacrifices. To get yourself into great shape takes time, dedication, hard graft and quite likely avoiding all the foods (and drinks) you really want to consume.

At Swim Smooth, that means cutting back quite considerably on our natural level of cake intake.

If you have reached the end of your racing season then don't be afraid to cut yourself some slack and reward all that hard work with some additional cake, just for a week or two. Soon enough you'll be back into your off season training and will quickly burn off those extra calories but in the meantime break those chains for a while - it's good for your soul.

It doesn't matter if you didn't quite hit your goals or got beaten by your arch-rival. You're recognising the effort you put in, not the outcome, which is an important and positive distinction to make.

Of course you may prefer to substitute cake for a juicy steak, ice cream or even a glass or two of red. Enjoy it for a short while - you deserve it.

Swim Smooth!

Whoops.