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
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Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
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Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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

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Prague Junior Swim Club
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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
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Acton Video Analysis
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Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
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Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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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
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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
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
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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
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Acton Video Analysis
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Richmond SS Squad
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Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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Abingdon Clinic Oct 11th
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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
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Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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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
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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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

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Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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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
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Strange CSS Results And Gaming The System...


Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Acton Video Analysis
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Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
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Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Salisbury SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
At Swim Smooth, one of the things we're most pleased about is how many people are using CSS to improve the training side of their swimming preparation*. We've heard from so many of you about how you've taken 5 or 10 seconds per 100m off your swim times after just a couple of months of CSS training - which is fantastic!

For more about CSS and see the calculator here: www.swimsmooth.com/training

One of the most common questions we receive about the CSS calculation is that if you keep your 400m pace the same but get faster over 200m then your CSS pace actually gets slower! This seems quite counter-intuitive that you are getting faster and yet your CSS pace is getting slower - in fact we get a lot of emails from swimmers (and coaches) telling us the calculator is broken and we need to fix it in a hurry!

The calculator is actually right though and is just telling us something interesting about fitness which is very relevant to how you should train. The calculation looks at the rate of drop-off between your 200m and your 400m times to predict what you would do over a longer distance closer to CSS pace (e.g. 1500m). So someone who is very quick over 200m but dies a little over 400m will have a slower CSS than someone who is much more evenly paced, even if the first swimmers times are quicker combined.

Mind bending isn't it? What the test is assessing is whether your current fitness is more attuned to sprinting or distance swimming. If you have a large drop off in pace from the 200m to the 400m then this suggests you're more sprint-based and you will be significantly slower over 1500m. If you have little drop off between the 200m and 400m then you're well trained for distance swimming and you will be able to swim 1500m at only a slightly slower pace than 400m.

If you think about it, this has to be the case otherwise the best sprinters in the world would also be the best distance swimmers in the world and vice-versa. You can see this explained more visually here:



Of course if you're a triathlete or open water swimmer then you are aiming to be fast over longer distances - developing your diesel engine. If your CSS is getting slower it could be you have been inconsistent with your training or you could be doing too much sprint training (very fast with long recoveries) and not enough CSS type training (not quite as fast but with short recoveries).

Example Athlete: Michael Japp

Michael has improved both his 400m and his 200m times since May, which is great news. However, his CSS has slowed by 1 second per 100m - how so? Michael improved his 400m by 5 seconds but his 200m by 7 seconds. As the 200m is much shorter, this means his speed improved relatively much more over 200m than 400m which is symptomatic of biasing training towards very fast, short intervals with lots of rest and recovery rather than longer intervals at around CSS pace.

In Michael's case being of a very strong athletic background we felt that his anaerobic system has come back to life a little quicker than his aerobic endurance and recommended more CSS training and even some "tough love" Red Mist endurance sets: www.feelforthewater.com/2012/07/red-mist-set.html

Gaming CSS

There's even been some discussion recently about how you can "game the test" in order to get a better CSS result. You might do this by swimming deliberately slowly over the 200m which would give you a better CSS pace but this would be totally pointless as the whole idea of the test is to get a real picture of your current fitness so that you can train accurately going forwards.

Gaming the test will only see you having to target unrealistic CSS target times in training which will ruin the quality of your training - so please don't do it! Both the 200m and 400m time trials have to be maximum effort but they still need to be well-paced to yield your best times. This in itself can be confusing - how can an all-out effort be well paced? See our classic Gradual Crescendo post here: www.feelforthewater.com/2013/05/the-gradual-crescendo.html

Swim Smooth!

* Swim Smooth didn't invent the CSS calculation but we are huge fans and advocates of using it to help swimmers train better. To improve the accuracy of this training try doing it in conjunction with a Tempo Trainer Pro to set your training paces.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Un-Funk Your Swimming!


Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster UK, Video
Analysis Consultations

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Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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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




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Here's a neat swim session to work on the rhythm of your stroke. It's a lot of fun to try, in fact many of the Swim Smooth squad in Perth said it was probably the best squad session they've ever swum - wow!

If you've had a bit of a lay-off from swimming or feel a bit stagnant in your training then this is the perfect session to kick-start things again.

Un-Funk Your Swimming

You will need a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro for this session and also know how to perform the Scull #1, Doggy Paddle and Javelin Drills.

Warmup

Wear fins for the Javelin drill and take them off for the freestyle 100s:

100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing every 3 strokes
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing left every 4 strokes
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing every 6 strokes (right on way up the pool, left on way back down)
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing every 7 strokes
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing every 6 strokes (right on way up the pool, left on way back down)
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing right every 4 strokes
100m Javelin Drill
100m Freestyle breathing every 3 strokes
100m Javelin Drill

Then with Tempo Trainer Pro in Mode 3:
2x 50m at 55 SPM
2x 50m at 65 SPM
2x 50m at 75 SPM
2x 50m at 85 SPM
2x 50m at 75 SPM
2x 50m at 65 SPM
2x 50m at 55 SPM
Swim each 50m as:

12½m Scull #1
+ 12½m Doggy Paddle
+ 25m Freestyle to stroke rate

Take 5 seconds rest after every 50m.
The range 55 to 85 SPM will suit most swimmers but if you are an Overglider or Bambino with a low stroke rate, reduce all stroke rates by 10 SPM.

Lastly:

Pick what stroke rate felt 'optimal' from the previous set. This doesn't have to be exactly 55 or 65 etc - it could be 58 or 63 etc.

Now swim:

200m at this self-selected stroke rate
2 or 4x 50m at 2 SPM below
2 or 4x 50m at 2 SPM above

What do you notice? What feels good?



Remember when it comes to rhythm don't over-think it - FEEL IT!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Swim Smooth Model Of Squad Coaching


Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

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

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

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

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Even for experienced coaches it takes at least a year of intensive training to become a Swim Smooth Certified Coach. Perhaps the most famous part of that journey is the compulsory trip out to Perth Western Australia for immersive work with the Swim Smooth Squads.

Our Perth setup is the perfect place for our coaches to train. Paul Newsome and his local coaching team run 12 separate squads totalling around 400 swimmers of all ability levels per week. Over just the last 3 years Paul has also personally performed over 5,400 video analysis and stroke correction sessions and our certified coaches many thousands more.

Together with our international clinics and coach-education work this creates a unique 'engine-room' of coaching which allows us to deliver you the innovative and supremely effective coaching system that is Swim Smooth.

One of the SS squads in Perth preparing for a CSS set.

During their trip each Swim Smooth coach works intensively to perfect their observation, analysis and stroke correction skills. But just as importantly, they see the Swim Smooth Squads in action and coach with them themselves to understand why they are so successful at developing swimmers of any level. It's very important that each Swim Smooth coach understands and has direct experience with this model so that they can re-create it when they return to their home location to work with their local swimmers.

The Swim Smooth Model For Squad Coaching

You can see our full list of Certified Coaches here but if you are not lucky enough to have a Swim Smooth coach close to you, here is an outline of some of the key training principles they employ from Perth. Whether you are training with some friends or operating a triathlon club, you can use this advice to improve the effectiveness of your own swim sessions:

Principle 1: A Constant Focus On 'The Three Keys'

The swimmers who improve the most follow a rounded program bringing together in unison the three key areas of swimming development:

- Stroke Technique
- Swim Specific Fitness (particularly a focus on CSS training for distance swimming)
- Open Water Skills

You can think of each of these as being worth roughly the same amount of time to you. For instance, if you wanted to take 6 minutes off your 1500m time you might look to take 2 minutes from your stroke technique, 2 minutes from your swim specific fitness and 2 minutes from your open water skills. This is far and away the most effective way to make large improvements in your swimming performances.

Practise your open water skills at least once a week all year round
- either in open water or in the pool (see here)

The simplest way to bring The Three Keys into your own training is to swim three sessions a week with one session focused on each one*. Consistency is critical, performing these sessions all year round (like Mega Mega) will constantly and progressively improve your swimming, take a break or skip sessions and you'll stagnate.

It's important to realise that this rounded approach to your swimming preparation is extremely effective for all levels of swimmer. Newer swimmers shouldn't solely work on stroke technique as with poor fitness levels they simply won't be able to sustain their stroke and being overly focused with technique can easily develop a stroke style that seriously holds them back in open water.

*To see how we structure things to maintain that balance if you are swimming more or less than three times per week see the skeleton structures in the Swim Smooth Book

Principle 2: Set Goals & Track Progress

We use a variety of apps to record multiple
split times within the squads.
Not setting meaningful short terms goals is one of the most common mistakes swimmers make. Set yourself specific and measurable goals over a fixed time period is extremely motivating and keeps your training focused. In a club setup you can set goals for a group of swimmers or a whole swim lane.

For example your goal might be:

Knock 5 seconds per 100m off my CSS pace over the next 8 weeks
or
Become comfortable breathing bilaterally over the next 4 weeks

Regularly measure your performances to see how you are progressing, a CSS test every 6-8 weeks might be the perfect way of doing this.

In the group/club situation announce a date for each test session and time each other's performances. Or if you are the coach, time everyone in the group and send out the results as part of your coaching service.

What do you do when you've met your goal? Easy - set another to keep yourself constantly moving forwards!

Principle 3: Don't Mix Coaching Philosophies

We see this a lot from self-coached athletes who pick different pieces of coaching advice from different sources and try and join them together to 'create the best of all worlds'. Unfortunately this just doesn't work! It's a bit like mixing different car parts - they won't mesh together and create a working vehicle at the end.

Instead commit for a period of time (perhaps 6 months) to a specific philosophy (in this case Swim Smooth) and follow every aspect of that approach diligently.

At the end of the period objectively assess the results. How are you performing relative to your goals? How much faster are you? Should you continue full-steam ahead or if you haven't improved do you need to change philosophies?

The Swim Smooth coaching philosophy works for a huge range of swimmers from
beginners right through to elite competitors. Make sure you use the whole package though.

In a club, a similar problem might exist where you have different coaches following different training philosophies and ideas - pulling the swimmers in different directions and likely overloading them with conflicting advice. As a club, objectively assess what really works for your swimmers and stick with it!

Remember that to see improvements from any program you need to be consistent with your training - do yourself and the program justice by not missing sessions or skimping on parts of your preparation.

Principle 4: Use Beepers!

A very practical tip this one: Use Finis Tempo Trainer Pros in lap-interval mode to set your training pace. The principle here is very simple, set a target pace per 25m and push-off when the beep goes, then simply pace your swim so you don't get ahead or behind the beep every 25m. This improves your pace judgement and improves the accuracy of your training intensity.

Megan waits 5 seconds before setting off behind the swimmer in front.

In a club situation have the lead swimmer in each lane uses the beeper with the other swimmers following behind at 5 or 10 seconds gaps. All they have to do is maintain the gap to the swimmer in front to swim at the target pace - if they drop off slightly then no problem, they'll rejoin the group at the end of each swim. As a coach it's critical to know your swimmers well to set the intensity accurately for them for different training sets.

Training in a group can never quite be as specific for the individual as training alone but the motivation and enjoyment of swimming in a group more than makes up for this. It could be just what you need to take some big strides forward with your swimming.

Principle 5: Get The Distances Right

With the exception of Red Mist sessions, our squad sessions generally run for an hour. Depending on your ability level you should normally look to cover the following distances:

1:50-2:20/100m CSS pace - approx. 2300m (Lane 1)
1:35-1:50/100m CSS pace - approx. 2700m (Lane 2)
1:25-1:35/100m CSS pace - approx. 3000m (Lane 3)
1:15-1:25/100m CSS pace - approx. 3300m (Lane 4)*

If you are swimming shorter sessions than that, then a lack of training volume could be a factor in what is holding you back.

* Swimmers faster than 1:15/100m are at the elite level and will generally swim for longer than an hour in a training session.

Principle 6: Use The Right Kit

As you might have noticed we're big fans of Finis swimming equipment for stroke correction and training purposes. We recommend their kit not because of any relationship with them but because we've found it very well designed and super-effective for improving swimmers' stroke technique.

The right kit makes all the difference.

If you are getting into swimming or starting up a club check out our Swim Smooth / Finis packs, they contain everything you need to get you up and running with your all round training:


Swim Smooth!

Special thanks to Janine Kaye for the awesome squad shots.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Session To Focus On Your Stroke Technique Whilst Breathing

Our Animation App
Now On Android!




Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

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

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

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
Urgent: SS Perth swimmer (and all round inspiration) Sue Oldham is looking to extend her English Channel Age World Record next week and is urgently looking for some additional support crew for the attempt.

If you are an experienced marathon swimmer or support crew and can get down to Dover to help, please contact Paul Newsome here.





Here's a brilliant technique session that uses a range of drills and techniques to help you improve your stroke technique whilst you are breathing - in particular what your lead arm is doing.

Many intermediate and advanced level swimmers have pretty good stroke technique on a normal stroke but when they breathe significant flaws appear:

swimmer5
straight arm push down
swimmer6
crossover in front of the head
swimmer3
scissor kick and crossover
swimmer4
over-rotation and scissor kick

Even if you are unaware of any flaws in your stroke whilst you breathe, try this session and see how it feels and impacts your stroke. Use the breathing patterns below even if you are a strong single sided breather - you are likely to be surprised at what you discover by doing so (as was Pro Triathlete Joel Jameson)!


Stroke Technique Whilst Breathing

Warmup

500m continuous freestyle as:
100m breathing every 3 strokes
100m breathing every 2 strokes to your least favourite side
100m breathing every 5 strokes
100m breathing every 2 strokes to your least favourite side
100m breathing every 3 strokes

5x 100m with Pull Buoy as: 12½m Scull #1, 12½m Doggy Paddle, 75m freestyle good tempo breathing every 5 strokes.

Main Set

8x 50m with fins as:
25m Unco (right arm breathe left)  + 25m freestyle
25m Unco (left arm breathe right) + 25m freestyle

4x 100 freestyle with pull buoy and paddle on one hand only:
Numbers 1 + 3 Paddle on right hand breathing left
Numbers 2 + 4: Paddle on left hand breathing right

400m continuous freestyle as:
100m breathing every 4 strokes to right
100m breathing every 4 strokes to left
100m breathing every 2 strokes to right
100m breathing every 2 strokes to left

Lastly

2, 3 or 4x 200m as:
1) Fins as 50m Broken Arrow Drill + 50m Freestyle with loose shoulders!
2) Normal freestyle, breathe as you wish
3) Pull Buoy and Paddles, breathe every 5 or 7 strokes
4) Normal freestyle, breathe as you wish

The session on the SS Perth Squad Board

We recommend Finis Freestyler Paddles for use in this session as their unique design gives you feedback on your lead hand's alignment whilst swimming.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the Swim Smooth drills above you can see them on our Stroke Technique DVDs. Also see Scull #1 here and Unco here.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Drafting - Swimming Faster For Free

Our Animation App
Now On Android!




Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

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

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




For more info on SS Certified Coaches see here
In last week's blog we reviewed the swimming legs of the Commonwealth Games Triathlons. As we saw from the healthy discussion in the comments thread of that post, many swimmers are initially sceptical about the benefits of drafting before they've properly developed their own drafting skills and experienced the time and energy savings on offer first hand.

In this week's post we're going to look at a further example of successful drafting, see what the scientific research says and give some practical tips to help you develop your own drafting skills. If you are currently unconvinced about how much you have to gain from swimming effectively alongside and behind other swimmers then this post is for you!

Medal Winning Drafting By Richard Murray

Without Richard Murray's drafting skills (third from left) the
 Aussies (right) would have beaten South Africa to the silver medal.

If you watched the Commonwealth Games Triathlons you will have noticed all of the medalists in the field drafting extensively both in the swim and on the bike. Silver and Bronze medallist Richard Murray from South Africa knew when he dived into the water at Strathclyde Park he must hang onto the feet of Australian Ryan Bailie during the final leg of the team relay in order to secure the silver medal for his country:



In the individual medal event Richard lost nearly a minute to Ryan over 1500m. Over the shorter 300m team relay swim he was laser-focused in staying on Ryan's feet for the whole swim, allowing South Africa to go on and trump Australia for the silver medal by just 3 seconds at the end of the race. Richard showed impeccable drafting skills but it's important to appreciate that they weren't god-given to him, he developed them through hard work and persistent practise with his coach Joel Filliol:

Richard Murray (top left) drafts Ryan Bailie (right) during
the Team Relay race.

Swim Smooth's Head Coach Paul Newsome: I have worked with both athletes on their swimming and can categorically state that Ryan is a significantly better swimmer than Richard and yet we placed massive emphasis on Richard being able to draft well. Technically he’s a good swimmer and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone fitter than him, but could he draft when I first met him? Not very well at all - in fact he even actively avoided the 'rough and tumble' and sought out clear water. The events in Glasgow show he's completed the transformation - great work Richard and Joel!

If you are in the UK or Australia you can watch the race here:

UK: BBC iPlayer
Australia: Ten Play

The final swim leg we are discussing starts at 56 minutes race time.

What The Science Says

If you enjoy a scientific approach to your swimming, here's our round-up of the conclusions of six key studies into the benefits of drafting:

Chatard & Wilson (2003)1 found: “Oxygen uptake, heart rate, blood lactate, rating of perceived exertion, and stroke rate were significantly reduced …in all drafting positions compared with the non-drafting position. Optimal drafting swimming distance was at 0 or 50 cm behind a leader reducing by 11–38% the metabolic response of the draftee."

Delextrat et al. (2003)2 found that "Drafting in swimming results in a demonstrable improvement in subsequent pedalling technique and efficiency in cycling."

"Drafting in swimming and cycling may result in a better tactical approach to increase the overall performance in elite Olympic distance triathlons." (Bentley et al., 2002)3.

Novices practising drafting at a recent Swim
Smooth Open Water Training Day
It’s also been shown that "Drafting continuously behind a lead cyclist allowed triathletes to save a significant amount of energy during the bike leg of a sprint triathlon and created the conditions for an improved running performance." (Hausswirth et al. 2001)5.

Additionally, "Fast runners seemed to benefit most from drafting during cycling." (Hausswirth et al., 1999)4.

"For the running split in short-distance triathlon, appropriate pacing appeared to play a key role in high-level triathlon performance." (Le Meur et al., 2009)6.

The studies measure energy consumption and performance improvement in a variety of ways but all show a significant benefit from drafting whilst swimming (and of course cycling too).

Drafting whilst swimming is perfectly legal and ethical in triathlon and most open water swim races so whatever your swimming ability give this important skill a go - once you've cracked it and felt the difference you'll wish you'd tried it sooner!

Developing Your Drafting Skills

Drafting is a skill that anyone can learn and become comfortable performing. The key is to practise it often in training so that when races come around it feels natural and comfortable whatever the conditions.

Get together with some friends or training partners and try these methods, you'll be amazed how simple drafting is when you've got a feel for it. If you don't have good access to an open water venue the good news is that you can practise these skills very well in the pool too.

In-Line Drafting


• A simple way to draft and an excellent place to start.
• Swim as close as you can - no more than 50cm behind the lead swimmer’s toes.
• Try swimming with a slightly wider arm entry and catch if you find you keep tapping the lead swimmer's toes.
• Stay in a nice rhythm and feel the draft.
• Don't rely on the lead swimmer - regularly sight forwards yourself to make sure you're staying on course!

Arrow Head Drafting


• A more advanced skill.
• Shown to have a greater energy saving than drafting on the toes (Chatard & Wilson, 2003)1.
• Allows you to keep an eye on your direction and competitors.
• Breathe in towards the lead swimmer with your head in line with their hip so you can accurately judge the gap between you. This is a time when breathing to one side only can be strategically advantageous.
• Stay as close as you can get to keep within the lead swimmer's wake.
• If possible, synchronise your stroke with the lead swimmer to avoid clashing arms.

Of course if you have a group of three or more people in front then jump on the back of the group in the middle. Get it right as we seen Rick and Lisa doing here and you get a draft from several swimmers at once and gain an even bigger advantage:


When you practise these skills you'll immediately notice how stochastic things feel as you need to adjust your own pace and position continually to stay in the draft. Drafting requires constant focus and concentration but it is well worth the extra mental effort due to the huge performance gains on offer. So next time you’re competing and you spot some fast feet passing you, surge and jump on their hip or toes and watch your race times improve with no extra effort!

Swim Smooth!

1 CHATARD, J.-C., and B. WILSON. Drafting Distance in Swimming. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 7, pp. 1176–1181, 2003

2 Delextrat A, Tricot V, Bernard T, Vercruyssen F, Hausswirth C, Brisswalter J. Drafting during swimming improves efficiency during subsequent cycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35:1612–1619. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000084422.49491.2C.

3 Bentley DJ, Millet GP, Vleck VE, McNaughton LR. Specific aspects of contemporary triathlon: implications for physiological analysis and performance. Sports Med. 2002;32:1–15. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200232060-00001.

4 Hausswirth C, Lehénaff D, Dréano P, Savonen K. Effects of cycling alone or in a sheltered position on subsequent running performance during a triathlon. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31:599–604. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199904000-00018.

5 Hausswirth C, Vallier JM, Lehenaff D, Brisswalter J, Smith D, Millet G, Dreano P. Effect of two drafting modalities in cycling on running performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001;33:485–492. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200103000-00023.

6 Le Meur Y, Hausswirth C, Dorel S, Bignet F, Brisswalter J, Bernard T. Influence of gender on pacing adopted by elite triathletes during a competition. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009;106:535–545. doi: 10.1007/s00421-009-1043-4.