Five Things To Make Open Water Swimming Easier

Wherever you are in the world you might well be in the situation where your pool is shut but you have access to some safe open water swimming. If you are new to swimming in open water you will find it's a very different environment with a different set of challenges to swimming in the pool.

With that in mind, here's five practical things you can try to help ease that transition from the pool to swimming in the great outdoors. Give them a try next time you swim!

1. Experiment With A Straighter Arm Recovery

If you watch elite open water swimmers and triathletes at work, you'll see that nearly all use a straighter arm recovery to a greater or lesser extent. In a wetsuit this takes the load off the shoulder muscles and when swimming in disturbed water (created by a field of swimmers) a straighter arm gives you more clearance and stops the hand catching on chop.

The arm doesn't need to be bolt straight - opening it out a little at the elbow can make all the difference. Carolyn demonstrates here:

2. Experiment With A Higher Stroke Rate

Swimming with a faster cadence is especially useful in disturbed water as it helps you punch through waves and chop more efficiently. This needn't be harder work - it's a bit like spinning a smaller gear on the bike - each stroke is less effort but you take more of them.

Think about getting into your catch a little quicker at the front of the stroke to lift your rate. This is quite subtle (it's easy to lift things too high and start fighting the water) so we recommend using a Tempo Trainer Pro in stroke rate mode and experiment with lifting your stroke rate by 5-6 SPM in a controlled way.

The best open water swimmers is the world mix up their stroke rate when racing, lengthening out their stroke in flat conditions and shortening the stroke subtly when things get a bit rougher.

3. Breathe Bilaterally

Oh god really? Yes! Breathing to both sides can make a huge difference to the symmetry of your stroke - and stroke symmetry means swimming straighter!

You can work on your swim fitness and stroke technique to the cows come home but if you can't swim straight in open water you will throw all your gains and much more besides. We know from GPS tracking and drone footage that age group triathletes can easily swim 10% or even 20% too far by swimming off course. Even if you are a few seconds per 100m slower breathing bilaterally you can gain this back and much more from swimming straighter.

It's so important to be adaptable in open water. For instance have you noticed how most open water swims and triathlon courses are anti-clockwise courses? If you can't breathe to the left then you're going to have a lot of trouble judging your position against the line of the buoys.

4. Focus On Your Exhalation

Most of us experience some level of anxiety when swimming in open water, it's only natural. That obviously makes open water swimming less enjoyable in itself but anxiety also leads us to instinctively hold our breath underwater.

Holding your breath causes CO2 to build up in your system, that feels uncomfortable and can easily trigger a panic attack. The solution to this viscous circle? For the first 5 to 10 minutes of your swim simply focus on blowing out smoothly underwater between breaths. CO2 levels will drop and you'll soon have things back under control again: breath-bubble-bubble-breath! 

Just like your best yoga-breathing technique, a smooth controlled exhalation will calm your sympathetic nervous system and bring the pleasure back into swimming outdoors.

5. Include A little Sighting Practise

Getting good at sighting is important - the key is to be able to look forwards comfortably without undue effort and without interrupting the flow of your stroke. The very best way to develop this technique is in the pool, sighting forwards regularly when you swim. Try sighting once per length at a random distance down the pool, picking out an object like a clock to read the time.

The key to good sighting technique is to not lift your head too high above the surface, just lift the eyes above the surface...

...and then immediately rotate to breathe to the side.

Read our dedicated post on this technique here:

Bringing It All Together

For one brilliant demonstration of how to bring all these elements together check out Swim Smooth Coach Anna-Karin's beautiful open water stroke:

Watch the full clip here:

This is a brilliant clip to watch just before you head into open water. Picture her stroke as you swim and feel yourself moving smoothly through the water.

Swim Smooth!


Get An *Online* Swim Smooth Video Analysis Of Your Swimming

Need help with your stroke technique? Did you know you can now beat the lockdown and book in for an Online Video Analysis with a Swim Smooth Certified Coach of your choice. This full analysis includes a 30 minute Zoom call with your coach!

Find our exactly what's holding you back in the water, whatever your ability level.

Follow these four simple steps to get world-class feedback on your stroke technique from one of our 50 coaches around the world, who are ready and waiting to help you out: 

STEP 1 - Find/Take Video Footage of Your Swimming

If you have access to a pool or open water, head down there to get some footage of your swimming (see here to see angles needed). If you are unable to get to the pool, but have previous footage of your swimming, send it in to our coaches and you'll be amazed at how much they can help you with your stroke.

STEP 2 - Upload Your Video To Our Online Video Analysis Website

Follow the link here, to upload your video footage to our website. If you have taken multiple angles/videos you will need to use the software we recommend on our website to splice them together.

STEP 3 -  Choose Your Coach And Send Off Your Video

Select the coach that is nearest to you and then select a suitable time for the analysis to take place. Choosing a coach that is near will make it easier to find a time that suits both of you as there will be less of a time difference. The coach will then take a look through your video and prepare for the full analysis using a zoom call with you.

STEP 4 - Introduce The Changes Recommended By Your Coach

The next time you're back in the water starting working on the improvements to your stroke technique recommended by your coach and take some large strides forwards in speed and efficiency:

As part of this service your coach will talk you through performing specific drills
to focus on important elements of your individual stroke technique.

Questions about this service? Let us know on and we'll get right back to you.

Swim Smooth!

Watch Paul's Open Water Swimming Masterclass

Just getting back to swimming? Swim Smooth founder Paul Newsome recently collaborated with Triathlon Victoria to deliver a Swim Smooth Open Water Masterclass for coaches in Australia.

The recording of this seminar has just been put online here:

If you are a budding coach or a swimmer wanting to understand their sport better then don't miss out on Paul's golden nuggets of information contained within. 

This presentation includes Paul's insights on:
  • The difference pool and open water swimming

  • What does true efficiency look like in the open water?

  • Getting your stroke right for open water
  • Structuring open water sessions
  • Protocols for getting back to the pool

Enjoy and Swim Smooth!


Swim Smooth Coaches Are Coming Back Online!

As fellow swimming enthusiasts, we completely understand how difficult it has been not being able to dive into the pool or enjoy the open water over the past few months. But we finally have some good news for you - nearly half of our Swim Smooth coaches are back up and running!

What better way to kickstart your swimming than booking in for a 1-to-1 video analysis session or joining one of our many Swim Smooth squads?

Swim Smooth St Albans' Coach, Emma MacDonald

See all the services that our coaches all around the world are offering:


Name: Merle Taviste
Location: Singapore
Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction
Contact Details:

Name: Paolo Mangilinan
Location: Dubai
Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke CorrectionContact Details:

Australia/New Zealand

Name: Paul Newsome
Location: Perth, Australia
Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction
Contact Details:

Name: Russell Smith
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction
Contact Details: 


Name: Anna-Karin Lundin
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Available Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction
Contact Details:

Name: Rob Kwaaitaal
Location: Nijmegen, Netherlands
Available Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction
Contact Details:

Name: Gabi Minarikova
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Available Services: July and August - 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction, Children's Commuter Camp and Camp for Junior Competitive Swimmers. From 1st September - Squad Sessions
Contact Details:

Name: Filip Rigole
Location: Belgium
Available Services: Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction (from September)
Contact Details:

Name: Maxine Strain
Location: Co. Kildare, Ireland
Available Services: Open Water Group Coaching, Open Water 1-to-1 Coaching, Open Water Coaching for Triathlon Clubs. 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction from mid-August.
Contact Details:


Name: Laura Ansell
Location: Kent
Available Services: Introduction to Open Water Group Coaching, Open Water 1-to-1 Coaching, Open Water Coaching for Youth Group. 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction from September 3rd.
Contact Details:

Name: Lucy Lloyd-Roach
Location: Manchester
Available Services: Open Water Group Coaching. 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction, Squad Sessions returning soon.
Contact Details:

Name: Emma MacDonald
Location: Bedford
Available Services: Introduction to Open Water (Group and 1-to-1), Open Water Skills & Technique Improvement (Group and 1-to-1). 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction and Squad Sessions returning soon.
Contact Details:

Name: Julian Nagi
Location: Acton, London
Available Services:  Squad Sessions (from 27th July), 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction. 
Contact Details:

Name: Toni Saunders
Location: Essex
Available Services:  Squad Sessions, 1-to-1 Open Water Coaching
Contact Details: 

Name: Russ Smith
Location: Guernsey
Available Services:  Squad Sessions
Contact Details:

Name: Jason Tait
Location: Swindon
Available Services:  Squad Sessions, Endless Pool 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction, Open Water 1-to-1 Sessions
Contact Details:

Name: Morgan Williams
Location: Yorkshire
Available Services:  Open Water Sessions, Open Water 1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction. 
Contact Details:

Name: Brent Perkins
Location: East Midlands
Available Services:  Training Camps (October 2020)

North America 

Name: Gemma Hollis
Location: Woodlands, Texas
Available Services:  Squad Sessions.
Contact Details:

Name: Mike Jotautas
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Available Services:  1-to-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction (in person and via Zoom), Virtual Squad Coaching.
Contact Details:

Name: Penny Mullan
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Available Services:  'Get Back In The Pool' Swim Session Series (6 sessions), 1-to-1 video analysis and stroke correction. 
Contact Details:

Swim Smooth!

Use A Smiley Face To Improve Your Swimming

Here's a super-simple visualisation to improve your swimming - it might seem really basic but it can help any level of swimmer from beginner right through to elite competitor:

The Smiley Face Visualisation

Start by grabbing a sharpie to draw a smiley face on the palm of your hand:

Now, when you jump in the water and swim, think about where that smiley face is pointing. During your pull through underwater, focus on keeping the palm of your hand showing the smiley face directly back behind you, to the wall you pushed off from:

By pressing the water backwards in this way you are propelling yourself forwards. But press water to the side, down (or even up) and you will working hard but not gaining any forward movement from the effort.

Keep Things Super Simple

Compared to other sports, it's extremely easy to over-coach swimming with too much complicated advice. Having too much to think about at any one time is a sure fire recipe for slow progress.

Much better to work on one simple thing at a time and really focus on it. That's why visualisations like this are so effective.

Try this one the next time you swim!

Swim Smooth

Short, Simple Sessions To Get Your Swimming Back On Track

For many people, we are starting to get a glimpse of normal life in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. From the regular contact we have had with the 50 Swim Smooth Certified Coaches across the world, the situation is looking more optimistic for our coaches and swimmers. It has been great to hear that some of our coaches are now able to offer some sort of swim training, whether that is Seamus Bennett,  (Felixstowe, UK) and Lucy Lloyd-Roach (Manchester, UK) running open water sessions or Merle Taviste (Singapore) and Linda Bostic (Florida, US) running reduced capacity squad sessions at the pool. 

Swim Smooth Dubai's, Paolo Mangilinan is back on the pool deck
Swim Smooth Dubai are back in the pool

In a recent conversation, Mary Jessey, from Swim Smooth Calgary, said pools were beginning to open up and are offering 30 minute slots for swimmers to book onto. Even though Mary's squad swimmers are jumping at the opportunity to get back into the water, they were asking for some inspiration to get the most out of their short training session. 

At Swim Smooth, we have just the thing for a short, sharp, intense training session with minimal equipment. Exactly what you need to get back into the swing of things!

Swim Smooth Suffolk's open water sea swim

The Perfect Pyramid

Equipment: Tempo Trainer set at CSS pace

Complete each of these swims at CSS pace with 5-6s rest in between. If you finish before the 30 minutes is up, repeat with 50m intervals (50m, 100m, 150m etc). See how far you can get and try to beat your distance in your next swim. 

1) 100m 

2) 200m

3) 300m

4) 400m

5) 300m

6) 200m

7) 100m

If you need more ideas to keep you improving in your short training sessions, check out our "Quick 'n' Easy Lunchtime Swims" on the Swim Smooth Guru (subscription required).  

We'd love to hear how you are getting on with your return back to swimming, so email or tag us in your posts on Facebook (Swim Smooth: The World's Most Passionate Swim Coaching!) and Instagram (@swimsmooth). 

Swim Smooth!


I Wasn't Quite Fit Enough To Keep Going!

Have you ever said that to yourself after a training set? It started so well, you hit all your times, then in the second half you struggled and missed them by quite a stretch.

The easy conclusion to draw is just that - you weren't quite fit enough and next time will be better. That's it, end of story.

But the truth is otherwise - if you couldn't sustain a pace then you paced the set badly. And as a result you didn't get the same fitness gain from your set as you should have done and what's more, you re-enforced the habit of bad pacing.

If like most of us you've had an enforced break from swimming due to the Covid-19 crisis then you will have lost fitness and you'll find this even more of an issue than normal. 

You might find the temptation to try and hit your times from a few months back - don't do that. Train to the fitness level you have NOW - that's all the matters. Do that and your times will quickly come down again.

Pacing isn't a sexy concept (it's actually quite boring) but good pacing is a critical skill if you want to get the most from your time in the water and achieve your best performances.

Swim Smooth!

The Need For A Double Sleep

When training towards a goal, it is easy to adopt the mindset that the more training sessions you can get in the better. This is especially true for triathletes or cross-training athletes who are training nearly every day (and sometimes twice a day).

If you have recently managed to get back to training with a big burst of enthusiasm, you might have the attitude of "I missed this so much I'll train and train until I drop!". But don't underestimate the importance of scheduling and sticking to your rest days. You need them!

Training hard and regularly without having appropriate rest will have a detrimental effect on your performance and even make you ill.  Every training session results in a small degree of damage to your muscles, nerves and connective tissues. It also fatigues your energy systems and leaves you depleted. Rest days are important in helping to restore energy levels and repair and rejuvenate those parts of the body that get damaged during training sessions.

If you are a really driven individual you might think "Yeah but if I train in the morning on Thursday and evening on Friday that's over 24 hours rest!" - but the mistake here is to underestimate the importance of sleep for recovery. Try thinking of a rest day as a "double sleep" instead and you'll get a much truer picture of what you need. Taking this time out from your training will allow you to get back to the pool feeling energetic and ready to keep working towards your goal.

How many rest days do I need? We would normally suggest one clear day off per week but if you are especially tired don't be afraid to take a second day off. Striking the right balance between training and recovery is essential to improve your fitness - remember you are gaining, not losing, from the additional rest.

So driven you can't actually do nothing? If you just have to include something on your rest day then make it a stretching routine - especially for your hip flexorsthoracic area and shoulders - areas often neglected by swimmers. Improving flexibility in these areas will help to raise your body position in the water and improve your stroke technique.

You can access our full stretching routine on our Swim Smooth Guru (subscription required) which would be a perfect addition to your rest day:

Swim Smooth!

Just Get To That 7th Swim And You'll Be Fine

It could be that where you live your local pool is re-opening after a Covid-19 shutdown. If you're lucky enough to be in that situation, or planning your return when you can get back in the water, then you may be wondering how long it will take to get back into the swing of things.

The answer might be shorter than you thought. The first sessions back will feel a bit of a struggle but that's OK, keep pushing on through. We predict that on your seventh session, although you won't be back to full fitness, you will be swimming well and feeling pretty good.

So your challenge is simply to keep going and get to that seventh swim - do that by swimming three times two weeks running, we call it: #2weeks6swims

The first few sessions are probably going to be tough as your body wakes back up to the idea of swimming again. Have the motivation to mechanically push through this period and keep coming back knowing that you will reap the rewards of your hard work in two weeks time. By your seventh session, you'll be getting your rhythm back and you will start to feel that old magic again!

To help make this a little easier and encourage you back into the water, we have written a special training plan for you (don't worry it starts gently!). Check out our 'Bounce Back After Covid-19' Training Plan on the Swim Smooth Guru (subscription required). We not only provide plans for your first 6 sessions but also the 28 sessions to carry on after that - so there is no excuse for you to not push through those first two weeks back swimming.

We'd love to support you and others through this so please take pictures and send through to us at or share on instagram and facebook tagging @swimsmooth or Swim Smooth: The World's Most Passionate Swim Coaching and using the hashtag #2weeks6swims. We can't wait to hear about the progress that you have been made!

Stay safe and get to that seventh session...

Swim Smooth!

Meet the Swim Smooth Coaches of 2020 from Ireland, Wales, East Midlands, Dubai, Canada and New Zealand!

Swim Smooth are super-proud to announce six brand new Certified Coaches to help you take your swimming to the next level, including former ITU World Number 1 triathlete Sam Warriner!

Training to be a SS Coach is a huge undertaking. Developing the necessary skills and experience of advanced video analysis, stroke correction, squad coaching and open water skills takes time and cannot be rushed. We are fortunate enough to be able to pick our coaches from a large talent pool but even for experienced coaches the training is very intense, including that famous trip to Perth, Australia.

Whether you are a complete beginner or elite competitor, when you see a Swim Smooth Coach you can be assured you are seeing a talented, highly trained individual with the very best coaching methods at their disposal.

So without further ado, let's meet the Swim Smooth Class of 2020:

Meet L-R: Brent, Andrea, Sam, Maxine, Penny and Paolo

Sam Warriner - Swim Smooth Taupo, New Zealand

Sam Warriner, New Zealand's most successful female triathlete, former ITU World Number 1 and Ironman Champion.

We’re pleased to announce Sam Warriner amongst our new crop of 2020 Swim Smooth accredited coaches. Based in Taupō New Zealand, Sam launches Swim Smooth Taupō this week in the home of Ironman New Zealand and at the venue for the upcoming Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Sam competed in the triathlon at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics and took silver in the 2006 Commonwealth Games as well as being victorious in 7 ITU World Cup events, winning the ITU World Cup series overall in 2008.

In 2009 Sam won the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman in a course record time of 4:10:47, and after racing ITU triathlon went on to win 7 x Ironman 70.3 events around the world. In 2011 Sam won Ironman New Zealand just 14 weeks after recovering from heart surgery.

Samantha, retired from the pro field now runs a successful coaching business, Sweat7 Coaching based in Taupo New Zealand and is excited to launch Swim Smooth Taupō and bring the philosophies of Swim Smooth to the many swimmers who travel to Taupō for racing and training in the beautiful lakeside town.

Andrea Garrington - Swim Smooth Wales

Andrea is delighted to be the only certified Swim Smooth coach in Wales, UK.

She has been aware of the Swim Smooth coaching principles since she began my “Tri Life” ten years ago.  Andrea still can't believe that she is now able to bring Swim Smooth to Wales.

Having worked for 30 years in commercial training and development, 5 years ago Andrea shifted this experience to coaching Triathlon, a sport that she has become very passionate about. Triathlon reignited her enthusiasm for swimming.  Now, as well as finishing multiple Iron Man events, Andrea has completed countless marathon swims and in 2018 joined a successful English Channel relay team.

Whilst studying for the British Triathlon Federation qualifications, Andrea discovered that BTF fully endorses the Swim Smooth principles and educates its coaches on the basic methodology.
Impressed with the difference Swim Smooth made to her own stroke, Andrea searched for a local coach to help her progress, and was astonished to find there wasn’t one.

For Andrea, it was a one in a lifetime opportunity and in February 2020 she spent 2 weeks in Perth, Australia (the spiritual home of Swim Smooth), concluding the 14 month process to become fully certified.

So here she is now, able to welcome you to Swim Smooth Wales! Andrea is super confident that she can help you, whatever your swim challenges or goals may be.

Brent Perkins - Swim Smooth East Midlands, UK

Brent is a firm believer in the coach/athlete relationship, it's important to recognise this is a key performance factor in today’s modern sporting environment, and like any other relationship it is defined by the quality of understanding, respect, trust and predictability that exists between the coach and the athletes, this philosophy is fundamental. 

Brent has been a professional triathlon and swim coach for the past 12 years and is now a Certified Swim Smooth coach which has added an additional positive dimension to his skill set plus he benefits from being part of the world wide Swim Smooth network. He coaches and works with athletes working towards their training and racing goals.

In 2020 he has coached and worked with athletes to win Age Group World & European Championships in both Triathlon and Duathlon and Ironman World championships slots. As a Qualified Triathlon, Run and Swim coach, a British Triathlon Team Manager, a Certified Training Peaks Coach, plus of course one of 50 certified Swim Smooth Coaches in the World, he also won Triathlon England East Midlands coach of the year 2020.

It's his aim to help guide his athletes to achieve personal goals and enjoy the journey and have fun along the way too. As an athlete he has competed in races of all distances all over the world including multiple Ironman and 70.3’s. He has also held age group titles and has raced at both ITU World and ETU European level, as well as competing in several ultra running events.

In the spring and the autumn, Brent can be found in Mallorca, running triathlon and swim camps. All camps include full video swim analysis, individual 1:2:1 sessions and of course swimming in the best open water locations that Mallorca has to offer.

Maxine Strain - Swim Smooth Ireland

Maxine is a Swim Smooth and ITU Triathlon coach, who has a particular focus on developing swimmers and triathletes for open water swimming.

She works with all levels of swimmers, and really enjoys seeing those new to the water develop into confident, open water competitors.  Growing up in South Africa, Maxine spent most of her spare time in the pool, both as a leisure activity and as a competitor in school and youth swim meets in her local area. Later in life, after emigrating to Ireland, Maxine discovered the joys of open water swimming and has been a passionate advocate ever since.

On leaving college a career as a busy business executive beckoned, but Maxine always felt her calling was more suited to flip flops than high heels. Eventually the opportunity arose, and Maxine decided to follow her dream and love of swimming by creating her own swim teaching and coaching business which she called AquaSchool.

Maxine offers world class swim video analysis, 1-to-1 swim coaching, adult squad swims, triathlon coaching and swim clinics for triathlon clubs and groups. In 2020 Maxine was chosen to train as a Swim Smooth Coach which entailed intensive training in Perth, Australia for two weeks. Maxine is now delighted to be part of the international Swim Smooth network of coaches.

Paolo Mangilinan - Swim Smooth Dubai

Paolo Mangilinan has a strong background in swimming on the international level and couple of years ago discovered his passion for triathlon. Now, with more than 8 years of coaching experience Paolo decided to take his swimming coaching career to the next level by bringing the Swim Smooth methodology back to Dubai. He has a very professional and friendly approach to every athlete. Paolo truly believes that the key to real improvement is to coach the athlete as an individual to help all the athletes to reach their full potential in swimming. 

Not only does Paolo achieve great success with his coaching, but also his triathlon performances. Paolo is a 10 times 70.3 Ironman finisher and a 2 time ironman qualifier. The extensive personal experience Paolo has in triathlon, allows him to empathise, train and support his athletes in the most effective way. 

Penny Mullan - Swim Smooth British Columbia, Canada

Penny is a Certified Swim Coach with the Coaching Association of Canada. In addition to 15 years of Club coaching with the Comox Valley Aquatic Club Penny is also a Certified Swim Smooth Coach. Certification with Swim Smooth requires experience and knowledge as a swim coach, as well as a 12 month intensive coaching program with Swim Smooth including special intensive training at their home-base in Perth, Australia.

Penny has the skills, experience and knowledge to dramatically improve your individual swimming whatever level you are currently at! Her extensive swim coach background combined with a Kinesiology degree and training in Counselling and Life Coaching has prepared Penny to bring her best coach self to Swim Smooth BC.

Swim Smooth!


Bilateral Breathing Is Dead Easy In A Wetsuit

Here's two seemingly disconnected things:

You tried bilateral breathing but found it too hard and gave up?

And your pool is shut but you have the opportunity to swim in open water in a wetsuit?

If that's you, we have an opportunity for you:

Swimming in a wetsuit dramatically reduces the load placed on your breathing. This happens because your body is lifted higher in the water by the buoyancy of the suit. That reduces the effort required from your arm stroke (because your drag has been reduced) and reduces the effort required from your kick (because your body is already lifted higher)*. 

It follows then that the lower oxygen demand of wetsuit swimming makes bilateral breathing dramatically easier. So if you can overcome the tendency everyone has to hold their breath in open water (more on this below) then now is the perfect time to revisit bilateral breathing and start reaping those benefits!

Some tips:

- Start at an easy pace.

- Focus on a long smooth exhalation in the water between breaths. This is good breathe technique because it helps get rid of CO2 from your system and will help overcome any open water anxiety.

- Focus on keeping your big toes brushing together. If you normally breathe to one side only it's likely that you have a scissor kick opening up behind you like a parachute. Focusing on the tap-tap-tap of your big toes will keep your legs together and dramatically reduce drag.

Also Try Five (Or Even Seven)

If you already swimming bilaterally in the pool then take advantage of the lower aerobic load in a wetsuit by experimenting with breathing every five or even seven strokes. Everyone's stroke technique and symmetry deteriorates when they are breathing so doing so less frequently means swimming faster and straighter.

It's not just the effect of the wetsuit's buoyancy, most swimmers instinctively swim with a higher stroke rate (cadence) in open water and this will mean the time between breaths is reduced.

Learn A New Skill During The Lockdown

If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while then you'll be used to us waxing lyrical about the benefits of bilateral breathing to your stroke technique. Nothing else gives the same gains when it comes to improving your symmetry in the water - reducing drag and helping you work on your propulsive technique.

So learn a new skill today. You never know, the habit might even stick when your pool eventually reopens. :)

Swim Smooth!


Your Individual Stroke Rate

When you swim your stroke rate is how many strokes you take per minute. Think of this like your cadence in cycling, are you turning your arms over quickly (like spinning an easy gear on the bike) or slowly (pushing a big gear)?

We measure stroke rate in strokes taken per minute (counting both your arms individually) and you can control yours accurately with a gadget like the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. Adjust it to any stroke rate you like and simply time your stroke so that your hand enters the water at the front of the stroke as the beep goes. In this way you can make very precise adjustments.

Here's Swim Smooth Coach Anna-Karin swimming at around 65 strokes per minute (SPM) in open water:

If this animation isn't playing at full speed, see the full clip here

Stroke rates vary considerably from individual to individual as we will discuss below. This also holds true in the elite swimming world with the total range being from as low as 65 SPM right up to 110 SPM. It all depends on the swimmer's natural stroke style, the event they are racing and the environment in which they are swimming.

With all this variation how do you decide what stroke rate you should be targeting? A good angle to examine this problem is by using our Swim Type system. If you can identify your swim type (do so here: then we can give you some very specific advice on where you should be heading with your stroke rate.

Let's get started:

Type 1. The Arnie

Arnies are the classic swimmers who fight the water and this is reflected in their stroke rate which is too high for their swimming ability, typically in the range 70-85 SPM. Unfortunately they can't sustain this cadence for long and it will drop off after 200m or so. This leaves the naturally athletic Arnie feeling out of breath and unfit.

If this sounds like you, work on lengthening out your stroke and removing a likely crossover of the centre line in front of your head. Consciously lowering your stroke rate will help with this, but don't go too low or you will start to Overglide! Use your Tempo Trainer to target something closer to 60SPM and you'll soon be swimming much more effectively.

Typical stroke rate: 70-85 SPM (but drops quickly after a few lengths)
Good target range: 55-65 SPM

Type 2. The Bambino

Bambinos tend to be new to swimming and as any beginner knows when starting something new, there is a lot to think about! They are quite tentative when they swim and this results in a slow stroke rate in the range 45-55 SPM. If you are a Bambino then experiment lifting your stroke rate to around 55-65 SPM. It helps to provide rhythm and purpose to you stroke and despite turning your arms over faster it should actually feel easier as you develop a better sense of rhythm!

Typical stroke rate: 45-55 SPM
Good target range: 55-65 SPM

Type 3. The Kicktastic

Do you swim slower with a pull buoy? Hate swimming in a wetsuit? You are likely to fall into our Kicktastic swim type. Kicktastics often feel weak in their arms and feel they need to build muscle to help with their swimming. This is in fact a common misconception - what you should be focusing on is improving your catch technique rather than strengthening your arm muscles.

Improving your catch technique not only helps you to move more efficiently in the water but it will also naturally increase your stroke rate without any extra effort. You are likely to be in the 53-65 SPM range right now but by developing your catch you should shift up to around 65-75 SPM, reducing your reliance on your leg kick as you do so.

Remember to develop your catch technique first as trying to lift your stroke rate without improving your catch will be extremely challenging! To do that check out the Catch Masterclass on our Swim Smooth Guru which takes you through our step-by-step guide.

Typical stroke rate: 53-65 SPM
Good target range: 65-75 SPM

Type 4. The Overglider

A major focus on lengthening out and reducing strokes taken per length is the hallmark of the Overglider Swim Type, resulting in the elbow dropping and palm facing forwards at the front of the stroke. This creates a dead spot at the front of the stroke, negatively impacting your speed and efficiency.

When this is taken to the extreme, stroke rates can be as slow as 45 SPM but more typically Overgliders sit in the low 50s SPM. As with the Kicktastic, work on removing the deadspot and improving your catch technique to lift your stroke rate naturally. Don't fall into the trap of turning your arms over faster whilst keeping the deadspot in place - that's extremely hard work. Instead move your arms at the same speed but lift your cadence by removing the pause - instant efficiency gain!

Again, the Catch Masterclass on our Swim Smooth Guru is the perfect program for you.

Typical stroke rate: 45-53 SPM
Good target range: 60-65 SPM

Type 5. The Swinger 

Swingers are incredible to watch, they are fast swimmers who have natural punch and rhythm to their strokes. This is effective in the pool but in undulating open water conditions it's a superior stroke style which allows them to dominate.

Their stroke rates are the highest of all swimmers, normally in the 80-100 SPM range. This is great and is something to be maintained but with a big focus on rhythm they can sometimes hurry their catch a little at the front of the stroke. With that in mind they may need to slightly lower their stroke rate to develop their catch before lifting things up again. A drop of 5 SPM or so should be enough to achieve this.

Typical stroke rate: 80-100 SPM
Development range: experiment with dropping around 5 SPM

Type 6. The Smooth

Smooths have long elegant strokes and make their swimming look easy and effortless! Fundamentally they are swimming in the right way for them but sometimes focus slightly too much on lengthening the stroke at the expense of their stroke rhythm.

If you are Smooth but perhaps not swimming as well as you used to, perform a little catch development work which should help lift your stroke rate by around 5 SPM and "click" you back into good stroke timing. And when venturing into the open water, lifting your stroke rate will help you to better drive through disturbed waves and chop.
Typical stroke rate: 60-70 SPM
Development range: experiment with lifting around 5 SPM

Swim Smooth!

Swim Smooth Podcast with Craig "Crowie" Alexander

We've just released the latest episode of the Swim Smooth Podcast featuring a special interview with 5-time Ironman World Champion Craig "Crowie" Alexander:

Youtube (including video):

Crowie was the 2008, 2009, 2011 Ironman Triathlon World Champion and the 2006 and 2011 70.3 World Champion. In 2011 he won both the 70.3 and the full Ironman World Championships. Needless to say - he's a beast, but best of all, he's an absolute gentleman too!

Craig was humbled when Ironman legend and six-time World Champion Dave Scott lauded him as “the first true men’s champion the sport has seen in years.”

The most important thing to Craig is family. He is beyond proud of his wife (and the love of his life) Nerida, and his three amazing kids, Lucy, Austin and Lani. Everything Craig does starts and ends at home with his family. Crowie’s won a lot of titles over the years but the one he likes best is ‘Daddy’. As an aside from us, we've only met Crowie once face-to-face but recall how genuine and approachable he was and when the opportunity to record this podcast with the great man came up, he didn't hesitate, such is his show of great character - he's very much "the people's champion" as you'll hear in the first 60 second intro.

Post-retirement, Craig now runs his highly successful coaching program SansEGO (which basically means "without ego") which we believe, at it's heart, is a philosophy we can all learn from (details at: A lot of people talk about “life balance” but Craig really does walk the walk and his information from his website is well worth a deeper dive, especially at this period in time of extreme uncertainty and worry:

His load was extraordinarily heavy but he carried it with methodical focus and balance… and Craig seemed to find more and more comfort with his confidence in simply letting be, be. Alexander’s most impressive talents are not found in his swim, bike, or run competence. Instead, his unique ability to clear the mind’s clutter and make good decisions has been the key ingredient to his success on and off the racecourse. And this key to finding clarity for the 5 x Ironman/70.3 World Champion was getting the life balance right. He put the right people around him and understood that the whole was only stronger than the sum of its parts when the clutter (ego) was removed from the equation.

We really hope you enjoy this conversation with Crowie and a big shout out to Coach Chris Southwell for arranging.

Swim Smooth!

Getting Back In The Open Water - Our Guide

At Swim Smooth we're very lucky that the local government in Perth, Western Australia has started to allow small groups of people to train together in open water. This opens up the opportunity for our home base coaching crew to restart some group swim coaching in the beautiful Swan River. We haven't had a single case of community transmission in the last two weeks in Western Australia, making it one of the safest places in the world right now.

Rules vary significantly from country to country but as restrictions are lifted you too might soon have this same opportunity to swim in open water where you live. With that in mind Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome has filmed a new video we've just released to Youtube showing you exactly how he's going about conducting safe and fun open water sessions with his swimmers:

As a swimmer, we hope that inspires to get you into open water action as and when you are allowed. Equally we wanted to show other coaches around the world a possible template to get themselves back on track and delivering sessions again.

Most importantly make sure you stay safe, only swim where there is good open water safety cover and strictly follow your local restrictions.

Swim Smooth!

Here's some more shots from the fun in Perth:


The Key To Improving Your Swimming In A Single Picture

With many parts of the world starting to open up after the Covid-19 crisis, you might be able to return to swimming quite soon, probably first in open water. With that in mind, this week on the blog we thought we'd gently re-introduce the idea of how to go about improving your swimming when you do get those arms turning over again.

Firstly, do you know your Swim Type?

After observing tens of thousands of swimmers in action over 20 years of coaching, our Head Coach Paul Newsome identified 6 classic types of swimmer, from beginner right through to Olympian. We call this system Swim Types and it cleverly brings together your background, your natural build, your personality and your stroke technique into one cohesive picture. From that starting point we can address your weaknesses so you start improving.

Get started by discovering your type here:

To get your brain cogs whirring, we thought we'd choose a simple visualisation for each Swim Type which sums up what you need to do to improve your swimming in a "big picture" holistic kind of way. Print it out, stick on your fridge, and every time you go to get the milk out you'll be reminded of what you need to work on.

How accurately does your image apply to your swimming?!

The Arnie

Arnies are the classic swimmers who fight the water when they swim. A large feature of the Arnie strokes is a crossover with the lead head crossing the centre line in front of the head. This causes you to snake down the pool, wasting a lot of energy in the process.

Here's the image we chose for you - it's of the very awesome Jono Van Hazel, extending straight forward in front of his shoulder:

Take this simple visualisation with you when you get back in the water, focus on extending straight and not crossing over and you'll immediately be setting off on the right pathway to improvement.

The Bambino

Bambis, this is yours:

For most Bambinos a lack of confidence is holding them back in the water. This directly impacts on your stroke technique which is normally overly gentle and lacking "oomph".

The next time you get back in the water visualise that you are in fact a swimming super-hero and swim with purpose and intent. You'll immediately feel good and your stroke technique will improve from great positivity. Go on, dive right in, you can do this!

The Kicktastic

As is pretty obvious from their name, Kicktastics have a strong tendency to over-kick when they swim. This reflects a lack of propulsion from their arm stroke - which happens because they pull through under the body with a very straight arm.

Kicktastics, your single visualisation is to bend the elbow and pull through with it bent to 100-120 degrees. The hand should track underneath the shoulder as it does so:

Not only does this create more propulsion but it engages the larger muscle groups of the back and chest, so feels easier too. The result is faster, easier swimming with less reliance on your kick.

The Overglider

OK guys, here's your visualisation:

What can you see? Nothing? Great! Give your google search engine a rest and stop thinking and over-analysing your swim stroke so much. Over-thinking when you swim is seriously holding you back, instead try using intuitive feel and your body's innate abilities to swim more naturally.

The Swinger

Swingers naturally swim with a high stroke rate - giving them great punch and rhythm to the stroke. This is a good thing but oftentimes they end up hurrying the catch at the front of the stroke, "tearing" at the water. Try this visualisation to smoothly engage with the water at this point and not overly hurry your movements:

OK we cheated a little and gave you a moving image but you get the idea - caress the water before driving with your usual sense of purpose once you stroke moves under your chest.

The Smooth

Smooths have all the natural ability in the world... but ironically them often lack motivation to make the most of this natural ability.

With that in mind, here's your visualisation:

Yes, we just want to see you back in the water! Overcome that lack of motivation by setting a solid goal that fires you up, get those competitive juices flowing again and actually get back in the blue stuff again!

Stay safe and well,

Swim Smooth!

HUUB 50% OFF SALE - Understanding Buoyancy Profiles

As we are sure you've noticed, we've got some stunning 50% OFF deals on 2020 HUUB wetsuits right now. Remember the sale ENDS ON MONDAY! :

HUUB wetsuits come in three major buoyancy profiles and it's important you choose the right one for you, for maximum comfort, stability and of course speed.

These buoyancy profiles are labelled 3:3, 4:4 and 3:5. But what do these numbers mean and which is right for you?

The numbers refer to the thickness of the main areas of neoprene: 3 = 3mm (that's thin for a wetsuit), 4 = 4mm and 5 (you guessed it) = 5mm, the maximum legal thickness in triathlon.

The first number refers to the upper body of the wetsuit and the second the lower body. So 3:5 means 3mm in the upper body and 5mm in the lower.

Obviously more thickness means more buoyancy but where that buoyancy is placed is super important:

The Sinky Legged Swimmer

If you have sinky legs (as many men and some women do) then you obviously want to lift your legs up as high as possible with your wetsuit to minimise drag.

Maximum buoyancy all over then? Actually, no! You want maximum buoyancy in the legs (5mm) but minimum buoyancy in the chest (3mm) because your body acts a bit like a see-saw in the water. Bring your front end down with less buoyancy in the chest and that brings your legs up even more to reduce drag further.

Of course having nice thin material in the upper body also gives maximum flexibility for shoulder and upper back movement - peachy.

Recommended profile: 3:5
Suits: HUUB Brownlee Agilis 3:5   HUUB Varman 3:5   HUUB Aegis II 3:5

The Naturally Buoyant Female Swimmer

Most women have great natural body positions in the water, sitting nice and high with the legs near the surface. If this is you, you might actually dislike swimming in a wetsuit because it makes you feel unstable, awkward and unable to use your kick as you'd like to.

That happens because a high buoyancy wetsuit lifts you too high in the water, leading to instability and causing you to kick into thin air! This is further exacerbated in the ocean where the extra buoyancy from the salt water lifts you even higher.

The solution here is to make the whole suit from 3mm neoprene - a low level of buoyancy overall which allows you to sit in a natural position in the water. The difference is remarkable and the thinner suit keeps you looking slim, is super comfortable and easy to get on and off too - smooth!

Recommended profile: 3:3
Suits:  HUUB Aegis III 3:3  HUUB Brownlee Agilis Womens

The Neutral Male Swimmer

Many experienced swimmers have good body positions in the water but could still benefit from a small lift at both the back and front to bring their drag down a smidgen. Those with a competitive swimming background normally fall into this bracket.

If this is you, 4mm in both the upper and lower body is a nice compromise. It allows you to retain a natural feeling when you swim and if you like to engage your kick you can do that cleanly too. If you've never swum in a wetsuit before you'll be amazed at the extra performance a great suit can bring.

Recommended profile: 4:4
Suits: HUUB Brownlee Agilis 4:4 

If you have a question about your choice of HUUB wetsuit or sizing of it, then send us an email to or simply reply to this email.

And don't miss those deals! :

Swim Smooth!

More Visualisation = A Better Stroke

Paul Newsome - Swim Smooth Head Coach:

"When I started training for the Lake Windermere swim this year, I was only able to swim 5-6 hours a week. After a few weeks I was surprised to see that I was making similar improvements in my training to people in the squad who were training 8-10 hours per week. I realised that simply being on the pool deck thinking about swimming and constantly demonstrating good stroke technique was giving me much needed visualisation time and turned out to be equally beneficial for my training as spending time in the water."

Studies show that visualising a movement activates the same areas of the brain as actually performing that movement. This means that taking the time to visualise a perfect swim stroke really does assist in developing great technique. In swimming, where stroke technique is so important to improve your efficiency and speed in the water, more visualisation could be the answer!

Here's the thing: In a training session it is easy to lose focus during long sessions, which could mean you only end up thinking about your technique for about a quarter of that time. If you normally swim 2-4 hours per week, that means you might only have 30-60 minutes a week of active visualisation.

How can we boost that? We suggest setting aside 3x 10 minutes a week to visualise great stroke technique, which will boost your visualisation time without having to spend more hours in the water. Making this small addition to your weekly routine will have a positive impact on your stroke technique when you do return to the water.

At Swim Smooth we have a wealth of resources available to you to assist with "land based visualisation" - it is very much at the core of our swim program. Use them regularly to develop your swimming:

Our Animated Stroke Visualisations

This is the perfect visualisation tool. You can view Mr Smooth's stroke from pretty much any angle to focus in on the parts of your stroke that need the most work. If you don't have it already, download it onto your computer or iPhone totally for free:

And for just US$2.99 / GB£2.99 you can also purchase the PRO version which includes Miss Swinger demonstrating the Swinger stroke style:


Elite Swimmer Visualisations

Swim Smooth's library of elite swimmer visualisations is unique and extensive. Some of these can be found on Youtube and many more in the Swim Smooth Guru (Standard level subscription required).

Here's a selection of five of our favourites:

The phenomenal olympic swimmer Jono Van Hazel - the basis for the Mr Smooth animation and perhaps the smoothest swimmer in the world? Watch out for his beautifully timed symmetrical stroke:

Triathlon World Champion Jodie Swallow, all rhythm and power:

Double Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Adlington - simply poetry in motion:

Six time world marathon swimming champion Shelley Taylor Smith demonstrating a phenomenal catch and beautiful two-beat kick:

Triathlon World Champion Tim Don, another fantastically rhythmical stroke full of purpose and agility :

Paul Newsome's voiceover on these videos makes sure that you are focussing on the right things when watching each clip.

Rebecca Adlington in the Swim Smooth Guru

Whilst we are unable to actually be in the pool at the moment, let's harness the power of visualisation to make improvements in our stroke technique.

Swim Smooth!

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