Should You Be Blurring The Lines Between Training And Racing?

Newsflash: A space has just become available on our special one-off Swim Smooth Clinic in Montreal on 21st July at the Olympic Stadium! Grab this place now - it is sure to snapped up quickly:

Sometimes it's good to take a look across different sports and see what we can learn, and if there's a different way of doing things.

If you are a distance swimmer or triathlete you might lay out your season with some A races that get you motivated and in which you want your best performance. During the build up you will probably include some B and C races to get yourself "race sharp" and become familiar with the feelings and adrenaline rush of racing again. But fundamentally you train to get fit and then race for results.

Swim 8 races in 7 days? A lot of fun and yes you certainly get fit fast!
Obviously this works for many swimmers but this way of looking at things isn't universal in sport. In fact in the culture of many endurance sports, athletes use the motivation (and pleasure) of racing to "race themselves fit". In cycling for example many athletes simply ride long base endurance rides in training and then race every weekend (and sometimes midweek too) to develop their top-end speed. These events might be road races, circuit races or a local time-trial series.

Of course a race provides you with instant motivation and the competitive environment helps you to really push yourself. You might well find you are fitter than you thought, breaking you out of a psychological rut that you didn't even realise you are in - "I'm just not that fit yet".

Low key races normally have a fun social side too and having that comparison against other athletes helps you judge your progress and gives you an awareness of where you are at. You will accrue racing experience much more quickly too - developing vital skills such as your pace judgement and tactical awareness.

So there are some huge upsides to this approach. However, it does provide some challenges - mostly psychological:

- You may be used to tapering down to race and feel that you need to do so to race anywhere near your best. Of course you simply can't do that if you are racing frequently, by resting up every week you will lose too much training. Instead you have to get used to the fact you can race with some training fatigue in your system. Interestingly you may well discover you can still perform at a high level without a taper - in fact if you normally (unknowingly) over-taper, you may actually perform better!

- Over the winter and in the early season you also have to get your head around the fact that you are not going to be in peak fitness and that your performances will not be as fast as they will be for your A race later on. If you are worried what your friends and competitors will think then you need to swallow your pride and get over yourself - nobody cares that much and nor should you. Learn to shrug like Mega Megan Shrug - "whatever" - and get out there and get the benefits of racing!

So what are we saying then? Should everyone look to gain fitness through racing frequently as a mainstay of your preparation? Not quite, we would say that it is a perfectly valid way of getting fit, that is a lot of fun and has a lot of advantages. It's going to depend a bit on your situation and if you have regular racing opportunities on your doorstep. But fundamentally don't overlook this route as a possibility, it could be just the shake-up to your preparation you need.

Paul's Experience At The Best Fest

As an example of this race-to-get-fit approach, our head coach Paul Newsome raced the Best Fest Swim Series in Mallorca in May, comprising 8 races in 7 days.

Hi everyone, here's a quick summary of my swimming week:

Day 1: 5km parallel to one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, Es Trenc
Day 2: 4.5km (actually 6km given a course change due to rough weather)
Day 3: 1.5km in the morning and 2.5km individual time trial in the afternoon
Day 4: 3km over an extinct Italian volcano, complete with fresh water spring (chilly!)
Day 5: 10km circuit course alongside some of the world’s best open water swimmers (my goal = not to get lapped on the 1.4km circuit - I didn’t…just!)
Day 6: 3.8km Ironman distance swim (see above - I won this event overall đŸ˜„)
Day 7: 4 x 500m relay (which I shared 2 legs with another UK based swimmer called Ceri - we won the overall mixed title đŸ˜„đŸ˜„)

I wasn't at peak swim fitness going into this series but despite a complete lack of tapering and very short recoveries between swims, I swam better and better through the week and managed to win one of the races.

It's amazing what you can achieve when your body goes into "race-mode", shrugging off fatigue that would otherwise slow you down in training. I came away from the week absolutely buzzing and raring to get back into my regular training routine in Perth.

Don't be afraid to give the race-to-fitness approach a go yourself!

Paul stretching out before the 5km Colonia Classic

Swim Smooth!

Meet The Bold & Beautiful Swim Squad

The Feel For The Water blog is normally about improving your swimming directly through tips, techniques and advice from Swim Smooth. But sometimes we discover something so uplifting in the world of swimming that we just have to share it with you, and this is one of those times.

Julie Isbill is a Swim Smooth squad swimmer in Perth, Australia who started something really special when she was based over in Manly, New South Wales. It's a swimming group called Bold & Beautiful and she's here to tell you about it below.

We think Bold & Beautiful is just fantastic and we would love to see more swimming groups like this around the world. Why not get inspired by her initiative and start one yourself??!

Julie takes up the story and shares with us some of the secrets of its success:

Bold & Beautiful Swim Squad (B&B) is a free community group in Manly that I started quite accidentally when I offered to take a friend for a swim on Boxing Day, 2008. We committed to meet the following morning at 7am and there were 5 of us that first morning, as my friend had done some ringing around to rally the troops for moral support.

Since that day, in nearly 9 and a half years, over 17,000 swimmers have swum with B&B. It's common these days to see around 300 people swimming on any given morning come rain, hail or shine. Collectively B&B have never missed a morning swim since the day we started, thanks to a wonderful team of volunteers who work hard continuously to keep the group running smoothly, 365 days a year for everyone.

Watch a short 90sec video clip the Daily Telegraph put together of the B&B 6 years ago, nothing has changed except the number of swimmers:

So, what is it that makes B&B so popular, special and such an important, integral part of so many people's lives?

There are many reasons for different people I'm sure, but key to most is the fact that it's regular, available, non-competitive and inclusive. It has obviously filled a niche within the community. It gives people a reason to get up in the morning, social contact and involves them in great exercise with fun and friendly, like-minded people, not to mention swimming in a stunning part of the world, over a no-take aquatic marine reserve. B&B quite literally encompasses people from all walks of life and everyone is equal in their cossies. Again, something which is very liberating and beautifully unique.

The fact that B&B is so welcoming and inclusive is I’m sure what makes it part of people’s weekly, if not daily ritual, which you can follow on our daily blog or daily attendance website.


Daily Attendance:

What makes it so welcoming and inclusive?

Every swimmer is welcomed by a fellow swimmer, sent an email and given a complementary pink cap courtesy of one of our sponsors, currently Manly Paradise Beachfront Motel and Apartments.

When 7am strikes, everyone enters the water together, waits at the point before collectively swimming across to Shelly Beach, where everyone waits again before the return leg, followed by a well-earned après swim coffee together.

Later in the morning there's the daily blog to look forward to reading and commenting on, which a different swimmer writes and shares photos from the morning, enabling swimmers to look for themselves or see what they missed out on. All part of the daily addiction.

It's these little points, amongst others, which make people feel that they’re part of something special, which they are.

There are a few things that I am most proud of, three of which include:

1. No matter how fast B&B has grown or how large it has become, B&B hasn't lost its fundamental ethos; that it is truly an inclusive community activity for everyone and it's not competitive. Even those who can't yet swim the distance can join in, walk along the foreshore and enjoy the après swim activities.

2. So many people work tirelessly behind the scenes as volunteers, ensuring that new swimmers today, receive the same (if not improved) personalised touch that they received when they joined, resulting in B&B being as inclusive for the new swimmers today as it has always been.

3. All the original swimmers that swam on that very first day, 27th Dec 2008, still swim with B&B regularly to this day!

The success of B&B is a credit to every swimmer within it.

The number of people participating grows every day. As of April 2018, 17,167 individual swimmers that we are aware of have swum with B&B to date.

As for the average number in summer and winter, this grows with each year too. Last summer it was common to have ~300 swimmers on any given day. As we move into winter we can expect an average attendance around 150 a day during the week with ~250 on the weekends, as you can see on our daily attendance graph, (link above).

Different seasons sees swimmers share in different challenges, from swimming a specific number of swims over winter, with or without wetsuit, to be awarded a ‘sew-on’ badge to don their B&B Hoodie, or in summer to stretch out for a few more strokes, clocking up the kilometres and swimming so further than they imagined for yet another sew-on badge. It’s truly amazing what grown adults will do for a badge.

If you have a swimming group somewhere in the world, you’re most welcome to come and swim with us one day! Also, if you’d like to capture your group’s daily attendance, with all the add on bonuses it offers, please don’t hesitate to contact me:

You are most welcome to join in the fun and set up your own swim group using our software, be it open water, pool or both, on our webpage and swim virtually around the world too.

Happy Swimming

Julie Isbill
Founder, Bold & Beautiful Swim Squad

Goldilocks - Revisiting OUR GO-TO SET

Unsure what session to swim the next time you hit the pool? Need something to push your fitness on, develop your pacing skills and provide a challenge but is "do-able" even if you are not at peak fitness?

Our Goldilocks Set is the answer - our classic CSS training set. If we are ever unsure what to swim, this is our GO TO session that always delivers.

(We've previously posted about this classic set back in 2010 and 2014 but it's well worth a revisit - it really is that good.)

Jo dons her Guru cap for a tough session: Do not fear training, fast it will make you!

The Goldilocks Set

Swim a thorough warmup of between 600 and 1000m including a few key drills for your individual stroke. Including some faster laps to progressively lift your heart rate ready for the set ahead.

Then swim the following Goldilocks set. All swims should be at the same pace - your fastest maintainable pace for the whole set. If you have a Tempo Trainer Pro and know your CSS pace then set the beeper to your CSS pace per 25m and take 1 beep recovery between each swim (or 20 seconds if you don't own a beeper). Swim the set straight through as:

4x 100m
1x 200m (Baby Bear)

4x 100m
1x 300m (Mamma Bear)

4x 100m
1x 400m (Papa Bear)

Here is what the Guru's says about this set: This is the quintessential CSS pace awareness set, showing you just how important it is to start your efforts early in the session quite conservatively in order to still be holding the exact same pace 1800 to 2100 later! The 1st block of 100s with 1 beep recovery will feel almost too easy. You’ll sail through the 200 and even the next block of 100s, but then all of a sudden Mamma Bear will slap you right in the face right around 175 and from here on in it's a case of try to recover as much as possible in the final block of 100s before completing the set with the Papa Bear (400). Get your pace wrong at the start and there is no way you will complete this session as directed – you need great control. Good luck!

To finish off, swim an easy cool down of between 400 and 600m.

A couple of quick notes:

- If you are in yard pool, simply replace meters with yards, so 100m becomes 100yds etc.

- If you don't feel able to swim a 2100m main set yet then reduce the 4x 100m to 2x 100m each time but keep the 200/300/400 in place. We encourage you to give the full set a crack as soon as possible though - training is all about a challenge right and it might not be as hard as you think. :)

Guru PRO subscribers can see this set in the Guru here (along with hundreds of other great sets to follow). Of course the Guru will also tell you exactly what number to set in your Tempo Trainer Pro and track your fitness over time, progressively adjusting the beeper pace to adjust to your fitness level.

Don't approach your key sessions with a sense of dread, look at them as an opportunity to take your swimming to the next level. As Swim Smooth Coach Lance Ogren says: Don’t fear the main set, make the main set fear you!

Done It Before?

If you have swum the Goldilock set before then why not try it in reverse? Here's the Perth squad board for the session:

Swim Smooth!

We're Visiting Montréal For A Special One Off Clinic - Join Us There!

On Saturday 21st July 2018, Swim Smooth Head Coaches Paul Newsome and Adam Young will be running a very special Video Analysis and Stroke Correction Clinic at the Olympic Stadium Pool, Montréal.

This is a rare opportunity to have your swimming filmed, analysed and corrected by Paul Newsome in this inspiring location! Grab your place now - this will fill very quickly:

Meet our hosts: SS Coach Bart Rolet runs a brilliant coaching setup in Montréal!
Find out more at:  

Can't make it? Book a session with one of our Certified Coaches instead. Hand picked and highly trained by Paul and Adam to give your swimming a major upgrade! :

And see a list of forthcoming Swim Smooth events here:

Some Stories To Get You Inspired

One of the great things about Swim Smooth is that if you're ever feeling a little flat there's plenty of inspiration out there from our worldwide community of coaches and swimmers to pick you up!

We tend to hit a schedule something like this:

Monday: Something motivating to pick you up for the week ahead.
Tuesday: What are our coaches and their squads up to around the world?
Wednesday: Hints and tips to improving your technique.
Thursday: Throwback Thursday of course, something from the SS archives!
Friday: Some of the most amazing places to swim around the world.
Saturday: Let's keep it individual with some technique insight specific to you.
Sunday: Where are we in the world? Swim Smooth caps can travel a LONG way!

So with the aim of pumping you up for the weekend ahead, here's a selection of posts from the last few weeks. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for plenty more:

Meet Campbell - he's super pumped to pick up a bronze medal in the inter-schools 50m breaststroke. 8 weeks previously he could barely swim. What could you achieve in 8 weeks if you put your mind to it?:

Swim Smooth Coach Julian Nagi shows us the most important words in swim coaching??! :

Live from Perth - Coach Jana Schoeman working with a swimmer during her certification training: 

That's a wrap - finishing off another Coach-Ed course in Mallorca with a great bunch of coaches from all over the world:

Wish you could swim with these crazies every day? Actually your nearest squad may not be as far away as you think:

Where it all began in Mission Bay - the location of the very first triathlon in San Diego. Sponsored by Pizza Port:

Over complicating things? Let's keep it simple - SS Suffolk Coach Seamus Bennett's squad shows us their smiley faces:

And last but definitely not least we have Linda (aka "Mother Smooth") one of the unsung heroes of planet Swim Smooth. Here seen packing up after the triathlon show in London back in February: 

Swim Smooth!

Scientific Triathlon Podcast & Our 3 Key Posts On Swimming More Confidently In Open Water

Podcast: Swim Training Structure The Swim Smooth Way

Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome was featured on The Triathlon Show / Scientific Triathlon podcast this week discussing how best to structure your swim training for best performances. We love Mikael Eriksson's show ourselves and hope you enjoy Paul's interview:

Listen to part 1: here
Listen to part 2: here

Paul discusses what types of workouts triathletes should include in their swim training, what a typical weekly swim training structure might look like for triathletes, the case for focusing on your threshold speed/Critical Swim Speed (CSS) and much more besides.

3 Key Posts On Swimming Confidently In Open Water

If you are a triathlete or open water swimmer in the northern hemisphere then you will know that the open water season is well underway and your key race or event of the season is probably coming up fast.

Hopefully you've been developing your swim fitness and refining your stroke technique but have you given much thought to your open water skills? If not then practising drafting, navigating and swimming straight will be the missing ingredient in you having a brilliant swim in open water.

Swimming in open water is VERY different from swimming the pool - don't believe anyone who
tells you otherwise! It's a skill you can (and should) work on, just like any other.

If you are nervous about swimming outdoors then working on some of these skills over the coming weeks will make all the difference to your performance. Come race day you will swim more confidently, be faster and have a much more enjoyable experience.

The Swim Smooth Blog is nearly 9 years old and in that time we've posted out over 425 unique articles to help you improve your swimming. If you are new to the blog that's a lot of reading to catch up on (!) so with the goal of improving your confidence and effectiveness in open water, here's our pick of three key posts since the blog started in 2009:

First up, check out our June 2011 article on how to sight forwards effectively whilst swimming:

Developing this important skill makes seeing forwards as you swim much much easier. Become good at it and you will swim far straighter, sighting will have less impact on your stroke itself and you will be much more confident in tracking around the course.

Next, a nice post from April 2013 on getting used to swimming in close proximity to other swimmers - IN THE POOL.

Perhaps you live a long way from a good open water venue or just can't get there easily. Now you have no excuse as we showed you how to work on your drafting skills in your local swimming pool:

This is a lot of fun and when you do get into open water you'll immediately feel more at home swimming in close proximity to other swimmers (which is unavoidable outdoors and very much part of the sport).

Plus there are huge performance gains from drafting other swimmers - it can save you up to 38% of your energy expenditure in fact! 1

Lastly our 2015 classic on why your SHOULDN'T glide when you swim:

Whilst it became popular in the 90s to try and actively glide when you swim, trying to add a pause at the front of your stroke actually makes you less efficient, not more! This is even more the case when swimming in open water where waves and chop slow you down even further between strokes.

In fact when you swim outdoors you should aim to maintain good punch and rhythm to your stroke - it will increase your stability and make you a much more effective swimmer.

Have a great race season ahead - and let us know how you get on through the website, facebook, twitter and instagram!

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.

Coaches: We're Coming To Montréal In July - Join Us There!

Dear Coaches,

After a super successful course in Mallorca in May, we are very pleased to announce that Paul Newsome and the Swim Smooth coaching team are running our next 3 Day Coach Education Course at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal from 19-21st July 2018.

We've seen massive demand for the Swim Smooth methodology building across the world over the last few years. That's great but we're going to need plenty more excellent coaches on the ground to assist with this task and we'd like to offer you the chance to apply for one of the coveted spots on the Montréal course.

We're looking for applicants from across North America (and even worldwide) for this course. This is likely to be the only 3 day course we are going to be running in the remainder of 2018 so don't miss out!

Full information is here:

And apply on our website here:

Mallorca: The Class Of 2018

The Swim Smooth 3 Day Coach Education Course

Since we ran our first 3-day Coach Education Course in Birmingham in June 2010 we've had over 420 international coaches complete the course from over 2,600 applicants.

Such is the demand that getting onto the course is not easy but those who are successful epitomise what Swim Smooth is all about - you don't necessarily need to be the most experienced coach to be offered a spot, but you do need to show us your passion, commitment and vision for your own swimming and coaching in general.

The Swim Smooth MontrĂ©al squad are hosting the course at the Olympic Stadium - the perfect venue!

The course covers:

- Advanced freestyle stroke technique correction methods. Identification of underlying issues in a swimmer's stroke technique and best practise to correct. This covers all levels of swimmer from beginner to elite.

- Detailed discussion of each component of the freestyle stroke. A modern perspective on what is considered ideal for distance freestyle at different levels of competition.

- An appreciation of the effectiveness of different styles of different swimmers and in what direction to lead individual swimmers.

- In depth insight into our coaching system which allows coaches to quickly understand a swimmer's style of swimming - and the fundamental technique issues and personalities behind each style.

- Developing a swimmer's catch and feel for the water. Detailed discussion of why this is so hard to do and different approaches for different levels of swimmer.

- Observation skills on the pooldeck. How to spot underlying stroke technique issues that are easily missed.

- Live stroke correction sessions with volunteer swimmers during the course.

- How to use stroke rate to optimise your swimmer's efficiency in the water.

- Best practise video analysis of swimmers - equipment to use, best practise filming techniques and analysis of footage.

- Improving the effectiveness of your communication with athletes.

- How to coach and improve the stroke technique of those swimmers who never seem to improve.

- What to do with swimmers who have seemingly perfect technique.

- Running a squad program and best practise structure and training sessions to develop your swimmers.

- Using Critical Swim Speed (CSS) to develop the sustainable threshold of your swimmers and to encourage better pacing technique for distance events.

- The course has a main focus on distance freestyle coaching of adult swimmers and triathletes but will touch on the other three strokes, sprint, junior and elite coaching.

Going On To Become A Swim Smooth Coach

Becoming a fully-fledged Swim Smooth Coach takes substantially more than attending a 3 day course. Whilst we know that other coaching programs around the world allow easy accreditation for anyone and everyone that applies, we fundamentally believe that to become a Swim Smooth Coach requires much greater insight and training than what we could ever provide in just three days or even a week.

The beauty of the 3 day course is that it's noncommittal towards seeking full certification, in fact many coaches attend purely for their own development and that's just fine with us. The course is not assessed in any way so you can feel free to really relax, enjoy and soak up all the great nuggets of information and learned insight without the worry of an end of course exam.

Every Swim Smooth Coach (seen here during training in Perth) has attended the 3 Day Coach-Ed Course

In this way, the 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Course either forms the start of a great new journey with Swim Smooth, or simply the start of newly ignited passion for refining your coaching skills to help others improve their swimming!

Every Swim Smooth coach has attended the 3 day course as their starting point and you must do the same. Find further information on becoming a Swim Smooth Coach here:

A Little More About Perth

Of course if you are interested in becoming a Swim Smooth Coach and are selected for certification then you will be making the big trip to our coaching base in Perth, Western Australia. What's it like out there?

Coach Colin Reynolds recently visited us. Colin is not a Swim Smooth coach so is able to give a truly independent review of the place and the Perth squad setup. Find out more in his article for Outdoor Fitness magazine here:

Thanks for the write-up Colin!

So Go Ahead And Apply Now

A rare opportunity to get on the perfect course, with a great group of people in the perfect venue! What's stopping you applying today?

We look forwards to working with you there:

Swim Smooth!

Swimming In Rough (Or Cold) Conditions With Long Arms

Thanks to everyone who replied, posted and commented on last week's post Another Great Example - Different Strokes For Two Very Different FolksIt featured two strong swimmers of very different builds, each swimming with a style that suits them individually. It is already one of our most discussed blogs of all time!

Here's that video of Andres and Nico again as a quick reminder:

On the blog comments we received this question from Antony:

As someone who has a +15cm (6") Ape index, how would you recommend approaching swimming in choppy ocean water? With my Ape index, I would be more naturally suited to the smooth style, but I am wondering if going more swinger is better in the ocean, especially in long distances in cold water (1500M+, 14C/56F temperature, no wetsuit) where just keeping hypothermia at bay is an issue. Also, how much can one go swinging if their arms are long? Thoughts?

That's a really great question - thanks for asking Antony! If you have long arms yourself how should you swim in rough conditions, given that a long smooth stroke style might not be very effective at all?

Firstly we need to clarify something:

Swinger vs. Smooth isn't really about the arm recovery

When comparing Swingers versus Smooths, the first thing you might notice is how the arms recover over the surface of the water. Smooths tend to use a classical high elbow:

And Swingers a straighter swinging recovery (ideally high over the surface of the water) which is where they get their name from:

But the different arm recovery style isn't really the essence of the types - there are many Smooths out there with a straighter arm recovery (for instance super-fish triathlete Richard Varga) and sometimes there are even Swingers who have been coached to use a higher elbow. It's just much more common to see Swingers swinging and Smooths with a high elbow.

Of course when it comes to open water swimming that straighter arm recovery of the typical Swinger has plenty of advantages. For one it means you won't catch your hand on waves and chop, and it allows you to swim closer to swimmers without hitting them with your recovering arm - perfect for drafting on someone's hip.

So the first take home for Antony here (and everyone else with long arms) is if you are currently swimming with a classical high elbow then consider opening out the arm slightly for open water swimming. We're not talking bolt-straight (like bowling a cricket ball) but opening 10 to 20 degrees at the elbow lifts the hand above the water significantly and will give you a lot more versatility swimming near to other swimmers.

That's exactly what Richard Varga has done with his own swimming; you can see him swim in the Guru here (subscription required):

It's Really About Stroke Length vs. Stroke Rate

So if it's not about arm recovery, what is the real difference between a Swinger and a Smooth? It's actually about the trade off between how long the stroke is and the cadence (stroke rate).

Imagine you are riding a bike, travelling at the same speed you can either spin a small gear or push a big one with a slower turnover. That's Swinger and Smooth respectively. Each has found a "sweet spot" in the length of their stroke and the rate of their stroke that suits them.

Part of this is about your height and build. As we saw last week, Andreas with his shorter arms simply can't match Nico's stroke length, his only alternative is to take fewer strokes but with a faster turnover. Each stroke takes less effort so the overall work-rate is equivalent.

If you are quite short with short arms you don't really have much choice, you are simply going to have to take more strokes but at a higher stroke rate. Don't be put off by this, you can do so without fighting the water and it will give you a natural advantage swimming in the great outdoors as the more continuous propulsion helps you punch through disturbed water.

Now lets take the opposite situation - being tall with long arms. In this case a longer stroke style may suit you BUT NOT ALWAYS. There are actually many taller swimmers with longer arms who naturally suit the Swinger style. A classic example is France's Laure Manaudou (5'10" - 180cm tall) who broke the 200, 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle world records swimming at around 110 strokes per minute (an incredibly high stroke rate):

That's an extreme example but none the less it's important to appreciate that when you are tall with long arms you actually have a choice, you can swim with a relatively short stroke and a faster turnover if you so wish. And to answer Antony's question, for rough water swimming yes we would recommend you do so for the performance advantage it will give you.

The key to lifting your stroke rate is to get into the catch sightly quicker at the front of the stroke. Swingers tend to enter the water, extend to their reach and immediately pitch the hand and forearm downwards to initiate the catch. Smooths extend and hold there for around 0.2 second before pitching the hand and forearm downwards.

That 0.2 second at the front of the stroke is a very short period of time but removing it is enough to lift your stroke rate from 65 SPM (typical for a classic pool Smooth) to 73 SPM. Also, the speed increase from swimming more effectively in open water means the arms travel faster through under the body with the water so you can expect a further gain of a few more SPM from that effect too.

We're still talking about fairly moderate stroke rates in comparison to most elite level Swingers who live in the 80s and 90s SPM. That's fine though, with longer arms you can only go so high and lifting your stroke rate into the mid 70s will noticeable increase your effectiveness in open water. It's the right sort of change for your build and swimming makeup.

So a key skill for a Smooth looking to swim well in open water is to work on the timing of the catch at the front of the stroke and being able to get into the stroke fractionally quicker at the front when the going gets rough. It's quite a subtle timing change but the gains are significant.

Our key drill to facilitate that change would be Scull #1:

Keeping Warm In Cold Water

A second question in Antony's post was about avoiding hypothermia. A longer slower stroke does generate significantly less heat for the swimmer and that's a big disadvantage in cold water swims. Over the years many Overgliders (swimmers with very slow stroke rates) have reported to us that they really struggle to complete cold water swims of 18C and below because they suffer from hypothermia.

Swimming with a shorter stroke and a faster turnover (the Swinger style) does generate a lot more heat. In fact when our Head Coach Paul Newsome won the 46km (!) Manhattan Marathon swim in 2013 (see his race report here) he attributed his ability to handle the cold conditions (16C / 61F water) as a key advantage in comparison to some of his taller-longer-smoother competitors.

Paul celebrates his victory in NYC - yes a shorter stroke can make you (very) happy!

So if like Antony you are swimming in cool water without a wetsuit, and have a long smooth stroke style, then make sure you have developed the ability to lift your stroke rate in training. That skill could easily be make or break for completing your event.

Swim Smooth!

Another Great Example - Different Strokes For Two Very Different Folks

Paul Newsome and the rest of the Swim Smooth coaching team have been here in Mallorca the last week running our 3 Day Coach Education Course at the Best Centre and then racing in the amazing Best Fest open water series (if you have the opportunity you've got to get out here for it!).

Meet two coaches who attended the Coach-Ed course. Nico (198cm tall) from Tenerife, Spain and AndrĂ©s (172cm tall) from Benidorm, Spain :

Both have developed their own swimming and stroke style around our Swim Types model to maximise their own performances given their height, build, arm-length etc.

As you can see from the photo, Nico is very tall and has very long arms and large hands. This makes him perfectly suited to the long stroke style of the classic Smooth Swim Type, which he fully embraces. He looks super smooth in the water - in fact it looks like he's barely trying at all (although of course he is).

On the other hand Andrés uses a shorter stroke with a faster turnover to great effect. We recognise this as the "Swinger" stroke style and done right it is an extremely fast and effective way of swimming. Just to prove that point, Andres is every bit as fast as Nico in the water, in fact he was slightly quicker in our CSS test during the course, posting 5:18 and 2:34 for his 400m and 200m splits, giving him a CSS pace of 1:22 /100m - great swimming.

So how do they look in the water? Here they are swimming one behind the other during that 400m swim:

No prizes for guessing which one is which! Andrés has managed to catch Nico and sit on his feet; that may skew his CSS result a little so be wary yourself of doing this with another swimmer intentionally during a CSS test - leave a big gap to the person in front or smoothly (and safely) overtake them.

It's worth noting whilst we are here that most Swingers enjoy the rough and tumble of open water swimming and are naturally good at drafting - like Andrés - while most Smooths tend to avoid it and prefer clear water to keep that range in their stroke long and continuous.

We've shown you quite a few examples over the years of how the stroke styles of great swimmers vary depending on their height, build, experience and flexibility. You might remember Byron vs. Brad a couple of months ago. We do this to re-enforce the point these differences are everywhere and extremely common - something this is so often overlooked with traditional swim coaching.

You might be sitting there thinking that this is an extreme example but really it isn't. In the group of 20 coaches on the Coach-Ed course Nico wasn't even the tallest and Andrés was about average height for the group (there were plenty of shorter coaches). Of course being well matched in pace terms makes these two interesting to compare here. These differences are EVERYWHERE when you look for them.

So every swimmer should be asking themselves the question: Am I trying to swim with the wrong style for my natural make-up? Doing so will SERIOUSLY hold your swimming back!

Swim Smooth!

Want to be faster? Let's talk EFFICIENT vs. EFFECTIVE...

OK, let's float a controversial idea which runs distinctly against the status quo of swimming "fact".

Here's a very efficient road car (bear with us here this is about swimming):

It's a Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TDI, reaching 62mph (100kph) in 12.9 seconds with a fuel efficiency of 76.3mpg (3.7L/100km) on the combined European cycle.

All very respectable.

On the other hand, here's a Formula 1 car, a 2018 Ferrari SF71H in fact:

Top speed 240mph (390 kph). 0 to 62mph (100kph) in around 2 seconds. Super fast, super sculpted and streamlined. An awesome machine.

Now here's the thing, the fuel efficiency of this performance machine is a completely lousy 7mpg (33L/100km). Yes that's nearly 10 times worse than our VW Polo (and the car is less than half the weight)!

Ferrari haven't wasted any efficiency - just like an elite swimmer, the drag of this car is as low as it can be to get the job done.

And the clever engineers at Ferrari could easily make this car more efficient but the result is that it would immediately be slower (defeating its purpose). It would be less effective at covering ground quickly.

Here at Swim Smooth we believe "EFFECTIVE" is a good word for most swimmers to focus on. Rather than focusing solely on becoming more efficient, instead try thinking "I need to be a more effective swimmer". You'll swim with much more more purpose as a result.

Unfortunately the nature of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics means that the easiest way to be more efficient is to just go slowly. So the danger with chasing efficiency to the nth degree if that we just end up being slow.

We're not suggesting thrashing around like a mad thing and wasting energy unnecessarily. Instead we're looking to develop an effective stroke working with the water to move you forwards quickly over longer distances.

Want to be fast? Try thinking EFFECTIVE...

Swim Smooth!

Win The Ultimate Swim Smooth Experience: A Trip To Perth!

Today Swim Smooth are very pleased to announce a brand new competition:

Every year one lucky person will win an amazing trip to visit the Swim Smooth home-base in Perth, Western Australia. The Ultimate Swim Smooth experience!

On December 1st every year we will pick a random winner from our blog subscribers and fly them to Perth for an amazing week long experience the following March. Yes, just by already being a member of the Swim Smooth Blog you are automatically entered and have a chance to win!

Yes you might get to swim with these lovely people in THAT pool!
The winner receives:

- Flights for one (from wherever you live in the world) to sunny Perth.

- Accommodation in the western suburbs of Perth, close to our home base at Claremont Pool and the beautiful beaches of the Indian Ocean.

- A full video analysis and stroke correction session with SS Head Coach and Founder Paul Newsome to improve your stroke technique!

- A week spent with the inspirational (and very friendly) Swim Smooth Squads, giving you the full squad experience. Suitable for any swimmer from beginner through to advanced/elite.

- The chance to experience one of the most beautiful places in the world - sunshine, beaches, art, culture, amazing swimming (oh and fine wine too).

Watch the competition video here:

Beautiful Rottnest Island - A short ferry trip from Perth

Anyone Can Enter

You can of course encourage your friends and family to enter too, which they can do on this page:

You must be 18 or over to enter and only one entry is allowed by person. See full competition terms and conditions here:

Good luck - keep all your fingers and toes crossed - and we hope to welcome you to Perth next March.

Swim Smooth!

Marlin Offer ENDS TONIGHT and Perth's 10 Year Anniversary Swim!


Our special offer of 10% off the Marlin Swim Meter ends midnight tonight - don't miss out on this amazing tool to improve your swimming.

Buy now:

Try This Session: Perth's 10 Year Anniversary Swim

On Monday we celebrated a special date in Perth, the 10 year anniversary of the squad!

A quick calculation by SS Head Coach Paul Newsome showed that over last 10 years at Claremont, he and our team of brilliant coaches (Sally, Cyndy, Derek, Marie, Roo, Sandy, Shelley and Nicola) have conducted over 6,000 squad sessions! And a crazy 3,500 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction sessions to boot!

The very first Swim Smooth Perth Squad session at Claremont Pool on Monday 5th May, 2008
Chrissie (centre) and Liz (right) are still regulars to this day!

Swim Smooth itself has been around a little longer (into our 14th year now), but the local squad here in Perth will always be the "engine room" to what we generate on an international scale, including being the official swim coaching partners of the governing bodies of British Triathlon and the International Triathlon Union.

We call the squads in Perth "The Life And Source" of Swim Smooth and if you've ever visited you'll understand why. The squad boasts 12 weekly training sessions accessed by 360-400 people per week in the lovely year-round 28.5ºC water temperatures of Claremont Pool. It's been an amazing ride and one which Paul and his team enjoy as much today as they did all those years ago.

Of course, EVERY Swim Smooth Coach has to make the pilgrimage there for intensive training too - so they can bring you the same quality of coaching and feel-good-factor to their setup at your local pool.

And 10 years later we are having just as much fun...

So how did we celebrate? With a swim session of course!

That's right, the squad celebrated with a tough little swim - a Technique/Endurance swim set in fact. We published this in full in the Guru a few days ago but are new releasing it onto the blog below for everyone's swimming pleasure.

You will need fins, pull buoy and paddles, and to make the most of the session you would ideally use a Tempo Trainer Pro too - for pacing you through the main set.

This is a full squad session so it assumes you know some of the drills (from our book, our DVDs or the might Guru). You can see also see this quick drill reference list.

Warm Up

400 easy freestyle as twice:
50 breathing every 3 strokes
50 breathing every 4 left only
50 breathing 4 right only
50 breathing every 5

2x 150 with fins as 2x (50 6/1/6 drill + 50 freestyle + 50 broken arrow)

4x 100 Pull Buoy and Paddles breathing 3/5/7/3 (this means take your first breath after 3 strokes, second breath after 5, third breathe after 7 and then back to 3 etc).

6x 50 Pull Buoy swum through twice:
12.5 Scull #1 drill + 12.5 Doggy Paddle drill + 25 freestyle
12.5 Scull #2 drill + 12.5 Doggy Paddle drill + 25 freestyle
12.5 Scull #3 drill + 12.5 Doggy Paddle drill + 25 freestyle

Main Set - Swim Straight through on RM5 cycle*

Set 1
300 OR 400 freestyle
100 Pull Buoy and Paddles
4x 50 fins FAST!

Set 2
100 OR 300 freestyle
100, 200 OR 300 Pull Buoy and Paddles
4x 50 fins FAST!

Set 3
100 OR 200 freestyle
100, 300 OR 400 Pull Buoy and Paddles
4x 50 fins FAST!

The distance varies from 2800 - 3600 depending on the options you choose.

* RM5 is a setting that goes in your Tempo Trainer based on your CSS pace. Simply take your CSS pace per 50m and add 5 seconds to it -  then round to the nearest whole number. For instance if your CSS pace is 2:00 per 100m you need to put 1:05 in the beeper (use Mode 2). During the main set above, wait for the beep, set off and swim quickly enough to get ahead of the beeper every 50 meters. The faster you swim (you decide) the further ahead you get and the more rest you earn before the next swim of the set. You need to take off as soon as it "catches up" and beeps again, no additional rest! You should just get enough rest to change your paddles/pull-bouy/fins if you are quick.

Here's the session on the squad board if you prefer to read it that way:

Swim Smooth!

Special Offer: 10% Off The Marlin Swim Meter

Summer is nearly here in the northern hemisphere and to celebrate the start of the open-water swimming and triathlon season here's a very special offer for you - 10% OFF THE AMAZING PLATYSENS MARLIN SWIM METER in our all new swim-shop:

This special offer must end on Friday 11th May so don't delay and snap yours up now!

The Marlin is a next-generation swimming tool worn on your goggles. It monitors everything you do as you swim and then speaks to you, giving your verbal feedback on your performance. It also integrates fully with the Swim Smooth Guru (more on this below).

The Marlin informs you of the speed you are swimming, your stroke rate, strokes per length and distance swum. It can also talk you through training sessions step by step.

Swim Smooth have been an integral part of the development team at Platysens, making sure the Marlin gives you the right feedback and prompts you in the right way to maximise your development as a swimmer.

Once your session is complete you can of course analyse all your swim data on your smart-phone (iPhone or Android required) - and into the Guru too if you are a PRO subscriber.

The Marlin comes in two versions, the pool only "Marlin-P" (without GPS) and the "Marlin" (with GPS) for pool and open water swimming. Note, as the Marlin has a clear GPS signal on the back of your head it can do this with far greater accuracy than a GPS watch which spends much of the time underwater whilst swimming:

Marlin <-> Guru Link - Truly Closing The Loop!

And if you are a Guru PRO subscriber you can link your shiny new Marlin to your Guru account!

As you would expect you can import your recorded swims into the Guru for special Swim Smooth analysis:

But not only that, you can choose from 343 (!) unique Guru training sessions to send from the Guru to your Marlin so they are spoken to you as you swim, talking you through your pool session as you go. These include technique sessions, CSS sessions, Red Mist and aerobic endurance sessions - perfect for preparing you for any event of any distance:

Even more impressively, the Guru replaces your Tempo Trainer Pro, automatically beeping the right target pace to you during training sets, the pace of which is calculated from your CSS pace in the Guru (no more setting that Tempo Trainer).

Most impressive!

Offer Ends Friday May 11th.

The Marlin is a true next generation product and we're super excited about getting one strapped to your goggles in 2018.

Buy yours now, the 10% off offer ends May 11th:

Swim Smooth!

Try This Exercise: Top, Middle Or Bottom?

If you live in the UK you might remember the TV game-show Strike It Lucky with Michael Barrymore:

In the show, players had to select the top, middle or bottom screen to move forwards. Get a question wrong and they hit a "hot spot" (where they would lose all the cash they had won).

Let's try a little game with your own swimming to do with how you enter and extend forwards at the front of the stroke. We'll call it "Top Middle or Bottom".

Anyone will get something from this exercise but it's especially effective for Kicktastics or Overgliders, who tend to show their palms forwards at the front of the stroke:

This is bad technique as it adds a braking effect and it harms your catch on the water that follows. You will feel quite a lot of pressure on the palm of your hand (you might mistake this for a good catch) but it will slow you down dramatically and kill any rhythm in your stroke.

Instead we should be entering and extending in this position with the elbow slightly higher than the wrist and the wrist slightly higher than the fingertips:

To help you develop this position, put on a pair of fins and paddles (Finis Freestyler paddles are perfect for this) and swim 50m of freestyle, running through the "Top Middle and Bottom" positions.

For about 10-15 strokes, deliberately bring the hand high as you extend forwards:

Then for another 10-15 strokes move to a middle position:

And then for another 10-15 strokes deliberately extend a little low (the bottom position):

Too high and you hit a "hot spot" which adds drag and kills your stroke rhythm.

Too low and your hand instantly dives downwards to the bottom - another hot-spot.

But get in the right position in the middle ground and you develop a smooth rhythm and good propulsion. No hot-spot!

Is this position lower than you might expect? It is for many swimmers. Transfer this good extension into your normal freestyle and you will instantly be faster through the water for the same effort, moving smoothly and continuously from one stroke to the next.

Also see our classic blog post: Don't Start Too Near The Surface

Swim Smooth!

SS Clinics, Camps and 1to1s:

North America
Charleston SC Clinic May 6thSterling VA Clinic April 14thProvidence / Boston Video Analysis
1 Day Clinic Louisville April 7th1 Day Florida Clinic April 15thCalgary Video Analysis
Calgary SquadsNew Oceanside CA Squad starting July 26thSolana Beach / Oceanside / Carlsbad Video Analysis
Chicago Video AnalysisChicago SquadsMontreal Squads
Montreal Video AnalysisThe Woodlands TX, Swim SquadSS Clinics Chicago
South Carolina Video Analysis

Asia / Middle East / Australia / Africa
NEW COACH SINGAPORE!Hong Kong Squads & Video AnalysisPerth Squads
Perth Video AnalysisKuala Lumpur Swim SquadNEW Johannesburg Video Analysis
NEW Johannesburg SquadsKuala Lumpur Video Analysis

Nijmegen SquadsPrague Junior Swim ClubPrague Video Analysis
Nijmegen Video Analysis.  & Stroke CorrectionCity Of Elche Video Analysis / SquadsSS Camp Lanzarote Mar/Apr 2018 (English - Dutch)

United Kingdom
NEW Salisbury SquadNEW Bournemouth SquadFelixstowe Clinic May 13th
West Lothian Video AnalysisRichmond London SS SquadSW London Swim Workshops
Twickenham Video AnalysisLancaster SS SquadSwindon/Cotswolds Video Analysis
Lancaster Video AnalysisNorthampton Swim SquadMillfield Stroke Correction Clinic
Swindon SS Squad (joining offers!)Felixstowe Video AnalysisStratford upon Avon & Birmingham/Coventry Squads
Felixstowe SquadsHeston West London Video AnalysisNEW Cambridge Video Analysis Clinic
Manchester SquadGuernsey SS SquadsGuernsey Video Analysis
Yorkshire Squads (Pool & OW)Yorkshire Video AnalysisSwim Smooth Kent Squad
Swim Smooth Kent Video analysisLuton SS Squad Wed/SatSt Albans SS Squad Saturdays

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