Friday, May 22, 2015

Run An Experiment On Your Swimming: Do You Have High Drag Or Low Propulsion?

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Acton Video Analysis
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Beg & Int OW Skills Workshops
Oxford & Reading
The next time you swim try the test set below. The idea is to run an experiment to find what might be holding you back with your swimming - excessive drag or a lack of propulsion.

Some swimmers have lots of propulsion but also lots of drag, others have low drag but little propulsion whilst great swimmers have low drag AND great propulsion. Use this session to identify where you lie on this continuum and get started improving your stroke.

Great swimmers like Michael Phelps have low drag AND great propulsion.


Drag Vs. Propulsion

Swim the set below straight through. If you know your CSS pace per 50m, add 5 seconds to it and use that as your cycle time. So if your CSS is 2:00/100m (1:00 /50m) then set off each 1:05 aiming to get about 5 seconds rest between each swim.

Set 1: 8 x 50m with a pull buoy (no kicking)

Set 2: 8 x 50m normal freestyle

Set 3: 8 x 50m normal freestyle but with paddles (no pull buoy)

What you should do next depends on how things felt: If Set 1 felt easier than Set 2 then swim Set 4a below, otherwise swim Set 4b.





Set 4a: This suggests you have high drag in your stroke.

Swim 2 x 100m focusing on long straight legs with big toes tapping as they pass and eyes looking down.

Then 200 or 300m continuous freestyle maintaining this focus over a longer distance.



Set 4b: This suggests a low drag profile negatively affected by too much buoyancy at the rear from the pull buoy (the same would be the case when wearing a wetsuit).

Swim 2 x 100m thinking about pulling yourself along a rope and minimising your kicking effort.

Then 200 or 300m continuous freestyle maintaining this focus over a longer distance.




Then if set 3 felt easier than set 2, swim set 5a below, otherwise swim set 5b.




Set 5a: This suggests your catch may need some fine tuning and may be the cause of low sinking legs, i.e. pushing down on the water at the front of the stroke.

Swim 2 x 100m (no pull buoy) as 15m scull #1 then 85m freestyle focusing on tipping the finger-tips down at full reach to initiate the catch and avoid pressing down on the water.

Then 200 or 300m continuous freestyle maintaining this focus over a longer distance.



Set 5b: This suggests your catch and pull through is quite ineffective and you tend to pull through with a straight arm rather than bending at the elbow

2 x 100m (no pull buoy) as 15m Doggy Paddle drill then 85m freestyle focusing on bending the elbow like Becky and pressing the water backwards.

Then 200 or 300m continuous freestyle maintaining this focus over a longer distance.




Swim Smooth!

The Brownlee Tri And Swim Smooth's Bespoke Swim Training Plan

Swim Smooth are very proud to announce they are partnering with the fantastic Brownlee Tri at Harewood House, Leeds, UK on September 26th. We'll be at the race offering help and support to swimmers and running training days for you on August 22nd/23rd (more information to follow).

Sign-up for the race here: www.brownleetri.com



** Enter Now - 10% Discounted Entry Offer Ends May 31st **


To celebrate, we have also written a totally bespoke Swim Smooth Training Plan especially for the race which you can find within our webapp coaching system: app.swimsmooth.com/brownleetri



(if you are already subscribed you can jump straight to the Brownlee Tri plan in the webapp here)


This plan is aimed at those racing in open water for the first time who might be quite new to swimming freestyle. Packed with Swim Smooth's stroke technique and open water swimming expertise, this plan will get you perfectly prepared and confident for race day!

What's more, as we get nearer the race we'll be filming at the venue especially for you and adding it into the training plan. This will give you unique insight from out on the course into how to swim it well.

Sign-up for the race today at www.brownleetri.com, use the SS Coaching System to prepare your swim and we'll see you at the venue for a fantastic race on September 26th!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hire A HUUB Wetsuit This Season!

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Beg & Int OW Skills Workshops
Oxford & Reading

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague International Kids Camp
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

** New Oxford/Henley SS Coach **
Clinics & Video analysis here

Need a comfortable and fast wetsuit to swim open water races or triathlon this season? Look no further, Swim Smooth are pleased to announce our new wetsuit hire scheme.

Naturally, we are only hiring HUUB wetsuits, the fastest and most comfortable suits on the market! Each HUUB suit is designed with extensive swimming knowledge and input from Swim Smooth to give you optimum performance in open water.




If you haven't worn a specialist swimming wetsuit before, the difference versus a normal watersports (e.g. surfing) wetsuit will feel astounding. Far more flexible and cut to allow free range of movement for the freestyle stroke, you won't believe how easier (and warmer) it feels to swim in a HUUB wetsuit.




Hire charges start at £65* for a 4 week period with hire options of 8 and 12 weeks.

Visit our website here for full information: Triathlon Wetsuit Hire

Swim Smooth!

* All suits are distributed from the UK. Deposit and postal charges apply.

Friday, May 8, 2015

We're Going To Be At The Jenson Button Triathlon - Come And Meet (And Swim) With Us!

Now entering it's fourth year, the fabulous Jenson Button Trust Triathlon has moved to Markeaton Park, Derby on Sunday July 12th and the Swim Smooth Coaching Team will be in full attendance!

After registration (on Saturday 11th) Swim Smooth will be running a free open water skills session for you - so you can practise and get familiar with the swim course itself to maximise your performance the following day.

This exclusive session for race entrants will be fully coached by Swim Smooth coaches to get you comfortable and relaxed in the water whilst tuning up your open water skills such as drafting, sighting and swimming straight! Full session details to follow with your race entry.

Enter today! : www.jensonbuttontri.com

The Jenson Button Trust Triathlon

The 2015 Jenson Button Trust Triathlon is set to be the biggest event to date with the capacity for double the amount of competitors as seen in previous years.

To be held in Markeaton Park, Derby on Sunday July 12th, competitors will get the chance to race against the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion and a number of amateur and professional triathletes.

Keeping the same exciting format as adopted in previous years each competitor gets the chance to race twice, with the preliminary heat consisting of a 200m lake swim, 11km cycle and 2.5km run. The fastest in the heats will then go on to the final, which is double the distance, 400m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run, with the runners up going through to the wooden spoon race.

Enter today and we'll see you there! : www.jensonbuttontri.com

Photos from last year's race:

Give us a wave!

With its unique format, every competitor gets to race twice.

Last year's Swim Smooth open water skills session was a great success.

It's always sunny at the JB Tri: Adam, Swim Smooth Coach Annie
and Paul soaking up a few rays!

There's a good chance he'll be quicker than you through the corners! :)

Swim Smooth!

Making Decisions In Races Is Fraught With Risk

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

** New Oxford/Henley SS Coach **
Book your session here

Northampton May/June/July Clinics
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
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Analysis Consultations

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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Prague International Kids Camp
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
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Carrying a slight or niggly injury into a race is a frustrating but annoying fact of life. What happens if it plays up in the race or starts to feel progressively worse? Should you pull-out?

What about if you're coming back from a virus or you've been training hard and are not sure how fatigued you are? If you feel a bit flat in the race, should you drop your pace or toughen up and push on, risking digging yourself into a hole?

Or your target race is next week and you only plan to complete half the distance in today's training event to save yourself for the big day. But out on the course you feel fantastic and are well placed - should you continue?

Don't leave important decisions to the race itself

We can't tell you the right and wrong answer for each of those cases but what we do know is that it's fraught with risk to make an important decision in the heat of the moment during a race. With your adrenaline pumping and heart rate high, its very easy to make a bad choice that you will regret later.

Our advice is don't leave those decisions until the race itself. In the days before an event think through any situations you might encounter in advance. Discuss them with someone you trust who is more experienced than you (e.g. your coach). Make a plan - if X happens I will do Y - then stick to it in the race.

Considering the big picture cooly and calmly, and sleeping on it a couple of times, will dramatically increase your chances of doing the right thing. No regrets.

For a great example of this in action, see Paul's article here: www.swimsmooth.com/addressing-what-is-holding-you-back.html#q5

Swim Smooth!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Is Fingertrail Drill Doing You More Harm Than Good?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

** New Oxford/Henley SS Coach **
Book your session here

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Analysis Consultations

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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Prague International Kids Camp
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Richmond SS Squad
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Acton Video Analysis
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Fingertrail or Thumb-Drag drill is an exercise where you deliberately swim dragging the fingertips across the surface of the water close to the body:



You've probably tried it yourself (or even done it to death). It's an extremely widespread drill that is used to encourage you to use a high-elbow arm recovery over the surface of the water.

Despite finger-trail being one of the most common drills in the world, at Swim Smooth we very rarely ask a swimmer to perform it as in most cases we observe its impact on them to be negative rather than positive.

As we discussed in this blog post on arm recovery, a tight high-elbow recovery is a bad idea if you don't have great upper body flexibility. It places stress on the shoulder and can easily cause you to snake your body as you work against your flexibility to get into the position.

Trying to recover the hand very close to the body makes for an
awkward arm recovery.

A slightly more open arm recovery (with the hand recovering higher over the surface of the water) is much better suited to most adults and helps them swim with better stroke rhythm (which can only be a good thing):


To do this just open up the angle at the elbow slightly, you're not looking to go to the opposite extreme and take the arm completely straight, just open the arm out a little. It might feel strange at first but you will immediately feel much more relaxed through the shoulders. Think about coming easily up and over the water in a natural relaxed fashion.

If you're an open water swimmer or triathlete then a classical high elbow with the hand low to the water is never a good idea as you will catch your hand on disturbed water or the wake from other swimmers. Plus when swimming in a wetsuit you will find a more open recovery reduces fatigue in the shoulders:



What To Do Instead

A good alternative to Fingertrail is our Broken Arrow drill as it helps loosen off stiff shoulders and helps develop a good upper body posture for swimming:



To perform Broken Arrow drill use a pair of fins. Slowly lift the hand to a vertical position and hold it there for a second, before bending at the elbow (breaking the arrow) and spearing forwards into the water and onto the other side. See our full Broken Arrow instruction in the Swim Smooth Coaching System here: app.swimsmooth.com/video/i2/broken-arrow-drill/

If you are using finger-trail to promote a nice clean hand entry into the water then we suggest you use our Shoulder-Tap drill instead. This is another nice drill to loosen off your shoulders: app.swimsmooth.com/video/m0/shoulder-tap-drill/

Swim Smooth!

Friday, April 24, 2015

What's The Common Factor In These World Records From Different Sports?

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Acton Video Analysis
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Analysis Consultations

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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Prague International Kids Camp
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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Richmond SS Squad
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Here's three famous world records from different sports:

Katie Ledecky 800m Freestyle World Record: 22nd June 2014
Time: 8:11.00, 400m split: 4:05.70

Kenenisa Bekele 10,000m Athletics World Record: 26th August 2005
Time: 26:17.53, 5km split: 13:09.19

Rohan Dennis, Cycling Hour Record: 8th February 2015
Hour distance: 52.491km, 30 minute split: 26.363 km

Apart from each being phenomenal performances, what's the common factor?

Notice how in each case the second half of the race was at the same speed, or slightly faster than the first half. None of them started fast to try and get ahead.

Lots of studies have looked into this phenomenon and they have all found the same thing - nearly all world record records in every sport are set with even pacing or where the second half is slightly faster than the first (a "negative split").

What About You?

Ask a friend or coach to time you over a fast 400m and take your split after the first 100m. From coaching experience we can tell you that you will almost certainly set off much too fast and go through the first 100m too quickly (around 5 to 10 seconds too quick). This causes you to slow down hugely in the second half of the swim and get a slower time overall. (See test results from the SS squads in Perth here).

But that doesn't just happen when you swim fast, it happens nearly every time you start a swim of any speed or distance in training. This is not only a bad habit to develop for your races but it also harms the quality of your training meaning you don't get the fitness improvements you deserve.

One of the easiest ways to solve this problem is to use a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro set to beep at you once per length. If you swim 100m in 2 minutes, set it to beep every 30 seconds and wait for the beep to set off on a swim. Your goal is to pace your effort so that you reach every 25m when the beep goes - you'll find it so easy to get ahead of the beep over the first few lengths and then it starts to catch you up and then overtakes you - that's your poor pacing!

Work on developing your pacing skills by setting off a little slower and let the beep control your pace - you'll immediately start setting some faster times... and the improvements will keep coming over the weeks and months of swimming that follow. Use that same pace judgement in a race and you will move significantly up the field.

A Tempo Trainer makes an amazing training partner, pacing you perfectly
through sets and giving you maximum 'bang from your training buck'.

Pacing skills aren't a sexy subject in sport but they are vital to reach your potential as a swimmer - just as much in your early stages of development. Is poor pacing stopping you reaching your goals?

Swim Smooth!

P.S. Just one word of caution when observing sprint swimming records, the time gained from the dive at the start can be worth 1-2 seconds despite the effort being even throughout the swim.

P.P.S. Extreme (and deliberate) poor pacing: http://m.runnersworld.com/boston-marathon/who-was-the-dad-leading-the-boston-marathon-at-mile-one

Friday, April 17, 2015

But What If You Can't Swim Freestyle Continuously?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Richmond SS Squad
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Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
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Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Ringwood SS Squad
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Analysis Consultations

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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Prague International Kids Camp
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Prague Junior Swim Club
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If you're new to swimming freestyle you might be suffering from a very common problem - you feel like you can swim the stroke more or less but you have no stamina, needing to stop and get your breath back every 25m or 50m.

Many many swimmers get stuck at this point and it can be really discouraging. It can take a lot of persistence to break through this barrier but the good news is that once you can swim further than 50m without stopping you'll quickly move on from there to swimming hundreds (or even thousands) of meters without a break.

The first thing to appreciate is that whilst swimming technique is very important, so to is swimming fitness. You can be as fit as you like in land based sports but if you don't have fitness specific to swimming you will struggle, even with great stroke technique. It's the combination of technique AND swim fitness that makes a great swimmer.

Persistence pays off: This time last year Marietta couldn't swim 25m
without stopping, yesterday she swam 1000m in Lake Como!
Thanks sending in the photo Marietta and keep up the great work!

Below are some tips on the fitness side of learning to swim freestyle - you don't need to have the body of an elite athlete to swim continuous laps but you do need to develop a basic level of fitness. Many strong swimmers forget they have this basic level of fitness and might say swimming is all about technique but we need to make sure that yours is in place - it's so important when you are building things up.

Keep working on your stroke technique using all the advice Swim Smooth offers you (don't forget exhaling in the water and kicking gently with a nice straight leg) but make sure you are giving your swim fitness the attention it deserves too.

Here's our swim fitness tips:

- If at all possible swim at least three times a week and perform as much freestyle as you can in those sessions. Going from twice to three times a week makes a big difference to your fitness.

- Be determined! Unfortunately fitness improvements don't happen overnight, your fitness improves slowly and incrementally over time, normally in such small steps we're not aware of it. However, if we stop swimming we start to lose that fitness again so not only do you need to be determined over a long period of time but you need to be consistent over that period too. See this post.

- Don't start too fast! If you're feeling a little anxious in the water then it's very easy to push off and start swimming too fast for your level of fitness - you can be effectively sprinting without you realising it. Try and relax, and find an easy rhythm to your stroke - you should be swimming at a steady pace, not racing to the other end to get it over with as soon as possible.

- Once you feel you are improving try and break the habit of stopping every length for a rest - after a while this becomes more psychological than physical! Try keeping it going for another half length or so, and then another full length after that - stay relaxed and you may be surprised what you can do. It's key to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone!

- If possible get together with some friends or other people you meet at the pool and swim together. You will push each other along and you'll be less likely to miss a swim. If they are actually slightly better than you then don't be put off but see that as a good thing, they can help pull you along and you'll definitely learn something from them about swimming.

- After swimming you may feel your arms are so heavy you can barely lift them - don't worry this is perfectly normal and a good sign you're promoting those fitness improvements. You may feel like your arms aren't strong enough but that isn't the case, you are just limited by your aerobic fitness in those muscles and that's why you're feeling sore after. No problem, just recover for a day or two and get going again next swim.

- Try to take the pressure off yourself. OK you need to push yourself along physically but don't beat yourself up psychologically if it takes a little time to get the improvements you are looking for. Fitness comes based on what you have done over the previous weeks and months - you can't force it.

- Keep a log! One of the most motivating and revealing things you can do is keep a training log, simply recording each session, what you did and how you felt. If you record some of your swimming times and distances (no matter how slow or short) you'll start to see your progress over time which is very motivating. Plus you'll start to see the big picture of your training - have you been as consistent as you think?

So there we go, focusing on your stroke technique when you're learning freestyle is vital but don't neglect the fitness side too. How long will it take? That depends a little on exactly where you are but with 2 to 3 months of persistent consistent swimming you should break through that '1 length only' barrier.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Procrastination Is The Dream Killer

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague International Kids Camp
Full information here

If you dream of a moment like this:



Then leaving this:



And this:



And actually visiting one of these:



Is the single most important thing you can do.

We don't care how old you are, or that now isn't a good moment, or you're worried you're not good enough, or you only want to work on your stroke technique, or your local pool isn't very nice. These are all forms of procrastination that are stopping you reaching your goals.

So turn the brain off, just start and the rest will all fall into place. Thinking about it is a lot worse than the reality.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Optimal Three Swim Sessions A Week

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague International Kids Camp
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here
If you're a triathlete or open water swimmer in the northern hemisphere then the race season is fast approaching. Hopefully your motivation is high and you are swim training regularly and consistently!

One thing we always recommend to swimmers if you're looking to take big strides forward is to swim consistently three times a week. The jump up from swimming twice to three times a week is significant both in terms of your skills development, fitness and technique.

But what should you do in those sessions for maximum benefit to your swimming? A cornerstone of Swim Smooth's coaching philosophy is that you need a balanced approach split between three key areas of your swimming:

- Your Stroke Technique (e.g. improving body position, alignment, catch and pull technique, stroke rhythm)

- Your Swim Specific Fitness (with an emphasis on distance swimming sets)

- Your Open Water Skills (e.g. drafting, sighting, swimming straight, open water confidence)

So important are each of these areas that we call them "The Three Keys". A classic mistake that swimmers make is to concentrate on just one of the keys, perhaps thinking "It's all about technique" or "I just need the hard-yards".

The thing is that each key offers you similar time gains, so if you're looking to take 3 minutes off your 1500m time, the best way to do it is to gain 1 minute from stroke technique, 1 minute from swim fitness and 1 minute from your open water skills:



Approach swimming in this way and you could end up taking more than 1 minute from each area - and that's when you get some seriously big improvements!

So our classic weekly structure is:

Weekly Session 1: Stroke Technique



Unless you know very specifically what you need to work on in your individual stroke, this should focus on all areas of your stroke technique. As the weeks go by make sure you include a focus on the following areas:

- Your exhalation technique into the water
- The symmetry of your stroke (ideally from breathing to both sides)
- The alignment of your stroke particularly how the hand extends forwards in front of the head
- Your kicking technique
- Your catch technique
- Your stroke rhythm

Make sure you include some steady paced longer swims during the session (e.g. 300 to 800m) where you maintain your stroke technique over a distance.

See technique sessions in the SS Coaching System here: app.swimsmooth.com/sequence/ks/pure-technique-sessions/

And fault-fixers here: app.swimsmooth.com/section/bX/dY/fault-fixers/


Weekly Session 2: CSS Training Session





CSS training sets are the perfect fitness training set for distance swimming as they target your aerobic fitness - i.e. your ability to sustain a strong pace for a long time. In comparison to traditional masters swim sets you might swim further at a slightly slower pace (only slightly) but with much reduced recovery times between swims. These are challenging sets but include one a week and you'll see the benefit as your times drop week on week.

More information on the Swim Smooth website here: www.swimsmooth.com/css

And in the SS Coaching System: app.swimsmooth.com/sequence/tc/css-sessions/


Weekly Session 3: Open Water Skills


Get together with a few friends and practise your sighting, drafting and swimming straight. This can get pretty competitive when you're swimming head to head with other swimmers so it's the perfect way to include a little sprint training in your week.

Remember this can be done just as well in your own lane in the pool as the open water so you don't have to wait for the lake or ocean to warm up - you can start right away!


Some session ideas here: www.feelforthewater.com/2013/04/too-cold-to-train-in-open-water-no.html

Our full guide and sessions in the SS Coaching System: app.swimsmooth.com/section/b8/ctZ/sessions/


More Or Less Time To Train?

If you can only swim twice per week then we recommend you rotate through these sessions in turn. So Technique / CSS in week 1, Open Water / Technique in week 2, CSS / Open Water in week 3 etc.

And if you swim four times? Consider adding in a challenging Red Mist or Pink Mist session to build some really deep fitness (and mental toughness)!

Above all else, remember that consistency is key. Keep your training rolling week-in and week-out and you will get the improvements you deserve.


Full Swim Smooth Training Plans

If that all feels like a lot to remember then you need to sign up for the Swim Smooth Coaching System, it includes extensive Swim Smooth training plans for every race distance from Sprint Triathlon to Ironman and marathon swimming. We've done all the thinking for you to get this balance right, simply follow the sessions and reach your goals! : app.swimsmooth.com/section/bW/training/

Or if you prefer old school paper then check out our waterproof training plans to take poolside: www.swimsmooth.com/trainingplans.html

Swim Smooth!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Should You Be Trying To Increase Your Stroke Rate?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague International Kids Camp
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here
One of the most common questions we get asked by swimmers is whether you should be trying to lift your stroke rate when you swim. The answer depends a little on your individual swimming.

Your stroke rate is how many strokes you take per minute (not how many you take per length) which is a similar idea to your cadence on the bike. At Swim Smooth we normally count both arms for stroke rate, so if you swim at a stroke rate of 60 strokes per minute (SPM) you will have taken 30 strokes with your left arm and 30 with your right every minute.

Generally speaking swimming with a higher stroke is good for open water swimming as the extra rhythm in the stroke helps you punch through waves, chop and disturbed water. For that reason, although you might take more strokes to swim a given distance, you will be more efficient doing so. This is a bit like spinning a smaller gear on the bike - each stroke takes less effort but you take more of them.

Of course like anything it's possible to over do this and end up fighting the water (see The Arnie below) but most elite open water swimmers and triathletes swim very effectively in the range of 75-90 strokes per minute and are very smooth and economical whilst doing so. For examples see Rhys Mainstone, Richard Varga and Tim Don in the Swim Smooth Coaching System.

So should you be trying to turn your arms over faster? Let's look at three classic types of swimmer and discuss:



The Arnie is the classic swimmer who has a tendency to fight with the water. Naturally athletic people, they try to use their strength and power to muscle through their stroke:

(See more Arnies here: youtube.com/watch?v=8n94xHkxBtw)

Most Arnies naturally sit at around 65-75 strokes per minutes which is a little too fast for them at this point in their development. If you are an Arnie, using a beeper* to slow your stroke rate down to 55-60SPM gives you the chance to straighten and lengthen out your stroke. Things will instantly feel more relaxed and controlled when you do so.

One word of warning - don't over-do this and add a big pause into the stroke timing at the front as you'll turn into an Overglider (see below). Hit that half-way house: smooth but still rhythmical.



The Bambino is also relatively new to swimming (like the Arnie) and can look deceptively like them at first glance. However, Bambinos nearly always lack a sense of rhythm and purpose in the stroke, with their stroke rates sitting around 50SPM or sometimes even slower:

(See more Bambinos here: youtube.com/watch?v=wdBU4fYMYSA)

If you feel your are a Bambino then experiment with lifting your stroke rate up using a beeper* - you'll love the sense of rhythm it gives you. Aiming for around 5 SPM higher than normal is a good start, although in the long run you'll probably be able to take it up more than that.

You might also be surprised to find that speeding things up doesn't necessarily make things harder as you might expect because it gives you a greater attachment with the water during the catch at the front of the stroke and lifts your body up higher up.



The Overglider is the classic swimmer who has tried to lengthen out their stroke and added a deadspot or pause in their timing. Unfortunately this nearly always causes them to drop the elbow and wrist, and push against the water at the front of the stroke:

(See more Overgliders here: youtube.com/watch?v=OPrNv_G-YlQ)

Overgliders have low stroke rates (typically in the range 45-53 SPM) and if you fit this type then you should be looking to lift your rate upwards. But (and it is a big but) first you need to correct the dropped wrist position. Lifting stroke rate whilst pushing forwards against the water like this won't be sustainable!

Correct the dropped wrist position at the front of your stroke and you will find your stroke rate naturally elevates without any conscious focus on it. A good target for you is around 57-65SPM, depending on your height and arm reach. See our full correction process here: app.swimsmooth.com/sequence/Ge/curing-the-overglider/




Controlling Your Stroke Rate

* You might be wondering how to make adjustments to your stroke rate. It turns out this is pretty easy to do these days with a gadget such as the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. Set it to any given stroke rate and it beeps the timing to you. Slip it under your swim cap and simply time your strokes to the beep (normally as your hand enters the water) - instant control!



For a bit of fun, try programming in these stroke rates of famous swimmers and try them out for size:

Ian Thorpe: 75 SPM

Alistair Brownlee: 90 SPM

Laure Manadou: 110 SPM

Swim Smooth!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Faster Than You Can Think?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here
How quickly can you say the alphabet in your head, A to Z? You can probably do this in under 5 seconds without undue effort. You learnt this order a long time ago as a child and it will stay with you forever - it's largely an unconscious exercise requiring very little effort.

Now try saying the alphabet backwards in your head as quickly as you can, Z to A. How long does that take you? This is a lot slower, harder and requires lots of conscious thought. The likelihood of you making a mistake is much higher too.

You can probably guess where we're going with this: If you can already swim freestyle well then all the movements of the stroke are as easy as saying A to Z to yourself - everything happens smoothly and reliably on autopilot without you having to (consciously) think.

But if you're learning the stroke for the first time, or trying to improve your technique, then things are much harder. Like saying Z to A, it's slow, it feels clunky, it requires lots of concentration and you don't always get it right.

So Slow It Down?

One school of thought in swim coaching is that to improve your stroke technique you should slow it right down so that you can consciously think about and control every movement. The theory goes that over time you learn those movements and they become fluid and natural.

You will have learned to write this way as a child, slowly and carefully tracing out the shape of every letter with your pencil. Over the months and years you gradually perfect this skill until handwriting becomes an easy subconscious exercise.

This 'mental concentration' style of learning can work for some areas of swimming. Focusing on keeping your legs straight when you kick or extending the lead arm straight forwards in front of the shoulder can be effective.

But in other areas where the timing and speed of the movements is important it can fall badly short. For instance as you extend forwards, catch the water and press it backwards at the front of the stroke, you are performing quite a complex set of movements in a very short period of time. Slow this movement by much, or make it mechanical and jerky, and you start to lose the feel for the water which is critical. To develop your catch technique you have to try it at pretty much full speed.

This is a similar situation to when you learnt to walk as a child. A one year old tottering forwards across the carpet is not consciously thinking "Oh I'm leaning a bit to the right I'd better move my right leg out a bit to balance that" - by the time they'd thought that they would have fallen over already. Instead you learned to balance and coordinate walking through trial and error, experimentation and feeling.

This is a type of learning that is largely subconscious and in fact too much conscious thought can actually stop it happening. The key is to give your body a range of experiences and let it learn its own path. This might seem overly simple but it really does work.

So within your swimming week, strike a balance between time when you are consciously focusing on specific areas of your stroke technique and time when you are simply swimming - aware of the rhythm and overall feel of the stroke without a specific agenda. Sometimes something will click during a long continuous swim or perhaps when sprinting or maybe even when swimming slowly.

To maximise your chances of success make sure you experience a range of stimulus, so swim at different speeds, distances and in different water conditions. Many drills can help with this style of learning too, for instance our Scull #1 and Unco drills help you tune into the feel of the catch without you having to worry about every specific movement and the timing of it.

As the great Ian Thorpe said in his autobiography This Is Me:

The way I swim is largely about the way I feel. Rather than analysing it or explaining why I swim a certain way, I prefer to just let it happen. Sure, a lot of things we do and the way we train is determined by science, but that doesn't answer everything.


To strike the perfect balance between these two learning styles use our new Swim Smooth Coaching System. It tells you what to focus on when, and also when to turn your (conscious) brain off and just swim. Try it out for free today:




Swim Smooth!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Try Sneaky Breathing

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here
It's fair to say that if something is going to go wrong with your stroke technique, it will probably go wrong whilst you are breathing. One very common problem you might have in your own stroke without realising it is over-rotation whilst breathing.

On a normal stroke you might rotate your shoulders and hips to around 45-60 degrees, which is the correct amount:



When you breathe you tend to rotate a little more on that stroke and if this goes much beyond 60 degrees you are over-rotating. In fact it's common to see swimmers rotating to 80 or 90 degrees at this point in their stroke:



Over-rotation is a problem because it causes you to lose balance in the water, the result being a scissoring of the legs to regain your stability, creating a lot of drag:



Over-rotation can be caused by problems such as the lead arm collapsing whilst breathing (a classic Bambino problem) or a crossover in front of the head (a classic Arnie problem) and of course you should work on correcting those faults directly (we suggest you use the fault fixer processes in our new web-app coaching system to do that). However, even when you've corrected your stroke, over-rotation may remain in place as a bit of habit. To help overcome that, try the 'sneaky breathing' visualisation:

Sneaky Breathing

What you are trying to achieve is less rotation of the body when you breathe, you don't want to remain completely flat but there is little risk of this happening as we all feel a strong urge to rotate to breathe when swimming freestyle.

Moving from over-rotation to normal rotation will mean that the breath happens a little quicker than normal, feeling like you are taking quick or 'sneaky' breath in without interrupting the overall rhythm of your stroke.

To make this happen, ensure you are keeping your head low in the water as you breath, looking across the pool and angling your mouth like Popeye chews his spinach:



You've already exhaled into the water so you simply turn your head to the side as your body rotates, quickly inhale and then return the head back to the water. The whole process should happen quite quickly - in fact when you watch elite swimmers like Jono Van Hazel if you blink you might miss them breathing altogether:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs

So try using sneaky breathing the next time you swim. The result you are looking for is for your stroke to feel much more rhythmical and flowing with much less interruption from the process of breathing. Give it a try!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Introducing The Pink Mist Set!

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here
Back in July 2012 we introduced ‘Red Mist’ sessions on the blog. Consisting of around 4km of sustained fast swimming, these challenging endurance sets are perfect for anyone racing 3km or over in their swimming events, especially those training for Ironman triathlon, 5km or 10km open water races or full marathon swims.

If you've tried these sets you'll know how much they test you both physically and mentally but master them and your swim fitness can take some huge strides forwards.

See the original Red Mist blog post here: www.feelforthewater.com/2012/07/red-mist-set.html

If you're subscribed to the SS Coaching System you can find a library of 75 (!) different Red Mist Sessions to choose from here: app.swimsmooth.com/sequence/HG/red-mist-endurance-sessions/

Introducing Pink Mist

Pink and Misty!

If you're quite new to swimming you might not quite feel ready for a full Red Mist session, and that's absolutely fine. However you can still gain a lot from this style of session, which is why we've created the 'Pink Mist' set, which is a slightly reduced Red Mist set.

A Pink Mist session follows exactly the same theme as a Red Mist session but rather than swimming 4km you 'only' swim around 3km at the same pace.

To create a Pink Mist session you simply shorten a Red Mist session by around 25%. So the classic 10x 400m set becomes 10x 300m :

4x 300m at CSS pace + 6 sec /100m
3x 300m at CSS pace + 5 sec /100m
2x 300m at CSS pace + 4 sec /100m
1x 300m at CSS pace + 3 sec /100m
[this is the complete session - no warmup or cool-down required]

CSS pace is simply your threshold pace, which is the speed at which you'd swim 1500m (more information here: www.swimsmooth.com/css). Of course you are swimming a little further than 1500m here so the pace is slightly lower - more like a strong 'tempo' pace.

Take around 20 to 30 seconds rest between each 300m swim or if you’re using a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro to pace you through, take 1 beep rest. This is just enough time to get a quick sip of drink before rolling into the next 300m.

Why not give this session a crack the next time you swim. The first time through you might swim at a slightly conservative pace just to get a feel of things and then increase the pace next time around. The first 300m should feel very easy but the relentless effort will gradually wear you down and by the end it will require a lot of mental effort to sustain the effort. Such is the challenge that you may feel like throwing your toys out of the pram and quitting half way through. That's the Red Mist descending - shrug it off, keep your focus and swim on through.

Sometimes we hear from swimmers telling us they're building up to trying this type of session in 3 to 6 months time. Quite likely this is just delaying things and procrastination on their part - just get in there and try it, it's really not that scary and you'll be really pleased with yourself that you did!

Given you swim these sessions at sub-threshold pace, you’ll be surprised how you can maintain your focus on maintaining your form throughout. Don't assume your technique will go out of the window during such a set - it won't!

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Triathlon Show 2015 & Rottnest Channel Swim

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Dubai Video Analysis
March 2015

Full information here

Dorset Clinic March 7th
Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here
Newsflash: The Rottnest Channel Swim was last Saturday in Perth - read Paul Newsome's full race report and find out how all the Perth squad got on here: swimsmoothperth.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/rottnest-channel-swim-results.html



It's that time of year again! Paul Newsome is making his annual pilgrimage from Perth to the UK for the Triathlon Show at Sandown Park, Surrey, UK this weekend followed by a series of Coach Education Courses near Northampton in March.

We'd love to see you at the show tomorrow (Friday), Saturday or Sunday on stand S45 in the Swim Zone. If you have any footage of your stroke on your phone (or ideally on a USB stick) bring it along and Paul, Adam, Annie or Gavin will give you a quick stroke analysis!

Here's Paul Newsome's talk and endless pool schedule:

2pm Friday, Zoggs Endless Pool Demonstration

4:45pm Friday, Seminar: Know Thyself - how to use regular testing and assessment of your swim specific fitness to ascertain appropriate targets for training and racing, leaving you happy that you are achieving goals specific and realistic to you.

2pm Saturday, Seminar: Live Analysis - utilising some fantastic HD video footage of “Before & After” swim video analysis sessions we show you how to tackle the most common issues affecting swimmer’s efficiency in the water.

3:30pm Saturday, Zoggs Endless Pool Demonstration

10:15am Sunday, Seminar: Dominating the Open Water - tips, tricks and sessions to maximise your time spent in the open water this summer. We show you how to use the latest gadgets and gizmos to turn the great outdoors into a measured / objective playground in which to thrive and develop your confidence.

12:30pm Sunday Zoggs Endless Pool Demonstration

Full venue details are at: www.220triathlonshow.co.uk

It's a fantastic show with so much to see and try out! Here's some of our favourite shots from last year:








See you there!

Swim Smooth