Friday, July 3, 2015

Glide Is A Dirty Word

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

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

Beg. & Int. OW Workshops
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
NewsfFull information here
Newsflash: SS Head Coach Paul Newsome has just touched down in Sydney for the ATEC show this weekend at The Dome, Sydney Olympic Park - where Ian Thorpe and his super-smooth stroke blew the world away at the 2000 Olympics. If you're in Sydney come and meet Paul, have your stroke analysed and corrected by him in the Fastlane pool, and sit in on his seminars. See you there!


This week's post is a re-visit of our popular (and detailed) 2012 blog Overgliding, Inefficiency And The Overgliderometer :

Glide Is A Dirty Word

Many well meaning swimmers and coaches talk about the benefit of 'gliding' through the water when swimming but have you ever thought what it actually means to glide?

A strict definition of gliding is to consider the time between one arm finishing a stroke finishing at the rear and the next commencing the catch at the front:



This gap between strokes is the true 'glide time' when there is no propulsion from either arm and you are truly gliding through the water.


Elite Glide Time

The interesting thing is that many elite swimmers look like they're gliding when they swim but what actually is their gap between strokes? The answer may surprise you. If we study footage frame by frame of greats such as Ian Thorpe, Rebecca Adlington, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Alex Popov and Sun Yang, the gap between their strokes is remarkably similar: between 0.10 and 0.20 seconds (see examples here and here).

1 to 2 tenths of a second is literally less than a blink of an eye and goes to show that although these great swimmers appear to be glide down the pool this is actually an illusion brought about by the smoothness of their strokes.


Your Glide Time

So what does it feel like to swim with a 'glide time' of 0.1 to 0.2 seconds? When you swim with this timing you are hardly aware of any gap between your strokes - it feels like you are stroking smoothly and continuously from one stroke to the next without any perceptible pause at the front.

If you have added a deliberate pause-and-glide into your stroke then it's likely the gap between your strokes is at least 0.4 to 0.5 seconds:

Classic Overglider: Glide time 0.45 sec, swimming speed speed 1:42 /100m
This gap is now long enough for large inefficiencies to be developing as you start to decelerate and sink deeper into the water (creating additional drag) between strokes.

If you've tried to *really* emphasise a glide in your timing then your gap between strokes may be as long as 0.7 to 1.2 seconds (we define anything over 0.7 seconds as extreme Overgliding). Now the stroke is becoming so inefficient it's unlikely you can swim more than a few lengths without feeling exhausted and having to stop for rest:

Extreme Overglider: Glide time 0.84 sec, speed 2:56 /100m
Notice how this swimmer has sunk completely beneath the surface creating huge amounts of drag and making finding the surface to breathe extremely challenging.


Getting Very Geeky

If (like us) you love your numbers and data then you will be interested in the chart we've plotted below. This is the data from 75 swimmers of all ability levels from beginner level to Olympic champions. It includes most of the famous swimming demonstration clips on Youtube.

We plotted each swimmer's speed versus their glide time:

The remarkable thing about this data is the strength of the relationship between glide and speed. The longer the gap between strokes, the slower and less efficient the swimmer is.

Of course the real clincher for our argument against actively gliding is the circled region:

In that area would be swimmers travelling quickly and efficiently but with a significant glide in their strokes. But there aren't any. None. These swimmers simply don't exist.


Glide Is A Dirty Word?

When we wrote the Swim Types website in 2010, we described 'Glide As A Dirty Word'. Perhaps unsurprisingly we copped a bit of flack from old-school swim coaches for making that statement but perceptions in the swimming world have shifted hugely over the last five years and now our argument stands largely unchallenged.

Glide is a term that has been used by well meaning swim coaches since the 1980s to encourage swimmers to lengthen out their strokes. However the reality is that when asked to glide down the pool swimmers overly lengthen their strokes by adding an intentional pause-and-glide at the front.

As we have seen this dead-spot is very inefficient and once ingrained it is very hard to remove from the stroke timing. It also causes other significant flaws in the stroke to develop:

- Putting on the brakes

- The overglider kickstart

Far better that we explain to swimmers that the goal isn't to make the stroke as long as possible (elite swimmers don't). And better to avoid the word 'glide' because it too easily introduces a deliberate pause. Let's talk about 'range' or 'extension' in the stroke but not 'glide' - swimmers will be much much better off for it.

Swim Smooth!

[After the original blog a few fellow swim geeks asked us why we plotted the data against glide time, not percentage of the stroke cycle. Time is a more meaningful analysis because deceleration (and so the impact on speed/efficiency) is dv/dt not dv/d-cycle.]

Friday, June 26, 2015

*Purpose* - A Much Overlooked Arnie Strength

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
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 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

Beg. & Int. OW Workshops
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Ringwood SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis Full information here
Quite a few swimmers find they perform better in open water, finishing ahead of those who would normally beat them in the confines of a swimming pool.

If this is you, you might think this is because you benefit a lot from wearing a wetsuit bringing your legs up high in the water. Whilst this is almost certainly the case, there may be another reason which you might not have thought of:

Arnies are the swimmers who classically 'fight the water' with many common faults in their stroke including lifting the head to breathe, crossing over in front of the head, scissor-kicks, a lack of rotation and low lying legs:




They're certainly not the 'best looking' swimmers in the water but once they're wearing a wetsuit, and if they can swim straight, they can be surprisingly effective racing in the great outdoors.

The reason? They have a good sense of natural rhythm and purpose to their stroke. Yes there's a lot of energy going to waste through poor stroke mechanics (which could certainly do with being refined) but with their legs brought higher by the wetsuit, their natural stroke rhythm helps them punch through disturbed open water better than many swimmers who have longer smoother strokes.

It's tempting to look at Arnies and think "I'm going to avoid swimming like that at all costs!" but make sure you look past the faults and appreciate their rhythm and sense of purpose, which is a definite strength. If we can straighten out the Arnie by removing the crossovers, improving their breathing and leg kick technique but maintain the sense of rhythm then we're going to end up with a very fast open water swimmer! Of course, we'd use our Arnie stroke correction process to do just that: https://app.swimsmooth.com/sequence/xa/taming-the-arnie/

As we refine an Arnie's stroke they naturally evolve towards being Swingers - swimming with good stroke mechanics and a good sense of rhythm. And as we saw last week looking at Shelley Taylor Smith's stroke, Swingers make the very best open water swimmers on the planet.

The Overglider

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Arnies are Overgliders who have killed their rhythm by adding in a deliberate pause-and-glide to their stroke timing. The problem with this stroke style is that water is 800 times more dense than air and the dead-spot causes the swimmer to decelerate between every stroke. This is doubly inefficient in open water where the additional buffeting causes even more deceleration between strokes than in the pool.

In numerical terms, Overgliders typically have a stroke rhythm in the 40-52 SPM (strokes per minute) range. Arnies and Swingers meanwhile sit a lot higher at 60-75 SPM. If you're an Overglider we're not looking to take you from 40 to 75 SPM immediately but by working on improving your catch technique, this will start to lift your stroke rate. By embracing a little of that Arnie rhythm and purpose you too can make some big strides forwards.

This is fundamentally how Mega Megan improved from 2:12 to 1:32 / 100m. Like Megan, by swimming with more purpose you'll instantly gain speed and efficiency in the pool, and even more in open water.

Swim Smooth! (and purposefully!)

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Shelley Taylor Smith Analysis & Jenson Button Trust Tri

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Twickenham Video Analysis Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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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

Beg. & Int. OW Workshops
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here
As we previously announced, the Swim Smooth team will be at the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon on July 11th and 12th! It's going to be a fantastic race on fully closed roads with the exciting double-race format retained from previous years:

www.jensonbuttontri.com

We've just finalised details of the special free Swim Smooth open water skills session which will take place on Saturday 11th July at 3pm. Our coaches will take you through some simple exercises to get you comfortable and relaxed in the water whilst tuning up your open water skills such as drafting, sighting and swimming straight.

You'll also get a good look round the swim course from on the water giving you an advantage come race day!

This session is for race entrants only, so put your name down for it if you've already entered the race:

www.swimsmooth.com/jenson-trust-tri-ow-session.php

Or if you haven't already entered the race yet then sign-up here first :

www.jensonbuttontri.com

See you there!


New Shelley Taylor-Smith Analysis

We've also just released a new analysis to Youtube of 7-time World Marathon Swimming Champion Shelley Taylor-Smith (arguably the greatest marathon swimmer of all time). This was recorded in April during our certified coach training course in Perth.

As they study her stroke, Paul and Shelley hold a fascinating discussion on the differences in stroke styles that great swimmers use between the pool and open-water :



The clip finishes with an interesting discussion on arm recoveries in different conditions. Shelley says (paraphrased) : It’ll be really interesting to see the strokes at the Rio Olympics next year. The 10K swim at London 2012 was in a lake with perfect flat water but Rio can get rough. We won't see many high elbows!

Is she right? We'll find out in 2016!

Find out more about Shelley and her inspirational public speaking on her website: www.championmindset.com.au

Swim Smooth!

Friday, June 12, 2015

How Your Body Type Affects Your Swim Stroke

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Ringwood SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
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West Lothian
Video Analysis

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Prague International Kids Camp
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Prague Junior Swim Club Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
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New Oxford/Henley SS Coach
Clinics & Video analysis here

Beg. & Int. OW Workshops
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here
Back in the 1990s they said that everyone should swim the same way, how we should all aim to make our strokes as long as possible. How we should all try to match the stroke length of Olympic Champions.

These days we understand that making your stroke as long as possible actually isn’t efficient swimming - you need to find the right trade off between the length of the stroke and your stroke rate (cadence) for you as an individual. This is in fact what Olympic Champions do - although many have long strokes, they could go even longer if they wanted.

How long should your stroke end up being? The answer to that question varies hugely based on factors such as your height, arm length, size of your hands, physical strength and swim fitness:



The short video above shows a great example of two swimmers of very similar speed - Brad Smith and SS Head Coach Paul Newsome - both swimming very effectively but with very different stroke styles. Each swimmer has taken account of their own physical make-up to find a stroke that works for them.

You should be aiming to do the same, even if that means going against what was historically considered to be an 'ideal' stroke.

We haven’t discussed Ape-Index on the blog in a while but it is always worth a revisit. Find some more information on it here:

www.swimsmooth.com/ape-index-swimming.html

And some more examples in the Swim Smooth Coaching System here...

app.swimsmooth.com/video/cqT/swimming-individuality-introduction/

...featuring Neil, our current Ape-Index world record holder!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, June 5, 2015

*Mega* Megan Is Back!

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Ringwood SS Squad
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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

OW Skills Workshops Pre-Blenheim
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here
Newsflash: We've just made the following updates to the Swim Smooth Coaching System:

- Added Paul Newsome's video analysis of elite triathlete Rachel Joyce (2011 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Champion & 2nd Place IM Hawaii).
- Added Paul Newsome's video analysis of Terenzo Bozzone (2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion).
- Added 20m pool option for beeper settings.
- As previously announced, added a brand new Brownlee Tri Sprint Training Plan - perfect for beginners swimming an open water triathlon for the first time.
- Improved webapp responsiveness on touch devices.

If you haven't checked out the system yet, signup for your free trial here: app.swimsmooth.com



*Mega* Megan Is Back!

Perhaps our most popular ever blog post here on Feel For The Water was our case study of Megan Surrette, an open water swimmer from here in Perth. From 2012 to 2014 Megan reduced her threshold swimming speed from 2:12 to 1:32 /100m - a HUGE improvement that justifiably earned her the nickname Mega Megan!

If you missed it the first time around, see how she made such a staggering improvement on the original blog post here and in her video review on Youtube here.

So that was a year ago... what's she been up to since? As well as swimming the 13km Northumberland Strait in Canada (one of only two last year to achieve the feat without a wetsuit), she's been developing a very nice 2-beat leg kick technique to further improve her stroke efficiency. As she says on the video below, Megan achieved this using our two-beat kicking tutorial on the SS Coaching System.

You can watch SS Head Coach Paul Newsome taking Megan through her latest video analysis session and see that 2-beat kick in action. The recording is packed with tips for any level of swimmer:



Video Index:

0:25 Arm Recovery
1:30 Straight Arm Pull-Through
6:00 Leg Kick Comparison
8:00 Great 2-Beat Leg Kick
16:15 Good Alignment
17:55 Swimming Down A Narrow Corridor
25:25 Summary
----
30:26 After Stroke Correction

Swim Smooth!

Friday, May 29, 2015

How To Hold Your Hands When Swimming

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Ringwood SS Squad
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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

OW Skills Workshops Pre-Blenheim
Berinsfield, Oxfordshire

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round: here
Take a quick look at this video loop that a swimmer sent it to us for feedback:



Notice how Travis is holding his hands very loosely - almost limply in fact. Unfortunately when you do this you lose your attachment with the water, seriously damaging your catch. You can also see how it is adding a lot of drag as the water hits the back of his hand and fingers.

When you swim you shouldn't hold your hands limply or cup your hands (as was commonly taught in decades gone by). The best swimmers in the world lightly hold their hands flat like paddles:

2x Australian 10km Champion Rhys Mainstone

Don't do this forcibly or rigidly, the hand should be held flat with a light 'tone' to it - similar to if you were extending your hand to shake someone else's.

Try adding a small bend at the wrist to create a little shape at the front of the stroke as we can see Rhys doing above and Pro Triathlete Guy Crawford doing below. This helps you engage with the water in the right way and press it backwards:



Of course like anything you don't want to over-do it! :



Fingers Together Or Apart?

A very common related question is whether you should hold the fingers together or apart:


For the answer to that, read our full blog post on the subject. The answer might surprise you:

http://www.feelforthewater.com/2013/11/fingers-together-or-apart.html

Of course, to give your catch and propulsion the full Swim Smooth treatment, you need our Catch Masterclass Program, available on DVD and in the Coaching System Webapp.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, May 22, 2015

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

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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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

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
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

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

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
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

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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

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?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

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

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
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Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
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Ringwood SS Squad
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Twickenham Video Analysis
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Lancaster SS Squad
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Lancaster Video
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
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
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

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
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

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!