Discover the flaws in your stroke with STROKE CONTRASTS

Here's a cunning method to help you self-diagnose parts of your stroke that need work. We call it "Stroke Contrasts".

Hopefully you are having a well earned rest over the Christmas holiday and are now thinking about what training you should be doing over the next few months. This is a great time to take stock of your swimming and make some training plans to meet your goals this summer. But when it comes to assessing your stroke technique, without the help of a good coach it’s hard to judge what you should be working on.

Enter the Stroke Contrast method. This technique asks you to deliberately alter your stroke for the worse so that you can experience how it feels. The contrast this creates gives you a unique sensory experience, which helps you tune into flaws in your stroke.

The possibilities for creating Stroke Contrasts are endless. Here’s a classic session -- try it for yourself and see what you experience:

Warm up: 400m smooth easy freestyle

For each of the contrasts below, swim 100m deliberately emphasising the stroke error then 200m focusing on correcting that error:
breath holding
Contrast of Flaw 1: Holding Your Breath
a) Swim 100m without any exhalation into the water – holding you breathe the whole time you are face down. Rotate to the side as normal to breathe but in that short window both exhale and inhale.
b) Now experience the contrast by swimming 200m emphasising good strong exhalation into the water. Doing this you only have to inhale when you rotate to breathe. This is good breathing technique – do you do this in your stroke normally?
Find out more about exhalation.
good body roll
Contrast of Flaw 2: Lack Of Body Roll
a) Swim 100m without any body roll, trying to keep your shoulders and hips flat and level with the water. To do this you might have to swing your arms round the side a bit more than normal.
b) Now swim 200m emphasising good body roll, rotating the hips and shoulders together. As you enter the water and extend forwards at the front of your stroke really emphasise rolling your body onto that side.
Find out more about body roll.

flexible foot
Contrast of Flaw 3: Dorsi Flexed Ankles
a) Using a pull buoy, swim 100m flexing your foot square to your leg as if you are standing. When you swim in this position your toes will point down towards the bottom of the pool. Feel what this does to your body position and how it creates drag.
b) Now continue with the pull buoy for 200m correcting this stroke flaw by pointing your toes (technical term: plantar flexion). Experience how this feels and what it does to your progress through the water.
Find out more about kicking.
head position
Contrast 4: Head Position
a) Swim 100m, every 25m try a different head position:
1) looking straight down and slightly behind
2) looking straight down
3) looking straight down and slightly ahead
4) looking ahead (eyes still just below the surface)
b) There is no right or wrong with head position – it’s an individual thing to suit your stroke. Choose the position that felt best for your stroke and then swim 200m holding that position.

bent elbow catch
Contrast of Flaw 5: Straight Arm Catch and Pull.
a) After entering the water at the front of your stroke and extending forwards, start your stroke but deliberately keep your arm straight without any elbow bend. This means you have to push straight down on the water rather than push it back. Emphasise this stroke flaw for 100m.
b) Now swim 200m, focusing on extending forwards and then commencing the stroke by catching the water with a good elbow bend, so pulling the water back to the wall behind you. Quick tip: try exaggerating the elbow bend more than you might think necessary.
Find out more about the catch and pull.
Warm down: Pick the contrast above that made the most difference to your stroke and swim 200m at a very easy pace focusing on that one thing.

That’s a simple 2100m technique session which anyone can use to assess their own stroke. You can modify it and add in other stroke flaws e.g. bent knee kicking, late breathing and catch up stroke timing.

Important: Deliberately introducing a stroke flaw in this way increases your perception. You can often feel if you have a tendency towards that particular flaw in your stroke. But if you don’t feel any difference at all versus your normal swimming, that shows you have the full version of that flaw in your stroke. Make fixing it your immediate priority!

How to fix a stroke flaw? The very best way is to invest in our full Stroke Correction DVD Boxset. It contains the most effective methods available to correct your stroke and meet your swimming and triathlon goals.

Merry Christmas!

Swim Smooth

Discuss this post and let us know your experiences on our forum here.

Quick Tip: Do You Struggle With Leaking Goggles?

Here's a good tip, particularly for women or men with smaller faces.

Most adult goggles are designed to fit the bone structure of large male faces. If you always struggle with leaky goggles then try junior goggles. It can make all the difference.

Swim Smooth!

Announcing Swim Smooth UK Clinics: January 2010

Swim Smooth are excited to announce four UK clinics in Windsor and Huddersfield in January. If you are a swimmer or triathlete looking to improve your speed and efficiency in the water, book your place now:

A Swim Smooth clinic is a full day of focused development of your individual stroke technique with Swim Smooth coaches Paul Newsome and Adam Young.

Each clinic includes:

- Detailed video footage of your stroke above and below the water which you will take away with you on DVD.

- A full detailed analysis of your stroke by Head Coach Paul Newsome. You'll come away with a clear understanding of what's currently holding you back and exactly what you need to do to improve your swimming speed and efficiency.

- Unique interactive classroom sessions that explain the fundamentals of the freestyle stroke, exactly why common problems occur and how to fix them. We'll cross reference this to your own stroke and in doing so explain how to adapt your individual technique for best performance in open water.

- How to develop a swimming program to suit your needs and how to get the most out of your pool time.

- Two practical swimming sessions focusing on developing your stroke. Paul and Adam will show you exactly how to fix the problem areas of your technique and under our guidance try out all the drills, methods and visualisations you need to take away with you and continue to work on.

- A mini squad session showing you how to implement our unique technique methods into a 'normal' training session.

The clinics are suitable for any ability of swimmer who can swim 200m of freestyle continuously from beginner up to advanced level. Each clinic is strictly limited to 12 swimmers to ensure you get lots of individual attention to your stroke needs.

Demand is expected to be very high - please don't delay in booking your place:

We hope to meet you in person in January.


Swim Smooth!

Swim Smooth Christmas Bargains!

2010 is just around the corner! Make it a great year for your swimming with our Swim Smooth products and special christmas offers:

Boxset20% Off The Swim Smooth DVD Boxset
Improve your speed and efficiency through the water with the definitive guide to improving your freestyle stroke. Three disks featuring our full stroke development program, every drill we teach, how to master open water swimming and a full training plan to follow.
Xmas Price: 20% off but only for the next 14 days – don’t miss out on this special offer! Find out more.

LTS20% Off The Swim Smooth Learn To Swim Program
Can’t swim freestyle at all? Let us show you how with our easy to follow straightforward 10 step process. You’ll soon be swimming up and down the pool with ease!
Xmas Price: 20% off for the next 14 days – don’t miss out on this very special offer! Find out more.

SwiMP3Finis SwiMP3 Waterproof MP3 Player
Power your swim sets with your favourite tunes using the very latest 1GB version of this amazing player. Supplied with a special sweetener: bonus Swim Smooth tracks that you can load onto the player and try out the functions of a full Wetronome at no extra cost! Find our more.

Tech TocFinis Tech Toc
Instant feedback on your body roll with this unique training tool. Swim with it strapped round your waist and you’ll only hear and feel a ‘toc’ noise if you rotate enough on every stroke. We rate it as the best gadget available for developing your body roll and so efficiency through the water. Find out more.

PT PaddlesFinis Freestyler Paddles
The find of 2009 – these paddles are so good for your stroke we think every swimmer should have a set in their kit bag. Why? Specifically designed to develop the freestyle stroke, they help you develop your streamlining, alignment, spearing hand entry and catch. They do this through their unique patented shape which works to straighten you up in the water. It's the perfect paddle to remove cross over. Find out more.

Training PlansSwim Smooth Training Plans
Special waterproof session plans for Sprint, Olympic, Half and Full Ironman triathlon preparation. 35 training sessions packed in to get you in perfect shape for your race season. Use them to work on your swimming fitness and stroke over the winter and hit the 2010 season with PB swim speed! Find out more

About these bargains:

Special offer price promotion runs from the 10th to 24th December 2009 only.

All items are in stock and will ship next working day from the UK.

Our usual multi-buy discounts of up to 10% still apply on top of promotion prices! Discounts are automatically applied in our shopping cart for orders of two or more items. Find out more.

Money Back Guarantee: All our products are either developed in house or hand picked from quality suppliers. We believe in them so much that we offer a complete money back guarantee on everything we sell. If you find you are dissatisfied with your purchase in any way, simply return the item to us and we’ll give you a full refund.


Swim Smooth!

Shelley Taylor Smith 2: Attitude Is Everything

Six weeks ago on Feel For The Water we featured a special guest post by Shelley Taylor Smith. The post was so well received that we've twisted Shelley's arm and got her back for part two - an inspirational story from her swimming career which you can read below.

An interesting fact when you read this: Shelley swam the 90km from Sydney to Wollongong at an average of 88 strokes per minute. Those of you benefiting from training with a Wetronome will know that's an amazingly high rate to hold for 12 hours!

Shelley is an open water swimming legend – a 7 time World Champion and 5 time winner of the mighty 48km Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. Known for her mental toughness and fearsome competitiveness, she’s an inspirational figure to many people around the world. See why below!

(You can read Shelley's first post on Feel For The Water here.)

Swim Smooth!

On January 17, 1995, I hit the wall 8hrs into my solo swim from Sydney to Wollongong (I know what you’re thinking... what were you thinking Shelley?) Little did I know that I had 4hrs 30mins of swimming remaining!

The water had dropped from 21C to 12C. Imagine if you can swimming at the front of the shark proof cage with the ocean water dumping on top of my head every 5 seconds much like a bucket of cold water dumped on you in the shower. I had this humungus (Aussie for huge) throbbing headache. Sharks had been circling. My fingers and toes were bruised and fractured from being picked by the velocity of the waves hitting the front and back of the cage.

I wanted out... normal behaviour I thought. I was stamping my feet like a child spitting the dummy as I repeated to my coach "I want a hot chocolate" "I want a hot shower!" "I want... I want" "I want out!"

Then came the most honest of all statements... "I have nothing to prove!"

My coach 'Grub' turned to me noticing my lips had turned blue and my back was shades of purple from the wind exposure; put two fingers up and said "How many fingers?"

I flashed back to Lac St Jean in Roberval, Quebec, Canada at the 1992 Pan Pacs 25km event when Grub asked that same question and I cannot remember my answer as I passed out unconscious from hypothermia and Grub saved me.

My moment of truth had come... way out there at sea thinking... hmmm if I say three... I can get out of this quick smart! I took the longest time contemplating should I or shouldn’t I. I replied "two" and Grub told me abruptly "put your head down and get going NOW!" I said "no!" to which Grub replied "Give me 20mins."

I put my head down and said to myself:
"If you don’t quit... you will make it!"
"If you don’t quit... you will make it!"
"If you don’t quit... you will make it!"

These 8 words are all I said over and over and over to myself in the 90km solo swim to Wollongong. 20 minutes turn to 40 minutes then 60 minutes and a pod of dolphins appeared out of no where which cheered me up. All of a sudden my stroke returned to normal and the water appeared to warm up.

Your attitude determines how well you will succeed when faced with a challenge. We did succeed that day when we made it to Wollongong Harbour in 12 hours 28 mins and 30 secs.

Would you like to be able to instantly acquire a winner's attitude?

Now is your time to discover how to control the one thing that means more to your accomplishments and happiness than anything else... Your Attitude!

Here is a simple positive Champion habit that will change your attitude in seconds:

1. Choose or create a positive mental attitude trigger phrase and repeat it aloud many times each day. A habit trigger is an event, action, or thought that helps to reinforce your positive habits.

Your trigger phrases will help you to maintain a positive mental attitude. Choose or make up a positive phrase, such as:

"I know I can do it."
"I can overcome any obstacle."
"I am reaching my success goals every day."
"I am getting stronger and stronger every day."
"Every day I am getting closer and closer to my goals in life."
"If I believe it... I can achieve it."
"Every day, my mental attitude is becoming more positive."
"I am achieving my goal weight every day."
"I am getting closer and closer to my goal of a trim and fit body."

2. Write down your trigger phrase on Post-it notes. Place them on the mirror of your car, on your bathroom mirror, carry the note in your pocket. Or as I did, place on the sun visor of the car, so when I needed an attitude check up, I’d flick the sun visor down and instantly know where I was going and how to get there!

3. Repeat the phrase many times every day, remember to say it with emotion, believe it with all your heart. Make it a habit to repeat this phrase at least 30 times a day. Start your day with it.

4. The more you repeat your trigger phrases, the greater their effect will be on your attitude. Whenever a negative thought enters your mind, replace it with your positive-attitude trigger phrase.

You will now be building success-oriented positive thought patterns. This Champion habit will help you achieve a positive mental winner’s attitude automatically.

Remember, attitude is everything!
And... if you don’t quit... you will make it!

Cheers, Shelley Taylor-Smith

Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time World Marathon Swimming Champion, Self-Motivation Teacher, Success and Performance Coach. In need of motivation, inspiration, education or a kick in the pants to get you fired up for the year ahead then log on at and receive the fortnightly Champion Motivations Ezine full of tips and tools to boost your self confidence and energise for success!

An Exclusive Interview With Triathlon World Champion Jodie Swallow (Includes Stroke Video!)

In today's blog we have an exclusive interview with newly crowned World Champion Jodie Swallow. We also grabbed the opportunity to video her stroke to give you an insight into why she's such a great swimmer. Check out our analysis here:

Swim Smooth's Paul Newsome caught up with Jodie after her victory here in Perth, Australia:

PN: Hi Jodie. Many thanks for taking a few moments out of your busy training and racing schedule to speak with us about your stunning performance at the ITU World Long Course Triathlon Championships here in Perth. Having been a former training and racing buddy of yours back in the UK, it was so great to see you dominate the race from start to finish and smash the field by over 11 minutes! Well done!

JS: Thanks Paul. It was an absolutely perfect day for me and probably will rate as one of the best in my life. The Aussies and the Brits over here were so supportive and made up for the fact that my family, ex-coach and my new coach couldn't be here. Sometimes the celebrations aren't as good without those close people around but the importance of this world title and the general warmth on the day astounded me. Having my old team mate there was also great - as always vocal and brilliant... thank you :)

PN: We'd love to just spend a couple of minutes with you chatting about the swim discipline of this particular event given that the conditions in the Swan River were so brutal and that so many athletes really struggled with this first 3000m leg of the event.

(To set the scene for our readers, the day started off with a screaming easterly wind of 30 knots which created a persistent wind chop of about 60cm for the first 2000m of the swim, also against the current of the river. This small but draining chop made sighting the buoys incredibly difficult especially when looking directly into the rising sun! Combine that with loads of large jellyfish and you can understand why so many competitors said it was the hardest swim they have ever done!)

Jodie, seeing these conditions at the start of the event, what was going through your mind in the warm-up area and during the minutes before the start? How did you get your head around the thought of ploughing into those waves for so long?

JS: Because of my swimming background I always have to make the most of my swimming speed and harder conditions generally help me to do this. However, following the Gold Coast (ed: the ITU Standard Distance World Championships, September 2009) where I was severely beaten up I was apprehensive and in some ways hoped for a straightforward swimmer vs. swimmer lane swim. I guess you have to deal with the cards dealt on the day and push aside any preconceived ideas of what's going to happen. I couldn't change the waves - I just had to deal with them and keep battling forward.

PN: And were you happy that it was a wetsuit-legal swim? Do you find the wetsuit helps or hinders your stroke?

JS: I actually like wetsuit swimming - I have a quick stroke rate and a wetsuit just adds that aid and saves the energy spent on supporting the body. I do think however non-wetsuit swims broaden the difference between good and average swimmers so it is probably more in my favour to be without. Again I deal with what is handed to me on the day and make the best of the decisions not in my control.

PN: You led out the swim portion of the triathlon by a considerable margin of over 70 seconds from Australia's Pip Taylor, but perhaps more interestingly you caught (and passed) the large pack of elite male swimmers who had set off 90 seconds in front of you, including local hero Sean O'Neill. Was this always in your plan or had you planned to maybe draft a portion of the swim leg and save some energy for the bike and run?

JS: No, the difference between my flat out 100s and my threshold 100s in swimming is about 2 seconds. I am an aerobic queen - so going what other people consider as 'hard' in the swim is pretty standard for me. I know I could hold this pace for every 6km swim session I do. I couldn't see the men but 90 seconds isn't a lot in 3km terms and I swim hard. In Singapore (ed: Singapore 70.3 Half Ironman, April 2009 - which Jodie also won) we started with the men and this was great because I could swim as hard as possible and also get the feet of the pack. This accelerates the speed even more. I swam on my own the whole of the swim in Perth but it would not have been worth me waiting for another girl and forfeiting my actual and also psychological lead going into the bike.

PN: Just on that point about drafting then - you have raced and won at the highest of levels on the ITU World Cup scene where the pressure is really on in the swim, how much of a help do you find drafting, how much skill does this take and how often in training do you practice this?

JS: I like to swim at the front of packs and away from trouble. Unfortunately a mini culture of bashing the better swimmers to catch their feet has developed. I think its annoying because it slows everybody down and is actually a form of cheating, intentional or not. The better swimmers rarely touch one another because we have better spatial awareness and in fact I rarely hit anyone even in public lanes because I can read swimmer's speeds and know good lane discipline from my swimming club days. Training with men is really helpful because I have to be aware of them because I could get hurt. Training with girls is not as good because I dominate the speed and the direction of the group more often than not and am not as scared of being hit!

PN: Back to the Perth race then - swimming well in the pool (with your background as a National Pool Swimming Champion in the UK) is very different to swimming well in the open-water. Would you agree? How do you, and how did you, modify your stroke at the Perth race to combat the messy conditions where holding a good rhythm in the water is absolutely essential?

JS: I was actually a 400 IM swimmer (4.48). I trained very hard as a youngster and much of my mindset was about effort and miles. This, in fact, is incredibly similar to open water swimming where you keep the cadence high and keep going. I have never been incredibly strong or skilful to create a long, slow stroke and I am much smaller than a lot of top class swimmers so this would not have challenged their stroke reach so it was more effective to keep a higher rate and a decent grip on the water. Rhythm is a great word for open water swimming because if you work with the waves it is a little like dancing. Waves can not only hinder you but help as well and I often catch currents when some people can't even sense them. I think the main point of open water swimming is that you have to attack the wave for it to respect you. Hold strong against it and it backs down.

PN: I was doing the coach-nerd thing whilst you were swimming and clocked your average stroke rate in those conditions as 90 strokes per minute. For many of our swimmers using a Wetronome to help monitor and develop stroke rate, this will seem like a very high figure. How do you find this helps your swimming ability in the rougher conditions compared to focusing perhaps on distance per stroke in the pool?

JS: As I said before - you can't attack a wave when you are gliding in the streamlined position. It's just going to take you backwards. If your stroke is more punchy and quick it is also more adaptable and you can duck and dive with it too. If a rugby player has to change direction he is better off using quick, short strides because you can accelerate better. It is exactly the same when you are having to cope with sideways and frontways waves. Some pool swimmers have amazingly long strokes but the water is pan flat in their lane and will flow over their streamlined glide. Open water won't do this.

PN: Any idea on how many strokes you take then per length in the pool (50m)? Do you count this on a regular basis? Is it important to be as low as possible or do you prefer to concentrate on rhythm and flow in your stroke?

JS: I am undecided on this one. I have tried to lower my strokes and been congratulated on it etc. but I am going much slower so I lose concentration and go back to my quicker stroke and get faster again! As a kid this always confused me. Now I try and do less strokes per length but the same rate which means I am getting more power from each stroke which I have concluded is the most important factor.

PN: Finally then, whilst training with our squad here in Perth after the event you had a good chance to use the Wetronome product yourself. How did you like using the two functions: Stroke Rate and Lap Time to assist you with your training?

JS: I love the stroke rate function. I often have to train alone as I travel so much and it just helps to keep me engaged and tuned in to my sessions and the reasons I am doing them. I don't like the lap time function - probably because I always attack each lap then slow down into the pace for that rep. I wouldn't want to change this aspect of my training really, however, in teaching proper pace judgement I think it is invaluable. I have had the advantage of training up and down a pool since I was eight - the Wetronome is the best tool to help a newcomer understand their speed and how to pace rep sessions.

PN: Many thanks for your time Jodie. We wish you the very best of luck at the upcoming 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida and your goals building up to the London Olympic Games in 2012!

JS: Thanks Paul. I'll come and cause trouble in Perth sometime soon :) x

--- Interview Ends ---

Find out more about Jodie and get regular updates on her website:

See our video analysis of Jodie's stroke here:

Discuss this blog post on our forum:

Stop Breathing For A While!

If you have a problem with your freestyle stroke, it is most likely to appear when you go to breathe. For instance you might cross over at the front of your stroke, bend through your core or drop your wrist, all of which hurt your catch. It's only natural to focus on your breath and getting that air in - it feels very important - but this shift in mental focus away from your stroke to your breathing often introduces or worsens stroke flaws.

These movements become a habit when you breathe which hurts your speed and economy through the water. Here's a way of breaking those habits and bringing them to your attention so you realise what you are doing:

Short Technique Swims Breathing Less Often

Normally we'd ask swimmers to breathe bilaterally every 3 strokes (counting both arms). Instead, in these special breathing sets we ask swimmers to breathe every 5 or 7 strokes over short distances. Swimmers who are good at this sometimes go to breathing every 9 strokes.

Here are two example sets to try (insert these in your drill sets):

1) Repeat 3x 200m with fins at steady pace (kick only gently). Over each 200m swim 50m breathing every 3 strokes then 50m breathing 5s then 50m breathing 7s then 50m breathing 3s.

2) Swim 3x 100m breathing 3, 5 and 7s in turn - so first breath after 3 strokes, second after 5 more, third after 7 more, then back to 3 strokes.

Why do this? In these sets you perform many more 'good clean strokes' without the distraction of breathing. By focusing on smooth, well aligned strokes you dial in those good movement patterns. Then when you go to breathe you have a much better chance of holding good form - and of feeling the change in movement if you do introduce a flaw.

Aside: In years gone by swim coaches used to ask their swimmers to breathe less often - they believed the oxygen starvation made their swimmers fitter. This was known as hypoxic training. This is NOT what we are doing here - this is technique work not fitness training. You will normally feel a little short of breath doing these sets but that's OK, don't push it too far - it's not supposed to hurt. Keep exhaling long and slow into the water to get rid of the CO2 and focus on perfect smooth strokes.

If this sounds really tough to you still give it a go! For short distances it's not as hard as it sounds. Just relax, swim at a steady pace and enjoy perfect strokes without the distraction of breathing.

This method is just one of the subtle ways we work to improve your stroke in our highly regarded training plans: - They're the perfect mix of training and technique!

Swim Smooth!

Why Kick On Your Side?

Kicking on your side drills are normally performed with fins, with your lower arm extended out in front of you and the upper arm resting by your side. Your shoulders and your hips are fully rotated onto the side with both at 90° to the bottom of the pool. In this position, gently kick with the fins to push you down the pool.

There are 3 reasons why kicking on your side is very good for your freestyle:

1) You become accustomed to being on your side, making rotation more comfortable in your full stroke. Good rotation adds power and efficiency to your swimming.

2) You can practise getting in a good arm and hand position before you start the stroke. Do this by holding your elbow slightly higher than your wrist and your wrist slightly higher than your fingertips. Make sure you have a flat hand, don't bend at the knuckles.

This setup position is great for improving your catch and feel for the water - increasing your propulsion for the same effort. Don't underestimate how important this setup position is if you want to swim faster!

3) You get the feel of holding your body straight in the water and holding your lead arm straight out in front, this is especially useful for removing cross-overs at the front end of your stroke.

Tip: Whilst kicking along on your side, you can briefly raise your head slightly and look forwards, check you arm is extended straight and your hand is in that cocked wrist position.

Two classic Swim Smooth drills employing kicking on your side are 6-1-6 and 6-3-6. If you have the Swim Smooth DVD Boxset or used one of our training programs you'll be familiar with them. Insert some 6-1-6 and 6-3-6 in your drill sets and you'll be on the pathway to faster, more efficient swimming.

Swim Smooth!

Shelley Taylor Smith: Stop And Think, Who’s On My Team?

Today we have a special guest who many of you will be familiar with. Shelley Taylor Smith is an open water swimming legend – a 7 time World Champion and 5 time winner of the mighty 48km Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. Known for her mental toughness and fearsome competitiveness, she’s an inspirational figure to us and many other swimmers round the world.

Shelley’s from Western Australia and Swim Smooth are lucky to have her swimming regularly with us in our squads in Perth. Since retiring from elite swimming, Shelley’s turned her energies towards becoming a hugely successful motivational speaker and coach. We twisted her arm for some of her secrets on the mental side of swimming - here’s our first instalment from Shelley, we hope to have her back again very soon.

Swim Smooth!

Hi everyone! Here’s a strategy I used to great success throughout my swimming career, I wouldn’t have achieved what I did without assembling a great group of people around me. I would always think "who's on my team?" :

The most profound influence from the "outer world" is most certainly OTHER PEOPLE.

The people you allow into your life and who you spend the most time with, are the greatest external factors to the direction your life will take. Yes, external influences are that powerful.

It is known that you will be the combined average of the 5 people you spend the most time with; you will have the combined lifestyle, health practices, thinking processes, expectations and income.

Think about it. Whatever is consistently entering your experience ends up becoming your reality. Similarly, whoever is consistently in your experience is bringing dominate thoughts, attitudes and actions to your reality.

Who we spend our time with determines what conversations dominate our attention and the observations, attitudes and opinions we are repetitively being introduced to.
Eventually, we start to eat what they eat, talk like they talk, read what they read, watch what they watch, treat people how they treat people, even dress like they dress and think like they think. All the while this may not even be a conscious transition.

Your associations don't shove you in a direction; they nudge you ever so slightly over time.

Have you ever been out to eat with a group of people who are more health conscious than you might normally be? Did you find yourself compelled to order something a little more healthy than normal? That is the power of associations; you were influenced to match their "stride".

Unfortunately the same compulsion is true if you go out to eat with a group and everyone orders multiple drinks, heavier foods, deserts etc. Even though you will try your best to be a maverick, over time you will slowly but surely start "matching" their stride as well. This is true of attitudes, expectations, perspectives, beliefs, opinions, etc – in every area of your life. Even the most self-contained individual is subconsciously lured into the grip of associations' influence.
shelley and dawn fraser
But what can we learn from this as swimmers? Well, is there someone that you train with that carries a lot of negativity with them? Someone always looking on the downside or doubting themselves? Even a coach or group leader who has a negative approach or an elitist attitude? If so, seriously consider changing your training routine to free yourself from this negative influence. Like it or not if you're in the presence of this person, they're on your team!

Or, do you know someone you admire who is the athlete you aspire to be? Or someone who has the positive approach or dedication you’d love to have? One great thing about pool swimming is that you might not be as quick as another swimmer but you can be in the same lane or pool and pick up on their positivity and dedication. Ask them for tips or advice, even ask them what their secret is – a few flattering words will pull them in closer, and increase their positive influence on you.

If you’re looking for a training squad or group, make sure you observe the coach or group leaders in action. How do they talk to their swimmers? What’s their approach to motivation? Consider this as important as their technical knowledge as a coach. Remember everyone you train with is on your team - pick your team carefully and they'll start to rub off on you!

Final word from Coach Shelley:
1. Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention.
> Which ones lift and which ones lean?
> Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?
> Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill?
> When you leave certain people do you feel better or feel worse?
> Which ones always have drama or don’t understand, know or appreciate you?

2. Seek relationships with quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love & truth around you.
> List the people around you who possess these attributes and more?
> What qualities do they possess that you both admire and aspire to emulate?
> They are your ‘balcony people’ your Champion team who will cheer you on..
> They will be your witness as you declare yourself and your dreams!

Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time World Marathon Swimming Champion, Self-Motivation Teacher, Success and Performance Coach. In need of motivation, inspiration, education or a kick in the pants to get you fired up for the year ahead? …then log on at and receive the fortnightly Champion Motivations ezine…full of tips and tools to boost your self confidence and energise for success!

The Conveyor Belt Visualisation

Here’s a neat visualisation to help you remove deadspots from your stroke.

Deadspots normally lie right at the front of the stroke, the lead hand gliding in a stationary 'dead' position for a period of time causing the swimmer to slow down between strokes. Not only do you lose speed here but many stroke problems occur in this dead period, such as dropped elbows and wrists – adding drag and ruining your feel for the water.

Problem: Swimmers can find it hard to co-ordinate removing these deadspots, when they try they often end up accelerating every other phase of their stroke but leave the deadspot in place!

If you’re in that situation here’s a little tip to help you, we call it 'The Conveyor Belt Visualisation'. Imagine you are swimming over a conveyor belt in the water (you could also think of it as a treadmill):

What you have to do is simple, try and keep one arm stroke on the conveyor at all times – so as one stroke finishes at the back you begin catching the water at the front. As you do this try and stay relaxed and find a new rhythm, there will be a temptation to swim harder but this isn’t necessary. In fact, as you remove the deadspot and become more efficient, you can reduce the effort in your stroke a little to swim at the same speed – great!

Use the conveyor belt visualisation as a drill to practise a new improved stroke timing. Depending on your individual stroke and style, the 'conveyor stroke' may be too extreme for you to be comfortable swimming over longer distances – you might need a very small delay between finishing at the back and starting at the front. That’s OK as long as that lead hand never stops and pauses – it’s always in motion: either extending forwards with your body roll, gently initiating the catch by tipping the fingertips over and bending the elbow or pulling backwards on the water. If you watch him closely, this is how Mr Smooth swims.

We've opened a thread to discuss and asks questions about this blog post in our forum here:

Swim Smooth!

Challenge Yourself With Our Biggest Loser Competition

Looking for a challenge this winter? Something to inspire and motivate you? Welcome to Swim Smooth's Biggest Loser Competition! How much time can you LOSE off this classic set of 100m intervals over the next 6 to 12 weeks?

As the nights draw in this autumn it's a great time to get focused on your swimming and make some big improvements. We hope to get as many swimmers as possible of all ability levels, all around the world, taking part in the Biggest Loser Competition. Why not join them and report and discuss your results on our dedicated Forum Thread?

Find out more and take on the challenge:

The Biggest Loser Competition is suitable for any swimmer who can swim 2000m or so in a session - even if you've not trained with 'proper sets' before. There are three different difficulty levels of the set, so whether you're a beginner, intermediate or advanced level swimmer, one will be perfect for you.

Don't be nervous - setting yourself little goals and challenges like this is a great way to stay motivated over the autumn and winter months. So get involved, challenge yourself to improve your swimming speed and tell us how you get on here. If you don't have a forum logon yet you'll need to create one - it's easy, start here.

Over the coming weeks we'll report back here on the blog how swimmers are going and any inspiring stories we hear about!

Swim Smooth!

Swimmers In Secret Filming Shock

Hi, Paul Newsome here.

On the blog today I wanted to share a little demonstration with you -- something I think that every swimmer could improve their swimming speed from watching. It’s a short video clip secretly filmed by a Swim Smooth coach at one of our squad sessions here in Perth, Australia.

The swimmers in the video are normal age group triathletes and swimmers in a normal training session. There’s nothing unusual about them, in fact they’re probably a lot like you and swim a lot like you, too. There’s a whole range of abilities there - some are new to swimming and some are very experienced and yet through poor pacing skills they're all harming their performances. Do you do the same? Chances are you do.

Check out the video:

Text link:
(if you like this video, please give it a good rating on YouTube so more swimmers find it)

99% of amateur swimmers and triathletes swim this way in training and races – starting too fast and then fading. Pacing is a critical skill if you want to maximise your race speed. By starting too fast you’ll fade dramatically in the second half of the race and lose much more time than you ever gained early on.

In training, the problem with poor pacing is that it reduces the fitness gains you achieve. If you want to improve faster, or get off a speed plateau, you need to pace your swim sets carefully. When you pace things right training feels easier and you’ll avoid that horrible feeling of ‘my stroke is falling apart’.

Here are the swimming speeds from the guys in the video over the course of that first 150m swim. Notice the large drop off in pace (we’ve added a 25m split in too):

If you swim with a masters group or squad you probably feel under significant peer pressure to keep up or stay in front as everyone else starts too fast around you. If you’re in this situation why not try some carefully paced sets swimming by yourself, experience the benefits and then suggest to your group to try swimming that way?

In forthcoming blog posts and articles we’ll be giving you some more advice and tips on how best to work on your pacing. If you want to experiment straight away, get a friend to take your splits (preferably every 25m) through a simple set like this:

5 to 8x 200m swum at your fastest sustainable pace with 30 seconds rest between each.

After each 200m get feedback on how you did and try and improve on the next one. I’m sure you’ll be very surprised how easy you have to take the first 25-100m to pace the set perfectly! Let us know how you go on this thread in our forum:

Remember, good pacing is a form of swimming technique, just like good stroke mechanics. Learning good pacing skills is very important if you want to achieve your potential in the water.


Swim Smooth!

Do You Own A Waterproof MP3 Player?

Swim Smooth are pleased to announce a new product to improve your swimming :

Stroke Rate and Lap Interval Test Tracks For Your Waterproof MP3 Player

Swim Smooth have produced special audio tracks that beep Stroke Rate and Lap Intervals to you on any MP3 Player. If you own a waterproof player these tracks give you a low-cost introduction to the fascinating world of Stroke Rate Training and Lap Interval Pacing:

- Use the first set of Stroke Rate Tracks to time your arm stroke to the beep, improving your rhythm and timing. Adjusting your stroke rate up or down lets you find that sweet spot in your stroke - so you can swim faster and more economically.

- Use the second set of Lap Interval Tracks to develop your pace judgement, improving the accuracy of your training and reducing your race swim splits. Deceptively simple, this set beeps every lap or half-lap so you can pace your swimming perfectly. Most swimmers are surprised how poor their pacing is and how much room they have for improvement!

We call these 'Test Tracks' as they allow you to thoroughly test out the two functions of the specialist Wetronome tool at a very low price. With every purchase we include a Wetronome discount voucher to the full value of the MP3 tracks. We do this because we believe you'll experience so much improvement in your swimming you'll go on to purchase a Wetronome. Compared to an MP3 player a Wetronome allows finer settings, it's smaller, has almost endless battery life and never reaches the end of a track whilst you are swimming!

Find out more about the MP3 Tracks and how to download them here:


Swim Smooth!

SIX Is A Magic Number

Are you making a change to your stroke? Struggling? Does it seem to require continual focus?
Here’s an interesting rule of thumb: After focusing on a change for six swim sessions it should suddenly feel a lot more natural. That’s just how it works, you’ll get in on your 7th session and it’ll just click - the modification suddenly feels smooth. So, if you’re struggling with a stroke change, a drill or a timing change, hang in there for those 6 sessions!
Perhaps even more important is the flip side to this: If a change doesn't click after 6-8 sessions then you need to try another approach, what you’re doing isn’t working.
For more background theory on how humans develop skills, see our article:
Swim Smooth

Five Classic Misconceptions About Freestyle Swimming

Here are five commonly held misconceptions about the freestyle stroke. Don’t fall foul of these or you’ll seriously hold back your swimming:

•    Misconception 1: "The freestyle stroke needs to be as long as possible – longer is always more efficient."
A long stroke is a good thing up to a point, but an *overly* long stroke leads to dead spots and pauses that ruin your rhythm and timing. This normally happens with swimmers who have done technique work focusing on gliding. These dead spots cause you to decelerate between strokes, which makes you less efficient because you need to accelerate your whole body again on the next stroke.
Our advice: To make yourself as efficient as possible you need to find the right stroke length and stroke rate (strokes per minute) for you as an individual. Find out more:

•    Misconception 2: "As a triathlete I don’t have to work on my kick."
As a triathlete you’re not looking for propulsion from your kick but you still need to work on it. This is because poor kicking technique causes lots of drag. Also, for advanced swimmers, the timing of your kick assists your arm stroke propulsive power.
Our advice: If you want to swim faster don’t neglect your kick, keep some structured kick technique work in your sessions. Find out more:

•    Misconception 3: "I can’t breathe bilaterally – it’s too long between strokes."
Swim Smooth believe anyone can breathe bilaterally. If you can’t there are three possibilities of what’s preventing you from doing so:
a) If you’re a novice swimmer, your stroke rate could be so slow it really is too long between breaths. To fix this, work on increasing your stroke rate a touch.
b) It could be that you’re not exhaling effectively into the water. This is critical because breathing out late builds up CO2 in your lungs and makes things feel very anaerobic (like a sprint activity).
c) If you struggle to breathe to one particular side it could be because you don't rotate well enough to that side.
For our advice on fixing these issues see:

•    Misconception 4: "My head position should be low, looking straight down at the bottom of the pool."
For some swimmers -- yes. For many swimmers -- no. Head position is a very individual thing and you can use it as a tuning knob to help your swimming. If you are very lean and have sinky legs then a lower head position will suit you. If you have an effective kick and excellent body position then a higher head position might suit you better – otherwise when swimming in a wetsuit you may feel so buoyant that you’re kicking air! A higher head position is always better in open water for sighting and viewing under the water – if you have the body position to cope with it.
Our advice: Experiment with different head positions and see what works best for you, you may be surprised!

•    Misconception 5: "I don’t need to do fitness training for swimming – I’ll get it from bike and run training."
Unfortunately fitness doesn’t work like that. Much of our aerobic system lies in the specific muscles we are using and it needs training in those muscles. Neglect your fitness work and you’ll never get close to your swimming potential.
Our advice: When training for swimming you should think of it like bike or run training, you need long steady swims and mid-length harder swims. Vary this mix through the year and introduce harder race-pace swimming as the season approaches. That’s the Swim Smooth recipe for swimming fitness!
And don’t forget, if you have questions or discussion points surrounding these issues or anything else to do with your swimming, then you’re very welcome to ask them on our forum:

Swim Smooth!

Swimmers' Shoulder Problems In A Nutshell

The four leading causes of shoulder injury:

- Thumb first hand entry

- An S-shaped pull

- Pulling deep with a straight arm

- Cross overs (normally caused by poor rotation to one or both sides)

If you’re suffering from shoulder injury or pain then concentrate on fixing these problems and 9 times out of 10 shoulder injury will disappear quickly. Find out more:

Training Session: Pre Race Swim

Over to Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome for this week's training session feature:

Here's a great little set that I do with my squad in the week leading up to a major triathlon or swimming race, preferably 4 - 5 days beforehand. It's great preparation for your race:

Warm-up: 4 to 600m easy freestyle focusing on easy exhalation into the water and simply being relaxed

Drills: 2 x 200m. Break each 200m down as 2 x (50m drill + 50m freestyle) and take 15s rest after each 200m. Do this set with fins if possible. Perform the 6/1/6 drill from our DVD Boxset on the first set and Torpedo Kick as the second drill - simply thinking about stretching out long in the water.

Main: 1 x 300m + 2 x 150m + 3 x 100m + 4 x 75m + 6 x 50m. Take 15s rest between each. Perform the 300m at 1500m race pace; take the 2 x 150m steady; then the 3 x 100m at 1500m race pace; the 4 x 75m at steady pace and practice a deep water start on these (i.e. no push-off, just treading water like at the start of a triathlon)...surge hard for the first 10m and then steady for the remaining 65m. Finally, alternate one easy and one fast on the 50m intervals at the end and simply think about holding good form whilst swimming fast.

Cool-down: 1 to 200m choice.

You should find the time goes very quickly with this session. It's perfect for tuning into your pacing strategy for the upcoming event. Give it a try before your next big race, I think you'll like it.



Finis Freestyler Paddles

Here’s a product we don’t sell but we love:

Finis Freestyler Paddles --

In our opinion they’re much superior to a conventional swimming paddle. They help you improve your hand entry by spearing into the water giving you instant feedback if you’re not extending, catching and pulling with good alignment. And they ensure you finish your stroke properly during the push phase at the back of the stroke.

They're especially good for helping remove crossovers , which you can read a little more about on our bilateral breathing page: Incidentally, crossovers cause shoulder impingement, one of the leading causes of swimmer’s shoulder injury. So, unlike normal paddles, these Freestylers help fix shoulder injury, not cause or aggravate it. They are not a strength paddle - they are a technique paddle - so we suggest you swim with them in your warm-up and drill sets.

For smaller women we recommend the white junior version - the girls on our swim squads love them. Oh, and these paddles are cheap too – bonus!


Swim Smooth

Technique Hermits, Pacing & Fitness

What does your weekly swim program look like? Is every session the same or do you mix things up? How does each session breakdown? Do you factor a bit of technique work into every session and likewise do you feature some laps of continuous normal swimming as well, possibly with goal times for your intervals? If you can comfortably swim 400m continuously and you are keen to really develop your swimming, these are questions you should be asking yourself.

Swim Smooth are firm believers about including some fitness training for all swimmers with a basic level of competence. Technique work is very important, in fact critical, to a swimmer increasing their speed but we also know that swimmers who take this to the extreme and only do technique work lose a huge amount of fitness. We call these guys "technique hermits". Many end up swimming only 25-100m at a time and that's not enough to maintain any fitness level.

Here's what we hear from technique hermits all the time: "I'm focusing on my technique, it isn't good enough yet because when I swim over 200m my stroke falls apart."

If you only ever swim short distances you not only lose fitness, something else happens: your pace judgement becomes very poor. The fact is that if you ask a technique hermit to swim 400m they will always set off at much too fast a pace over the first 100m. This feels easy to them because it takes a while for their heart rate, breathing and sensation of effort to catch up. By 200m our technique hermit is struggling to maintain their stroke.

Just like a rower's stroke length shortens as they get tired or a cyclist has to drop into smaller and smaller gears up a hill, our swimmer cannot maintain their own optimal stroke length. I'm sure you've experienced this - it feels terrible and yes it does feel like your technique is falling apart. In a sense it is - but here's the important part: not from a lack of control or co-ordination or practice. Instead it's shortening from a lack of swim-specific fitness and starting out much too quickly.

The thing is, our technique hermit isn't quite as fast a swimmer as they think.. Yes, they can swim 100m with minimum strokes per length and it feels nice - but relative to their fitness they’re actually swimming hard to do this. So if they want to become a faster distance swimmer, what should they be doing?

We'd suggest:

1) Still do plenty of stroke technique work. Approximately half of your swimming should have a technique bias to it but pace those technique swims right and there's no need to stop every 100m.

2) Include fitness training - long steady swims and threshold work. Fitness gains will allow you to maintain your stroke for longer - giving you more time to work on it.

3) Learn better pace judgement. Not only will you pace your races better but you'll pace your training sets better too - so you'll get more benefit from them.

You can easily fit these three things into your training week to ensure good development of your stroke technique, your swim-specific fitness, and your pace awareness - all the elements of an efficient freestyle stroke.

Getting these key elements right in your swimming is what Swim Smooth's all about. We're going to visit each of them in the coming weeks in this blog.


Swim Smooth!

Welcome To The Swim Smooth Blog: Feel For The Water

Dear Swimmer,

Welcome to the new Swim Smooth Blog called Feel For The Water. My name's Paul Newsome, the head coach at Swim Smooth. Every week myself and the other Swim Smooth coaches will be posting tips and advice to improve your freestyle swimming. We're proud of our straightforward, no-nonsense style and this blog will be no exception.

As well as talking stroke technique, we'll also be giving you some fun training sessions to try. Once you are able to swim several laps consecutively, Swim Smooth don't believe in a technique only approach. The swimmers that continue to improve and get better and better strike the right balance between technique work and training. We're going to help you get this balance right!

There are three websites in Swim Smooth land:

1) The main Swim Smooth site full of key articles about improving your freestyle swimming - split up into sections for beginner, intermediate and advanced swimmers.

2) Our Forum to ask your questions, discuss your training and meet other swimmers.

3) This blog - Feel For The Water - improvements to your swimming arriving in your inbox every week.

Enjoy Swim Smooth and speak to you soon,

Cheers! Paul


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