Training Session: "The Shaper"

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

The next time you're feeling a bit flat and not holding the water as well as you would hope, try this great little session, which will have you feeling like a super-fish in no time!

I designed it when I was training with the elite triathlon performance squad at the University of Bath in the UK. Every week we would hit the water hard on Monday morning with a long endurance swim. If you weren't 'feeling the water' in this session it would be a real struggle. So every Sunday afternoon I would sneak off by myself and do a little preparation set that I affectionately called the Sunday 'Shaper'.

It is a very simple short session of drills combined with short efforts at about 1500m or triathlon race pace. It's about trying to maintain your technique and form when swimming at a relatively fast pace. If you're new to swimming don't be put off - anyone who can swim 1500m can do this session, and you can enjoy it with friends who are much faster or slower than yourself.

Make sure you take time to really feel these drills without rushing them!

"The Shaper"


200m freestyle nice and easy

100m backstroke nice and easy (breaststroke is an alternative)

Main Set:

20x 50m split up as 2x (10x 50m), the first set with fins, the second set without. Perform all 50s as drill on the odd numbers; a portion of the 50m 'fast' with good form on the even numbers:

1. Set 1: 10x 50m as drill on odd numbers, 50m freestyle on even numbers, take 20 seconds rest between each 50m.

As you are using fins, choose drills which aid your efficiency in the water - e.g. body roll and recovery drills. Suitable choices from our DVD Boxset are: 6/1/6, 6/3/6, Popov, Unco, Corkscrew Kick. On the 50m freestyles, swim just above race pace whilst maintaining good form, feeling really fluid in the water.

2. Set 2: 10x 50m as 25m drill into 25m freestyle on odd numbers, 25m fast into 25m easy on even numbers. Again 20 seconds rest between each. As you are not using fins this time, concentrate on drills which will aid your propulsion through the water - e.g. catch and pull through drills. So you might choose Scull #1, #2 or #3, doggy paddle or fists drill. When you go from 25m drill into 25m freestyle, really feel the water and try to sense being very strong in the water. Swim the next 25m at just above race pace then into 25m easy, again maintaining good form, feeling really strong in the water.


100m freestyle nice and easy

100m back or breaststroke

And there you have it - 1500m of pure feel-good swimming vibes. Don't be tempted to do anymore than this, simply walk away from the pool feeling good, ready for your next big swim session!



Swim Faster By Brushing Your Big Toes

toes brushing
Here's something to try the next time you swim. Think about kicking with your feet angled slightly inwards, brushing your big toes lightly together as they pass on every kick.

Angling your feet in slightly is good technique and gently tapping your big toes lets you check your kick rhythm. If you have an occasional pause between toe taps then it’s likely you have a scissor kick in your stroke.

A scissor kick is a wide parting of the legs that most swimmers are unaware of, slowing you down by creating lots of drag. At our recent Swim Smooth clinics, 23 of the 48 attendees had a scissor kick in their stroke and only one of them suspected it was there.

Brushing your big toes lightly together can help remove a scissor kick. Try and do so with a regular rhythm: tap tap tap tap tap. Important: Maintain this focus on breathing strokes too.

You can use the toe-brush check any time during training or racing. If your stroke is feeling untidy or scrappy it could be just the thing to pull your stroke back together again.

Relevant link: More about kicking in freestyle.


Swim Smooth

Swim For Sarah

Every now and again on Feel For The Water we like to feature something inspirational from the swimming community around the world. Swim Smooth are proud to support two 'normal' swimmers Jackie Gardiner and Natalia Vollrath who are taking on the extraordinary 20km Rottnest Channel Swim on February 20th. They are raising money in memory of their friend and colleague Sarah Mitchell who sadly died after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer in 2008.

Sarah was the director of the Newborn Emergency Transport Service of Western Australia and showed unbelievable strength and dedication to her job, running a service of flying doctors to tend to newborn children throughout remote areas of Western Australia. She was much loved and respected within the service and is sorely missed. You can find out a little more about Sarah's life on her tribute website:

training pair
Jackie and Nat are hoping to raise $5000 for Solaris Cancer Care, contributing to the development of the "Sarah Mitchell Solaris Suite" in Perth, Western Australia. SolarisCare aims to improve the quality of life of cancer patients by giving them the support they require to cope with the emotional and physical side effects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

solaris cancer care
If you would like to support this very worthy cause and spur on this brave pair of swimmers then please dig deep and donate on the Everyday Hero webpage here.

Here at Swim Smooth we wish Jackie and Nat all the best for this extremely tough 20km crossing in February. Your commitment is truly inspirational to us.

Swim Smooth

Eight Weeks Of Focus On Your Swimming

Are you a triathlete frustrated that your swimming isn't where you want it to be? Perhaps you have hit a ceiling and can’t get any faster? Now the northern hemisphere is firmly in the off season, why not :

- Set aside eight weeks
- Reduce your bike and run training
- Focus on your swimming

training pair
Rather than pulling your body three ways with swim, bike and run training, give it a clear message – I want to be a better swimmer. Eight weeks is a nice period, long enough to make significant improvements but short enough to keep focused and not go stale. When you return to all-round triathlon training you’ll maintain the swimming gains you've made for the race season.

If you do this (we think you should), we have two quick tips for you:

- Swim Smooth believe in swimmers balancing stroke technique work and fitness training to make the biggest improvements. We strongly recommend you focus on both critical aspects of your swimming during the 8 weeks.

- Make sure every swimming session has a clear focus and structure. This will motivate you and provide a real purpose to what you are doing. Sitting down for five minutes ahead of each session and carefully planning it will pay dividends during the session. Even better, give your plan real perspective by designing a whole week's swimming sets ahead of time.

Blatant plug: Our beautifully conceived Waterproof Training Plans provide you with eight to eleven weeks of optimal training and technique work:


Swim Smooth

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