I've Been Trying This Technique For Years And I'm Still Not Getting Any Faster!

Remember the rule-of-six-
-sessions when correcting
any part of your stroke.

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The human body needs to perform an action about 10,000 times before it starts to feel natural and automatic. If you're making a change to your stroke technique that's roughly six sessions worth of swimming (counting each arm stroke).

Most stroke changes feel very unnatural at first and in some cases they can even feel 'wrong' but don't give up on them too soon. Make sure you persevere with a change for at least six sessions before you judge if it's helping or hindering you. That's quite a lot of swimming and will require a bit of discipline on your part...

...but don't persevere too long! If you're trying a stroke modification and it isn't giving you a noticeable benefit after six to eight sessions then you need to do something different. Maybe you're trying to achieve too much at once (breaking things down into smaller steps might help) or you need a different drill or another visualisation.

A classic question we get from many swimmers is: "I've been trying this technique for three years and I'm still not getting any faster! When will it work for me?" - Sorry to say, it's never going to happen. You're never going to wake up one day and be a super fast and efficient swimmer focusing on the same things for months (and years) on end without any progress in the meantime. You desperately need to break out of that rut and try something different.

It could be you need to introduce more fitness training and open water skills to your training mix. Or perhaps the ideal stroke technique you have in mind is simply the wrong one and you need a new vision of stroke perfection. The very best way (if you're in the UK) is to see a Swim Smooth Coach who will give you a clear picture of the changes you need to make.

Don't be afraid to really shake things up this winter and try a different approach to your swimming - it could exactly what you need both mentally and physically to break you out of that rut.

Swim Smooth!

(this post is a revisit on an old favourite of ours)

How To Get The Benefit Of A Pull Buoy Without Using One

We know that many swimmers and triathletes (particularly triathletes!) love their pull buoy as it helps improve their body position in the water, bringing their legs up high towards the surface.

Of course any swimmer will benefit from a high body position in the water as it reduces your drag significantly, even if you don't particularly like swimming with a pull buoy. So how do we recreate the pull buoy effect in your stroke without having one in place? Believe it or not, it's actually very simple.

When you swim your body pivots around your centre, a bit like a see-saw:

The extra buoyancy of a pull-buoy pulls your legs up but as you pivot around your centre it also drops your chest slightly lower, bringing you more horizontal in the water.

This pivoting effect means you can actually achieve the exact same thing by reducing the buoyancy in your chest. If you can do that then your chest will sink slightly lower and your legs will come upwards in the exact same way as if you were using a pull-buoy.

How to reduce the buoyancy in your chest? Learn to exhale smoothly into the water to get rid of the CO2 from your lungs as you swim. You could do this continuously between taking breaths. It's no co-incidence that the worst sufferers of sinky-leg-syndrome are also those who hold onto their breath the most vigorously!

Putting Some Numbers On It

The average lung capacity of an adult male is 6 litres and for an adult woman around 4 litres. You're not going to reduce the air in your lungs to zero with a good exhalation technique but you do have the scope to easily exhale 1-2 litres of air which will reduce your chest's buoyancy by 1-2kg (or 10-20 newtons to be technical!).

A normal sized pull buoy has a buoyancy of around 1.5 kg (or 15 newtons), so you can see that the power of a good exhalation technique is similar to that of a pull buoy when it comes to your body position.

How To Exhale

Exhaling into the water between breaths is harder than you might think if you haven't tried it before as we all have a strong instinct to hold onto our breath underwater. The key to a good exhalation technique is to relax and feel like you are sighing into the water either through your nose or mouth, whichever you prefer. Imagine you've had a hectic day at work and you come home and collapse on the couch letting out a big sigh of relief - that's exactly how your exhalation should feel. Don't try and force it out, just let it go smoothly.

Traditional advice given to swimmers has been hold onto your breathe as is increases your buoyancy. Yes it does but as we have seen it does so in the wrong place. This might work for a sprinter kicking very hard over 50 or 100m as the strong kick creates lift in itself but for distance swimmers, a long smooth exhalation into the water is absolutely key to improving your balance and body position in the water.

HUUB Wetsuits

We applied this same principle when designing the new HUUB wetsuit range. For those with low sinking legs we maximised the buoyancy in the legs but actively reduced the buoyancy in the chest in the '3:5' suits. This lifts your legs up with twice the push of a normal wetsuit because of the see-saw effect. If you suffer from low lying legs in the water take a close look at the 3:5 Archimedes and Aerious models, you won't believe the difference in speed they will give you!

If you already have a good body position in the water you will find the '4:4' (men's) and '3:3' (women's) profiles maintain your balance and give you a much more natural feel than any other wetsuit. It's all about choosing the right suit to match your individual stroke.

Don't comprise any longer: www.swimsmooth.com/huub

Swim Smooth!

Remarkable Footage Of Swimmers Going Off Course

Picture the scene: You're finishing your triathlon swim leg in perfectly flat water conditions, there's excellent visibility, no currents or tides, and a huge swim finish banner to swim towards. Easy to swim straight into shore?

You would think it was... and yet take a look at this time-accelerated footage we shot at the Busselton 70.3 triathlon :

You've probably stood on the shore and watched swimmers at numerous races yourself but it's only when you accelerate the footage like this that you see what is truly going on and how swimmers are adding many hundreds of meters to their swims by constantly going off course.

Are you doing this? If you struggle to transfer your pool times across to open water or have a bad race performance and are not sure why, this is almost certainly the reason. This footage was shot in perfect conditions but if the water is rougher or sighting is more difficult, things get a lot worse and more and more swimmers fall foul of this problem.

Always Keep Open Water Skills In Mind

If you've read our new book you'll understand how highly we value open water skills, such as the ability to swim in a straight line. It's all very well focusing on improving your stroke technique in the pool, perhaps chipping a few minutes off your 1500m time but if you then give away five minutes by constantly moving off course in an open water race what's the point?

That's why we strongly recommend that you keep practising your open water skills all year round, working on techniques such as the ability to swim straight, sighting efficiently and drafting confidently in the pool over the winter. These skills can improve your swim splits by 1, 2, 5 or even 10 minutes per km in extreme cases.

Many swimmers (and coaches) tell themselves "swimming is all about technique" but the truth is that there are many things that constitute great technique. Pacing yourself well, drafting effectively, sighting efficiently and swimming straight without a black line on the bottom of the pool are all critical aspects of great technique. And they are worth just as much time for your race performances too.

Swim Smooth!

PS. If you're an open water or triathlon coach, please forward this to your athletes to watch.

Maintaining Your Stroke Technique At Faster Speeds

A skill that all great swimmers have is the ability to maintain their stroke technique at racing speeds, which requires strong concentration and great coordination. Here's a simple set that you can use to start to develop this yourself. We just ran it with the Swim Smooth squads in Perth and the guys loved the challenge!

Perform a short warm-up of around 4-600m and then kick off the following descending set of 21x 100m :

If Swum With A Tempo TrainerIf Swum Without A Tempo Trainer
3x 100m @CSS* + 2 sec3x 100m at 60% effort level
3x 100m @CSS + 1 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 1 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 2 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 3 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 4 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
(take one beep rest between 100s)(take 20 seconds rest between 100s)

At first the 100s will feel very do-able so get into your stroke with a nice rhythm and concentrate on hitting the times as accurately as you can. Obviously as things get progressively faster they become more challenging so maintain your focus on holding your stroke together, not fighting the water. This combination of good pacing with good stroke technique under duress is very powerful for developing you as a distance swimmer.

Whilst swimming the set, it can be a good idea to pick a single area of weakness in your stroke and focus on it as things become harder. This could be maintaining a constant smooth exhalation into the water, avoiding crossing over the centre line in front of your head or stretching through your core to keep yourself straight.

Don't worry if you are quite new to freestyle swimming, its amazing what you can achieve when you challenge yourself and give this session a good crack. If you find you fatigue quickly, you can shorten the set by swimming 2x 100m at each speed.

* CSS is your Critical Swim Speed which is approximately the speed you can sustain for 1500m flat out. You might also know it as your threshold pace. Find out more about how to calculate it here: www.swimsmooth.com/css

Using Your Tempo Trainer Pro
Elite swimmers have an amazing ability to hold
their stroke technique when swimming quickly.

A Tempo Trainer Pro is a great tool for this sort of set because it helps you pace things out very accurately by beeping to you when you should be starting, turning or finishing a lap. You've just got to stay with the beep to complete the set! Our tips:

- Use mode 1 set to beep the pace to you every 25m or 25yd so you get pacing feedback during each 100m.

- Take one beep rest between each 100m. So finish a swim on a beep and then start the next 100m on the next beep.

- If you have the beeper set to beep every 25m then take off 0.25 seconds to speed up by 1 second per 100m.

- You might notice straight away that you have a tendency to start too fast over the first 25-50m of each swim and get ahead of the beep before dropping back again. This highlights that developing a better sense of pacing will be critical to moving your swimming forwards.

For more information about the Tempo Trainer Pro or to purchase yours see: www.swimsmooth.com/finis-tempo-trainer-pro.html

Swim Smooth!

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