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

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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
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But What If You Can't Swim Freestyle Continuously?

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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!
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Procrastination Is The Dream Killer

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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!
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The Optimal Three Swim Sessions A Week

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Full information: here

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Full information here

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Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
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Analysis Consultations

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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!
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