Five Tips To A Great Winter's Swim Training

If you live in the northern hemisphere you'll know the days are getting shorter (and colder!) and quite likely your thoughts are turning to how to improve your swimming over the winter.

What should you be working on to make sure you are faster and more efficient next year? Here's Swim Smooth's five tips to getting your winter's training right:

1) Work On Your Stroke Technique But Keep A Good Rhythm

Working on your stroke technique with the right drills and methods is very important to improving your speed and efficiency in the water but beware the temptation of trying to create the perfect stroke by slowing things right down and killing all sense of rhythm.

Many swimmers do fight the water when they swim, wasting a lot of energy. If that's you then reducing your stroke rate (cadence) a little is going to help you straighten things out and get everything moving in the right direction. But beware of overdoing this, slowing things down too much introduces new stroke problems which quickly become ingrained such as pushing the palm forwards and 'putting on the brakes':

And the 'overglider kick-start' :

A large knee bend adds a huge amount of drag as it symptomatic
of a pause at the front of the stroke.

As we discussed here, a good sense of rhythm and a good catch and pull are critically linked:

Working on your stroke technique - whilst keeping a good rhythm - is when stroke magic starts to happen.

2) Get Comfortable With Uncomfortable!

It is often said that swimming is 'all about technique' but this isn't really true. The argument often goes that I will work on my technique first and then add in fitness sets later but with a low level of swim fitness you cannot sustain your stroke for more than a few lengths leading to that horrible feeling of your stroke falling apart.

The truth is that fitness is very important in swimming and could be worth 10 to 20 seconds per 100m to you over longer swims, and in some cases more than that. Plus, as you regularly perform training sets you might find that your stroke technique starts to 'click' into place and it becomes more automatic - a sure sign things are becoming more efficient for you.

Keep the training going through the winter months in combination
with your technique training.

So don't avoid regular fitness training sets over the winter - a CSS session once per week will do your swimming the power of good and stops you getting a bit lazy over the winter. As SS Coach Julian Nagi puts it: Get Comfortable With Uncomfortable.

3) Track Your Progress

What time could you swim 400m in today? If you don't know the answer to that question within 10 seconds then you could do with tracking your swim times much more closely!

Getting in tune with your times over different distances and during training sets gives you feedback on how things are going and if you are on the right track. If after a couple of months of training you are making no progress you need to re-think your training but if you see your times steadily dropping you can confident you are making real progress and there's more to come.

The point here is that without measuring it you simply wouldn't know.

Tempo Trainers: Do not eat!

The Finis Tempo Trainer Pro is the ultimate tool to give you that feedback - set one to beep at a given time per length and you can get feedback on your swimming speed whilst you are swimming. As the weeks go by you will see the time per length gradually dropping which is hugely motivating! And you can use the Tempo Trainer to precisely control your stroke rate - perfect for tip 1 too.

More on the Tempo Trainer Pro here:

4) Don't Forget Your Open Water Skills

We were filming last weekend at the Brownlee Button Tri in Yorkshire. Here's an aerial view of one of the swim starts:

Notice how beautifully flat the lake is at Harewood House (A) but as soon as the swimmers come along how choppy it becomes (B):

It doesn't matter how flat the conditions are in open water, unless you are leading the race you are always swimming in rough water and you need a stroke and the confidence to cope with that. If you can't swim straight, navigate well or draft effectively either then you're going to lose huge chunks of time as soon as you swim outdoors.

Open water skills are worth so much time you need to practise them all year round, including in the pool with friends in the winter. There's also no point developing a stroke that only works in perfectly flat swimming pool conditions which is why you need to combine your stroke technique work with regular open water skills practise through the winter.

Some tips on developing your open water skills in the pool here:

5) Set Goals That Will Fire You Up

Last but not least, set yourself a measurable goal that you want to achieve, or a series of goals one after the other through the winter months. The more excited about this you can get the better so make sure each goal is something you *really* want. It might be a fly-away race or to swim a mile continuously or perhaps 400m in under 8 minutes.

Set your goal on a fixed date 8 to 12 weeks away - long enough to really achieve something but short enough to stay motivated and focused.

The Three Keys

A key theme of the tips above is to maintain a constant focus on your stroke technique, fitness and open water skills through the winter. Combining these elements (we call them 'The Three Keys') into one continuous training routine is a core part of the Swim Smooth coaching philosophy. They really are a magic recipe for improving your swimming:

If this is a little different to what you did last year, don't let that stop you. Remember: Do what you always did, get what you always got!

We've Created The Ultimate Coaching Tool To Help You...

This sounds great but are you wondering how to combine this all together into an easy to follow routine? You need the Swim Smooth Coaching System Web-app, which you can run on any computer, phone or tablet with internet access.

Not only is the Coaching System packed with all the technique work you need but there are literally hundreds of training sessions and full training plans to follow (for all levels of ability) and loads of eye-opening open water skills sessions.

You can trial it for 7 days free here:

Swim Smooth!

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