Never Swum In Open Water? Make It Happen This Weekend!

If you live in Europe then you won't have failed to notice a large mass of hot air coming up from Africa bringing record temperatures across the continent this week. Whilst the Swim Smooth Squad in Perth has been swimming outdoors with an air temperature of just 2C early in the morning, Paris hit 42C and London 38C yesterday!

These high air temperatures and lots of sun loading are bringing up open water temperatures very nicely across Europe. Even the normally chilly English channel is getting up to 19C along the south coast of England.

All of this means that if you've never swum in open water before but would love to do so, there's no better time to go for it. With that in mind here's Swim Smooth's top-tips to make your first swim in open water a huge success:

Choose Your Venue

Firstly you want to make sure you will be swimming in a safe location with good water safety support. A lake is the ideal place to start but there's no reason why you can't also swim in the sea/ocean if conditions are nice and flat.

The good news is that there are plenty of dedicated open water swimming venues these days - let them know that you are a first-timer and swim with some experienced friends alongside to give you that reassurance whilst you are in the water.

Beautiful Lake Windermere in the UK - home of Swim Smooth Coach Emma Brunning

Put Your Wetsuit On Right

If you are wearing a wetsuit for your swim then putting it on correctly is essential to ensure you can move freely and comfortably as you swim. Make sure you watch this video by Swim Smooth's Head Coach Paul Newsome taking you through all the tips you need for a perfect rubber-clad swim:

Exhale Smoothly Into The Water - "Bubble Bubble Breathe!"

What's the first thing people do if they are feeling a bit nervous when swimming? Hold their breath! If you fail to exhale into the water between breaths then CO2 will build up in your system and make you feel very short of air and panicky as a result.

So perhaps the most important thing to remember when swimming in open water, especially when you first get in, is to exhale smoothly and continuously into the water. And the best way to do that is our mantra: breathe... bubble... bubble... breathe! - literally speak "bubble" into the water to get rid of that air and breathe every third stroke. Of course breathing every three will swap your breathing sides and that means you will swim straighter too - great!

A great drill to develop your exhalation technique in the pool is our Sink Down exercise:

View the drill in the Swim Smooth Guru here (subscription required):

Don't Start Too Fast But Keep A Nice Rhythm To Your Stroke

If you are nervous about getting into open water (and most people are whether they admit it or not) then the adrenaline will be pumping when you set off. The danger if that you will start too fast, get out of breath and feel panicky as a result.

The key here is to consciously take it easy for the first few minutes of swimming and get used to the new environment you are in. Once you feel like you are settling down, think about swimming with a good sense of purpose and a nice steady rhythm - especially if there is any chop on the water. Stroke rhythm is essential for effective open water swimming, even more so than in the pool.

Once you are feeling calmer, try upping your rhythm again!

Consider A Swim Smooth Coached Session

Swim Smooth coaches are perhaps most famous for their brilliant video analysis and stroke correction skills but they are all also highly trained open water coaches, fully equipped to develop your open water skills.

Most of our coaches around the world run open water sessions during the summer months and in the northern hemisphere those venues are starting to open up right now.

A coached group session is a super-effective way to develop those key skills and improve your confidence.

Key training sessions on offer to you include:

- Introduction sessions for beginners to get you relaxed, comfortable and safe swimming in open water for the first time. Building up your confidence and laying down a good skills foundation are the key goals. Perfect for anyone looking to enjoy swimming outdoors for the first time or perhaps racing their first open water swim or triathlon.

- Skills development sessions for swimmers who have swum in open water before but would like to improve their confidence and improve their performance. Starts, turns, swimming straight, navigation and drafting are on the hit list here.

- Adapting your stroke to the open water. Swim confidently in the pool but struggle in open water? It could be your stroke. Your Swim Smooth coach will work with you to make some relatively small changes to dramatically improve your open water comfort and speed. This advice will depend on your individual swimming so make sure you get that key input specific to you. This can be done within a group session or an open-water skills 1to1.

So get booked up now - the warm weather is here after all! Get in contact with yours today and let's hit the open water :

Wow - The Swim Smooth Blog Is 10 Years Old!

Yes, time has flown but the Swim Smooth blog (Feel For The Water) is 10 years old this week! Way back on July 15th 2009 we launched the blog and posted for the first time and have carried on doing so religiously every Friday ever since, bringing you Swim Smooth's very best hints, tips and advice to improve your swimming direct to your inbox.

We hope you've enjoyed being a subscriber - the blog readership has steadily built until it's become the biggest swimming blog in the world with over 120,000 subscribers!

To celebrate this anniversary we've picked out some of our favourite posts from the last 10 years to look back on. As you can imagine, choosing from over 520 is very hard indeed but our chosen ones are those that we find have "stood the test of time". Over the years each continues to resonate with swimmers and we keep referring back and pointing swimmers to them time and time again.

Some here's that trip down memory lane (in no particular order) :

January 2014: Like Mixing Hot And Cold Water In The Bath
This post presents a super-simple concept that is so effective for newer swimmers. Make sure you read this if you are working on the basics of the stroke:

April 2015: But What If You Can't Swim Freestyle Continuously?
We get an email like this every week: I get I should be doing this with my arm and this with my legs but what if I can only do it for one length before having to rest?? This must-read post has our full answer on overcoming the continuous freestyle challenge:

May 2014: Mega Megan, Going From 2:12 to 1:32 / 100m
The ultimate case study into Swim Smooth's coaching is the progress made by the amazing "Mega" Megan. SS Head Coach Paul Newsome spills the beans on her phenominal swimming journey but what can you learn and apply yourself?:

May 2013: The Gradual Crescendo
What's the most common mistake people make when they swim? Holding their breath? Crossing in front of the head? Actually we think it's probably poor pacing. See what Alistair Brownlee can teach us on the subject:

June 2010: Why A Good Catch Is So Elusive - Wrong Can Feel Right
The hardest part of the stroke to develop is the catch and pull, here's a big reason why it's so elusive for so many swimmers:

August 2012: Bend It Like Becky
One of our most famous and most read posts on developing your catch and feel for the water. The great Rebecca Adlington shows us how it's done:

March 2012: Overgliding Inefficiency And The Overgliderometer
Way back in 2011 we coined the phrase "Overglider" to encapsulate the sort of swimmer who's deliberating trying to pause and glide at the front of their stroke. Been down this route yourself with your own swimming or want to understand why it's such a massive mistake for a swimmer to make? :

September 2011: A Simple Stretch To Reduce Drag
Sometimes the simplest posts are the best. Here's a simple stretch that's hugely beneficial for any swimmer with low-lying legs:

February 2013: The Four Classic Causes Of Shoulder Pain
Most swimmers experience some level of shoulder pain or injury in their swimming lives. Do you? Even if you don't you need to read this to avoid problems further down the line:

April 2014: CSS Training For Absolute Beginners
Heard of CSS training but need to understand what it is? This highly popular post explains everything you need to know to get started and see your times coming down:

February 2014: Should You Be Using A Two Beat Kick?
Another super-common question we get asked by swimmers time and time again. Flutter (6 beat) or switch (2 beat)? The answer might surprise you:

April 2014: The Great Bilateral Breathing Controversy
Our most commented, re-posted and discussed blog. Bilateral breathing remains such a controversial subject in swimming, here's our definitive post on the subject:

November 2011: Fingers Together Or Apart?
One of our personal favourites and another common question from swimmers - should you try and swim with your fingers slightly apart as many have been told?

June 2013: Paul Newsome's Winning Manhattan Race Report: "Stroke-Stroke-Breathe" Cut & Paste x 12,000
Inspiring race/event reports always make for great blog posts. Paul's raced at a very high level in the name of Swim Smooth over the years but here's perhaps his greatest achievement. The behind the scenes story of his 46km (!) Manhattan Island Marathon Swim win:

A big thanks from everyone at Swim Smooth for following the blog every week. So what do the next 10 years have in store for us? Well as always we're super busy working on numerous projects to help us deliver the magic of the Swim Smooth system to you ever more efficiently and effectively. Stay tuned to the blog for details!

Swim Smooth!

Hannah - A "Normal" Swimmer With 813,703 Views On YouTube

If you are quite new to swimming it can be a bit intimidating watching elite swimmers on YouTube. How can you relate to someone who's super tall, super strong, super flexible and was born with a set of gills? Sometimes it seems pointless watching someone like that when they're such a league apart from your own swimming?

With that in mind, almost exactly 9 years ago to the day, we released the following video of Hannah swimming on Youtube. Hannah's doesn't have an elite swimming background but has got a nice (but not perfect) stroke that is well worth studying. If you haven't seen this clip before then take a watch and see what you can learn:

In terms of Swim Type, Hannah very much started life as a Bambino but has developed her swimming over time under SS Head Coach Paul Newsome's guidance in Perth. In the years after filming this clip she went on to swim the 19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim and the 22km Cook Strait! Amazing achievements for someone with very little swimming experience.

Obviously developing her stroke technique and swim fitness (you need a lot of fitness to swim 20km through rough waters!) is absolutely key to her achievements. But it's also worth nothing how much fun Hannah has in the water whenever she swims (clearly visible at the beginning and end of the footage).

Don't neglect this side of your swimming. Being in the water should bring a sense of joy, a release from the pressures of daily life. That positive attitude brings the consistency to your swim training which is absolutely key to improving.

Want to swim like Hannah? You too need one of our hand picked, super-friendly, highly experienced and extensively trained Swim Smooth Coaches. Find your nearest coach here:

OK Han, can you swim for the camera now please?

Swim Smooth!

Addicted To Your Pull Buoy? OK Let's Strike You A Deal

Yeah we hear from guys like you all the time: I'm much faster with a pull buoy and I find myself reaching for it all the time. Is this a problem? I hate swimming without it and I'll be racing in my wetsuit which also brings my legs up.
Do you never go to the pool without it?

To which we reply: Yes you should ween yourself off it because it's just masking a poor body position. To get your legs up you need to develop your leg kick technique and you can't do that while using a pull-buoy. Also, swimming with it is so much easier you can de-condition aerobically.

But we know that many of you ignore that advice and continue to reach for your pull buoy whenever things get challenging. If that's you, let's strike a deal with you:

Here's the new rule:

Whenever you swim with your pull-buoy you have to breathe bilaterally (either every 3, 5 or 7 strokes).

Given the type of swimmers who are addicted to pull-buoys, it's unlikely you would breathe bilaterally out of choice. But the pull buoy makes bilateral easier for any swimmer, so that's the compromise we'll make with you.

Bilateral is good for your swimming because:

- It helps you develop even body rotation to both sides.
- It helps you develop your catch because you are only breathing 1 in 3 strokes on each arm.
- It reduces the likelihood of a crossover in front of your head, particularly when breathing.
- It reduces the likelihood of a scissor kick developing.
- It helps you develop a better exhalation technique underwater.
- You will swim straighter in open water.

More on why bilateral is so beneficial here:

So if you find yourself reaching for that pull-buoy when the going gets tough, tell yourself "OK foam friend, bilateral it is". That's the deal.

Some further thoughts:

- A pull buoy makes bilateral easier but so does a wetsuit (even more so in fact) so make sure you breathe bilaterally in open water too.

- Is you get used to it with the pull buoy, introduce bilateral in your normal (non-pull buoy) swimming too, the more you can do this the better.

- Keep trying to ween yourself off the pull-buoy for all the reasons we mentioned above. As your swimming improves, swimming without it will get progressively easier.

- Consider using buoyancy shorts as an alternative to swimming with a pull-buoy. They are a little harder to put on and take off but buoyancy shorts allow you to swim with your full stroke, develop your leg kick and keep aerobic condition in your kicking muscles. We discussed this previously here:

Swim Smooth!

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