How Will You Improve Your Swimming In 2020?

Our 2019 SS Christmas card by the fantastic Daisy Courtauld
A very Merry Christmas from everyone at Swim Smooth! As we move quickly towards 2020 and you start thinking about the year ahead, it's worth giving your swimming a little thought and where you will make your gains this coming year.

To get you started with this, here are six ideas below which you might choose from. We recommend strong recommend only choosing two or three things. Don't spread your focus too thin with too many things to think about - less is more!

Here's some ideas from us:

- Make the shift from single-sided to bilateral breathing. Straightening out your stroke and improving your catch technique are two great knock-on benefits of switching to breathing every three strokes. (For more benefits see here: Expect this change to take about 6 weeks of focus before the strangeness of breathing to both sides starts to feel right!

- Aim to be super-consistent with your training. By being fitter you'll be able to swim further and faster but fitness takes a long time to develop over many months of effort. The mistake many swimmers and triathletes make is to smash out big training sets over a few sessions but then mentally and physically break down as the effort catches up with them. Far better to train at an 80-90% effort over many months than 110% over a couple of weeks. Make consistency your goal in 2020!
Worth reading in relation to this is our classic blog post: Is Your Fitness In A Permanent State Of Snakes And Ladders?

- Transform your pacing skills. "Good pacing" isn't a sexy idea but it is absolutely key to achieving your best performances in your key events and is a skill possessed by all great distance athletes. Good pacing in training also improves the quality of your sessions so you get more fitness gains from each.
Check out our recent (and much copied) blog post on how Eliud Kipchoge used lasers to run with perfect pacing, a key component of him smashing the 2 hour barrier for the marathon:

- Find the right stroke length for you. For decades now swim coaches have been telling swimmers to make their stroke as long as they can. This is terrible advice for most age-group swimmers! The key to great swimming is to find the right balance between the length of your stroke and the cadence ("stroke rate"). If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you will know that we use Tempo Trainer Pros to help you fine tune your stroke rate and develop that optimum rate for you.
Find out more here: and consider a ramp test to find the magic number for your swimming:

- Switch from sprint to CSS and Red Mist training. Most masters swimmers aim at short events such a 50, 100 and 200m. That's great but it means that masters squads tend to focus on sprint training aimed at developing pure speed in the water. If you are training for longer events (e.g. 800m or longer), perhaps for triathlon or open water swims then this sort of training is completely the opposite of what you need. Rather than sprinting short intervals with long recoveries you need to focus on long intervals with shorter recovery periods (such as our classic CSS and Red Mist sessions).
This will train the capacity of your aerobic system so that you can sustain a strong speed for longer periods. We call this Becoming A Diesel Engine. More here:

- Focus on your stroke rhythm for open water swimming. One of the key differences between swimming in a pool vs. rivers, lakes or the ocean is the condition of the water. In open water it's far more likely to be disturbed by chop and waves, either from the prevailing conditions or inevitably from other swimmers in the event (see here).  The key to swimming efficiently through disturbed water is to shorten your stroke slightly and increase your stroke rhythm to give you more continuous propulsion. Try and maintain an overly-long stroke and you be stalled dead in the gap between your strokes when chop or a wave hits. This is why many strong pool swimmers struggle to transfer their speed to open water.

Take a little time to think holistically about your swimming and what it needs to move forwards, choose the right things and you'll be rewarded with some big steps forwards in 2020.

Swim Smooth!


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