When Paul Met Shinji

Thanks for the great response on last week's blog, we've had so many questions about Paul helping Shinji with his stroke that we thought we'd share a little more of the back-story on that this week:

Shinji and Paul Newsome immediately after the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim 

These guys first met up in Perth just after Shinji had to unfortunately withdraw from the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim due to severe cramping and hypothermia.

If we compare Shinji's famous Youtube video swimming single 25m laps in the pool...





With his Rottnest Channel swim performance (where he had to retire three-quarters of the way through the event)...



...it is clear that his stroke style was not optimal for the Rottnest conditions.

Contrary to what many might believe, his long stroke and slow cadence made it impossible to get into any sort of rhythm against the waves and swell. The tough conditions can be really seen in this video of Paul swimming in the early stages of the same race: youtu.be/9QB1zSShrVQ

Combining that with Shinji's pronounced 2-beat whip-like kick from the knee, Paul hypothesized that the whip-kick "kick-start" possibly caused the cramping which in turn caused the hypothermia as he had to keep stopping to deal with the cramp. This combination of events led to Shinji struggling through at about 3:00/100m pace prior to withdrawal.

As a testament to Shinji's "kaizen mindset", 6 months ago Shinji released this video which highlights the issues with over-gliding quite clearly: youtube.com/watch?v=VCxNMB_Lq5c

Paul was racing that same day and finished 12th out of 260 starters. Swimming with a 2-beat kick which was driven much more from the hips, his stroke rate was double that of Shinji's (84 SPM vs. 42 SPM):


This gave Paul an average pace of 1:35/100m over the 20km course. This stroke style allowed for better rhythm and fluidity in these rougher conditions (even if Paul's stroke doesn't look as "pretty" as Shinji's in the pool).

How could Shinji improve his open water stroke? After the race, the two discussed candidly how Shinji could work to adapt and improve his stroke for a second attempt at the Rottnest Swim at a future date.

Paul suggested two alternative ideas:

1. Significantly increase stroke rate and reduce glide time whilst focusing on a more hip-driven 2-beat kick.  This would see Shinji becoming a little more "Swinger-like" in his technique (which Paul argued would suit his height and build nicely) replicating swimmers such as Olympic Silver and Bronze medallist David Davies.

2. Marginally increase stroke rate and reduce glide time but develop a more consistent hip-driven 4-beat or 6-beat flutter kick to smooth out any discrepancies in rhythm at the front of the stroke. This would see Shinji becoming more "Smooth-like", so eradicating over-gliding from his stroke. e.g. Olympic Gold medallist, Ferry Weertman.

Shinji ultimately chose option 2 and you can see him using this significantly different stroke in the 2016 Clean Half open water swimming event in Hong Kong:




Shinji named his new stroke the "Cold Rough Open Water Swim" stroke (or "CROS" for short), and you can see visually how much more effective it is in open water - it now looks much more purposeful with the much improved rhythm and kicking technique. Sadly he's not made it back to Rottnest yet but the two stay in close contact hoping to both conquer the Rottnest Channel on the same day soon.

You'll still find a multitude of other Youtube videos proclaiming an overly-long catch-up style stroke as the most efficient way of swimming in the open water over long distances but we'd challenge these swimmers to improve by observing the clear step forwards Shinji has made in the last few years.

Swim Smooth's ultimate "truth" is to help as many swimmers around the world as possible to improve their swimming and this story is testament to that end. We know that there will be more than a few of you out there who will be inspired by Shinji's brilliant development and be able to learn something from our tips outlined above.

We've been humbled by Shinji's open outlook to his improvements and in turn his subsequent education of his own swimmers on the pitfalls of over-doing over-gliding in the freestyle stroke.


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7 Facts You Might Not Know About Swim Smooth

For those of you who have followed Swim Smooth from the very beginning, thank you for all your support over the years. You would think you would know us pretty well after a 15 year relationship but this week on the blog we wanted to surprise you and share a few things from our history that you may not know.

1. "Steam Boat Willie"

Sometime in the 1980s, swimming at Bridlington swimming club in the UK, a young Paul Newsome was given the nickname 'Steam Boat Willie' by his club coach. This was due to the high cadence and naturally punchy style of his stroke compared to some of the taller swimmers in the clubs with more powerful kicks.

At the time he was not aware of the power of his swinger stroke style for long distance and open water swimming but those very early seeds of "perhaps not everyone should swim the same way" were sown.

Paul Newsome as a young 'Steam Boat Willie'. 

2. Swim Smooth was nearly called Swim Clean or even Swim Fresh!

Swim Clean?! No it wouldn't have been the same would it? The idea was to "clean up your stroke technique" - a notion we gave to the very first Swim Smooth product, the DVD boxset:


3. Swim Smooth might have been born in Australia but our strongest support base has always been the UK

A little strange this one, although Paul Newsome originally set up Swim Smooth in Australia in 2004, we've always had the most interest in what we do from the UK. This culminated in British Triathlon asking us to re-write their coaching curriculum for swimming, an association we are very proud of and allows us to influence thousands of coaches across the UK.

Swim Smooth is based here in Perth... (lucky us)


4. The Model For Mr Smooth

In 2009, when we launched our Mr Smooth animation we modelled him on the classic smooth swim stroke of Australian Olympian Jono Van Hazel. Check out Jono Van Hazel's stroke for yourself and compare it to the stroke you see on our Mr Smooth app.

Here's a rarely seen interview Paul conducted with Jono just after filming:



The mighty Jono Van Hazel - the smoothest swimmer of them all?

5. Swim Types


The initial development of the Swim Types methodology started to take form in 2008. In order to acquire enough evidence and case studies for each type, it wasn't formally released until 2010.

We launched the system on our very first Coach-Ed course in 2010 (of which we've now run 35 editions to over 600 coaches around the world):
The class of 2010 - Aston University, UK

6. Swim Smooth's Mini-Olympics

In 2010, thinking that his Perth squad would enjoy and benefit from being taught to swim all 4 strokes and focus a little more on some sprinting, Head Coach Paul Newsome organised a "mini-Olympics" for his squad of (then) 200 swimmers.

After a 10 week dedicated program focusing on these events, only 7 people showed up for the final competition. A corner was turned - Swim Smooth would focus on what we do best - distance freestyle for pool, triathlon and open water swimming.

7. Swim Smooth vs. Total Immersion

Historically considered key competitors, SS Head Coach Paul Newsome and TI Head Coach Terry Laughlin only ever met each other once - glamorously enough in the men's lavatories at the 220 Triathlon Show in the UK in 2013!

You'll be pleased to know that some pleasantries were exchanged as Paul left the toilets as Terry was heading in. Paul has since helped Japanese TI Coach Shinji Takeuchi improve his rhythm and fluidity for better open water swimming after the two met at the Rottnest Channel Swim in 2015:



So now we've shared a few moments (some more embarrassing than others) at Swim Smooth, we hope you feel you know us a little better and continue to support us for another 15 years and beyond!


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Yes, You're Going To Be Slow... Suck It Up Princess

Getting back to training after a lay-off?

Are you thinking about:

- Using a pull-buoy for a few weeks to make things easier? Or maybe buoyancy shorts?

- Training by yourself for a few weeks before joining your usual group?

- Or training with them, gunning it for 20 minutes until you're blown before jumping out saying you have got a work meeting to get to?

- Making all your sessions private on Strava 'cause you're going to be slow?


Doing any of those things is down to an inflated sense of pride. Your precious ego doesn't want anyone to think you are anything less than brilliant at all times... so you hide.

Here's the thing:
N O B O D Y   C A R E S !




So: Suck it up. Park your ego at the door, walk in the pool building and just do the session as best you can (a slower pace) without any special compensations (e.g. a pull buoy).

And then post it unedited on Strava *without* a witty title like "too much xmas pudding".

Most people won't even notice you're slower than normal. And those who do will just shrug. You can tell them why if you want but it would be even more humble to just stay quiet and get on with it.

Do that and you will improve as quickly as possible, your friends will respect you more and your sense of self will be far less god like.

So go on, do the work and if you are good enough to beat everyone come the big race this summer, you still will.


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Want To Make A BIG Improvement? Set A Long Term Goal

Here's a thought for setting your fitness goals for 2020 (and beyond):

Most people overestimate what they can achieve in 6 months and underestimate what they can achieve in 2-3 years.

When planning our next challenge, most of us set goals that are perhaps 4-9 months away. You might enter an open water event or target a triathlon performance in a big race. That's great because 4-9 months is the sort of period over which you can get very focused and really apply yourself. You can see some nice gains over this time but it's rare to make truly transformative improvements over such a short period.

Train progressively and consistently over a longer period of 2 to 3 years and it's possible to keep improving to levels that are so far beyond where you are now you might not believe it's possible for you to swim that far or that quickly.

And of course not believing something is possible automatically holds you back. After all, why continue focused training beyond 4-9 months if you think that's pretty much as good as you're going to get?

Here's a good example of what's possible where SS Head Coach Paul Newsome coached Pro triathlete Kate Bevilaqua from 62 minutes for an Ironman swim down to 49 minutes (a massive improvement at the elite level):


Note that even a talented athlete like Kate didn't achieve this overnight, in fact even when the improvements started coming, it still took a further 3 years to reach her ultimate potential. (Find out more about this journey in our interview with Kate here: www.feelforthewater.com/2013/08/kate-bevilaqua-interview-going-from-62.html)

Some further thoughts around longer term goals:

- It's hard to stay focused over longer periods so create a timeline of shorter term goals 3-6 months apart along the way. These might be specific events or mini-targets you want to hit in training. The key is that these mini-goals should motivate you so choose targets or events that push you and excite you at the same time.

- We're not saying you should train continuously without any sort of break for 2-3 years. You need to divide periods of more intense training with some low-key training for 3-6 weeks. As a general rule, avoid training intensely for more than 6 months continuously without some sort of respite.

- Consider all aspects of your preparation - nutrition, flexibility, posture, recovery - as well as your basic training. A holistic approach such as this will unlock more gains at different times along the way.

- "Become a swimmer" - change swimming from something you do to something that's central to who you are. Study it, swim it, watch it on TV, observe others and experiment in your preparation. Totally embrace everything swimming and become a student of your sport.


Achieved your goal? OK let's take things to the next level.

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