Thursday, December 29, 2011

Setting Yourself Some Goals For 2012

We hope you had a peaceful and rewarding Christmas with your family and friends! After a pleasant break and with the new year coming, now is the perfect time to reflect on 2011 and set yourself some goals for 2012. Here are our five tips on goal setting:

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1) Make your goal something real and measurable, for instance successfully completing a certain event or swimming a certain distance or split. This helps highlight how far you have come and gives you an actual 'Yes I've done it!' moment which more vague goals such as 'I want to become a more efficient swimmer' do not.

2) Make sure your goal is something important to you, something you would love to achieve and are excited about. This positive emotion will help you ride through the inevitable bad session along the way.

3) If your goal is too easy you won't be motivated to achieve it but if it is too hard it will feel completely out of reach. Set your goal right between these two points so it will be a real challenge but is still something you feel your can just achieve, this will keep you motivated and on your toes. (this is the "Sweet Uncertainty Principle" - more in a future post)

4) Give yourself a target date long enough to make some good improvements but not so long that you become stale or risk burn-out. Aiming to achieve your goal four to eight months ahead is about right. If you have an important target further away then set yourself one or two sub-goals along the way and get focused on those first.

5) Tell someone else your goal to help commit you to it. In fact, why not tell us yours in this post's comments here?

Swim Smooth!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

test post to check formatting, please ignore!

India are beginning a grinding four-Test cricket series against Australia in Melbourne. Sports writer Suresh Menon here covers the prospects for the Indian team, which has never won a Test series in Australia.

Not since 1977-78, when a full Indian team was expected to thrash an Australian outfit weakened by the Kerry Packer defections, has there been so much hope in the Indian camp as there is now.

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Back then India lost the first two Tests narrowly and won the next two with thumping margins before losing the decider.

"We should have won 5-0," said ace spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, who claimed 28 wickets, 12 in the Melbourne Test with figures of six for 52 in each innings.

It was a rag-tag Australian outfit, led by Bobby Simpson, who had been recalled a decade after retiring from the game.

History clearly is not in India's favour.

Inspired or deflated?

India might have the superior batting, but this series hinges on which team is more capable of taking 20 wickets to win a Test.

Zaheer Khan apart - and no-one knows what his level of fitness is or whether he will even last the series - this is the most inexperienced bowling attack India has fielded in at least six decades.

If that spurs the likes of Ravichander Ashwin or Umesh Yadav, talented bowlers but in alien conditions, it will be a series to savour.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You A Very Smooth Christmas!

Merry Christmas From Us!
No technique tip this week, the Swim Smooth team are taking a well deserved week off after a very busy year. To be honest we're a bit worn out after beavering away on some very exciting projects which will really help you take your swimming to the next level - we can't wait to launch them to you in 2012!

Also a quick thank you from us to you for sending in your many hundreds of stories, experiences, suggestions and questions throughout 2011 - you guys are a huge inspiration for all the coaches and staff here at Swim Smooth.

From all the SS team in Australia and the UK, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2012 full of personal bests!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Is A Good Time For My Age?

What is a good time for my age? is one of the most common questions we are asked at Swim Smooth and, to be honest, it's a question we find uncomfortable to answer. That's because it's a bit of a loaded question.

L-R: Suzi, Barry, Brian, John, Emmie
One of the most important duties of a coach (of any type) is to help remove barriers from someone's progress and absolutely never introduce new barriers that were not there to begin with. Normally a swimmer asking this question is looking for an easily achievable target, perhaps one slightly quicker than their current speed, that they can achieve and be happy with. On the face of it this may seem virtuous but such an answer creates a very self limiting mental state that will stay with the swimmer forever: I can't be any quicker, it's my age.

Whether you are 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 by looking at the age-group world records you will see some scarily quick times. As one quick example, the men's 75-79 100m record is a 1:06 - amazing! The records show us that there really isn't much of a slow-down as the years go by, at least not nearly as much as you might be hoping for. Your stroke technique, consistency of training and mental approach are much bigger factors at play here than your age. Just like the average 25 year old swimmer looking at Michael Phelp's personal bests, there is huge headroom for nearly any swimmer to improve, regardless of age.

We are lucky enough in Perth to have some very good age group swimmers training within the Swim Smooth squads. We conducted an impromptu interview with three of them - Brian, John and Barry (63, 63 and 75 years young respectively) after this Monday's 9:30am squad session. Take a listen, you might find some of their experiences and perspectives quite inspiring as they are still looking for PBs. These guys train very hard and very consistently but you can certainly tell from the interview that they have a lot of fun along the way which is the real secret to great age-group swimming. Take a listen here:

So how do we answer the question what is a good time for my age? We strongly suggest you forget your age and just think just of yourself and your current swimming. Where are you at now and what's a good target for for the next six months? Once you achieve that goal then set yourself a new target. You might be very surprised just how far you can progress - perhaps showing some of those twenty year olds a clean pair of heals along the way!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Going A Little Deeper

Frustratingly and despite their best intentions, good catch mechanics are very elusive for the vast majority of swimmers and triathletes. A good catch on the water is one of the things that separate elite and advanced swimmers from the masses and allow them to move quickly and efficiently through the water - but why do so many swimmers struggle to improve their catch?

Let's take a look at a common problem that might be holding you back. Here is a typical sequence from one such swimmer Anna showing her entering the water and extending forward:

In the final position (3) her elbow has dropped down lower than the wrist with the hand facing forward. This is a problem because from there it is impossible to initiate a high-elbow catch on the water. Instead Anna starts to pull through with the elbow dropped losing her a lot of propulsion:

The interesting thing here is that Anna knows she should not be dropping her elbow in position 3 and yet is unable to stop it happening. Why? Because she is trying to keep her hand too near the surface at this point in the stroke and despite her best intentions, as she rotates her body onto her left side she has to drop her elbow to keep it near the surface. In comparison, take a look at Australian elite swimmer Rhys Mainstone:

Comparing 3 and 5, notice that Rhys' hand is deeper in the water, which allows him to keep his elbow higher than the wrist and the wrist higher than the fingertips. He can then bend his elbow and start pressing water backward effectively (6), generating good propulsion.

As you swim, try entering the water and extending forward slightly deeper so that you are able to keep your elbow high. Experiment with different depths to see what feels best - somewhere between 20 and 30 cm (8 and 12 inches) is best, the exact depth will depend on how broad you are and the level of flexibility in your upper back and shoulders. Of course you don't want to go too deep as this will send your hand down towards the bottom of the pool, it's a matter of finding the sweet spot between the two.

A quick warning here: As you improve your catch you may feel your stroke rhythm lifting and your catch and pull through feels 'too easy'. These are good signs that you are getting things right - don't be put off! Whenever you are making changes to your stroke be objective and monitor how fast you are swimming versus your level of effort, don't just use your judgement of what feels immediately right and wrong, doing so can be very misleading at times.

This tip is taken from our five star-reviewed Catch Masterclass DVD, showing you exactly how elite swimmers generate so much propulsion, how to make these changes in your stroke and many of the other reasons why a good catch can be so elusive. If you haven't seen it already don't miss out!

Swim Smooth!

Friday, December 02, 2011

The New Finis Tempo Trainer Pro

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The Wetronome is a fantastic training tool to develop the rhythm and timing of your stroke, and in the 'lap-interval' mode, a great virtual training partner to pace your swim training sets. We've been selling the Wetronome since 2003 but in a sense they have become a victim of their own success and the manufacturers have been struggling to meet the ever increasing demand.

Enter the new Tempo Trainer Pro - a fantastic new swimming beeper from Finis. We've been testing them with our squads here in Perth for the last four weeks and have been very impressed. They are extremely easy to use, operate in strokes per minute (which was the old Tempo Trainer didn't do) and have a very useful sync button to reset the timer whenever you want to start a swim. They're also cheaper than the Wetronome which is a nice bonus :

Stroke rate beepers such as the Wetronome and Tempo Trainer Pro sit under your swim cap while you swim and beep to you. In 'stroke-rate' mode you program in a desired stroke rhythm (e.g. 55 strokes per minute) and then simply time your strokes to the beep, allowing you to raise or lower your stroke rate a little bit at a time. This helps you find the efficiency sweet-spots in your stroke timing by either increasing your stroke rate to remove dead-spots or by slowing you down a little to help you lengthen out and avoid fighting the water.

In the second 'lap-interval' mode they beep once per lap like a beep-test in the gym. You program in a target swimming speed and pace your swim so that it beeps whenever you push off from the end of the pool. This sounds very simple but it's absolutely amazing how much you learn about your sense of a pacing - in fact many swimmers immediately swim PBs when using a stroke beeper purely through much improved pacing. Did you know that nearly all world records run on the track or swam in the pool use an even or negative split? Most swimmers start too fast whenever they swim and under-perform for that reason, fix this in your swimming now.

We are big fans of the Wetronome and will continue to sell them but the Tempo Trainer Pro is a great new alternative and comes highly recommended by us.

Swim Smooth!