Thursday, June 28, 2018

Goldilocks - OUR GO TO SET

Unsure what session to swim the next time you hit the pool? Need something to push your fitness on, develop your pacing skills and provide a challenge but is "do-able" even if you are not at peak fitness?

Our Goldilocks Set is the answer - our classic CSS training set. If we are ever unsure what to swim, this is our GO TO session that always delivers.

(We've previously posted about this classic set back in 2010 and 2014 but it's well worth a revisit - it really is that good.)

Jo dons her Guru cap for a tough session: Do not fear training, fast it will make you!

The Goldilocks Set

Swim a thorough warmup of between 500 and 1000m including a few key drills for your individual stroke. Including some faster laps to progressively lift your heart rate ready for the set ahead.

Then swim the following Goldilocks set. All swims should be at the same pace - your fastest maintainable pace for the whole set. If you have a Tempo Trainer Pro and know your CSS pace then set the beeper to your CSS pace per lap and take 1 beep recovery between each swim (or 20 seconds if you don't own a beeper):

4x 100m
1x 200m (Baby Bear)

4x 100m
1x 300m (Mamma Bear)

4x 100m
1x 400m (Papa Bear)

Here is what the Guru's says about this set: This is the quintessential CSS pace awareness set, showing you just how important it is to start your efforts early in the session quite conservatively in order to still be holding the exact same pace 1800 to 2100 later! The 1st block of 100s with 1 beep recovery will feel almost too easy. You’ll sail through the 200 and even the next block of 100s, but then all of a sudden Mamma Bear will slap you right in the face right around 175 and from here on in it's a case of try to recover as much as possible in the final block of 100s before completing the set with the Papa Bear (400). Get your pace wrong at the start and there is no way you will complete this session as directed – you need great control. Good luck!

To finish off, swim an easy cool down of between 400 and 600m.

A couple of quick notes:

- If you are in yard pool, simply replace meters with yards, so 100m becomes 100yds etc.

- If you don't feel able to swim a 2100m main set yet then reduce the 4x 100m to 2x 100m each time  but keep the 200/300/400 in place. We encourage you to give the full set a crack as soon as possible though - training is all about a challenge right and it might not be as hard as you think. :)

Guru PRO subscribers can see this set in the Guru here (along with hundreds of other great sets to follow). Of course the Guru will also tell you exactly what number to set in your Tempo Trainer Pro and track your fitness over time, progressively adjusting the beeper pace to adjust to your fitness level.

A final thought: Don't approach your key sessions with a sense of dread, look at them as an opportunity to take your swimming to the next level. As Swim Smooth Coach Lance Ogren says: Don’t fear the main set, make the main set fear you!

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

We're Visiting Montréal For A Special One Off Clinic - Join Us There!

On Saturday 21st July 2018, Swim Smooth Head Coaches Paul Newsome and Adam Young will be running a very special Video Analysis and Stroke Correction Clinic at the Olympic Stadium Pool, Montréal.

This is a rare opportunity to have your swimming filmed, analysed and corrected by Paul Newsome in this inspiring location! Grab your place now - this will fill very quickly:

Meet our hosts: SS Coach Bart Rolet runs a brilliant coaching setup in Montréal!
Find out more at:  

Can't make it? Book a session with one of our Certified Coaches instead. Hand picked and highly trained by Paul and Adam to give your swimming a major upgrade! :

And see a list of forthcoming Swim Smooth events here:

Some Stories To Get You Inspired

One of the great things about Swim Smooth is that if you're ever feeling a little flat there's plenty of inspiration out there from our worldwide community of coaches and swimmers to pick you up!

So with the aim of pumping you up for the weekend ahead, here's a selection of posts from the last week. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for plenty more:

Meet Campbell - super pumped to come third in the inter-schools 50m breaststroke. 8 weeks previously he could barely swim:

Swim Smooth Coach Julian Nagi shows us the most important words in swimming??! :

Update from Perth - Coach Jana Schoeman working with a swimmer during her certified training: 

That's a wrap - finishing off another Coach-Ed course in Mallorca with a great bunch of coaches from all over the world:

Wish you could swim with these crazies every day? Actually your nearest squad may not be as far away as you think:

Where it all began - the location of the very first triathlon in San Diego. Sponsored by Pizza Port:

And last but definitely not least we have Linda (aka "Mother Smooth") one of the unsung heroes of planet Swim Smooth. Here seen packing up after the triathlon show in London back in February: 

also add seamus smiley face:

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Nervous About Your Open Water Race / Event? Our 3 Key Posts On Swimming More Confidently In Open Water

If you are a triathlete or open water swimmer in the northern hemisphere then you will know that the open water season is well underway and your key race or event of the season is probably coming up fast.

Hopefully you've been developing your swim fitness and refining your stroke technique but have you given much thought to your open water skills? If not then drafting, navigating and swimming straight will be the missing ingredient in you having a brilliant swim in open water.

Swimming in open water is VERY different from swimming the pool - don't believe anyone who
tells you otherwise! It's a skill you can (and should) work on, just like any other.

If you are nervous about swimming outdoors then working on some of these skills over the coming weeks will make all the difference. Come race day you will swim more confidently, be faster and have a much more enjoyable experience.

3 Key Posts On Swimming Confidently In Open Water

The Swim Smooth Blog is nearly 9 years old and in that time we've posted out over 425 unique articles to help you improve your swimming. If you are new to the blog that's a lot of reading to catch up on (!) so with the goal of improving your confidence and effectiveness in open water, here's our pick of three key posts since the blog started in 2009:

First up, check out our June 2011 article on how to sight forwards effectively whilst swimming:

Developing this important skill makes seeing forwards as you swim much much easier. Become good at it and you will swim far straighter, sighting will have less impact on your stroke itself and you will be much more confident in tracking around the course.

Next, a nice post on getting used to swimming in close proximity to other swimmers - IN THE POOL.

Perhaps you live a long way from a good open water venue or just can't get there easily. Now you have no excuse as we showed you how to work on your drafting skills in your local swimming pool:

This is a lot of fun and when you do get into open water you'll immediately feel more at home swimming in close proximity to other swimmers (which is unavoidable outdoors and very much part of the sport).

Plus there are huge performance gains from drafting other swimmers - it can save you up to 38% of your energy expenditure in fact! 1

Lastly, check out one of our favourite articles on why your SHOULDN'T glide when you swim:

Whilst it became popular to try and do this in the 90s, trying to add a pause-and-glide at the front of your stroke actually makes you less efficient, not more! This is even more the case when swimming in open water where waves and chop slow you down even further between strokes.

In fact when you swim outdoors you should aim to maintain good punch and rhythm to your stroke - it will make you much more stable and effective through the water.

Have a great race season ahead - and let us know how you get on through the website, facebook, twitter and instagram!

Swim Smooth!

[1] CHATARD, J.-C., and B. WILSON. Drafting Distance in Swimming. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 7, pp. 1176–1181, 2003.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Coaches: We're Coming To Montréal In July - Join Us There!

Dear Coaches,

We hope you are all well and enjoying a great start to 2018! After a super successful course in Mallorca in May, we are very pleased to announce that Paul Newsome and the SS coaching team are running our next 3 Day Coach Education Course at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal from 19-21st July 2018.

We've seen massive demand for the Swim Smooth methodology building across the world over the last few years. That's great but we're going to need plenty more excellent coaches on the ground to assist with this task and we'd like to offer you the chance to apply for one of the coveted spots on the Montréal course.

We're looking for applicants from across North America (and even worldwide) for this course. This is likely to be the only 3 day course we are going to be running in the remainder of 2018 so don't miss out!

Full information is here:

And apply on our website here:

Mallorca: The Class Of 2018

The Swim Smooth 3 Day Coach Education Course

Since we ran our first 3-day Coach Education Course in Birmingham in June 2010 we've had over 420 international coaches complete the course from over 2,600 applicants.

Such is the demand that getting onto the course is not easy but those who are successful epitomise what Swim Smooth is all about - you don't necessarily need to be the most experienced coach to be offered a spot, but you do need to show us your passion, commitment and vision for your own swimming and coaching in general.

The Swim Smooth Montréal squad are hosting the course at the Olympic Stadium - the perfect venue!

The course covers:

- Advanced freestyle stroke technique correction methods. Identification of underlying issues in a swimmer's stroke technique and best practise to correct. This covers all levels of swimmer from beginner to elite.

- Detailed discussion of each component of the freestyle stroke. A modern perspective on what is considered ideal for distance freestyle at different levels of competition.

- An appreciation of the effectiveness of different styles of different swimmers and in what direction to lead individual swimmers.

- In depth insight into our coaching system which allows coaches to quickly understand a swimmer's style of swimming - and the fundamental technique issues and personalities behind each style.

- Developing a swimmer's catch and feel for the water. Detailed discussion of why this is so hard to do and different approaches for different levels of swimmer.

- Observation skills on the pooldeck. How to spot underlying stroke technique issues that are easily missed.

- Live stroke correction sessions with volunteer swimmers during the course.

- How to use stroke rate to optimise your swimmer's efficiency in the water.

- Best practise video analysis of swimmers - equipment to use, best practise filming techniques and analysis of footage.

- Improving the effectiveness of your communication with athletes.

- How to coach and improve the stroke technique of those swimmers who never seem to improve.

- What to do with swimmers who have seemingly perfect technique.

- Running a squad program and best practise structure and training sessions to develop your swimmers.

- Using Critical Swim Speed (CSS) to develop the sustainable threshold of your swimmers and to encourage better pacing technique for distance events.

- The course has a main focus on distance freestyle coaching of adult swimmers and triathletes but will touch on the other three strokes, sprint, junior and elite coaching.

Going On To Become A Swim Smooth Coach

Becoming a fully-fledged Swim Smooth Coach takes substantially more than attending a 3 day course. Whilst we know that other coaching programs around the world allow easy accreditation for anyone and everyone that applies, we fundamentally believe that to become a Swim Smooth Coach requires much greater insight and training than what we could ever provide in just three days or even a week.

The beauty of the 3 day course is that it's noncommittal towards seeking full certification, in fact many coaches attend purely for their own development and that's just fine with us. The course is not assessed in any way so you can feel free to really relax, enjoy and soak up all the great nuggets of information and learned insight without the worry of an end of course exam.

Every Swim Smooth Coach (seen here during training in Perth) has attended the 3 Day Coach-Ed Course

In this way, the 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Course either forms the start of a great new journey with Swim Smooth, or simply the start of newly ignited passion for refining your coaching skills to help others improve their swimming!

Every Swim Smooth coach has attended the 3 day course as their starting point and you must do the same. Find further information on becoming a Swim Smooth Coach here:

A Little More About Perth

Of course if you are interested in becoming a Swim Smooth Coach and are selected for certification then you will be making the big trip to our coaching base in Perth, Western Australia. What's it like out there?

Coach Colin Reynolds recently visited us. Colin's not a Swim Smooth coach so is able to give a truly independent review of the place and the Perth squad setup. Find out more in his article for Outdoor Fitness magazine here:

Thanks for the write-up Colin!

So Go Ahead And Apply Now

A rare opportunity to get on the perfect course, with a great group of people in the perfect venue! What's stopping you applying today?

We look forwards to working with you there:

Swim Smooth!

Friday, June 08, 2018

Swimming In Rough (Or Cold) Conditions With Long Arms

Thanks to everyone who replied, posted, commented on last week's post Another Great Example - Different Strokes For Two Very Different FolksIt featured two strong swimmers of very different build and is already one of our most discussed blog's of all time!

As a reminder, here's Andres and Nico swimming the same speed with two very different strokes:

Here's one question we received in the blog comments from Antony:

As someone who has a +15cm (6") Ape index, how would you recommend approaching swimming in choppy ocean water? With my Ape index, I would be more naturally suited to the smooth style, but I am wondering if going more swinger is better in the ocean, especially in long distances in cold water (1500M+, 14C/56F temperature, no wetsuit) where just keeping hypothermia at bay is an issue. Also, how much can one go swinging if their arms are long? Thoughts?

That's a really great question - thanks for asking Antony! If you have long arms yourself how should you swim in rough conditions, given that a long smooth stroke style might not be very effective at all?

Firstly we need to clarify something:

Swinger vs. Smooth isn't really about the arm recovery

When comparing Swingers versus Smooths, the first thing you might notice is how the arms recover over the surface of the water. Smooths tend to use a classical high elbow:

And Swingers a straighter swinging recovery (ideally high over the surface of the water) which is where they get their name from:

But the different arm recovery style isn't really the difference between the types - there are many Smooths out there with a straighter arm recovery (for instance super-fish triathlete Richard Varga) and sometimes there are even Swingers who have been coached to use a higher elbow. It's just much more common to see Swingers swinging and Smooths with a high elbow.

Of course when it comes to open water swimming that straighter arm recovery of the typical Swinger has plenty of advantages. For one it means you won't catch your hand on waves and chop, and it allows you to swim closer to swimmers without hitting them with your recovering arm - perfect for drafting on someone's hip.

So the first take home for Antony here (and everyone else with long arms) is if you are currently swimming with a classical high elbow then consider opening out the arm slightly for open water swimming. We're not talking bolt-straight (like bowling a cricket ball) but opening 10 to 20 degrees at the elbow lifts the hand above the water significantly and will give you a lot more versatility swimming near to other swimmers.

That's exactly what Richard Varga has done with his own swimming; you can see him swim in the Guru here (subscription required):

It's Really About Stroke Length vs. Stroke Rate

So if it's not about arm recovery, what is the real difference between a Swinger and a Smooth? It's actually about the trade off between how long the stroke is and the cadence (stroke rate).

Imagine you are riding a bike, going at the same speed you can either spin a small gear or push a big one with a slower turnover. That's Swinger and Smooth respectively.

Part of this is about your height and build. As we saw last week, Andreas with his shorter arms simply can't match Nico's stroke length, his only alternative is to take fewer strokes but with less effort going into each stroke.

If you are quite short with short-ish arms you don't really have much choice, you are simply going to have to take more strokes but at a higher stroke rate. Don't be put off by this, you can do so without fighting the water and it will give you a natural advantage swimming in the great outdoors as the more continuous propulsion helps you punch through disturbed water.

If you are tall with long arms then a longer stroke style may suit you BUT NOT ALWAYS. There are actually many taller swimmers with longer arms who naturally suit the Swinger style. A classic example is France's Laure Manaudou (5'10" - 180cm tall) who broke the 200, 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle world records swimming at around 110 strokes per minute (an incredibly high stroke rate):

That's an extreme example but none the less it's important to appreciate that when you are tall with long arms you actually have a choice, you can swim with a relatively short stroke and a faster turnover if you so wish. And to answer Antony's question, for rough water swimming yes we would recommend you do so for the performance advantage it will give you.

The key to lifting your stroke rate is to get into the catch sightly quicker at the front of the stroke. Swingers tend to enter the water, extend to their reach and immediately pitch the hand downwards to initiate the catch. Smooths and hold there for 0.2 second before pitching the hand downwards. 0.2 second isn't long at all but removing that tiny fraction of time at the front is enough to lift your stroke rate from 65 SPM (a typical Smooth stroke rate) to 73 SPM. That sort of increase will have you swimming noticeably more effectively and so faster in rougher water.

Of course the faster you are going the quicker the arms travel through with the water under the body so you can expect a further gain of a few more SPM from that effect too.

So a key skill for the Smooth's looking to swim well in open water is to work on the timing of the catch at the front of the stroke and being able to get into the stroke fractionally quicker at the front when the going gets rough. It's quite a subtle timing change but the gains are significant.

Our key drill to facilitate that change would be Scull #1:

Keeping Warm In Cold Water

A second question in Antony's post was about avoiding hypothermia. A longer slower stroke does generate significantly less heat for the swimmer and that's a big disadvantage in cold water swims. Over the years many Overgliders (swimmers with very slow stroke rates) have reported to us that they really struggle to complete cold water swims of 18C and below because they suffer from hypothermia.

Swimming with a shorter stroke and a faster turnover (the Swinger style) does generate a lot more heat. In fact when our Head Coach Paul Newsome won the 46km (!) Manhattan Marathon swim in 2013 (see race report here) he attributed his ability to handle the cold conditions as a key advantage, in comparison to some of his longer-smoother competitors.

Paul celebrates his victory in NYC - yes a shorter stroke can make you happy! The water temp was 16C (61F).

So if like Antony you are swimming below 18C without a wetsuit and have a long smooth stroke style then make sure you have developed the ability to lift your stroke rate in training - it could be make or break for completing your event.

Swim Smooth!