Friday, December 11, 2020

Is There A Link Between How You Move And How You Think?

The Swim Types system is a way of understanding your individual swimming by identifying six fundamental stroke styles all the way from beginner to elite competitor. Identify your type and we can give you highly tailored individual advice to improve your swimming - neat.

Each type has a memorable caricature. Find out more about this unique system here:

As Swim Smooth Head Coach developed this unique system of coaching through 2008 and 2009 he also noticed something else, something fascinating. Each of the six types tend to have distinct personality traits unique to them. And the idea of that being possible - that how you move might be related to how you think - is a bit more controversial.

If you are someone who doesn't believe in this connection then that's fine, that bit of the system wasn't for you. Please ignore the rest of this post.

But if you do 'get it' and understand your Swim Type then you could gain an important insight into how your head might be holding you back in the water. Or as a coach, how your swimmers might need different coaching styles to best meet their needs.

There's aspects of Swim Type personalities that relate direct to swimming but here at Swim Smooth we also like to enjoy some of our lighter observations about them. These might not have any bearing on swimming but they are interesting to see none the less. (If any of this seems a bit nuts, remember it's just for fun)

Our observations:

The Arnie/Arnette

- May arrive late for sessions and in a bit of a fluster.

- Often shortens their name as much as possible (e.g. Robert becomes Bob, Rachel becomes Rach).

- May use their partner's email address and type with caps-lock on.

- Has a tendency to say "yes... yes... yes..." or "yip... yip... yip..." to hurry along conversation.

- Tends to see the coaching relationship as transactional.

- Drives a large 4x4 vehicle.

The Bambino

- The first thing they say about their swimming is "I'm really not very good".

- Values the coaching relationship for its own sake.

- Gets a huge buzz from small improvements.

- A strong sense of community.

- Generally warm and open personality.

- Likes stripey tops (we told you this was left field!).

The Kicktastic

- Quite quiet and may appear aloof.

- Facebook profile picture may be a nice view or a wild cat.

- Often wears ankle bracelets or foot jewellery.

- Often turns up late for swim sessions.

- Likes taking notes (can anyone explain why this is...?).

- May be a bit earthy or hippy.

The Overglider

- Dresses for function rather than appearance.

- Prefers the use of their full name (e.g. Jonathan instead of John), this is the opposite of the Arnie.

- Explains their definitions when debating.

- Immediately speed tests new internet connections.

- May drive an Audi.

- May start counting from zero rather than one (why waste a perfectly good number?).

The Swinger

- Lives "in the now" and likes to get on with things without undue discussion.

- The first on the pool deck dying to get in the water.

- Dislikes clutter in their houses.

- If they don't feel useful then they feel useless.

- Likely to say exactly what they are thinking.

- Unconventional - gets frustrated with the system and wants to improve it.

The Smooth

- Likes to lead the lane and have clear water.

- May have dimples.

- Can turn on the charm any time they like.

- Conventional - good at using the system that exists.

- Likes to enter the pool by jumping in feet first and diving forward straight into their freestyle.

- Have great hair and commonly a quiff (once you see this you won't stop seeing it!).

We are currently conducting a big reconfiguration of our websites - the full Swim Type website is down right now - we'll be introducing something new and very exciting to replace it very soon. 

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Best Christmas Presents For Swimming Enthusiasts

Can you believe it is less than three weeks until Christmas? As the 25th gets nearer, the pressure is on to make sure that presents are ready, wrapped and under the tree. But are you still struggling to work out what to get your swim-obsessed friend or want to bulk out your own Christmas list? Don't worry - Swim Smooth's got you covered!

Whether you are buying for a beginner, open water, intermediate or advanced swimmer, the Christmas list is sorted! 

See information at the bottom of this post on last Christmas post dates.

Swimming must-haves:

Swim Smooth Silicon Cap

You can't be seen on the pool deck in 2021 without your Swim Smooth Cap. These bright and stylish swim caps come in 5 different designs to suit your individual taste. We recommend the bright pink or green caps to stand out in the open water. 

The Swim Smooth Book

Published in 2012 by Wiley & Son, this is our complete guide to improving your swimming! Packed with tips, advice and processes to help you improve your stroke, wherever you are on your swimming journey. 

Buy here:

Top Picks For Beginner Swimmers:

Pull Buoy

The humble pull buoy is a simple but essential tool to help you develop your freestyle. Crucial for many Swim Smooth drills, it allows you to turn off your leg kick and focus on arm technique to help you move more efficiently in the water.

FINIS Freestyler Paddles

These paddles are perfect for beginner swimmers. The in stroke feedback they give you allows you to focus on hand entry and position in the water at the front of the stroke. 

Floating Fins

These fins provide you with plenty of additional propulsion so you can focus on constructing your freestyle stroke. They are also perfect for breathing and alignment Swim Smooth drills such as 6/1/6 and 6/3/6 - key drills to help you gain more confidence in the water.  

Top Picks For Intermediate Swimmers

Finis Agility Paddles

The first thing you'll notice about these paddles is the lack of a finger strap. That makes them very comfortable to use but there's so much more to these paddles than the strapless design. The unique shape and profile of the Agilities help you initiate the catch at the front of your stroke so you can develop that all important high elbow catch. A brilliant and unique paddle from Finis. 

Finis Tempo Trainer Pro

Many Swim Smooth training sessions are built around pace-controlled swimming. Whether it is working on your stroke rate or pace in the water, the Tempo Trainer helps with all of that - we like to think of them as a power meter for swimming (only much much cheaper!).

Finis Floating Fins

Don't be tempted by short zoomer style fins. They're great for elite swimmers performing over-speed training but for intermediate swimmers working on their stroke technique you need a mid length flexible fin to give you the right level of propulsion.

Top Picks For Advanced Swimmers

Another brilliant paddle from Finis, the ISO paddles force you to control your pull pathway in ways you have never experienced before. Providing either inside or outside loading you will need to focus on pulling through correctly under the water - remove the paddles afterwards and hey-presto, you'll gain heightened sensory awareness during your entire pull from front to rear.

A snorkel is a great idea in principle, allowing you to focus on fine tuning your underwater stroke without the interruption of breathing. However, at Swim Smooth we only tend to use them with more advanced swimmers as their feeling in use can be quite distracting (and sometimes even claustrophobic). More advanced swimmers can handle this just fine so unleash this powerful tool on your swimming.

Finis Pulling Ankle Strap / Band

Want to work on your rhythm and timing? You might think of a band as offering your resistance training in the water and whilst they certainly do provide that, they also force you to use a continuous arm stroke with good rhythm, otherwise your legs will immediately sink. If you are thinking about racing in open water then you'll gain a huge amount from some short sets using a band. By putting a little rhythm and purpose into your stroke you will dramatically increase your efficiency in disturbed open water.

Top Picks For Open Water Swimmers

Finis Tempo Trainer Pro

As you know, great open water swimmers need a sense of rhythm and purpose in their stroke to help them drive through disturbed open water. The Tempo Trainer Pro is the perfect tool to help you fine tune that aspect of your swimming. Use yours in mode 3 to increase or decrease your stroke rate in a super controlled way and assess the impact on your performance.

HUUB Sphere Buoyancy Short

Gents, transitioned to the pool for the winter but missing that uplift from your wetsuit? Grab a pair of these neat buoyancy shorts - nearly as much lift to your legs as a wetsuit but without chronic overheating after 400m!

Delivery During A Pandemic

Your Swim Smooth order will be shipped immediately from the UK. Official last Christmas post dates are listed below but please note that some countries have additional customs backlogs due to the Covid19 pandemic so please order in plenty of time if you wish to receive your order by Christmas.

UK: Dec 21st
Australia, New Zealand: Dec 4th
Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Central+South America, Far and Middle East: Dec 9th Canada, Cyprus, Malta: 10th Dec
Greece, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA: 11th Dec
Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg: 16th Dec

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Update - Paolo's 10km x 30 Day Swim Challenge

Paolo Mangilinan, Swim Smooth Dubai coach is coming to the end of his 30 day Dubai Fitness Challenge. He's been swimming an incredible 10km every day for the past 30 days. We wanted to catch up with him towards the end of the challenge to hear how he has been getting on. 

Check out our latest podcast to hear what makes Paolo tick, what inspired him and who he hopes to inspire as part of this conquest, the highs and lows and how he's drawn strength to get him through this challenge. 

Access the podcast here:

We hope you enjoyed listening as much as we enjoyed recording this podcast.

Want to stay up to date with Paolo's progress over the last few days? 

Follow his Instagram and Facebook pages to get the latest pictures. 


Swim Smooth


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Improve Your Swimming With Five Of Our Best YouTube Videos

Whether you are in lockdown or not, there's never a bad time to learn something new and improve your understanding of swimming.

With that in mind we've delved into our YouTube archives over the last 10 years and pulled out five classic videos that you might have missed the first time around. Need advice, a good visual or motivation? Tune right in:

Is Your Elbow Really Dropped Or Is It Just That Your Hand Is Too High?

Tried to improve your catch but struggled to make any progress? Maybe you're thinking about it in the wrong way - Swim Smooth Head Coach Paul Newsome explains all.

Swimming Technique: Jodie Swallow World Triathlon Champion

One of our oldest clips dating back to 2009, check out the epic stroke of Triathlon World Champion Jodie Swallow. Yes the footage is low-definition but the stroke is high revving and full of energy. Do you need a bit of Jodie's style in your own stroke?

Anna-Karin Turns To The Dark Side

Beautifully shot in open water, check out Swim Smooth Coach Anna Karin's silky smooth Swinger style. You may not like the idea of lifting high over the water, shortening your stroke and upping your stroke rate but AK shows us that it can be done with elegance and style.

The Amazing Stephanie Dixon

In need of some Swimspiration? Meet the amazing Stephanie Dixon, 19-time Paralympic swimming champion! Here we feature our exclusive close-up footage of Stephanie's stroke taken at our 3 Day Coaching Course at Nike World HQ.

Swimmers Going Off Course

Why is it some important to work on swimming straight in open water? All we needed to film a bit of footage at the beach and speed it up.

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Paolo's Marathon Swim x30 Day Challenge

Swim Smooth Dubai coach, Paolo Mangilinan is currently on day 14 of his 30 day marathon swim challenge. He's swimming a whopping 10km swim every day for 30 days running! The magnitude of this challenge is incredible and we have been diligently checking in on his daily progress.

In the midst of his busy schedule of coaching, dad duties and 10km swims every day, we managed to have a quick catch up with him to hear how he has been getting on. Paolo shares his inspiration for the swim and his training and nutrition schedule for his swim below - it's a great read.

Man or machine? Meet Swim Smooth Dubai Coach, Paolo Mangilinan

What is the 30 day challenge? 

Paolo: It has been going on for 4 years in Dubai and was started by the Crown Prince of Dubai. The aim is to complete 30 mins of exercise for 30 days. 2 years ago, someone did a marathon every day for 30 days and this really inspired me to do something similar. This is the first year I have done it. Instead of doing a marathon, I decided to do a marathon swim every day. It has been in my head for the past year and this year was the year I decided to go ahead with it. Especially with all Ironman events being cancelled, this year is perfect because it allows me to focus on swimming. I am a triathlete really, but I love swimming and this has allowed me to focus on just that.

Have you noticed a change in your fitness during the challenge? 

Paolo: I haven't noticed a great change in my swim fitness, on day 14 the distance still doesn't feel easier, but my mindset has changed. Getting in the water on day 1, I felt apprehensive about whether I would complete the 10k distance, but now when you say a 10k swim, I can do it. I get in the water confident.

This has been helped by the incredible support from my squad swimmers. They have been instrumental in keeping me going for these past few weeks. Every day, I have different squad swimmers offering to swim 2k, 5k or even 8k with me, their support has been pretty overwhelming. This swim feels like a team effort rather than a solo race, I find this really inspiring - this is what Swim Smooth squads are all about!

How have you prepared for the race? 

Paolo: This idea has been brewing for the past year and my preparation officially started in January 2020. When I visited Perth for the Swim Smooth Coaches Certification Course in February my CSS was 1:27min/100m. Obviously, it was great to get the coach mentoring from Paul Newsome, but swimming with the Perth squad really spurred me on with my training. The video analysis sessions from the course taught me a lot about my swim stroke, Paul's pointers on my technique were invaluable and really motivated me to train and become more efficient. 

When I got back to Dubai, my training was going really well, but then we were put into lockdown and I was no longer able to get to the pool. I did a lot of cardio and stretch cord work to work on my fitness, this definitely kept me going and allowed me to return to the pool as prepared as I could be.

Coming out of lockdown, I followed the Swim Smooth Guru 10km training plan, but added a few more long distance training swims. I also asked my wife to film me swimming in the open water just after lockdown, I looked like I wasn't moving, my stroke rate was roughly 64 SPM. Improving my cadence became one area that I wanted to focus on. The following months, once or twice a week I worked on gradually increasing my stroke rate by 2SPM using the Tempo Trainer Pro. I started with 4 x 400m swims at an increased stroke rate and gradually increased the stroke rate. I'm now swimming at 74 SPM and I'm not straining myself holding this stroke rate, my swim fitness has adapted to be able to deal with this. I love the feeling of the higher stroke rate!

In the 3-4 weeks before the challenge I was swimming around 40-50km every week and have got my CSS down to 1:21min/100m. And I actually feel great, yes, I can feel my arms now but I feel ready to get back in the water tomorrow.

How are you managing your nutrition and hydration? 

Paolo: I'm completing the swims early in the morning at 6:30am to try and beat the heat in Dubai. Even at that time the water temperature is 28 degrees celsius. My swim time is about 2:45 - 3hrs so I finish about 11am. I normally have a couple of bananas before the swim and water as and when I need it. I have a kayak with me so I have gels and protein bars on there, but not too much. We need the space on the kayak to carry vaseline! I don't really measure everything accurately, but stop every 3km to take on water and a bit of food before I start to feel hungry. 

During the swims I am burning 1800 calories so after that I make sure I load a lot in the afternoons and evenings. I don't want to swim with a heavy tummy, especially with the salt water.

What has been the most difficult thing about the challenge? 

Paolo: The sleep! I am still coaching and I have a 5 month old baby to look after so balancing my day is a challenge. I try to get 8hrs - 11hrs of sleep a night. If I get that, I am sure that I will have a good swim.

Getting my nutrition and sleep right is important to make sure that I don't get injured or ill - this is my biggest priority.

What are your 3 top tips for something thinking about this challenge? 

- Be prepared to prepare - give yourself enough time to prepare sufficiently for the challenge.

- Know your body - know your diet, know your body's capabilities, make sure you get enough sleep.

- Make sure you get the mileage in!

Thanks Paolo and enjoy the rest of your challenge - we'll be watching from around the world.

You can keep up to date with the rest of Paolo's 30 day challenge by following @swimsmoothdubai on Instagram and Facebook.

Are you thinking of doing a challenge like this? We'd love to hear about it! Email us on or message us on Instagram or Facebook

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Become The Best Version Of Your Swimming Self

When you look at elite swimmers in action you see incredible variation in how they move through the water. Here's five areas of stroke technique where there's almost no consistency in elite swimmers* :

Kick power - varying between a powerful 6 beat kick, continuous gentle flutter or 2 beat switch kick.

Head position - looking forwards, straight down at the bottom of the pool or anywhere in-between.

Length of stroke - ranging from 28 to 60 strokes per 50m!

Stroke rate (cadence) - ranging from 60 to 120 strokes per minute!

Arm recovery style - classical high elbow, high-and-swinging arm or anywhere in between.

It's not just elite swimmers though, if you watch the better swimmers in your local pool you'll also see the same variation.

Many coaches have a preferred stroke style that they like the look of and try to guide all their swimmers in that direction. Often (but not always) they are aiming for a high elbow arm recovery, powerful kick and a long stroke. But if you've tried that and are frustrated at your progress then possibly it's just not right for you.

The fact is that a coach's aesthetic preference is actually pretty irrelevant. And in a sense, your own preference is too. Your own individual height, strength, build, flexibility, experience and even personality combine to create the swimmer you are and for the most part you can't change that.

Your goal shouldn't to try and be something you're not. Instead use Swim Smooth coaching to work on areas of your stroke technique that always matter:

- Sitting high in the water.

- Using a straight legged kick with a slight softness at the knee.

- A strong smooth exhalation under the water.

- Pressing the water straight back behind you from the front to the rear of the stroke.

- Developing rhythm and purpose.

Do that and you will naturally evolve to become the best version of your swimming self.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Five *Super Simple* Tips To Develop Your Freestyle

If you are new to swimming freestyle (or front crawl) everything can seem a bit overwhelming with so many things to think about. For that reason it's really important to keep things super-simple when developing your stroke.

Here's five basic Swim Smooth visualisations to try, each focusing on a different part of the stroke.

Remember, only focus on one thing at once to see how it feels before moving on to the next:

Blow Those Bubbles!

When you are swimming face down it's important to continuously blow out into the water between breaths to the side. This gets rid of the CO2 build up in your system and it means when you rotate to the side to breath you only have to inhale in the short window available, not exhale and then inhale.

Visualise a smooth long exhalation through either the nose or mouth (whichever feels more natural). Here's Olympian Jono Van Hazel blowing bubbles into the water:

What to look for: Less tension in your body and better stamina. Also all those bubbles might be noisier than you are used to!

Straight Legs And Brush Your Toes

A gentle leg kick will help lift you high in the water but it's easy to burn a lot of energy and create a lot of drag with poor kicking technique.

To counter this think about keeping your legs straight as you swim. Point your toes as you kick gently and tap your big toes together as they pass.

What to look for: Less oxygen demand and more easy progress through the water.

Good Clearance Over The Surface

How you should recover your arms over the surface of the water is a debate that has rumbled on between swim coaches for decades. But the most important thing to remember is to keep that forward carry nice and relaxed, and try to get good clearance between your hand and the surface. If your hand and elbow are too low you might notice them hit the surface, lane rope or clash with other swimmers.

What to look for: An easy loose movement over the water, you might notice this challenging your range of motion in your chest, shoulder and lats.

Press Water Straight Backwards To The Wall Behind You

OK, now we're talking about creating forward propulsion through the water. From the very front of your arm stroke to the very back we're fundamentally trying to press the water backwards in order to push ourselves forwards. Push down, up or to the side and you are just wasting effort.

Visualise having a smiley face drawn on the palm of your hand and as you swim keep focused on it facing to the wall behind you:

More on this in our previous blog post:

What to look for: An easy and direct feeling to your pull through.

Keep A Sense Of Rhythm

Sometimes when we are working on our swimming we can get quite robotic in our movements as we're concentrating so hard. But fundamentally swimming should be fluid and rhythmical.

Try and swim with a sense of purpose and rhythm, perhaps turning your arms over a little faster than you might be used to. If your cadence is normally a bit on the slow side then speeding it up slightly can feel easier, not harder (counter-intuitive we know).

The ultimate tool to work on your rhythm is a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro in mode 3. Just place under your swim cap and swim to the beep (a bit like a metronome for musicians).

What to look for: An enjoyable connection with the water and a sensation of moving quicker without any additional effort.

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Introducing the 45 minute "Dense Mist" Session

During the pandemic many pools around the world are operating on an hourly rotation, giving you 45-50 minutes in the water then emptying the pool and ushering you out of the changing rooms before the end of the hour. This allows a clean break between groups of swimmers entering the pool, which is clearly a good idea to limit the spread of Covid19. However it does also limit the training time you have available in the water.

Seamus Bennet, our coach in Suffolk in the UK would normally run a highly popular Red Mist session every week for his swimmers, taking somewhere between 60 and 80 minutes. With his squad limited to this 45 minute turnaround in this 'new normal' he wanted to get as much of the training benefits of Red Mist as he could in this much shorter time slot.

His solution was to invent the "Dense Mist" session, here's the key elements:

- Get into the water as quickly as possible and swim "gun to tape" making the most of the allowable time.

- No drills or unnecessary equipment - get straight into the action.

- Given that the session is shorter you can swim a little quicker than a Red Mist session, around CSS pace. (Red Mist pace is normally CSS + 3-5 seconds per 100m).

- Just like Red Mist, keep recovery times really short to maximise time swimming.

Since Tuesday's date was 20-10-20 he designed the session to be a series of 200s, then 100s, then back to the 200s. Here's the whiteboard for each of the 6 lanes:

Note the "TT" settings for each lane where the leader in the lane is using a Tempo Trainer Pro programmed to CSS plus 10-20 seconds (see settings below). The swimmers will get ahead of the beeper whilst swimming then wait for it to catch up at the end of the swim for their next send-off.

Notice how Seamus has actually sped up the beeper (reducing the beeper cycle time) on the second set of 200s - this is a classic Red Mist session strategy, increasing the pace as the session goes on!

Swim Smooth Suffolk squad enjoying the Dense Mist Session!
Lane 1 enjoying the aftermath of the Dense Mist session! 

We know many of you are facing similar challenges with pool space and session timings, so we wanted to share this simple, no equipment session with you. So why not give it a go? We're certain you'll enjoy it as much as the Swim Smooth Suffolk squad. 

Here's the basic session:

3 x 200m (target CSS pace + 20s)

10 x 100m (target CSS pace + 15s)

3 x 200m (target CSS pace + 10s)

We'd love to hear how you get on with this session! Be sure to tag @swimsmooth and @swim_smooth_suffolk

To find our more about Seamus or to hear more about Swim Smooth Suffolk's sessions, head to their website:

Swim Smooth!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

This Diesel Engine Is Just Getting Started

Have you noticed that most swim sessions are very stop-start in nature? They tend to include lots of short swims with significant recovery between each? Swim-rest-swim-rest-swim-rest. Stopping every 100m is fine in training if you are only racing over 50 or 100m but how about if you are a distance swimmer, an open water swimmer or triathlete?

Can you imagine preparing for a half marathon with every workout consisting of running for 45-90 seconds and then stopping for a rest? You could probably run pretty quickly like this but come race day you would have very little endurance and badly under-perform as a result. And yet traditional swim coaching offer this approach to everyone.

At Swim Smooth we often talk about your fitness as like either a petrol engine or a diesel engine. A petrol engine is high revving and able to put out a lot of power over a short period of time. With this sort of fitness you would be able to sprint well over short distances but quickly slow once you are beyond 400m.

Rory proudly wears our Diesel Swimming
Engine shirt after swimming the
mighty 19.7km Rottnest Channel
On the other hand someone who is a diesel engine can't sprint so quickly (in fact they may have trouble sprinting at all) but they are able to sustain a strong pace over a long distance. Clearly this is the sort of fitness you need for distance and open water swimming.

If you think about it this difference has to exist otherwise Usain Bolt (a classic petrol engine) would also hold the marathon world record. In fact, although Usain is an incredible athlete and the greatest sprinter who ever lived, he'd be a very average marathon runner at best.

Of course everyone has a genetic predisposition somewhere on the petrol-diesel spectrum. You might be a natural petrol engine or natural diesel or somewhere in between but the point is that you can develop either fitness type by focusing on it with the right sort of training.

Starting Up Your Diesel Engine

Training for swimming events of 400m or longer requires you to train like a distance athlete. This is especially true if you are only swimming two or three times a week, which is typical for a triathlete. With so "little" time swimming, your training sets need to be entirely focused on developing your diesel engine with very little time spent swimming above threshold pace.

Compared to traditional swim sessions, training that develops your diesel engine requires longer swims with less recovery between. Of course you won't be sustaining the same speeds as you would over short distances but don't worry you'll still be working hard and feeling the burn.

Swim Smooth has two main types of session aimed at developing your diesel engine - CSS sessions and Red Mist sessions.

CSS sessions (you can find an entire library of them in the Guru here) focus on your ability to sustain a strong pace over events from 800m to 3 km. They are intense and require mental focus to swim at a strong sustained pace without blowing up and slowing down.

Red Mist sessions (library in the Guru here) focus on your ability to swim 4km and further at a strong pace. Perfect for longer events these session often get progressively faster through the session to challenge you mentally as well as physically. This highlights that a key component of a diesel engine is your mental fortitude to sustain hard work, which is just as important to develop as the capacity of your aerobic system.

If you are swimming up to 3 times per week then choose either a CSS or Red Mist session as your main fitness workout of the week. If you swim 4 times or more then have time to swim one of each per week, just space them at least 2 days apart to recover between.

Technique, Fitness And Your Stroke "Falling Apart"

If your diesel fitness is at a very low level then you may feel like your stroke starts to fall apart once you swim further than 100 or 200m. It might feel like you have a problem controlling your movements and so this is a coordination problem. It isn't. In fact you are simply experiencing fatigue at the speed at which you are swimming. As fatigue comes in you struggle to complete each stroke, so your stroke shortens, so your body roll reduces and you start to fight the water.

The solution here isn't more short technique swims to practise your technique. The solution is to slow down slightly, swim further and keep your recoveries short. After a few weeks you will find you can sustain your stroke technique over progressively longer and longer distances. In fact if you build an extremely strong diesel engine then you won't feel like you are really getting started until 1000m or more!

Of course stroke technique is important (and much of Swim Smooth's coaching philosophy is dedicated to stroke development) but equally important is fitness, and the right sort of the fitness at that.

Is swim fitness your weakness, not technique?

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 09, 2020

When Wrong Feels Right - Part 2

Back in 2016 we posted our classic blog Why A Good Catch Is So Elusive: Wrong Can Feel Right - if you missed it first time around it's well worth a read, it's one of those posts we refer swimmers back to time and time again.

The post discusses the front of your stroke during the catch and explains why searching too hard for a "solid" attachment to the water can lead to you pressing down, to the side or even forwards on the water when you should be aiming to press it backwards:

That's the front of your stroke but in a similar way we need to be careful at the back too.

If you have tried to lengthen out your stroke then you might have put a lot of emphasis on finishing the stroke strongly with a big push on the water at the rear. Certainly if your stroke is too short and lacking rotation then a little more emphasis on finishing at the rear might be a good thing, however like anything in stroke technique, it's possible to over-do this.

The goal with your arm stroke under the water is to press the water back to the wall behind you in order to propel you forwards. That's true at all points in the underwater stroke: be it at the front, under your shoulders, body or at the rear by your hips. 

As your hand finishes the stroke at the rear it is actually very difficult to apply a lot of pressure on the water with your hand. This is because biomechanically you are reaching full extension and it's difficult to match the speed of the water as you move through it.

If you are trying to feel a solid push on the water then very likely you are pressing the water upwards at the rear:

This is wasteful because pressing up does nothing to propel you forwards but worse than that it acts to push your legs downwards. As a result either your legs sink (creating a huge amount of drag) or you must kick very hard to keep your legs up (wasting huge amounts of energy).

So we definitely don't want to be pressing up, but how should we finish the underwater stroke?

Check out Olympian Jono Van Hazel's brilliant technique for the answer:

Notice how he has angled his hand to face directly backwards, then as he reaches the end of his travel he turns the palm inwards to neatly complete the stroke. In this way he has maximised his press backwards without pressing upwards at all.

This is great technique but it actually creates *less* pressure on the palm than pressing upwards. Another classic example of right feeling wrong.

One more thing to notice, at the rearmost point of this stroke Jono's elbow is still slightly bent:

That's because there's almost nothing to gain from those last few centimetres of his stroke - he's better of recovering the arm forwards to get more quickly into another stroke. Plus reaching as far backwards as possible would involve locking the elbow out straight which puts a lot of stress on the joint, commonly leading to medial epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in swimmers.

So the next time you swim, by all means focus on the rear of your stroke but instead of maximising your push, focus on the palm facing the wall behind you before neatly turning the hand in to finish. Do that smoothly and continuously and you should feel a nice sense of rhythm and speed developing in your stroke.

Swim Smooth!

Friday, October 02, 2020

What To Do In A Quick Lunchtime Swim?

As much as we'd all love limitless training time, the reality is that you might just need to squeeze in a quick swim as and when you can around your busy life.

Covid has made that even more the case as many pools now strictly limit your allocated time slot in the water and that could be as short as 30 minutes.

With that in mind Swim Smooth have created 6 super-simple sessions in the Swim Smooth Guru designed to give maximum results in the shortest time possible. Each is around 2000m in length and cuts straight to the action with minimum drills and equipment.

Check them out in the Guru here (subscription required):

Let's get in and going - no messing

Sure a quick swim is not going to transform your fitness quite like a ripping Red Mist set but if it's the choice between a quick session and sitting at your computer over your lunch break, this is certainly going to be the better option!

And we've got a feeling you'll enjoy the simplicity of these sets in contrast with some of the more detailed fitness and technique sessions you might have been swimming.


Swim Smooth

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why Do Sprinters Pull Through With A Straighter Arm?

Noa Markou just asked us a great question on Instagram:

I read your article ( and would greatly value your opinion on the following. It states that an elbow bend of around 110° offers the most propulsion. If that is the case, why do sprinters who need maximum propulsion catch with straight arms? Thank you for any feedback...

That's a great question thanks Noa! Let's unpack:

Firstly, you are right to say that we recommend a bend at the elbow of between 100 and 120° to give you the most effective propulsion. Here's double Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Adlington demonstrating this position, very much in the sweet-spot with an elbow bend of 110°:

Becky is a distance swimmer specialising in longer distance events such as 800m.

As you point out though, often sprinters focusing on short races such as 50 and 100m pull through with a slightly straighter arm than that (although not completely straight as your question suggests). Here's Mr Smooth himself Jono Van Hazel showing that slightly deeper "sprinter" pull through:

Why does he do that and what's right for your own swimming?

One reason sprinters such as Jono pull through with a straighter arm is so that they can produce high levels of propulsion whilst moving extremely quickly through the water at 50 seconds per 100m pace or quicker. The straighter arm is like using a bigger gear on the bike, for a given movement at the shoulder the forearm and hand moves further and more quickly to keep up with the speed of the water moving past the swimmer.

Although this straighter pull technique can produce more propulsion that doesn't make it better. Inevitably it involves pressing down more on the water at the front of the stroke (see below) which wastes a lot of effort. It also dramatically increases the load on the shoulders meaning you have to be extremely strong in the shoulder muscle groups - so much so that even elite athletes struggle to sustain a deep powerful pull through for more than 100m of swimming.

But there's another related benefit of a deep pull to sprinters we should mention. To get quickly into this position involves moving the hand quickly downwards through the water from the front of the stroke:

#add right image sequence#

That press downwards creates lift, bringing the front of the swimmer higher in the water. Normally we say that's a bad thing because lifting you up at the front sinks you at the rear, creating lots of drag. But over short distances sprinters are able to combine this with an incredibly powerful leg kick which overcomes that downward pressure on the legs to the point where the rear also lifts high, bringing the whole body higher in the water.

That might sound awesome but don't deliberately introduce this to your own swimming unless you are a sprinter yourself. If you are typical adult swimmer - or high level distance swimmer - you simply won't be able to kick powerfully enough for long enough to use this technique. And you'll use an incredibly large amount of energy trying to do so.

So why do Swim Smooth recommend a slightly shallower pull through at 100 to 120° of elbow bend? The first reason is that biomechanically it takes the load off your shoulders so that you engage your chest, lats and other back muscles. These are some of the largest muscle groups in the body such that they can sustain the effort over a longer period of time.

Secondly, bending the elbow earlier in the stroke means a much smaller press downwards on the water, meaning less lift at the front and so less sinking of the legs at the rear. The result - much lower drag.

Bear in mind that this is still a very powerful way to pull through the water, the best distance swimmers can sustain 55 to 60 seconds per 100m pace over long distances using this technique and moderate kick power. That's the sort of speed most of us can only dream of!

So to answer Noa's question in a nutshell, although a deeper pull can give more propulsion over 50 to 100m, by using a little more elbow bend you will be able to produce plenty of propulsion over long distances.

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rotate *Less* When You Breathe

One of our coaching maxims at Swim Smooth is: If something's going to go wrong in your stroke it will go wrong when you breathe.

Here's a common example of that (so common in fact it's very likely to be present in your own stroke to a greater or lesser extent):

The correct amount of rotation in the freestyle stroke is 45-60 degrees through the shoulders and hips:

Here's Eben doing just that:

Unless you have been focusing developing a lot of rotation in your stroke, it’s unlikely you’ll be rotating much more than 45 degrees, at least on a normal stroke.

Now see what happens to Eben's rotation as he goes to breathe:

Immediately his rotation has increased to over 70 degrees - enough for him to start to lose balance in the water. This over-rotation is caused by his strong desire to stretch to inhale a clear breath of air.

One problem with this over-rotation is that it causes you to unconsciously part your legs to stop yourself flipping onto your back, creating a large scissor kick at the rear of the stroke:

Another is that since it takes slightly longer to rotate further into this position it also adds a delay into your stroke timing, harming your rhythm. You probably won't appreciate this loss of timing but you will feel the improvement once you reduce your breathing rotation.

Try Rotating Less When Breathing*

So the next time you swim run a small experiment and focus on rotating slightly less than normal when you go to breathe. Become aware of what your shoulders and hips are doing on breathing and non-breathing strokes, and try and keep the amount of roll about the same.

*Through the 1980s and 90s swim coaches put a lot of emphasis on increasing the rotation in the stroke as much as possible, on every single stroke. If you swam through this era (or have read any swimming books heralding from that era) then you may be over-rotating on every stroke, not just breathing strokes. As you can see above that's clearly a bad thing for your swimming - in modern swim coaching we teach you to rotate enough (45-60 degrees) but no further!

Unilateral Breathers

If you only ever breathe to one side when you swim ("unilateral breathing") then over-rotation is extremely likely to have developed in your stroke. If you feel the benefits from reducing your rotation when breathing then you know you're onto something good - so make introducing bilateral breathing a priority to help balance out your stroke.

"Sneaky" Breathing

You may notice that rotating less far on a breathing stroke means you have less time to inhale. In fact you might only have time for a "sneaky" breath between strokes. Embrace this - it's how good breathing technique should feel: a long smooth exhalation into the water and then a sneaky inhalation to the side.

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The World's First All Female Channel Medley Relay Team

Last week, Swim Smooth Manchester coach Lucy Lloyd-Roach and her team broke the world record as the first ever all female English Channel Medley Relay Team. Lucy, Mel, Claire and Sarah started out from Dover at 11pm on 31st August and completed their channel swim in 12 hours and 17 minutes - an incredible effort. Each member of the team completed 60 mins of either, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly or freestyle, had 3 hours of "rest" on the boat and then got back in the water to do it all again. 

When we heard about this fantastic achievement, we couldn't wait to catch up with Lucy. In episode 25 of the Swim Smooth podcast, we hear from this awesome foursome about their training, channel crossing and recovery from such an incredible challenge:

Claire, Mel, Lucy and Sarah - The World's First All-Female Medley Channel Relay Team

Listen in on Apple podcasts here:

Or other platforms here:

We hope you enjoy listening to their journey as much as we did!

Swim Smooth!

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Training To Train (To Train)

Here's a good way to think about your training, particularly if you're getting back into your swimming (or any other sort of exercise) after a lockdown lay-off:

We all want to get to a fitness level we've not hit before, to set some big fat PBs. To get to that level you're going to have to do some hard training - executing some great sets and sessions consistently over a solid training block (of perhaps 8-10 weeks).

The thing is, you're not fit enough to execute that training right now and even if you could somehow do each session you'd never recover well enough to absorb the work and for your body to make those adaptations you are looking for. You'd be in pure survival mode.

So, you should be thinking: What training do I need to do to get myself to the level of fitness I need to execute that training block successfully?

Call it "training-to-train".

Keep focused on what you can do right now

Of course if you are coming back from a long break from training (say a pandemic lockdown) then you might not even be able to swim a training set right now without breaking down. So you might need three of even four levels to this:

I need 4-6 weeks training to swim proper sets again. Then 8-10 weeks to get to a decent base level. Then 8-10 weeks training to build to PB fitness. 

That's "training-to-train-to-train".

The benefit of this way of thinking is that you are really clear on what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve at any given moment. It gives you both a short term goal (keeping you "in the now") and a long term objective (which is very motivating).

In the good old days coaches used to lay out a periodised plan with a base phase (lots of low intensity work), then build phase (increasing intensity), then event specific work (focused on race pace).

Training-to-train is similar but we're not talking about dramatically changing the types of sessions along the way as you would in a base -> build -> race progression. You can perform very similar sessions for each phase but gradually the sessions get longer and the paces increase slightly with your fitness level. In a way you're always in a "build" phase with the ideal mix of training and technique work to improve as quickly as possible.

See our extensive training plans in the Swim Smooth Guru for the perfect mix of sessions and tools to track your fitness accurately:

Swim Smooth!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Get Inspired (Like We Do) From Swim Smooth's Instagram

It's hard to believe but it's been over 15 years since Swim Smooth started! We've managed to pack a lot in over the years, travelling around the globe many times running swim clinics and coach education courses, competing in open water swimming events and meeting amazing people from the entire spectrum of the swimming world. It's been a blast!

Our inspiration to keep pushing swim coaching forwards comes from everyone in our swimming community. It has been an honour to meet and hear from so many inspirational people on their swimming journey.

Many of these individuals and experiences have been documented on our Swim Smooth Instagram (@swimsmooth) - here's a quick selection of our favourite posts:

"Super Sue" Trains To Be The Old Person To Swim The English Channel

In 2014 in Perth, Sue Oldham was building up to win back her record of being the oldest woman (at 68) to swim the English Channel. The fact that Sue didn't quite complete her crossing is no issue to us - she's a complete inspiration for all who meet her, showing us the age is no barrier to following your dreams.

Access the full post here:

A True Passion For Swimming And Coaching

Feel the need to upgrade your knowledge and develop your coaching skills? You need to attend our 3 Day Coach Education Course which we operate all around the world.
Mallorca has been a fantastic location for this course the last few years - here's some of the class of 201# showing their true passion for swimming by jumping in the Mediterranean for 2km at dawn before a long day on the pool deck. 

The World Famous Mega Megan!

Mega Megan's has been an inspiration to many with her epic speed improvements training with the Swim Smooth squads in Perth. Check out how she improved in our previous blog post:

She's still hard at work improving her stroke both in the pool and open water:

Access the full post here: 

Nike Smooth

This was a definite highlight of our many travels around the world! The 3 day Coach Education Course at the Nike Headquarters in Portland, Oregon for 20 budding swim coaches.
And 5 of our USA Swim Smooth Certified Coaches joined us - a true reflection of their dedication to swimming coaching: 

Access the full post here:

Witnessing THAT Breakthrough Feeling!

All our swimmers deserve to get the same feeling that Swim Smooth coach Linda Bostic's swimmer had in her first 1-2-1 video analysis session in Jupiter Florida:

Find your local Swim Smooth coach and achieve your own breakthrough feeling here:

And access the full post here:

Conquering The Channel With Type 1 Diabetes

Bec Johnson swam the 20km Rottnest Channel Swim followed by the Port To Pub swim to raise money for the Type 1 Family Centre in Perth, Australia. She is a regular swimmer in our Perth squad and suffers from Type 1 diabetes herself.

Paul Newsome was honoured to be asked to paddle for Bec during the 20km Rottnest Channel Swim and support her with nutrition and sugar levels for a successful swim. Bec completed the swim in a fantastic time of 6 hours 43 minutes:

Access the full post here:

Want to join and hear more from our swimming community? Like our @swimsmooth instagram page to meet more amazing people like this. 

Swim Smooth!