Getting Ready For Open Water #SwimTechTues

Getting Ready For Open Water #SwimTechTues

Getting Ready For Open Water #SwimTechTues

With the UK race season officially underway, I have been seeing a lot of posts from triathletes about getting in the lake, river or sea for the first time this year – or possibly ever! Getting in the cold water can hold fear or confusion for many athletes, or others just simply don’t enjoy it. Whatever happens, it’s good to be prepared; here are my recommendations for preparing for the open water! First off, let’s identify where people struggle the most when switching to open water: Going off course. Panicking. Running into people. Letting their form collapse. Maybe you’re not being used to a wetsuit. Possibly you’re not being used to swimming in the open water. Open water conditions like currents and surf/chop. The number one remedy to the majority if not all of the above is (drumroll please!) Practice outside as much as you can (but not too much)! I know, I know: It is hard to get to open water because of schedules, weather conditions, and other commitments. So continue to swim your regular sessions every week. But as the race approaches take one or two of those swims and do it in open water. Make it as high a priority as possible. Swimming in the pool is not completely different from swimming in the open water – but it does have its own vagaries. So to get faster at the latter, you need to do it more. And not just on race day. Use these swims to test your wetsuit, practice sighting, get used to not seeing the bottom, and practice with others. Also, work on longer intervals at race pace. Some people will benefit from maintaining a more constant rhythm – others will need to readjust from having a rest and a push off at the end of every length!

What Can You Do In The Pool To Prepare?

Swimming in the pool still has its place. Even though you race in the open water, you should still keep up your regular weekly pool sessions, especially if your form is still weak. Of course, you can work on technique in the lake, but it becomes more challenging. Pool swims are important to develop speed and improve technique without the distractions that open water provides. Use the pool to focus on your form and drill work as well as a few race pace speed sets for time so that you can monitor your splits. If open water is simply out of the question, simulate the chop, surf, and congestion by trying to swim in a lane with three to four other people at the same time. It is tough but it will mimic that race start well. Also, close your eyes while swimming to mimic losing your ability to guide yourself with the black line (obviously only do this if you have an empty lane!). Turning before the wall is also a great way to simulate the stop-go of open water swimming, and not resting between lengths. Swimming in open water – at least with a wetsuit – should be quicker than swimming in the pool. So make sure that you are prepared for swimming in open water. Practise putting your wetsuit on so that it fits properly over your shoulders. Get yourself comfortable entering the water so that your HR doesn’t take such a shock to the system come race day! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages. See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!
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How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

Often swimmers ask how much they should be changing their stroke/swimming – especially if they have races coming up. This is where I like to talk about Minimum Effective Change. It’s not dissimilar to the medical ideas of minimum effective dose – why use a sledgehammer to crack a nut! The issue comes with how much you can remember and make into a habit.

Path Of Least Resistance

When I coach I see that everyone moves and swims in their own distinct style. It’s why you can pick out particular athletes at events without being able to see their faces. Your swim style (or any other movement pattern for that matter) is a dynamic expression of your combined:
  • Limb lengths
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Areas of Restriction
  • Areas of Mobility
  • Stability & Instability
  • Neuromuscular Control / Co-ordination / Timing (or lack thereof)
  • that’s just for starters…
Not to mention the habits we pick up along the way through pain (current or previous) and daily postures we hold ourselves in. Taking all the above factors into account: as we swim or move, your body will try to follow the path of least resistance. For example in terms of mobility, finding the movement from the areas most willing, or strength-endurance, often emphasising imbalances…

Biomechanical Efficiency And Performance

As a coach try not get too hung-up on subtle changes in efficiency (real or perceived) that come with changing an athlete’s stroke. Minimising resistance to the water will increase efficiency (and speed). Increasing contact on the water will increase power (assuming the strength is there to manage it). There are plenty of fast and theoretically inefficient swimmers. Hell Ian Thorpe was not the technically most sound freestyle swimmer and neither was Michael Phelps; in both cases as a coach or a swimmer could look at either and theoretically make changes. But to make changes in either of these swimmers, would it really have made a difference?  
Minimum effective change

You’d suggest that Thorpe is crossing the midline here, and potentially even clawing at the water too. Didn’t stop him breaking the WR for 200 and 400 though!

  Biomechanical efficiency doesn’t automatically make a given swimmer faster… CONSISTENT TRAINING DOES Thus we should be more concerned about what we can do to affect a positive change to the athlete. In order to not over complicate things, we want to make the smallest changes possible for the largest impact.

Minimum Effective Change

Firstly, consider these points in combination:
  1. Most people struggle with swimming because they are creating large amounts of resistance to the water – almost as much resistance as the forward forces they are trying to create. This makes life tiring
  2. Many swimmers struggle with breathing, for two reasons; firstly that they are in a poor body position – so getting the mouth out of the water is challenging. And secondly, because they aren’t able to slow down or ease off – potentially for the same reason.
  3. Given that the athlete’s previous patterns demonstrated their body’s path of least resistance, the further away from this we deviate, the harder it’s potentially going to be for them to sustain the desired changes… at least in the short to medium term, while they should also be working on improving the physical traits that dictated their path of least resistance in the first place!
We have to ask ourselves not just why we’re coaching each athlete to make any given change, but perhaps most importantly to what extent we need the given change to occur to make life easier. If we take a given athlete, understand their current and historical training status and individual biomechanics, then work towards the concept of Minimum Effective Change to elicit the desired outcome, we can reduce the effort required on a given part of the body while achieving a modified swimming style that they can sustain effectively. Take a swimmer who is struggling to do more than 25 metres at a time for example: Once they get more comfortable in the water and able to swim lighter or easier – is what their stroke looks like important? Assuming no injury and they are happy, I would argue not. Obviously, if they are looking to swim further and faster, then we can build on those foundations, and add new things to work on. But until that point, stick with minimum effective change – ie getting the swimmer higher in the water. For me, the sweet spot is the change we can make to an athlete’s stroke which does enough to reduce stress and strain on their ‘weak link’, yet is subtle enough to sustain in the long run… after a bit of practice, of course If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages. See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!
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Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Most of us swim on our own – certainly the large majority of the people I coach do. Added to this, even if you do swim with a club, getting technical feedback can be few and far between. As a result, if you are trying to improve your swim technique and speed, it can be very difficult to know if you are making improvements.

To make these improvements on your own, you have to BE YOUR OWN DETECTIVE. This doesn’t mean that you need to obsess over every little element of your swim; just that you need an awareness of your body – and tools to help understand whether you’re improving or not.

Metrics To Help You Understand Your Stroke (And Training)

One of the best metrics to measure yourself by is your speed; the time it takes you to complete particular reps or your average pace. But clearly, in training, it’s not all about going hard all the time. It’s knowing how quick you go for a particular effort. It might be that you know you can hold 2 minutes per 100m all day every day. Or that if you’re swimming at race pace you can usually maintain 1.20/100m. Just a basic awareness of your speed can tell you a lot about how you are swimming. It may be that you realise you have to get your head in gear – and concentrate – because you’re swimming slower than you should be. Or it could be a sign that you’re tired/ill/stressed and need a break. Equally, you could be absolutely flying – in which case you might want to work out why!

Another score that people like to work by is stroke count. Simply put, counting the number of strokes that you take per length. BUT – and it’s a big but – lower stroke counts are not necessarily better. You could do fewer strokes but by gliding and slowing down end up going much slower. A better measure of your stroke is swim golf (or SWOLF). This is where you add your time for 25 or 50m to your stroke count. At any given effort level, you can compare your SWOLF score – and that will give you an awareness of whether what you have changed has had a positive effect; or whether what you think you have changed has actually changed!

 

Improving Your Awareness

When it comes to actually thinking about your form, you don’t have to be obsessive about your stroke! But you do require a little bit of an awareness around your body and positioning in the water.

My favourite way of helping create that awareness is by doing contrasting drills on consecutive lengths. It might be that you need to think about your head position; on one length you might swim looking directly forwards, on the next length you’d swim looking straight down at the floor. It may be that you want to improve the front end of your stroke and where you reach to. In which case you might do some sidekick and moving your lead hand up and down in the water to find the optimum position. Or you may be working on rotating more from your hips – so you could try and swim one length completely flat, the next with a massively exaggerated roll. In each case, there are drills that you can do to really nail down the form and the specifics – but then sometimes it’s just good to swim and play around with where you fit along the spectrum.

 

We All Love A Challenge…

A challenge that I like to do – and to give – is to swim a length as fast as possible and a length as slow as possible. The target is the largest possible gap in time – but there are two caveats. Firstly, you have to swim both with reasonable form (fairly obvious for swimming fast, not so much for swimming slow). Secondly, you need to keep the stroke counts within 2 strokes of each other – so you can’t just go crazy on the fast length. My best is an 18-second gap (13/31 – 11 strokes for both).

Swimming on your own can be a challenge when you can’t see yourself or you don’t have external feedback. But with a clock/watch, and an increased physical awareness, you can definitely embed good habits and improve your skills.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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Getting Comfortable In The Water #SwimTechTues

Getting Comfortable In The Water #SwimTechTues

Getting comfortable in the water is a tricky business. Not least because you have to learn to control your breathing and your body in an alien environment! Added to that the fact that water is 750 times more resistant than air, and a brute force, “Just do more” approach very rarely works – or only works to a point.

Swimming Is Counter-Intuitive

When you learn to swim – there are certain things that it seems logical to do.

Looking forward seems like the sensible thing to do – after all, you want to see where you are going!

When you want to breathe you lift your head – because that is fairly logical.

You move your arms and legs as fast as you can to keep you afloat (and hopefully move you forward!) because it makes you feel like you are making a productive use of effort.

However!!!

All these things that seem logical and rational in your brain when you start will actually be holding you back.

Instead of looking forward, look down at the bottom of the pool or body of water you’re in. (Unless you are breathing or sighting) It’s not the only part of the posture and body position equation – but it’s certainly important! If you’re in a pool, then you have the “T” to tell you that you’re at the end! In open water, the likelihood is that you won’t be able to see very far in front anyway…

With breathing, we want to turn our heads to the side rather than lift – going back to the whole posture and body position part. And with that body roll hopefully going on too, it makes life so much easier to get air in smoothly.

Finding the rhythm of your stroke can take time and practice. For many athletes a good starting point is to take your time – the water can support your mass a lot better if you are not rushing and thrashing about. That’s not to say things have to be glacially slow(!), just that you can follow the idea of less haste to gain more speed.

Get comfortable in the water

How To Get Comfortable

When learning to swim – or improving your swim – one of the biggest keys is getting in the water more often. That’s not to say that you should be spending hours in the water each week ploughing up and down; but if you aren’t spending time in the water, how are you going to enjoy it, gain confidence or get comfortable? Just spending short regular intervals in the water can make a big difference in how comfortable you are.

In your swims, pick a focus and stick with it. I like to get people building their stroke from a solid foundation – the higher and more horizontal your body is in the water, the quicker and smoother you will move forward and the easier other parts of the stroke will become. Start your session practising a skill that you know you need to work on. For some, it might be doing a couple of floats just to remind yourself that the water supports you. For others, it may be sink downs under the water to remember how to breath out. And for others, it may be a case of doing a handful of streamlines to remember that a good push off the wall can help your swim.

You don’t have to make each and every swim a massive skills effort – remember we’re not aiming for textbook swimming. Instead, we want something that helps us feel more comfortable, that feels like an improvement. We also want something that we can repeat length after length.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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9 Top Tips For Swim Set Success #SwimTechTues

9 Top Tips For Swim Set Success #SwimTechTues

I am always thinking of ways that change can help with triathlon, swimming, and fitness in general. I regularly get asked what people can do to get faster as they feel like they are banging their head against a brick wall training hard. Equally, I love the responses I get from athletes who have followed my swim sets when they say the swims are completely unlike what they have done before!

The biggest issue is that regardless of how hard they are working, many athletes are just doing the same things every time they get in the water.

Are you currently doing the same routine each day? Each week? Is your schedule flexible or fixed?

With swimming, do you do the same workouts all the time?

 

Create Variety For Swim Set Success

 

 

One of the things I found challenging when I moved into competing and coaching in triathlon was that all the sets were the same, and it was predominantly freestyle based – if not wholly freestyle! Nothing wrong with these sets and sessions but they get boring and stale after a while! Many triathletes and fitness swimmers also get hung up on the number of meters they did.

“I did 2200 meters yesterday so I’m going to do 2300 today!”

I prefer to think quality over quantity. Changing things up on a regular basis is healthy and great for your swim and triathlon success.

Do you always swim in the same pool? Maybe it’s time to try a different pool.

Do you always do the same format for sessions? Like, Warm-up, drills, main set, cool down?

Maybe time to mix in some different types of workouts. Here are some ideas on changing it up to maximize motivation & performance:

1. Use fins. Put on your fins when practicing drills. They make things so much easier! It’s not cheating! If you feel that is a little easy, alternate drills with and without the fins to perform the skill better.

2. Use a snorkel. This allows you to focus on your stroke without breathing.

3. Do different strokes. You don’t HAVE to do butterfly, and you don’t need to be perfect at backstroke or breaststroke – but just the act of doing them will make you a stronger swimmer; you’ll break up all that freestyle tedium too!

4. Wear different swimsuits. Are you wearing the same suit every time you practice? Why not mix it up? I love the suits from our friends at Blueseventy You can get 20% suits off today with our discount code TRIJOHN at their website: https://www.blueseventy.co.uk/

5. Practice “deck push-ups” in between your sets next time. Good strength training, and dryland workout to help your freestyle pull.

Swim set success

Poolside push ups

6. Swim with a friend. Who cares if you’re not the same speed? It gives you more accountability and makes things fun.

7. Bike or run to the pool. 2 birds, 1 stone.

8. Mix in sprints. You can decrease the distance and increase the intensity once a week or so for a different type of workout.

9. Challenge yourself with different skills – see how far you can swim without breathing, or stay under water. See how straight you can swim with your eyes closed, or even how slowly you can travel with good form…

There are a few ideas to change things up while you improve.

Any more ideas on how change can help with your training? Let’s hear them!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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