The last weekend in June I organised another Swim Smooth weekend with New Zealand Swim Smooth coach Russell Smith from Hamilton. What an awesome weekend of swimming and learning. The morning was spent videoing and then analysing the video’s and the afternoon we were in the water correcting technique. It’s not often that you come across someone who has a great way with people and an awesome ability to coach. So while driving to the Sunday session I asked Russell a few questions about some of the things he had seen on Saturday.
The transition from swimming in a pool to swimming in open water can be a daunting one for some people. Once you get into open water, you no longer have lane ropes or a nice line down the centre of the lane to keep you swimming straight. Those of you that can only breathe to one side probably find that you tend not to go straight but instead veer to one side. There are many factors to consider; below I have listed 10 tips to help you with this transition.
- Always swim with a buddy, if you get into trouble its good to have someone there to help, plus you can work on techniques like drafting and open water starts.
- Be aware of the temperature of the water, do not spend too much time in very cold water, you can get disorientated and your swim stroke will no longer be effective.
- Check for visible signs of water currents and rips before entering, also be wary of dangerous conditions such as crashing or high waves.
- Warm up on shore by swinging your arms around. When you enter the water its a good idea to let the wetsuit fill up with water before you swim. The wetsuit is designed to work with water between you and the wetsuit to provide warmth and also to suck the wetsuit to your body ensuring a tight fit.
- Use non-petroleum based products such as body glide for lubrication (these do not damage the wetsuit), apply to the back of your neck to prevent chaffing and also to the top of your feet and ankles to aid in wetsuit removal.
- Breathing in open water is different to that in the pool, in the pool you should look to the side, but in open water you need to be looking to the sky.
- Bilateral breathing has a number of benefits so start doing it! Not only will it help you to swim straighter but when you have waves crashing in on your left or right side you have the ability to breathe away from the waves. Breathing into the waves is not a good idea, you either get a mouthful of water or are unable to take a breath!
- Sighting is important, practice, practice, practice! Sight regularly in a race so you can adjust your direction of swimming. I’ve seen a lot of people waste energy zig zagging on a course. Look for landmarks behind the buoy, this makes sighting much easier.
- Drafting behind someone is the most efficient however be weary that not all swimmers swim straight. So although you are getting a great draft they could be going off course. Always sight while drafting, if they are off course then drop them and try another swimmer.
- Race preparation is vital, make sure you know the entry and exit points and the course, look for landmarks that you can use for sighting. For the start of the race make sure you position yourself in the right place, do not start at the front if you are not a strong swimmer. If you are unsure start at the outside.
Use your time wisely in the open water, practice the techniques you will need for racing and get use to swimming in a wetsuit. The more people you can get together the better, swim as a tight group so you get use to having other swimmers around you. Most importantly smile, there is nothing better than swimming in the sea!
I'll be doing an open water session at Pegasus Sunday 27th March, contact if you are interested in joining.
"I struggle to breathe, my shoulders are sore, when I swim I feel like I'm getting nowhere!", sound familiar? The problem with swimming is that its about 90% technique, and if you've never been taught to swim then generally your technique needs work. I see a lot of people swimming that are not relaxed because they panic about breathing, and people who lose momentum because they are not using the correct swimming stroke. These factors and many more can cause our swimming to be frustrating and also waste precious energy.
So how do you correct these? Obviously the easiest way is to get swimming lessons, or join swimming sessions with a qualified coach who can help correct your stroke. However to help those of you who aren't able to do this I've listed four points below to focus on.
1. Body Balance - this is a major part of swimming and is the starting point of many stroke issues. To be balanced in the water you should have four points of contact with the surface, your head, shoulders, hips and heels. When you are swimming think of your lungs as being a buoy and you are swimming over the buoy. If your legs are dragging in the water then they act as an anchor, therefore your head is too high and needs to be lower in the water (but not completely submerged!) to raise your hips.
2. Kicking - Yes the dreaded kick! What I've noticed in most swimmers is that they kick with a scissor type action or kick with a lot of knee bending. Stop it! We point our toes and kick from our hips with a whip like action. The knee bend should be about 10 to 15 degrees, if you kick with more knee bend than this you'll be pulling water towards you and slowing down (you want to kick water away to push you forward). The best way to practice kick is vertically in deep water holding onto a kick board across your chest. Kick from the hips with a whip like action (think of how a dolphin flicks its tail), and make sure your legs are not too far apart.
3. Breathing - First thing is don't lift your head forward before turning to breathe, your hips will drop and this makes breathing more difficult. Turn your head to the side with your arm stroke and breathe into the pocket that is created by your 'bow' wave, you should be looking directly at the side of the pool when you breathe (not at the ceiling or behind you!). Most importantly breathe out in the water (blowing bubbles) and don't hold your breath and then try to breathe out and in when you turn your head to breathe. This is snatching breath and you won't get enough oxygen.
4. Arm Stroke - Once you have all of the above working then its time to start on arm stroke. There are four elements to your arm stroke, catch, pull, push and recovery. Catch happens just after the hand enters the water, pull occurs as the arm moves from a 45 to 90 degree point with the body , push occurs by your hips and recovery is when your arm is out of the water. At all times throughout the stroke your hand should be lower than your elbow.
- Catch - I encourage people not to stretch forward parallel with the surface as you enter your hand into the water, this causes the elbow to drop and immediately weakens your stroke. Instead think of pushing your hand down into the water as it enters, like an archer.
- Pull - Keep your hand deep and fingers pointing to the bottom of the pool, elbows bent.
- Push - This is the power element of the stroke and where all your focus should be, push the water behind you to drive you forward.
- Recovery - lift from the elbow and arc the hand around to re-enter the water. Above all you must be relaxed, that's way its called recovery :o)
- So you have a few things to get you thinking, my advice to you is only think of one element at a time. If you try to think of everything at once then it generally all goes wrong.
I'm taking some morning swim sessions on a Thursday at Amberley Pool, if you need help with your stroke come along and we'll get it sorted!