All Posts By

Dan Bullock

June Newsletter

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So we have been back at our OW facility, Stubbers  in Essex for a week now. Very exciting to be back at some kind of work and out doors. If this does not work for you location wise then you can join us for free stretch cords sessions each week. Just email dan@swimfortri.com each week for the invite. You can find all the old sessions uploaded here – https://www.youtube.com/user/swimfortri

The response to our COVID safety policy has been overwhelmingly positive keeping swimmers safe through registration and into the water. Sorry no changing rooms are available but most are coping. If you have sessions booked with us (fitness, or courses etc) please get in touch if you would like to swap them to OW with us at Stubbers. We swim

Tues and Thurs 7-9am – Saturday 7-10am – Hope you can join us.

APP

We have been busy developing our online training plan website into a phone app. This should be available soon with the addition of a 12ooo word ebook on breathing and swim technique. Once the pools reopen please be sure to make use of the free ‘return to fitness‘ training plan to get you back on track re your swim fitness and technique

PODCAST

The podcasts have been going well and keeping us busy and  entertained as we have spoken to old and new friends, colleagues from the world of swimming and Triathlon. We have covered diet, psychiatry, psychology, coaching, tales from a 34yr + tri vet and more recently a chat with Ben, our favourite Green team member from Club La Santa who is branching out into more specialised coaching. The Anchor link will then enable you to find a preferred Spotify/Apple link etc

PINK

A new session in a bottle is on its way! who does not love a pink water bottle. This has some pretty big mainsets on it focusing on the 3.8km distance. Ideal to help your return to fitness once the pools reopen. Drop me a line to register your interest, we hope it is year by the end of the month since the Tacx plant has reopened.

Returning to the Water.

We have been back at our lake for 3 sessions now, having finally reopened with lots of new smiling faces enjoying OW for the first time. Many or our regulars are back having not swum since FEB/March and the feedback we have been getting has has been positive, most while tired and unfit suggest it was not as bad as they were imagining.

You will feel clumsy/mechanical/ out of sorts but it won’t be as bad as you imagined. We often experience this with our swimmers at xmas and the two week break. One year I was convinced peoples minds were trying to trick them back onto the sofa ie talking them out of it. We filmed quite a few and most agreed their tech was not as bad as they thought.

Start Easy

Nice and slow and build up. Take this opportunity to work on your technique, try to point the toes back not down, keep the kick small and hidden behind the body, keep the head still unless breathing or lifting to sight, Keep the palms pushing water back towards the feet by keeping the fingertips pointing down towards the bottom when pulling rather than the palm which will bounce you upwards.

Make sure you are comfortable in your wetsuit if you are wearing one. We have had temps in the low 20s so quite pleasant with or without. Check the May entry for details on making your wetsuit more comfortable.

Maybe don’t stress about time/distance or speed. Just enjoy the first few after so long cooped up. Enjoy something that you probably have been completely deprived of. Walking running skipping, indoor cycling and other strength/conditioning activities have various cross overs. Swimming is the really unique one and it will have been missed.

I hope the peace and tranquility of being out in nature make up for the lack of clarity, the warmer temps of a pool and lack of a black line but for those missing the reassurance of the pool I urge you to go again, try again it does get easier the more familiar you become with swimming in OW. 

 

MAY NEWSLETTER

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MAY NEWS

I trust everyone is doing ok and keeping sane/active/not bored/fit/healthy/amused, delete as applicable. We are busy trying to rewrite Risk Assessments and how we might make use of our lake etc as and when we return. More dryland sessions are appearing on Youtube and more content on our Training Plans page. We are doing our best to keep in touch. I am particularly pleased to finally add a podcast which you will be able to find on spotify/itunes etc but the simple link is here on ANCHOR The first is a little more of an amusing trip down memory lane to 1992 and how I got involved in Triathlon.

SYDNEY OLYMPICS

Next up we spoke to Coach Steve Trew about his early Tri career and his involvement at the Sydney Games. You can also hear from Simon Griffiths, the founder of Outdoor Swimmer magazine. More guests to follow. Please let me know the kinds of people you would like to hear interviewed? pro triathletes? more coaches? designers, inventors.

LOCKDOWN

We have since spoken to Dr Claire re coping with Lockdown as her background in Sports Psychiatry gives her some great insights. With Physio Dan Smith re swim tech/injury prevention etc Also for those who have swum with him (Mile End, Putney and London Bridge over the years) Scott Coey who started with us in 2003 and worked his way up to Kona qualification.

SPOTIFY LINK.

Prefer a good read rather than a listen? I just added 5000 words here in our latest FAQ – ‘Wetsuits – the Ins and Outs.’
Don’t forget you are all welcome to Stretch Cords at 6pm, M/W/F each week. Free session that will help minimise the distress when we finally get back in the water. You can catch up on all the existing classes here YOUTUBE
Pls email dan@swimfortri.com for the Zoom link

SOME OFFERS FROM OUR FRIENDS FROM THE WORLD OF TRIATHLON

here’s a 15% discount code for Scienceinsport.com >>> AMB21JBR
Sundried offer – 50% offer code SWIMFORTRI
Catch up with Pilates with Jem on ZOOM
More Physio advice from Dan Smith
Food and nutrition from Claire.
We are offering 3 sessioninabottle for the price of 2 for SFT swimmers at the weekends. You can get them here SFT SHOP
Order 2 orange and I will add in a silver etc I am trying to only go to the Post Office one day each week so pls take advantage of the offer so I can get them wrapped and just head in on Monday !
Enjoy and hang in there, fingers crossed we are swimming again soon.
SFT

Swimtips from the Stairwell – WETSUIT INSIGHTS

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So for this weeks #swimtipsfromthestairwell I wanted to focus on something a little more positive after weeks of lockdown. I wanted to talk about something positive, something we can do in preparation of going outdoors and swimming at some point. I am sure many of you will not have checked your wetsuits since last year unless you got a sneaky training camp or race done back in January. Let us check our wetsuits ahead of that first swim. In the stairwell lecture I talk about simple repairs, avoiding the dreaded neck scraping and why you might upgrade and spend a little more money on your next suit if you are going to be swimming further.

The Lecture

Over the years we have worked hard at understanding wetsuits fully and making them more comfortable. Here we go beyond the usual fitting guide and look more indepth and how to make them more comfortable and fit better.

A more indepth look at swimming faster in them, making them work harder for you to improve your swim

I have written extensively on the subject of wetsuits and here bring all those thoughts together. You should not miss the section on ‘taking advantage of the properties of your wetsuit and should your FC technique change in a wetsuit.’

A humorous look at what happens if you forget your wetsuit lubricant!

The Spring and it’s glorious weather could not have more cruel as we sit indoors missing our lakes and rivers but fingers crossed it will not be long. Get your wetsuit out, check it, repair it or contemplate an upgrade if you are swimming further this year.

 

 

Swim Tips from the Stairwell – Legkick

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HI All,

I hope you are all managing the lockdown as well as can be. I have been adding STftSW (swim tips from the stairwell) to Facebook and Youtube but neglected the blog. Doh….You can catch up with all our stretch cord sessions here

Technical endurance MONDAY

Strength and Prehab WEDNESDAY

FRIDAY- the hard one – Fitness

pls email dan@swimfortri.com for the zoom invite to next weeks, sessions take place at 6pm

LEGKICK

After all the stretch cordz focus and arm work how about a little time on your legs? Some theory and dryland to get on top of a few of the issues before you get back in the water. The nice thing about a FC legkick is how small and quite straight forwards the movement is.  To get the hang of  this while out of the water is an opportunity and it really can be mastered on dryland.

Kick Pointers

Most over do the size of movement at the hip, it should be tiny. The bigger the movement here the more energy travels down the legs and splays the kick.

•Legs straighter as you lift them back up the surface, it is a glute movement, minimal hamstring. Don’t bend the knees.

•Feel the big toes lightly brushing against each other to generate more surface area as the feet work together while kicking.

•Mobilise the ankles so you can improve your streamline and point them. Preferably while relaxed to avoid cramping.

Work on a stronger core region so you can limit and reduce a big out of control kick. Usually the emphasis for Long Distance FC is not bigger stronger movements but restrained smaller movements.

Key Issues –

There are two key issues we see during lessons – sinking and splaying. These previous videos should illustrate.  Why they sink and drag down is an early issue in a swimmers development as they try to take run or cycle movements of the legs into the water. As for the dreaded splay this usually is a counter balance or a reaction to something happening elsewhere in the stroke. No harm in addressing the legs now and improve them while the other issues can be looked at when back in the water.

Dryland Movements

These can help activate previously unused muscles groups and so deactivate those that were previously creating incorrect movements (the hamstrings.) If we build up some repetitions of a few basic movements we should pick up the correct movements and take them into the water when we next swim. Unfortunately the kick is often forced out of position due to the lack of helpful body movement or incorrect arm movements. The classic is what the straight arm push down can do to the legs when assisting your breathing. If you can isolate the FC legs with the following at least it gives us a chance to learn what the correct movements are.

Key Drills

Use the following to help – can you see the similarity between the Pilates Swimmer and the Glute Kick drill? Not difficult. We literally stole this drill from the world of Pilates.

PILATES SWIMMER

Alternate the legs in a small up and down movement. The floor will stop the kick sweeping too big on the downsweep, the range of the Glutes will limit the upsweep.

 

 

SWIMPLANK

We were looking for a compact all round exercise that covered many of the swimming muscles. The narrow press up is quite tough, maybe build up towards this from a knee down position. Once in the straight arm plank position you could sweep a single arm up wards to rotate the hips and bring some FC rotation into the mix

Enjoy your dryland, but fingers crossed we are back in the pool soon

All good wishes

Dan and the team

 

COVID 19

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IS SWIMMING SAFE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

In view of all the uncertainty in the world at this time, I wanted to touch base and outline our current plans at Swim for Tri. We believe that the service we provide contributes greatly to the physical and mental wellbeing of our swimming community, so we will continue our work for as long as is safely possible. As mentioned on social media yesterday, at the moment the pools are all open so lessons will continue as long as we can, providing pools and coaches are healthy and can continue.

This is the message from England Swimming

The water is a great place to be but please use the usual strict health and hygiene rituals being endorsed widely.

“Public health opinion is that it is generally safe to go swimming at this time. Water and the chlorine within swimming pools will help to kill the virus. However, visitors to swimming pools are reminded to shower before using the pool, to shower on leaving the pool and to follow the necessary hygiene precautions when visiting public places to help reduce the risk of infection.”

We always have – and continue to – uphold the highest training standards and we hope the pools uphold the highest personal hygiene standards. More so than ever.  Here are their announcements re what they are doing regards their pools.

We utilise 4 pool providers

Nuffield

Better

Places

London Bridge is part of the NHS so you would hope they are on top of things!

If you are unwell ahead of a 121 lesson we will be as accommodating as possible regarding credits and moving appts. Please speak to Keeley and Sam in bookings. If you miss a fitness session you can make this up at another site but please get in touch to confirm.

 

Keep well

SFT

 

 

 

 

Stress

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Openwater Stress
This week has been about creating OW themes in our fitness sessions as the Openwater race season hopefully draws near. Often we recreate a fast start and then practice calming down into a steady swim.  This exercise goes a step further creating a lot of first length stress to help cope with the race start. Endure the stress & unpleasantness, learn to relax & get back into your rhythm. It does not matter if you are at the front or back, we all get butterflies and nerves.  We all feel a  little ‘panicky’ which can ruin the start, by starting too fast and leave you shattered for the rest of your swim.
Often a start does not go well so the following should help you learn to calm down & get back on track and build back to a good swim.  At many of the sessions this week we swam one length of various tough unpleasant drills/skills to create the stress. Then build into a longer block of work which we like to call Mid Race Cruise.
The Stress Drills
1 Arms folded on top of the head w FC legs. The lack of streamline makes the kick harder, perhaps add fins. Breathing to the side also helps your rotation but is tricky.
2 Legs only with a PullBuoy outstretched in front, then use it for pulling the MRC
3 Fists clenched w legs crossed.
4 Fingers touching shoulders FC, so only the upper arm is used for pulling. The narrow window for breathing makes this very uncomfortable.
5 Breaststroke arms w FC legs
6 In pairs, one person kicks holding the lead swimmers ankles, the other does the pulling at the front . This was also useful for people getting familiar with the all too common having your toes tapped issue but someone swimming on your feet. 
7 Add fins and swim the first length with the toes pointing downwards. Fists clenched makes this very tough.

How to Implement
One method was to swim these as 200m blocks of work by adding 175m of FC after each of these 25m of stress. Making for a nice 7x200m set. You could also NTW for extra emphasis. <no touch walls>
In the 50m pools we swam 20m of ’stress drill’ into 80m of strong FC into 400m MRC.
This was then repeated with a 300m of MRC having tried a new 20m of stress. Then 200m of MRC and 100m.
Other simple OW practices might include
In the 50m pool at LF recently we swam open turned 100m swims but started and finished each mid pool so that swimmers got two open turns in rather than just the one. Be careful in a public session!
Start your 25m/50m sprints from a horizontal treading water position.
Rest on pooldeck to simulate vascular shunting ie getting used to the blood flow shifting from arms to legs as might happen heading to T1
Single sided breathing but half length left/right would be useful.
Head up sighting, mid length and spotting drinks bottles on poolside
Reduce your usual 5secs swimmer gaps to 2-3 and rotate the lead so people get some drafting/leading experience/exposure.
If Safe and the lane empty 3 abreast sprints are a nice way to get used to elbow to elbow crowded swimming.
Enjoy your swimming and becoming ever more familar with an unpleasant situation will help us tolerate it, maybe one day even enjoy it.

The Pool of Fame…

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Following on from the near 20years strong post last month I was curious how long some of you have been with us? there are some faces I know have been around a while. Also great to see so many of our coaches with us for so long. With that in mind it would be great to compile a pool of fame. Maybe some prizes?!

 So please comment below and in the event of some tying if you could embellish with how we have helped your swimming, results and achievements that can only help. I know 2 swimmers who still frequently make our fitness sessions that came to Ilford, Essex in the 2002 time period where we started some tech lessons on a Wed Evening. Barbara C was a regular when we then moved a little closer in and ran our tech classes at WF College in Walthamstow.

At one point we also ran a bit of a shuttle service from the end of the Central Line at 6am allowing some Central London swimmers to come out with us to our first lake. Tom and Scott well done for near 20yrs! Any other stories welcomed.

Maria, pictured,  has been coaching with us over 10yrs! Ian and Cedric are probably not that far behind!

How it Started…SFT

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A coach asked me recently how SFT got started and evolved. It has nearly been 20years which seems incredible so here is a little trip down memory lane. My sister was a swim teacher while I was working in video software in the late 90s but racing Tri after a long swim career at Milfield School then Ohio University spanning the 88 and 92 Olympic Trials.
I first entered the London Tri to raise £ for Macmillan in 1998 after we lost our father to cancer. A few people were asking how I swam the way I did as I was  leading a few races out. My sister and I hired some lanes locally. I was racing for East London Tri and Golden Gate Tri in San Francisco where my previous job was based and doing ok so marketing was easy pre social media. Trips to World AG Champs followed in 2001 and 2002 then I stepped up to Ironman in 2003.
Momentum grew as we were quite pioneering offering underwater filming and videos on DVD back in 2002-3. We then invested in an Endless Pool sharing space with Greg at Tri and Run in Essex and again set it up with multi angle playback/large screen visible from the water etc which was quite simple due to my job. We bought the Endless Pool at the Sandown Tri show after it has been used all weekend where each swimmer who swam got a DVD of themselves swimming. We made hundreds. The pump broke as we attempted to dismantle the pool so had to empty 3000gallons by hand.
Fitness sessions developed as the quality of coaching at the local Tri clubs was average at best. The governing bodies were woeful regarding their coaching qualifications back then, I sat a few and the ASA had not heard of OW at this time so I developed most things myself from pool knowledge and qualifications along with my race experience.
Weekend workshops grew as a result of not many offering what we did at the time with people wanting us to go to Dublin, Galway, Manchester, Cardiff etc. These faded as Tri coaching improved at local clubs around the country. We wrote an OpenWater CPD for the ASA while I was doing my level 3 qualifications but I fell out out with them due to the lack of interest in helping me progress OW to poolbased coaches. 10 yrs later and the ASA finally have an OW qualification when we could have done so much more yrs ago.
Essex Lakes &HydePark OW started about 2005 as more triathletes wanted to take their improved fitness, tech and skills outside and wanted to continue training beyond the usual pool boundaries which grew further as the concept of a training holiday was conceived.
 Training camps came about as people wanted to get away and have the opportunity to really focus on their swimming. We have tried many overseas destinations, S Africa, Cyprus, Tenerife, Italy and CLS in Lanza most recently where we helped them start OW swimming.
We have been particularly proud of the following new products while we have focused on the core activities of helping adults learn to swim, learn to swim faster and then gain the confidence to swim openwater. Our Tri Book with friend and mentor Steve Trew who runs the May Italy Training camp we attend was a breakthrough addition to our coaching advice.
Meeting designer Tom helped the plans become a reality and we have been overwhelmed with the success of ‘ #sessioninabottle
A lot of charity work has been undertaking with the ever popular Stubbers OW mini race and BBQ raising funds for Melanoma Research after we sadly lost one of our coaches and a dear friend Lou Parker.  Volunteering with the London Disability Squad has been thoroughly enjoyable and a great new coaching challenge working alongside Michelle Weltman and we helped discover Eid recently. The refugee who nearly drowned on his travels and was determined to learn to swim.
Good partnerships with Powerbar and Speedo, Virgin Active <we wrote the award winning Hydro Class> and providing plans for the OSS, Henley Swims etc. We also used to write for 220, Triathlete Europe and more recently Training Peaks and Tri247. As Openwater advisors to Speedo for many years here we are at Photoshoot in Lanzarote preparing wetsuit pictures with Helen Jenkins and Hollie Avil
As to what is next for Keeley and I? watch this space. First up I need to teach my son

Swim of the Week!

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News just in of a big swim from Clare who trains with us at Putney on Sundays. Congrats on a 5min swim best time at the Dubai race at the weekend. It might be early in the year but people are racing so please comment below with your swim related performances, not necessarily the fastest but something somehow outstanding and we are handing out prizes! We love to hear about your progress so please keep in touch.

Swim theories – can you improve? are there any shortcuts?

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“Float like a canoe, Breathe like a dolphin,…Swim better in 10steps. What your swim coach, who means well, is not telling you or can’t tell you.”

Is your  FB timeline getting clogged with the likes of these gems? mine is and some are quite enticing. My favourite comes not from a swim coach, not a former swimmer but someone who knows what his triathletes need and told me that while I mean well my elite swim background means I can’t understand Tri and Openwater. Sadly though people do want the shortcuts, the quick fix and after 25 years of doing this I still can’t offer the holy grail other than practice, repeat, be scientific in your approach but not always in the pool and swim often. Unfortunately time pressured swimmers do not want to hear that but when I raced as a strong AG athlete in the early 2000s you could get by as a strong ex biker/swimmer or runner and ‘cope’ on the other disciplines. Times are changing and athletes are better, well rounded individuals good at all 3 disciplines. Being weak in the swim means less enjoyment in openwater, less competitive and getting to the bike more tired. Not a Triathlete? then long swims are getting longer and longer and you will want to conserve your energy not waste it through drag and resistance.

Keep in mind….
Swimming is more like a language or musical instrument in terms of patience and practice. It is highly technical.
Learning to fly, probably is easier <this I had shouted at me once>
One swim per week is  6 days of unlearning
Missing the Autumn to have a rest after a tough season is just not helpful. Swim easy, swim the other strokes, swim drills, swim water polo but please stay in the water. The regular testing we conduct shows this year after year. Any delay in getting back into the water ie leaving it to xmas or the new year makes it very difficult to progress. Many will eventually get back to where they were in the previous Spring.
Swimming alone probably will not fix it all, ankle mobility, range of movement through the shoulders, S&C, confidence, yoga, pilates etc No one wants to hear all that though!

Reading the latest material I could get my hands on regarding swimming development I was left feeling a little uneasy recently. As a Coach with the American Swim Coaches Association, the Amateur Swimming Association and many swim groups on LinkedIn etc I get memos, newsletters, research and findings from around the world. Some great stuff comes from the Australian Institute of Sport, from the NCAA where I raced in the 90’s and from a worldwide network of colleagues who are coaching and racing.  It was not so much the conflict but more the complete polarisation between some who felt it was impossible to become a really good swimmer and those who felt it was entirely possible to become really good. Is it possible to improve significantly? Why can’t we be more sure of what is possible and how to go about it? Why do some make great progress and others seem limited? I have my own theories but first the two extremes.

You Can’t….

A coach put forward a theory that made for fairly depressing reading for any adult learning to swim. He proposed that since as cavemen we spent most of our days running and either chasing or being chased we had great Aerobic capacity in our muscles in our legs. Our arms were mostly Anaerobic as we survived throwing spears and stones, hurling items to catch our dinner. With this in mind most swim club youngsters spent their teenage years developing more efficient aerobic movements in their arms so they could spend four or more hours per day pulling their way through the water. If you can swim a fast 50m but suffer at over 200m this might sound familiar and be quite worrying that it is a hopeless mission this late in life.

You Can…

Soon after this bombshell came along which left me thinking I had been wasting my time this past 25 years coaching, some good news. From the complete other end of the scale in terms of swim progress possibilities this came along. Another coach felt tremendous levels of expertise could be achieved through the application of learning, swim aids and swim imagery. The theory runs along the lines of how the Brain has a plastic capacity in terms of how we learn, it is no longer the static organ once thought of but can change throughout life. From years of research into Neuroplasticity, neurological training, motor coordination and applied teaching through the removal of filters to learning it was felt possible to focus the brain on learning new physical movements. He felt that rather then swimming remaining an aerobic model; his new ideas in teaching will help it become a neurological one. Well that sounded better then the first message of doom and gloom but how could two ideas be so far apart.

I have seen enough people improve their swimming significantly over the past 25 years of coaching to know change is possible. A great deal of change  if instruction is good and the student diligent and enthusiastic. Perhaps not as much as the swimmer hoped for but then expectation is quite individual and perhaps coach and athlete will have to agree to differ on what was or is possible. A sporting background, even in a non-related sport to swimming is of use. The rate of ability to change movements and make them permanent seems easier if the swimmer in front of me has come from a sporting background. Possibly to do with hand & eye coordination, control of breathing, timing and proprioception skills. I think the fashion for instant results in a digital age and a lack of patience, are not helping and people become too disillusioned too quickly leading to disappointment. I have said it before but learning to swim is more akin to learning a language or a musical instrument with the added complication of doing a lot of it with the face under the water where the air is not readily available. A great deal of time needs to be put into it for it to be done well and to feel natural. Depending on your definition of becoming a good swimmer you could say both ‘models’ are accurate. A sub 21min 1500m is a good swim if you came from a non swimming background but it is not going to make a county final at a young Swim Club level.

How does it get better?

Slowly; after some early rapid breakthroughs, which can excite this will then frustrate as the rapid trajectory plateaus and improvements seem to reduce for a while. Aligning correctly more propulsive pathways of the limbs will make for instant improvements to speed, as they can be completely wrong early on. Less drag will reduce fatigue so early on progress can seem quite easy. Practicing these to the degree they are then on autopilot and into the subconscious takes a lot of time. Most people that come to me for an initial consultation can swim 25m in 25secs. Some can swim 1:40 for 100m. Few can swim 25mins for 1500m. It is all the ‘same speed,’ I don’t need you to get faster, just keep doing what you did for 25m. If breathing is relaxed and under control this should be a lot easier effort wise compared to average efforts biking or running.  To make the stroke repeatable, accurate and sustainable with low levels of effort takes a lot of time, a lot of relearning after erasing bad habits. More swimming, more often is key at this stage as long as it is done with some instruction and with the correct movements.

How I can tell it is getting better.

When each movement that comprises the stroke no longer needs a conscious effort the stroke appears to stop being a sequence of separate movements stitched together. The mechanical edge to it reduces and the movements take on a fluid appearance. It might not appear graceful or without faults but you can see now that some of the movements are happening with less conscious effort. The breathing sequence becomes as relaxed and seemingly under your control as if you were on dry land. Swimming is one of the few activities, which restrict your breathing in such a way. The rate at which breathing happens, the timing of it and the lack of options when it is not possible, create some major challenges. The other triathlon disciplines, obviously allow for a smooth exchange at your leisure. Swimming, on the other hand, can be tough, especially in the early stages before you fully master stoke mechanics, as the stroke dictates when you get to breathe. The better swimmer you become, the more control and relaxed you can be in all aspects of your stroke.

When it gets better, what happens?

If you are swimming on your own without a coach the lack of instant feedback is a major issue to swim progress. Activities on dryland are easier to record and measure. Water complicates our ability to measure things and it makes exact and 100% repeatable movements unlikely. Try the following ‘senses’ of swimming to help gauge if it is getting better. As you improve I would hope you feel some of the following being experienced. Purely measuring time and heart rates may not always be conclusive. I am sure you have experienced those sprints where more effort went in but no reduction in time was found. This is swimming notoriously being unfair in how it not always rewards effort.

1)         A surge forwards over the locked in ‘anchor hand’ when the catch works well in conjunction with a well streamlined body position. But do not pull too hard to make this happen, it won’t.

2)         At a more advanced level the ability to swim slow, medium and fast, yet still take a similar number of strokes per length.

3)         Hand starting to exit close to where it entered in relation to your position against a lane rope as the body travels efficiently forwards and over your locked in hand.

4)         The stroke never feeling so rushed that you are uncomfortable when trying to get a breath.

5)         Legs only kicking with a board and not going backwards. Not moving is ok, going forwards is tough and may be a longer term project but work on avoiding going the wrong way. Poor mechanics will have you do this.

6)         A general relaxed state and a feeling of being very comfortable in the water. Being able to exhale under the water and inhale above the water and feel very much in control of this action.

7)         The ability to start ‘even splitting’ or at some point ‘negative splitting’ your longer swims. I.e. the second half of a 400m swim being faster then the first

8)         Open water swims being looked forward to rather then dreaded and thinking of your wetsuit as an aid to speed rather then a life preserver!

I don’t think swim improvements for adults are futile. Equally I don’t think it will be as easy as some make out promising rapid improvements. The body just does not work that way. I do think you can accelerate the rate of learning utilising a well rounded approach. It does not all have to be done in the pool but you won’t progress not being in the pool enough. I think people need to appreciate the point at which they are starting, what they may have missed out on as a Teenager and be realistic as to how you define what becoming a good swimmer may specifically mean. I think a sub 75min 3.8km swim is within most peoples grasp if they are physically fit, healthy and prepared to put some time into making this happen. I would have thought many would be happy with this level of becoming a better swimmer if you were new to the sport late in life. Maybe?