Pools opening

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APRIL 12th

A little update given the swim excitement of late! So glad to have some water access back at last. Trust you have all been keeping well. The LonFields lido session resumes next Sunday and our lake at Stubbers (https://www.stubbers.co.uk) is now into week3 and warming up nicely!. Fingers crossed Spring arrives soon.

WHEN CAN INDOOR FITNESS RESUME?

Sadly indoor adult group sports are not back until May 17th at earliest and for some bizarre reason swimming in a lane with 5sec gaps due to a coach being on poolside is considered a group sport. So LB, Mile End and Putney are still a way off.

SOME GOOD NEWS RE CHLORINE & COVID

Recent news – SWIM POOLS/CHLORINE effect on COVID https://www.swimming.org/…/swimming-pool-water…/
Maybe if anyone in Govt reads this report it might speed up in terms of pools/clubs being allowed access sooner.

CAN I SWIM WITH SFT YET?

If you have credit on your account from any sessions booked last year of course while waiting you can use them for 121s which did start this week at Nuffield Shoreditch (https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/gyms/shoreditch/swimming-pool)or of course the lake is open but still only 10degrees! It would be great if you can join us there.

HOW YOU CAN HELP SFT!

Obviously with so many owed so much session credit, pools reopening to us is great but we will have very little income for a while longer but wages and pool hire bills to pay. You can use your credit to buy https://sessioninabottle.com which are available as well to help your solo swims in the public lanes until we can all get back to it fully. Just email dan@swimfortri.com and which ones you want and we can take care of it.

TRAINING WITH THE PUBLIC

If you have access to a pool and need some guidance our 2 week return to swim plan (https://store.swimfortri.co.uk) is available free and we did just release this in conjunction with the OSS. https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com This plan starts this week and is very gentle! could be done in OW or a pool.
I have just started writing again for https://outdoorswimmer.com so look out for another session to follow there if you subscribe.
Hope everyone is well and healthy and excited to be getting back to swimming
All good wishes
Dan and all the SFT gang.

Confidence in Openwater…

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THE CONFIDENCE TO SWIM OPENWATER AND SWIM FASTER

I can truly empathise with the nervous when helping people get to grips with Open Water. I am one of those people even now when it comes to swimming in the sea. Before that it was Open Water in general. Initially as a pool swimmer the transition for me took place in season two when I had the opportunity to swim Open Water every weekend either as a training session or as a race. By the end of the season I was quite happy in Open Water but it took time.

Time to get familiar with my surroundings, spending time in the environment that was worrying me. I look at confidence in the water in the following way now when working out how to help someone I love the water and racing and all that Open Water has to offer but once upon a time I didn’t, and even now there are types of Open Water racing I prefer. No matter how fast you get its still ok to get a little worried about swimming in Open Water or to flat out not enjoy it.

A BEAUTIFUL SWIM

Give me the beautiful lake/reservoir setting of the Worlds in Gothenburg in 2010 over the sea setting of beautiful Rimini from 2012. My last IM event was South Africa in 2008. Here on this stretch of coastline I was not happy. What to do? Go hard to get out in front on your own spending as little time as possible in the water?

Leave the mass behind hoping it is will be rich pickings for the circling shoals beneath that I conjure up in my mind. Alternatively hang back, utilising the safety in numbers approach at the Shark ‘all you can eat buffet’. I know the stats are with us in terms of it being highly unlikely but it is not impossible. Those are the odds I do not like which leave me hoping for those inland races.

RECOGNISE CURRENT LEVELS

What is the main concern? The lack of clarity? The mass of people? The slight restriction around the chest from the wetsuit? Do we need to build confidence through improved swim technique, fitness, perhaps both or Psychologically overcoming fears? Being in the right frame of mind on race day comes from the confidence of knowing you have done it in training or replicated conditions in low-key less stressful environments. Ideally you will be confident of the distance not tiring you but also of getting onto the bike not overly stressed.

In some instance, levels of confidence need to be toned down. Starting too high up the ‘pack’ can make for an unpleasant experience. This is the other side that we often see when people fail to start safely. It never fails to amaze me the difference in approach to the start of the masses at a Running Marathon event compared to the frenzy of the start of most large Open Water swims. When starting the Marathon, the masses mostly walk until eventually space develops and then a shuffle/jog can start. Compare to a swim start and while similarly cramped when the gun goes what happens? Arms and legs start moving frantically as the smallest gaps are fought over. Most are vertical, starting upright then swimmers quickly switch too horizontal and 4x the space is suddenly needed by everyone.

SKILL ACQUISITION

Improving levels of confidence comes from repeating actions over and over in a situation that slowly becomes less uncomfortable. Swim with two people either side of you as your wingmen slowly getting closer as you progress in a pool lane. Add a few more people into the group, with someone out in front. Add some people behind so that the toe tapping is now a concern. Eventually that small group of the 3 of you is now 30 practicing across an Open Water venue.

Try to prepare in conditions that replicate your race dynamics. This sense of knowing can only help when it comes to lowering stress levels and building confidence that you are going to be ok on race day. The canal exit at IM Austria can be recreated by racing low key, smaller River Swim Triathlons.

The Lake Placid IM had buoys are attached to a submerged track visible in the clear water. Often rowing centres offer similar as the lanes are marked with small buoys. Do you have a facility nearby that offers smaller OW events to try? There are now lots of open water swim only events where you can practice without the added issues of it being a Triathlon. When ready, try some OPEN WATER racing without your wetsuit if the worst-case scenario arises. It happened again not so long ago at IM and left some swimmers distraught over in Switzerland. If you fancy Kona, then for sure it will be non-wetsuit.

BUILD ON IT

When you think of all the things has can irritate and chip away at the already fragile confidence you might have about your Open Water swim; doesn’t it seem sensible to take control of as many factors that you can. Ensure your wetsuit is comfortable, that goggles fit and don’t leak. Try to reduce fogging & learn some self-defence measures to protect yourself on the start line. The CATCHUP swim drill is a great drill and will leave both arms around the head momentarily helping with a degree of protection if you are concerned.

More confidence might mean you start further up the field and you then give yourself the opportunity to swim the first 400m rather than battle it out midpack. Nothing slows a swim, leaving you fatigued and frustrated quite like wrestling your way through a densely packed field of slower swimmers.

Many swimmers find their best swimming halfway through a training session after a good warm-up and a chance to build into their stroke. Try to recreate this sensation earlier in the race by performing a dry land warm up. Implement this ahead of a water based (if possible) warmup so that you feel good and ready to swim well when the gun goes.

Think about the basic skills necessary that allow you to master as many of the controllable variables as possible, it can only help. Think about the types of smaller races that might help prepare for the big one. Too often late in the season I come across people not yet comfortable with a pair of goggles, that don’t leak. All far too close to race day.

SWIM HAPPY

Knowing you will be happy with completing the distance required is also something you should be happy with well in advance. Try to reduce potential additional stress that might worry you i.e. could it possibly be a non-wetsuit swim? How close under the cut off might I be? Can I make myself more familiar with the style of course I might be racing during my ‘A’ race? Factor in and work on the stuff you have control of. With those aspects mastered it might just keep the worry about the uncontrollable stuff under control.

Pool Based Open water skills are a great way to start to get ready for a transition to openwater. More details here including our full confidence in OW plan –  https://store.swimfortri.co.uk

 

Swimming Jealousy

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Be Careful What You Wish For….

A light hearted look at how the green-eyed monster might rear its ugly head as you watch that great swimmer in the next lane to you. Sometimes the water might not be greener the other side of the lane rope. The next time you look enviously at your teammate who swims like a fish remember the downside for them. As my Triathlon teammates would remind me, I would swim like a fish, run like a duck. Here are some of the pitfalls a swimmer might suffer from and how you once out of the water will be chasing them down.

Big feet

A natural advantage in the pool is simply from having bigger flippers. Unless of course your tight running ankles leave your toes pointing at the bottom of the pool but let us gloss over that for a moment – see next para. You might have heard of Ian Thorpe and his size 17 shoes which helped him break 5mins for 400m legs only (not a typo – 5mins!) at his peak.

Now some studies suggest bigger feet can help you run faster but let us focus for a moment on ground contact time. I defy anyone to get a size 17 foot off the ground quickly enough repeatedly enough to finish a race before dark. Whatever the size of your foot, try your best to make the best by at least not having them fused at 90deg at the ankle. This position will sink your legs quicker than using a brick as a pull buoy.

Ankles

Think about the flexibility at the ankles to create the perfect streamline in the water. No wonder your swimmer friend has such a low stroke count! They only swim half the length of a 25m pool. Other than a ballerina who else can point their toes in this way? My super flexible ankles while being filmed for a running gait analysis years ago left the expert in hysterics, ‘the worst running gait I have ever seen.’ It still haunts me. If you can improve your ankle flexibility a little bit but not to the point it impacts your running stability it will really improve your swim if you stop pulling those anchors along.

Wingspan/Arm span

Michael Phelps probably brought this to the publics’ attention regarding swimmers’ physiques most recently and the media had a field day. Being blessed with a longer arm span than your height is a very common swim thing. It really helps. Mr Phelps does have some pretty impressive stats though regarding this anthropometric trait, what with him being 3inches wider/arms longer than he was tall.

Hide your smugness when you see your swimmer friend in discomfort on tri bars that never seem to fit or with arm warmers that only cover up half their arms. You might not be able to improve this personal statistic but with some improvement to your flexibility your upper bodies range of motion will get better and your rotation will improve making the distance travelled with each stroke greatly improved.

Hands

Hands like large shovels finely honed to catch water all day long, to make the slipperiest of the elements feel solid. An elite swimmer’s hands are the tools of their trade. But try tying run shoelaces in T2 on a cold day just off the bike.  Or how about changing gear on your bike with the finesse and panache of a TDF rider? unlikely with those big bunches of bananas on the end of your wrists.  When I tried it usually sounded like the gearbox of my 1963 Morris Minor with the missing 2nd gear.

Again, you might not be able to improve this literally but ensure you do the best with what you have. Don’t cup them too small and too clenched allowing them to slip under the body as you pull.  This scenario offers little reward in terms of the body being pulled forwards. Many swimmers I watch also don’t pull with the hand coupled to the forearm. Think of them as one unit as you anchor the ‘blade’ vertically and pull the body forwards.

The fist drill can help connect the hand to the elbow and pull as one.

 

Height

The average height of the male swimmers in Rio 2016 racing at the Olympics was 6ft 2 or 188cm. Not that uncommon you might think and how would that be an issue? Well, if you combine that with the other desired Phelpsism of shorter legs being preferred for a great swimmer then sadly that combination would not be so great for reaching the peddles or ground with the legs 🙂

Good height with short legs usually means long torso and a better centre of mass/ centre of buoyancy leaving our lucky swimmer floating horizontally in the water. You will always spot the swimmer on a flight as the tallest person sitting down but once you disembark they will disappear into the average throng of the population. Phelps at 6ft 4 had the legs of someone usually ‘only’ 6ft tall. Not much you can do about your height in in the water but make the most of what you have, push off the wall in a starfish streamline and you will swim like one. If you have long legs don’t undo all the good they can do with a ‘too big’ kick!

Glutes

Years of long-distance FC swimming left me with what I thought would be a decent set of glutes having elevated a straight leg back up to the surface 6times per arm cycle for 13 or 14 strokes per 25m for literally 000s of metres each week across 20+ hours of swimming weekly for 50 weeks of the year.

Cue my first running injury when starting Triathlon years later to be told by my physio I had weak glutes. I was devasted. If you can straighten out the upsweep of your kick you will significantly improve your kick and reduce drag. A good kick will hide behind the body, a great kick in the world of long distance FC does not need to be propulsive just not invasive! Try the glute kick drill or the Pilates swimmer to get a feel for this movement.

Shoulders

Those broad shoulders that developed as a teenager ploughing up and down the lane will not help them stay in front on the bike. I know one elite duathlete who spent a winter trying to crack the swim by adding hours of solely ‘pulling with paddles.’  They then, when back in the wind tunnel the next spring could not work out why their numbers were now so bad. They had actually added a few cm of mass to their upper body/shoulders and now could not get as aero as before when down on their tri bars. A pull buoy & paddles should be part of your swim training not literally your swim technique. If you are faster with a PB then work out why.

The mystical feel for the water.

You take a week out of the water and your next swim feels like a water boarding experience by CIA recruits who are not that good at it yet. Listen to your fish neighbour miss one day and they will be crying how they have lost the feel for it and a session of sculling will be needed to reacquire it. Try it, it does help the water feel more solid and so easier to catch. As will swimming with a few mm of space between your fingers, exfoliating your palms lightly and swimming in those water mitts you see people using who bought them by mistake instead of paddles.

Generally Clumsy

It is said that swimming often chooses you at a young age as you slowly discover dryland activities do not suit you. Last to get picked for football/netball?  Don’t like team sports or sharing the glory? At the age of 11 I was actually asked to leave my junior football school team as I accused the other players of not trying hard enough. I had the fitness from hours of swim training already just no skills. Don’t enjoy getting rained on? Then head indoors to swim, we all know chlorinated water is fine! Enough bruises on shins to warrant leaving your older brothers shin pads on all the time? It was a good look with short trousers. All these cues tell you one thing – try swimming. It is how most of us found it. Therefore, it won’t take long for you to catch up to the swimmer in front on your bikes, they’ll still be on stabilisers.

As they say no race was ever won on the swim in a Triathlon. As I know, there is not much fun in exiting in the top 10 to then be overtaken by 2000 competitors such as I was in the Lake Placid IM. If you can take a few tips on board to improve it will help. During this lockdown, watch, learn from, partake in as much swim related dryland as you possibly can each week to minimise the damage done from being out of  the water again these next few months.

After 3months of dryland stretch cords with us last Spring many of our regulars who came to the lake were not too out of sorts when returning to the water. Rusty, a little mechanical with a loss for the feel of the water were reported. Swim fitness and technique were soon reacquired. If you can return with some of these aspects improved, you will sure to be gaining on the fish in the next lane.

 

 

with pools closed…at least in the UK

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With Pools Closed here are 10things to focus on and help your swimming. 
Watch this for inspiration, a technically beautiful FC swimmer – Katie Ledecky
Do this – our Mon and Wed Dryland stretch cords. Lots of sessions stored here from last year.
Listen to this – FC tech podcast with Annie Emmerson who was not a natural swimmer but went on to great Tri success after World Duathlon success
Try this – shoulder strengthening and swim related stretches to improve range of motion in the water.
Activate these – Glutes in a FC motion! In water and out, the simillairites will help you swim faster by controlling a smaller legkick. Look for the glute kick drill in the ‘water link.’
More dryland swim options were covered in the Endurance lecture series
Consider this – swim bench from VASA now not as big as they used to be but superior to everything else out there.
Buy this so you are ready when the pools reopen.
Plan to swim as much openwater as you can, assuming pools will be slower to reopen by doing the research now and finding venues nearby. OS always useful for this info
Enter an event and support a small operator who deserves to still be here as an event organiser later in the summer