New variations – the pros and cons….

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Single arm variations– At our Mile End & WF fitness sessions this week we played with the differences between the following variations on one of my favourite drills.
A – breathing away from the pulling arm, as we have traditionally taught –
+ Easter to perform slower, keep the head still, watch the pulling arm, enhanced accuracy
– Could encourage breathing off a straight arm ‘push down’ if the drill is rushed
B – breathing under the pulling arm, the way most people gravitate towards as it feels part of the stroke.
+ Harder to ‘pop’ the trail shoulder back up above the surface at the conclusion.
– Stops the temptation of leaning on/straight arm pushdown as ‘take it away.’

C- a 3rd option Breath with both arms at the hips. Stops you leaning on the arm to breathe, allowed full rotation, was able to watch the arm pull. This version also helped the swimmer stop breathing so late into the armpit. I would also say avoid using a central snorkel for all these as you can stay flat and not realise as you still get the air.

As with most things there are pros and cons. Try both and see which works for you. This is the tricky part of swimming, you have to experiment a little as the science is still a way behind the art. We still really struggle to measure it as it is such a hostile environment for taking measurements unlike the watts on a bike etc
Try them and let me know your thoughts..

Stats & Testing

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So as usual we performed the 10min swim test in the Autumn at the start of the last course and at the end. Results can be found here

Look for the blue – blue denotes an improvement in the amount of distance you completed, beige means you held the same value. Keep in mind in order to improve you need to be swimming 3 times per week at least. Any less than this and you are in the plateau zone. Enough to maintain but not enough to break through. Swimming faster or further needs fitness, endurance and technique to all improve. The 3 are very much interconnected. Endurance is the ability to keep repeating accurate movements for sustained periods. Fitness is the engine to drive it but it needs to be a steady & accurate effort otherwise the water punishes you. If there is limited swim technique we get punished too much and even amazing levels of fitness will not be of use since water is so much denser than air.

The Autumn course is a hard one to improve on as many are race fit from the summer of competing and December becomes a hard time to focus and maintain consistency due to Xmas interruptions. If you did ‘only’ plateau then I would consider this quite an achievement. But don’t rest on your lane rope!. Now is the time to refocus and commit to ensure when we measure the success of this current cycle some big improvements have been made.

If you improved over 25m please drop me a line and I will put a gift in the post to you

Goodluck with the test!


It is going to feel rough but persevere….

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It is going to feel rough but only by sticking with it and getting it done will it get easier. If you have not yet been back into the water then be prepared. After a break of a possibly a few weeks most of us are back to swimming this week. No sport seems to punish quite so much as swimming having had  break from it. You will feel like a huge step has been taken, sadly backwards. Clumsy, lacking coordination and the water feeling extra slippery to name a few of the issues. This happens at all levels. Not just those new to the sport I promise. For the seasoned campaigner the path to feeling ‘normal’ should happen a little quicker but I promise we all suffer.

A few years ago I performed a lot of filming on week1 of our fitness courses in early January. I played it back and most were pleasantly surprised at what they saw claiming it was not as bad as they imagined. This is an important distinction here. Your mind and body will want you back on that warm sofa not swimming laps. I liken this to my last few KM of racing Lake Geneva last summer. I had completed 23km and the end was in sight for our relay team. I could see the fountain that greets you in the distance. My shoulders were so tired and ached so much. I was dreading to think how bad it looked.

“What is interesting is that in my mind my stroke was horrible, flat, scrappy and tired. My mind playing tricks to end the suffering! When I watched some of the footage taken of my final KM it was ok. Remember. It is not as bad as your mind is telling you.”

Prepare yourself for the frustration, cope with the demons telling you to get out. Set yourself a sensible amount and finish positively by getting the session done. Complete your swim with the SFT swim down to help realign your faltering technique as much as possible and help shape it before your next session. Try not to leave it too long before your next session so that all that you build on is not wasted, evaporating before your next session. 1 session per week is 6 days of unlearning. 3 sessions per week and you tip the balance in favour of  swim positive week with progress rather then a plateauing effect.


Swim Videos

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So as a little xmas thing I have been trying to get to all our fitness sessions to film. Thanks to Maria for helping at Kings X while I was at a funeral.  You can find your footage on dropbox. Click on the link to see your swims in real time then slow motion.

Walthamstow – Thurs AM

Putney Sunday

London Bridge Group 1   Group 2

Kensington Thurs PM

St Pancras – Monday PM

From the submerged head on view – key points
Head still unless breathing, a few mm gap between the fingers. Symmetry of arm movements will keep you straighter.
Minimal exposure of the leg kick, keep them hidden behind the body. Not leaning on a straight arm to support breathing which will push you up, not pull you forward.
We should never see the palm of the hand from this angle. High elbow <I prefer wide elbow> but as long is it stays above the hand you are on the right track after an early pivot at the elbow <not the shoulder.>
Relaxed exhale through the stroke until the sharp intake of breath as you turn to breathe. We should not see the face from this angle! top of head, a little of the forehead. Look forwards but do not face forwards.

Legs low then straighten them –
 fix them with –
Splaying wide?  ‘Pilates Swimmer’ a great way to improve your core and restraing a big kick. Also pulling with your pull buoy between your ankles or a flat float between the thighs
Late catch? pivot at the elbow practice via the thumb catch drill, shown towards the end of this video
Also good for the dreaded straight arm pushdown. This issue can also be interrupted with a central snorkel.
King of the Drills
And combine your new catch into your rotation with the king of the drills – advanced single arm –
Never forget the basics – Torpedo and Extension – there is a good reason why the Olympians still do them. Extension position shown here
I like the FLO video for a nice demo of the extension position and a reminder that we continue with the basics regardless of what ever level we get to. We continue to refine and polish the FC stroke even if the basics are in place and performed well. Stroke mechanics under the pressure of fitness training are always disintegrating hence why all swimmers should come back to drills with more frequency then they might imagine.

Happy Holidays