Swimskin – yes or no….

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Do you have a non wetsuit swim this Autumn/Winter, Kona even? should you factor in a swimskin from the likes of….

https://www.blueseventy.com/products/pz4tx ??

When I went to watch Kona in 2015 everyone was in the Roka suit but they were loaning them out to trial so not conclusive.

Swim skins are designed to obviously go over a tri suit for the swim section of your race which will streamline a two piece tri suit and probably help over not wearing one. Over a one piece I am not so sure so factor that in as to what you might race in. The saltiness of the water off Digme Beach/Kailua Bay was very impressive as we floated around drinking coffee handed out from one of the sponsors boats so for sure do not stress too much about it being non wetsuit.

You obviously take a swimskin off in transition which takes a bit of time so add that in to the eqation. Supposedly they are hydrophobic so you swim faster but most tri suits aim for this as well and are hardly full of drag in their own right. Some more compression might help if you can get it on tight enough but again it then gets harder to take off. They are not allowed neoprene so no buoyancy.

Some swear by them and use them all the time in Non Wetsuit swims. Since Speedo do not make one I have not really tested all the claims of speed gains and can only go on feedback. Most positive feedback I have had came from Women who might struggle in a tri suit only <if they have a small waist> as water might gather in the lower back. With two suits on and the outer one tight it might stop the lower back area filling. Not 100% conclusive but perhaps something less likely that men would suffer as much if waist bigger. So anatomical considerations as well!

Sorry there are a lot of ifs/buts with this

I used to use the Sailfish version years ago but that had neoprene in it and helped massively. Probably in the grand expense of Kona it is a small extra amount but it all adds up I know.

As for justifying the expense I also think it helps where you might, time wise, be exiting. If you can make a breakthrough to sub 1:10 it will help massively. The usual peak exit of an IM at 1:20-25ish now becomes 1:10 as it is the worlds and most complained how scrappy/violent the swim is at this timeframe.

Goodluck whatever you decide and I would appreciate any feedback on your experiences.

River Dart10k Swim

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Dart 10km


Finally, a swim that fully went to plan this season. I last swam at this event in 2015 and recorded 1:59. You should not really compare swims like these from one year to the next but it is nice to just flat out be quicker and enjoy it come what may. However, rainfall, tides and positioning in a very wide river all make for completely different events. I use the word event rather than race as when Kate Rew initially came to me with the idea of a 10km river swim many years ago <I helped write the training plan on the OSS website.> it was to be a fun, enjoyable mass participation event quite unique in its approach. If you have seen the swim exit on a sunny day with the deck chairs and cheering crowds you will know what I mean. Think village fete rather than swim race. However, you cannot help feel that there is a competitive element between the two days wondering who had the best conditions or the strongest currents. This weekend just gone a little breakdown suggested Sunday was the harder day or the least assisted. The following show the number of swimmers who swam –

Sub 2 Hrs         Sub 2:10          Sub 2:30

37                    89                        344 – results from Saturday

15                    42                         180 – results from Sunday

Not conclusive by any means but interesting. It might have been that the overall quality of swimmers on Saturday might have been better but at the other end of the spectrum the 600th swimmer was 2:50 on Saturday and 3:23 on Sunday, with over 1300 swimmers finishing.

You also have the interesting idea of what time you depart impacts your swim. The tide looked to be turning at 9am yesterday, the River at the start area in Totnes was extremely static. Those leaving at this time would have had less help at the start compared to the Elite wave leaving at 10am. I swam in the Fast wave departing at 9:45 and the Elites went off at 10am. 6 from this wave beat me so was pleased to have been quickest on the day from my wave.

I was pleased to be 4mins quicker than in 2015 but I try to measure my swims a little more internally to check on progress and see how I did. Openwater is many amazing things in terms of swimming but what it is not is accurate when comparing distances, events and performances from year to year or even day to day. So many factors to consider, so many contributing factors beyond your control and some within. I was pleased to get so many within my control right this race and some of those out of my control not playing a part having had an upset stomach at London Docks, goggle malfunction in Oxford, tired arms in Sheffield and Camping woes at Henley!

I was testing a new 2018 sleeveless wetsuit for Speedo so was keen to put that through its paces. I only had a brief chance to swim in it the previous week so this was a risk but minimal as I know the products intimately. Fuelling was also going to be critical to get right. Swimming hard for close to 2hours is very different to swimming 6 x 1 hr steady with 5hours rest between each swim as we did in Geneva. I took a Powerbar Hydro Gel as they settle quickly and don’t really need extra water just before starting, at the 4km food station and the 7km station. For events over 5km I usually like to carry my own supplies in the form of gels inside my wetsuit around the leg/shin area. They seem to cause no irritation there and I forgot about them once the race started. I fatigued heavily with 1km to go so may have just run out of energy but the weather deteriorated significantly at the end of the event so it might have just been a tougher swim at this point. Pacing for the most part was good, I saved a little for the end knowing when the River opens out it does get choppier and harder to navigate. I kept breahting under control knowing my HR was remaining sensible. The start was probably the hardest as it felt extrememly cold and I had to resist the temptation to speed off trying to warm up. The early KMs passed by and we were all keeping right but I was passing people form the earlier waves on their left trying to be considerate and staying within the channel marked out by the safey cover. I don’t think there was a single minute where I glanced up or breathed left or right and not see some form of safety cover. The OSS really have this aspect perfected.

I ‘only swam’ 10079m which considering how accurate the course is I am really pleased to have only added this small amount. Swimming any event for the second time is probably the best preparation you could ask for. Knowing approximately where the aid stations are going to be, where is half way, when you pass that particular boat ramp it is only 2km to go, what to look for in the distance when the river widens all helps. At times it is not easy to accurately get across some the larger openings so familiar landmarks will help.


Arriving at the finish to the deck chairs, the helpers, the hot chocolate then this suddenly becomes a real reminder about the true history of this event. It is all about fun, sense of accomplishment and comradery of all regardless of ability. I swam a similar time last year for the Coniston 8.5km lake swim to give you some idea of how much the current helps. This event is a great way to achieve the 10km badge of honour as a stepping stone to longer events if you are building up. Good luck in 2018 if you are contemplating entry. This is truly a classic on the openwater circuit.


Kona Bound….

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Swim Boo Swim….

I have had the pleasure of working with Boo for over 2 years now and helped her 1900m Half IM swim time come down significantly in the first year. A key member of the Hillingdon Tri Club it has not been easy to take all points on board while volunteer coaching and working a demanding job involving a lot of travel. It has been a long journey since we first met but finally it all came together at IM Sweden recently and Boo is now heading to Kona. Boo has worked tremendously hard on improving the weakest part of her Triathlon and I could not be prouder of her and pleased for her success.

If anyone promises fast results in the pool, be sceptical. It takes time, patience and diligent practice and when Boo arrived for her Initial consultation it was clear there was a lot to be done which would result in much quicker times.

Initial Consultation Early 2015 – Points from the lesson

Need to remain narrow – Currently swimming low & wide, minimal rotation.Warm up with Torpedo <5m off each wall> to elevate the shoulders, to help narrow the stroke. This will also nicely warm up the legs and remind them that they drive rotation. Not for propulsion

Catch up to float to reduce the cross over which is causing a side to side swim action.

Sculling brought the focus to the elbows and helped the catch by working on a fingertip to elbow paddle it also helps keep the water feeling more solid.

Use the central snorkel a lot now to help keep the head still

The hard bit is then convincing the swimmer that it is possible to improve if they put the time and practice in. It is years as a process for significant improvements depending on how far you wish to go. Not months especially when the aging process is against you <sorry Boo J .>

15 Sept 2015 – Club La Santa swim camp

Regular filming was allowing Boo to identify issues, feel when her stroke was good and how to adjust things when the stroke was not so good. Surfing the arms back up to the surface after entry was an issue and Boo could now run an internal diagnostic and check various stroke components and make the subtle adjustments.

You will see the Extension <superman> drill pop up in fitness sessions time and time again. A solid all round body position drill that helps many areas of the full stroke. If the hands are surfing up after entry this is a great drill to check their depth and know where they should lie – i.e. aim to enter and extend to parallel to the surface but quickly fade slightly down as if you were about to set an early catch position.

Avoid returning up to the surface in an attempt to pull more water, the exposed forearm will create drag and slow/fatigue you.

Add fins to extend the amount of drill swum and if not possible recall how it flows nicely into the full stroke. 

Hold the drill for 2-3 Breaths to one side then swim an odd number of strokes to take you back to the drill on the opposite side. This is a great way to perform the drill accurately if you cannot wear fins.

Early 2016 FITNESS WORK starting to develop.

As Boo’s technique started to hold together and improvements were being made we started to put the stroke under some pressure. Fitness blocks were added on camps and in lessons such as the following with the idea that swimming hard beyond 1900m in training would help race day be very comfortable, low stress and relaxed getting on the bike.

1x100FC with 30secs rest. 2x100FC with 20

3x100FC with 15, 4x100FC with 10

3x100FC with 5

4x100FC with 10, 3x100FC with 15, 2x 100FC with 20

1x 100FC with 30. The aim here was just to build the endurance for the 70.3 season.

13 MARCH 2016- 121 lesson.

Wake up the legs CHALLENGE – 200M LEGS -In an attempt to stop Boo dragging her legs along for the ride I challenged her to break 4mins for 200m FC with fins. We broke this up into

week 1 – 100m fast, rest 10 into 4x 25m rest 5

week2 – 4x50m, rest 10

week3- 2x 100m, rest 10

week4 200m for time.

These little time trials were added into usual tech sessions.

22 June 2016 – 121 lesson.

Race season. I love race season and get excited about tracking competitors progress on race day. Not being at a venue to assess conditions make it hard when you just have stats from the tracker. I might look at the pro results to get a feel for a fast or slow race, demanding conditions etc. when evaluating a slow or fast performance. 

‘Good luck this weekend, I am so happy you are now getting the success you deserve. A couple of things to think about….Just a couple of things!….

Think Narrow, add in some rotation, you have gone a little flat again which is causing snaking and low wide arms – avoid the cross over when rotation is reduced <low arms due to low shoulders – creating the inevitable low wide sweep>

Later Breath, watch the hand pass under the body and follow it into the breath with the turn of the head.

Xmas 2016

I have all the time in the world for swimmers who are dedicated and diligent.  

When someone asks me ‘do you think I can break x mins for y metres in the pool, in an Open Water race or in a Triathlon’ within reason I rarely say no. I can help provide the training and stroke improvements to get you there but you need to get to the pool, get your dryland shoulder strengthening done, stay healthy, rest well, eat well, slowly build volume and make sacrifices. By this I mean give stuff up to find time to do what you need to do.  Saying yes to you is the easy part but are you prepared to help answer your own question? So no Boo you did not drive me bonkers it has been easy guiding someone so determined.

31 March 2017


Another chance for filming, a chance to swim 1-2x per day in the pool and open water and really enhance that familiarity in the water. Once in a while a swim overload can be really useful to your progress. At this time, we were consolidating a great winters training and refining some technical aspects. Technique will suffer when you overload it with fitness but that is how you progress once your technique has been cured of a lot of the basic problems. You need to train it, hold on to it and polish it when it does fade as a result of a big fitness block. I love the concept of technical endurance for this aspect of swim training. One of my favorite sets we worked on was the following.

5x300m FC rest 30 – Tech Endurance Session1 normal FC when the lane rope is blue and white.

THEME- with the following ‘interruptions’ will shake up any standard 1500 swim.

1) Fists clenched FC when in the red zone, <5m into and off each wall>

2) Legs only in the red zone <arms folded on head as you push off, by your side as you finish a length>

3) No breather in the red (and you probably will be!)

4) Add fins but point them downwards in the red zone to feel surplus drag & work the arms harder.

5) Windscreen wiper scull off the wall. Pivot at the elbow, fingertips to the bottom of the pool, palms to push out to the pool walls then return to facing each other

As you can see a substantial amount of fitness but with lots of tech pointers interrupting a long steady swim where form no doubt would have suffered.

JULY 2017

Openwater – you need to swim in it, train in it and be ready to race in it. We know it is very different to pool swimming and confidence, the cold, navigating all make or break a good OW swim. From previous years Boo and I swam many Monday afternoons at Hyde Park checking her tech improvements in the pool were transferring across to OW. Everything was falling into place and Boo was starting the season with some early season events. There is nothing quite like some low key OW events and Triathlons to help practice and work hard with less stress of things going wrong in a key A race.

On the big day in Sweden Boo was familiar with the location having raced in 2012 and swum a 1:31. She was not massively quicker this time but conditions were different and exiting in 2012 she only beat 4 others in her AG out of the water. In 2017 only 5 were quicker this time as she swam 1:24 and headed onto the bike in great shape. See you in Kona Boo.


Hybrid Drills

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Hybrid Drills

How they started.

If you do too much of something it is well known its benefits can diminish. With swimming the accuracy of a certain movement will fade and its effect limited as we fatigue. Not just physically tire of performing the movement but also the psychological fatigue as when we engage high concentration levels we can only absorb so much. There are two aspects to a hybrid drill, the ease with which it can flow into and out of full stroke and how two separate drills can combine to produce more than the sum of the two separate drills.

Watch the FreeWilly drill to see how an isolated drill movement helps to launch the full stroke FC into the next 3-5 strokes (Apologies for poor filming on this one.) How it shapes the recovery and encourages the legs and hips into action after the slow drill. This is a great example of combining the drill into full stroke and utilising the slow drill movement to encourage the body to work harder to ‘launch’ into full stroke. Many drills flow into and out of full stroke really well, others not so much. If we can perform a shorter amount of a drill with enhanced accuracy, then as adults learning to swim faster we discovered this was a winning formula as the drill carried into its teaching points in the full stroke naturally.


Traditionally a length of a drill repeated multiple times would be needed to help someone new to swimming learn a movement, to hold an improved position in the water or to unlearn an incorrect movement. With fins and other pool accessories to help with accuracy it was essential to repeat the correct movement 000s of times. Most of us who learned to swim in the 70s & 80s then joined a swim club and would then start a fitness regime since most swimmers had the basics. After this not much drill and technique activity would happen. As we have learned and understood more about water we know how important swim technique is. For those who have moved on from learning to swim and are needing more of a learn to swim faster effect but might currently feel they have plateaued, hybrid drills might be the answer.


The Superman <extension position> is a wonderful drill for working the legs and a streamlined body position. Made easier and more accurate with fins. It might seem straightforward but there are a lot of points to take on board. Without fins it is particularly hard to do well. At least not to the extent that many of the following teaching points needed are incorporated.

Head still unless breathing

 Surface shoulder still, no rocking

            Small kick offset as hips rotate slightly.

            Lead arm parallel to the surface but submerged

            Hips stable while upper body rotates

            Kick not splaying as a reaction to the hips not flat

            Lower back not curving

The beauty of this one particular drill though is how it flows into and out of the full stroke. This makes it more accessible and accurate if you cannot use fins. More full stroke and less drill if fins are not allowed, more drill and less full stroke if they are. Play with the numbers and work out a ratio that works for you i.e. delivers all the accurate teaching points mentioned without fins. If you cannot hit all of those teaching points you have to ask if it is really helping. This goes back to the point that a full length or two of a certain drill is rarely performed with such accuracy. It is better to mix shorter amounts and more quickly have the movements shape the imminent full stroke.

The ratio of drill can be measured in seconds held or the number of breaths taken in the drill position. An odd number of full strokes will leave you ready to perform the drill now on your opposite side. The momentum of your full stroke can carry through to the drill allowing a short section to be performed without fins which is useful once a certain level of accuracy has been achieved. Equally, the positions the drill puts you into will more quickly flow into and shape the full stroke which is what I hope for of a drill. 50m of an averagely performed drill leaving you tired is less likely to have the desired impact we are looking for when you turn around and commence your 50m of full stroke.


More recently I have been combining drills with multiple elements to help swimmers full stroke by delivering additional benefits. Ideal if you have grasped the basics and plateaued with your progress. Progressive challenges will activate the body into working harder to perfect movements. Levels of focus can be improved during the drill as these movements need full concentration. This allows the brain to really switch off during race mode, yet retain great accuracy in your swim technique when your concentration is elsewhere.

The combining of drills, swim accessories and stroke mechanics in some cases will help due to a variety of reasons:

1          Part of the drill has been designed to check the first part has been executed correctly. It could be to promote a good finish to a movement which otherwise might have been lazy or to restrict an incorrect movement. The following drill came about for exactly the former reason. The advanced single arm can easily be swum incorrectly with no real idea if it is being performed accurately. A lot of swimmers remain flat, shoulders parallel to the surface, when performing and wonder why it is difficult to breathe. The addition of the single shark fin arm movement in between each single arm reminds the swimmer to complete their rotation improving body position and making it easier to breathe.

Single Arm into a Shark fin

2          The addition of the two or more movements promotes an enhanced synergy. Not really specific drills but more to do with the effect of adding multiple swim aids. The SFT swim down is something we refer back to frequently as sessions conclude as we attempt to polish our tired strokes before exiting the pool. With fins and Paddles you get the hands and feet movements accentuated and able to work together more. With the larger hands doing a better job of anchoring the arm, the fins can help drive the legs and shift the body past the hand. Hips will sit higher and the body position will feel great. The extra sense of speed can also be a positive. Another variation of this might be swimming FC arms with Butterfly legs. The natural undulating rhythm of the hips delivering the butterfly movement will in turn speed up your FC arms. As the FC arms react and speed up so can the kick, the two work together really effectively. They complement each other to the extent some fast International FC swimmers have experimented with fly legs as their full stroke FC.

3          Restrict one area via a drill then enhance it with part 2 can really help you feel when you get it right. Fast legs with fins in the normal FC swimming position for 10m then point the toes down for drag and to lower the body position for 5m. The arms will work harder to offset the additional drag from the legs but the key point here is the sensation of enhanced height and speed in the water when you resume your normal kick that had been restricted.

The Single Fist drill is a simple change to you full stroke that needs no swim equipment but will quickly enhance your stroke. With your left or right hand clenched into a small fist swim 5 strokes, then switch before finishing the length full stroke. The diminished clenched shape slips through the water upsetting timing and rhythm and forcing you to be more aware of your hand pathways and their connection to the water. The normal hand feels larger than usual and it appears easier to hold more water. When both open and engage it feels like the water suddenly become a lot more solid. Clenching both fists as per the classic Fist drill but then opening them to a normal hand shape after just a few strokes will have the full stroke feel really heightened, the hands bigger like you have invisible paddles on, the forearm really supplementing the hand (having had to work harder to offset the diminished hand position.)

Both of these variations are superior to the classic Fist drill which might have previously been practiced for a full length leading to getting tired and losing accuracy.

4          Introduce a simple movement to ‘teach’ you or remind you of the basics and then overload the system with the 2nd harder drill. Fist into finger trail. Recovering the arm over the surface from your hip in a finger trail position will help remind you to:

Fully rotate otherwise it will not be easy to recover

To keep the back of the hand facing forwards on entry so we do not twist the hand & impinge the shoulder

Keep relatively narrow as we slice through the water

Reduce the low wide sweeping arm recovery which will have you snake down the length.

It is easy to switch off and lose concentration when we work with the classic Fingertrail, just like catch up, we know it and we can do it in our sleep but add a related tricky part two we might just absorb more as we concentrate more. If we then pull with a fist clenched for a few strokes, we heighten our concentration on the tricky pull movement and enhance the correct recovery.

5          Set up a position or movement then work against it in part 2 to accentuate the sensation of getting it right.


I stumbled into this MFC drill wanting to have swimmers feel what it is like when the Triceps accentuate and get involved with a solid push at the back of the stroke. Clenching the fist at the start makes the movement feel really easy. When the hand reopens the hand feels like it has the biggest paddles on and the arms really get a sense of what they contribute. Start with catch up to isolate each arm first to make this a little less complex. Slip the hand at the start of the pull and once the forearm is vertical open the hand to its normal shape and push through. As a secondary effect it will bring an awareness to a vertical forearm as you set up your catch position.

Some of the effects we are looking for are to:

Restrict and accelerate, if we are forced to hold back a movement we can often launch into the correct position with more efficiency and accuracy. As you perform a normal sculling motion with the hands in front you sweep water back and forth. As that water moves in one direction you then pull it back towards the feet as you start your full stroke it can feel more solid. Many elite swimmers appear to start their pull with a very small and subtle out sweep before bringing it back to centre. It is hard to define why and how this helps but I feel it is related to the movement of pulling against ‘water already in motion’ in one direction so it feels just a fraction more solid. After the small outsweep it is common for a subtle S pull to be used so that you do not pull in an entirely straight line.

If you do pull perfectly straight this allows the water to move under the hand and around the back of the hand. At this point you get the hand slipping and the body no longer moving forwards. In an effort to search out solid water to hold I think the first small outsweep moves it to one side and it is then ‘caught’ and pushed back towards the feet. The change in direction momentarily helps. Don’t overdo the secondary sweeps & movements as they will throw the hips around and slow your general progress.

Stifle then magnify. In particular with this example I am thinking Sculling with Mitts. With the gloved ‘paddles’ on and performing sculling the body works harder to make any kind of connection to the water. Once off, the connection of the hand to the water is intensified and swimming at this point will feel like you have a heightened feel of the water.


At an advanced level a drills combination sequence might just help your technique to have a breakthrough or at least withstand more fatigue stress that is so critical to fast long distance swimming. Technical inefficiencies can be sustained for short fast bursts but if you are looking for sustained speeds with the least amount of effort going to waste then improvements to swim technique are key. You only have a certain amount of energy available and in a medium nearly 1000x dense than air you can end up using that fuel at an alarming rate.



Rest & Recovery II

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So it seems not only was I physically tired from Lake Geneva affecting Nationals in Sheffield the efforts had actually affected my stroke. The decline in swim technique is often sneaky, it slowly goes and you might not notice it. Counting strokes helps and an increase is reason to be concerned but it can be attributed to other factors. Slow times can be due to fatigue and water will punish you dramatically if you sit low in the water even with good technque. Something else was amiss for me….

I had felt heavy and disconnected in the water and this reached a peak at the Aquatic Centre last Friday. I was really concerned for World Masters in Hungary this coming Friday. I had swum at Hyde Park on Wednesday night helping at the Silverfit Aquathlon and again put it down to a cold night and lack of warm up before trying a fast 500m to lead the swimmers out and resume my position helping swimmers out at the swim exit point.  Friday I swam an easy 3000m mixing swim/pull/drill and kick. Emphasis was on drills, no efforts just trying to feel the water again.

For the first time in years it felt like my kick was out of synch with my arms, usually it flows, works together and creates forwards propulsion from assisting my rotation. My arms had been heavy and I was not feeling the hold on the water I usually have. With strong arms to keep pulling my body forwards and over ‘anchored’ hand from a good hold of the water I know this is the winning formula to my long distance swims. I knew my legs were not physically doing the wrong thing I just had to go back to some basics and have them start to drive my rotation again. For the past few weeks they had been along for the ride and not contributing. Extension <Superman> and Torpedo are my go to drills for waking up the legs, letting them learn their role again. Let them know they are important for helping drive the hips and assisting the upper body onto its side. But not propulsion. Torpedo is basically the FC body position stroke with no arms involved. Head still, body rotating from the kick movements, not from the arms. The arms should be allowed to pull you through and over the anchored hands. Coach Gui had picked up I was pushing down  with a straight left arm, helping my OW breath to the right. I always train breathing every 3rd but race every 2nd to the right (unless conditions dictate otherwise.) He was on deck at Hyde Park during the Aquathlon and picked up on this. A major flaw since you are basically swimming single arm each time you breathe if you push it down straight form the shoulder rather than set your pivot point from the elbow and engage the forearm to assist the pulling forwards. Pivot at the shoulder and you bounce up not forwards. I worked diligently on my bilateral breathing, added some snorkel work so I could emphasise my left arm catch and check symmetry with the right. Advanced Single Arm is another great drill I use to check my kick and arms are connected. This ‘king of the drills’ is highly effective since it needs a good kick and catch position to work well. If any key component is missing then the drill will leave you flat and struggling for air. No rotation through the drill and it will leave your shoulders parallel to the surface shutting down the opportunity get air as there is no rotation back onto your side. This drill is easier with a snorkel but must be done without to get the feedback that you are doing it right. You might prefer this version if you are not sure, it is one of my favourite Hybrid Drills. Adding the Sharkfin arm movement in-between each single arm ensures you finish the drill correctly.

I swam an easy loop of our lake on Saturday AM to hopefully feel a bit better technically and then rested to allow the improvements to bed in. By the end of yesterdays Aquatic Centre session which comprised the following I was hoping to back to normal-

500FC, 400 Pull <Towfloat> 300 single arm with fins, 200Kick <Torpedo & fins, face down & up>

8x50Fc, 5m fast/45 easy, add 5m of fast each time, lose 5m of easy. Rest 10.

300 Negative Split, for time. Recorded each 2 weeks

400m SFT swim down, our own creation to ensure the stroke is at its best before exiting.

I was starting to feel like my stroke was back, timing was better, easy speed was coming back and I was sitting higher in the water. Each fortnight I often ‘test’ myself with a 300m straight FC swim. Usually at the end of the week but I figured this could be helpful for confidence heading into Friday. 3:52 was 3 secs quicker than usual.

Don’t forget to regularly come back to some drills regardless of your ability, they are not just there to help newcomers learn to swim, they can help polish discrepancies that creep in. They will also help rebuild your technique if fatigued from a hard mainset. If Olympians can do drills for this very same reason then so can we all. I think it is always a great idea to polish the technique before exiting hence the SFT swim down concept.

Rest and recover…

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After the epic swim in Geneva I then attempted to race Masters OW nationals in Sheffield on Sunday. Only 10days after finishing the Big Swim in Switzerland. During some downtime after the swim I found the energy to cycle one of the Cols in France chasing the TDF. I was still on a high and excited with our teams performances. I was unbeatable and this new found fitness would carry me through the rest of the season. It may well do but as I found out, not quite and not yet.

I thought I had rested enough ahead of Sundays 3km OW swim, I had put in low key 3-4 steady sessions in the pool, some swim bench work and light rowing. As the gun went I knew I was not that excited to be racing. My arms confirmed this, I can usually hold a good amount of water and find some fast ‘easy speed’ early on to the first buoy but it was not happening. As the race unfolded I was content to plod. I had no extra gears towards the end to race it home with the small pack I was with.

This from Joe Friel was of use as I realised I was still tired….At 47 I just do not recover as quickly as I used to. I feel I eat well, sleep a good amount and prepare well but age & time are out of your control and that does not sit well! No one who likes to train and race and take care of all those minute details meticulously wants to hear…’you’re getting older and slower.’
Bottom line give it some time. Often your head tells you it is not quite ready and delays the bodies efforts to get back out there. If you are keen or just cannot miss an event such as my situation last Sunday then just be prepared psychologically for a less then great performance and try not to be too disappointed.
Good luck if you are racing this weekend, get some rest!
Dan Bullock

Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)

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Lac Leman – Lake Geneva
 Hour 1, 3.9km, hour 7, 4.2km, hour 13- 3.2k (currents?!) hour 19-3.5km, hour 25, 4.2km big pull trying to get the team home ! Not quite. Hour 31 finished us with a final 3km. Beautiful swim Geneva. @l.g.s.a — at Lac Léman – Lac de Genève. @speedo @dryrobe

The lure of a long swim had been hanging over me for many years. The lure of the Channel however, not so much. With its tough currents, temperatures and tricky departure windows due to the weather and tough acclimatisation Dover swims has always just been too much of an organisational nightmare. The chance to swim a relay the length of Lake Geneva at 70km had other challenges but appealed as it was slightly easier to prepare for and enter. Endurance and lack of sleep being the key issues.

This was going to be 5 or 6 x 1hour swims with 5hours rest between each if all went well in terms of manageable distances each hour from the team and the weather being kind. I had hoped for 4km averages in early discussions but this was all down to the weather. Lac Leman is big enough that it does have some widely fluctuating temperatures, weather fronts and currents as various rivers flow into it from various high cold places.

I trained for the event on the VASA ERG swim bench which is my preferred method as it does not involve a ‘surface recovery’ only a submerged pull. I like to race long distance open water swims but I struggle to train long in the pool. Despite my many hours of ‘prehab’ strengthening my shoulders and keeping them healthy I can only swim 2-3x per week and only 5km max before the shoulders start to complain.

I also use the rowing ERG a lot, 60mins of ‘dull’ rowing is great preparation for 4-5km of swimming. It works all the body and toughens you mentally. I also try to race a lot in the summer once the season opens. I find Race Preparation great training as it gives you a chance to go hard, to encounter real swim scenarios <goggles snapping recently in the Oxford 4km race> and put your swim technique under race stress.

70km is big, so big I had try to put it out of my mind but as you sit on the train for 90mins travelling from Geneva along the edge of the Lake around to Villeneuve it is hard not to ignore. I was the swimmer in our team of 6. Lorraine, Kate, Elsa, Dipa and Lisa all keen swimmers but I had the swimming background and I was trying hard not to show my nerves for fear of worrying them.  I was first off the beach and wanted to get a good start to build some momentum.

We were blessed with great conditions from the weather, no surface waves and minimal currents but Jacque our pilot warned of harder efforts ahead. We boarded on a small jetty and sailed over to the start where I would enter and swim back to shore and meet Ben our LGSA swim rep and contact for the official start. The swim happens under strict Channel Crossing conditions and so we had an official observer with us.

SWIM 1          

The water was warmer then I had anticipated as I got in from the boat to swim back to shore. You can’t help but feel you are in a beautiful place when you start a swim event next to a medieval fortress. Recent swim competitions had gone well and I felt my numbers were good in terms of fitness so swimming hard for an hour was not the problem but I would ease into this first swim after a long day of travel just the day before. My 3rd swim I calculated would be at 3am mid lake in the cold and dark. Two key areas I just had not had a chance to prepare for that well. Closing your eyes for 6 strokes during the Great London Swim is not quite the same. This was going to be my real test I thought.


No wetsuit would be interesting as I enjoy the freedom of nothing around the shoulders but the free speed & enhanced body position suits my swim technique. I felt good during the first swim and without a warmup was ok with 3.9km but then I got side tracked with unpacking settling into boat life. It is amazing how quickly 5 hours comes around as you cheer and support teammates, apply sun cream stay hydrated in hot conditions and start checking route, currents and progress. I forgot to eat during this busy time and during my second swim my arms faded towards the end leaving my thinking the next 4 swims would be really unpleasant. I had literally packed a suitcase of food so this was just a silly thing to overlook but with the beautiful conditions and amazing scenery, easily done.


The 3rd swim felt quite tough and the numbers suggested it was really hard going. I had fuelled well for it and Jacque could see my disappointment but he said this part was notoriously quite slow given the currents. He felt the boat drag. This was good to hear after the tiring 2nd swim that I felt I might not have recovered from. We were not half way and I did not want to be slowing to 3km/hour otherwise the team would be into 7 swims each territory and this was something we had not planned for. Not just in terms of fatigue but time allowed on the boat, water and food supplies were also a factor.



The stars were out for my 3am swim and it was pretty. But it was also a cold part of the lake and despite years of getting up for early morning practice jumping in to the lake after a 2hr nap I was not at my best. Worries of swimming into something, being brushed by a weed were also nagging doubts. All day I had been watching the lake and had to admit problems were unlikely. I had hardly seen a twig or leaf in the water all day. The water in Lake Geneva is some of the best I have ever swum in. Breathe right to the boat, just keep going until you see the lights blink and the hour will be up before you know it. It is an interesting phenomenon that with each passing hour in the water the hours do feel like they speed up. The boat looked pretty lit up with neon glow sticks I was thinking of the Inbetweeners boat party for giggles to keep me going. I was also counting 70 strokes repeatedly helping me tick off the 100m blocks as this is usually my stroke count. Getting close to 3.6km was good given the time and conditions. I was recovering and fuelling well now and felt fit and strong. Regular stretching and band work on the boat were keeping shoulders in check and food/rest/nap was now on auto pilot.

SWIM 5 – decisions decisions.

We were getting close, once around the left hand outcrop of Yvoire we would see Geneva for the first time. Go for it to try a big effort so that we would all be done on 5 swims each. Miss this though and be tired for another 60min block into the finish would be heart breaking. We were warned the SW winds would increase around 4pm and the final few km into the finish would be tough due to the extra boat traffic. I decided I had to go for it and ty to inspire the team for one last swim. I jumped in and felt great by some odd chance. Jacque our pilot said this would be a fast section due to the narrowing of the Lake and to take advantage. I stretched my stroke out in an attempt to be economical but fast with the addition of the flow. I did not need to up my cadence to fight tougher water for now. That was going to be likely in swim 6. As mentioned the hours were getting quicker and I was out before I knew it, a quick calculation suggested we were at 57km. At 2km averages for the next 5 swimmers I was likely to have to get in again which would be tough but I was secretly delighted I would likely finish the swim for the team.

The last few km into the finish were as promised the hardest, it was late afternoon, the wind was up, the boats were out and despite the great earlier conditions the Lake was not going to give this to us easily. Finally, it was like being in the sea with good waves and swell to contend with. The team were amazing and followed me in for the last 300m onto the shore where our official observer took our time.

As a former swimmer I had all the skills to accomplish this. I once swam 16km in a winter training single session at Ohio University with Scott Hammond our coach. The others in the team not only had to deal with the cold, the dark and the distance but also work on swim technique and efficiency during busy work lives. I take my swim hat off to them. Well done Lisa, Elsa, Kate, Dipa and Lorraine. Thanks especially to Lorraine who made it happen with sponsorship as 2day boat hire is not cheap!



Clock Watching

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Making timekeeping and length counting easy


The big round thing at the end of the pool?

Maybe to the side of the pool?

Do you see it?

Usually decorated with a blue/red bar across the middle? The bar usually moves in circles, through 360degrees. Maybe now? Divided up into 5sec increments around the edges from 0 at the top?

The Clock! Yes that’s the one and it is there to help your Training. It can tell you more then just how fast you covered that last 100m and how long until you start your next swim. With some ingenuity you can use it without the need for a clumsy watch at your wrist to count the number of repeats you have completed and also present a reasonably accurate Heart Rate measurement.


Clock Management

We will start with an easy exercise first to get the hang of some of the basics. We will also need to get familiar with some basic swim training terminology as well.

Try 5x100m FC off 2:15, basically 5 times 100m (4 lengths in a 25m pool) and you rest until 2:15 expires when we start repeat No2. If we start on the Red 0 then we will start the next repeat on the red 15, the third on the Red 30 and so on.


Start on:

RED 0;        swim 1st repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:

RED 15;       swim 2nd repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:

RED 30;       swim 3rd repeat inside of 2:15;  rest until & depart on:

RED 45;       swim 4th repeat inside of 2:15; rest until & depart on:

RED 0;        swim the last swim inside of 2:15


If we have an approximate idea of our best 100m (i.e. 1:40) then you will possibly come in on the RED 50 (1:50 for 100m) after the first swim. It is unlikely you will suddenly swim 2:20 or 1:20 so we should be able to avoid Red/Blue confusion. We get 25secs rest so we will we go again on the RED 15. Perhaps next swim we return on the RED 3 so we have swum 1:48. We rest until the RED 30 and commence with 3rd 100m repeat. Noting the time it takes to complete the 100m is often just a case of subtracting or adding positions on the clock. RED 15 to RED 3 is 48secs. From the earlier assumption you can also deduce it will be 1:48 rather then 2:18 or 1:18.


Another way to look at this is to think about how the interval patterns move around the clock. To swim 50metres choosing an interval of 1:10 for instance. If you start on the BLUE 0, finish your 2lengths of the 25m pool on the BLUE 50 then we get to rest 20secs before commencing the second 50m on the BLUE 10. i.e.


BLUE 0;       swim 1st repeat inside of 1:10; target of 50;

rest until & depart on;

BLUE 10;     swim 2nd repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;

BLUE 20;     swim 3rd repeat inside of 1:10;  rest until & depart on;

BLUE 40;     swim 4th repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;

BLUE 50;     swim 5th repeat inside of 1:10; rest until & depart on;

BLUE 0;       swim the last swim inside of 1:10


Another 50sec swim will have you finish on the BLUE 0 before we set out again on the 20.

With 12 x 5sec increments marked on the clock 6x50s will have us finish on the 0 again having worked our way around the clock, starting each 50m 10secs later. The last will see us push off on the 50. No7 would have started on the 0 again for a second block if necessary.

For intervals over 60secs we move clockwise around the clock face (Consider this a positive interval). You could move anti clockwise if you chose a tougher interval of 55secs for instance. 12x50metres of FC off 55 sec would have us depart on the RED 0 and then depart after our rest period (possibly not much now!) on the RED 55, then the RED 50. The 12th 50m would start on the RED 5 and have us again complete the set by the RED 0. No13 would have seen us depart on the RED 0 again.

Intervals of 40 or 1:20 (for 25metres or 75metres possibly depending on ability) would see us either move around the clock anti clockwise or clockwise using the 0,20 and 40 as our departure points.


Counting lengths & Pace Control

The clock can help count the number of lengths we have swum during longer swims if you keep on eye on it. Suppose we set ourselves a swim of 400m (16lengths in our 25m pool.) You might already have an idea of your best 400m time, but it is not so important if you do not have an accurate best time. If we start on the RED 0 it is helpful to check the 2length split but not essential. If I see the RED 50 as I touch at 50m then if I have not gone out too hard I should be approx 1:45 (RED 45) at the 4length marker.

  • If you are turning and the clock is at the other end of the pool then this is an ideal opportunity to practice looking up to sight the clock. I would start these swims at the opposite end to the clock for least disruption to your stroke and rhythms since the sighting movement will be most natural.
  • If the clock is to one side then a breath to the side out of the turn will enable a quick snapshot.


Pace control helps and this regular checking of time will guide you. At length 6 we should be seeing RED 40, then RED 35 for a 3mins 35secs 200metre split. The pattern of subtracting 10initially then 5secs with each swim will have us move anti clockwise around the clock. If you lose track as I usually do at around lengths 10 or 12 then we can just check the clock position for an update. Sighting the RED 25 tells me, providing I am swimming similar stroke counts and keeping my HR consistent then I am highly likely to be at 12lengths. Another 4lengths and I will finish on the 15 for a 7:15 swim, which was nicely even splitted off of the 3:35 halfway point. The very first two lengths are generally a fraction quicker due to the more accurate streamlined push and glide, the lower fatigue having just come off a rest and general sensation of easy speed. The key thing to recall is which top you started on!


Above example summarized.

Starting on:

RED 0;        swim 1st 50m in 50sec and turn on:

RED 50;       swim 2nd 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 45;       swim 3rd 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 40;       swim 4th 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 35;       200m split = 3:35;   swim 5th 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 30;       swim 6th 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 25;       swim 7th 50m in 55sec and turn on:

RED 20;       swim 8th and last 50m in 55sec and finish on:

RED 15;       Total time 7:15, with 2nd 200m split of 3:40


At this point you might be feeling surely it is easier to wear a watch or rely on the person in front to do all the counting for you. Keeping a track of your own splits and lengths brings ‘interest and variety’ to your swim, keeping you occupied. It will help with pacing and along with counting strokes provides an almost instant assessment of swim efficiency. It might even keep your mind off the drudgery of a less then exciting swim. Swimming with a watch regardless of size, to me still feels clumsy. Most would avoid wearing their key from a locker at a public pool around their wrist. Both occupy space at a critical part of the arm that needs to feel clean as it enters the water and strong as it sets up an ideal hand, wrist, and forearm position for the pull phase.


Useful swim sets

A useful clock agility set to try is as follows. You can see patterns emerge as you arrive and judge your rest and calculate your departure time. The following could equally work with 25m, 33m or 50m swims depending on your ability. First we will demonstrate this with a positive interval and work from the 0 down to the 30. We will then repeat with a negative interval.


SET1: Start on:

RED 0;        swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs;         rest until & depart on:

RED 10;       swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:

RED 10;       swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs; rest until & depart on:

RED 20;       swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:

RED 20;       swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs; rest until & depart on:

RED 30;       swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs; rest until & depart on:

RED 30;       swim 1 repeat inside of 70secs and finish.


SET2: Start on:

BLUE 0;       swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 0;       swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 50;     swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 50;     swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 40;     swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 40;     swim 1 repeat inside of 50secs, rest until & depart on;

BLUE 30;     swim 1 repeat inside of 60secs and finish.



To further help you keep track of your swims we could set an interval that would help perform the counting for us. Choose a top (BLUE or RED usually) and stick with it. Again depending on ability this might work for 25m, 33m, 50m or even 75m. We swim each repeat within 61 secs.


SET3: Start on:

RED 0;        swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;

RED 1;        swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;

RED 2;        swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;

RED 3;        swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs; rest until & depart on;



RED 19;       swim 1 repeat inside of 61secs and finish for 20 swims.


For a more dramatic climax you could always count the number of repeats down. Start a set of 15x100s off 2:01 on the RED 45. With each swim we get one notch on the clock closer to the top. Its just psychological but we usually get better performances in the pool when we count down from 45 rather then up to 15!


If appropriate to your ability you could again attempt a very tough set of 15x100s of 2:01. Again we use the clock to keep track of the number of repeats we have swum. The added sting to this one is to attempt to get back before the clock hits a certain point. For instance attempt to always finish by the BLUE 0,

starting on the:

RED 0;        swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:30; depart on:

RED 1;        swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:29; depart on:

RED 2;        swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:28; depart on:

For those stronger swimmers the start of this set will be not too challenging but once we are into double figures then suddenly it gets very tough. i.e.

RED 11;       swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:19; depart on:

RED 12;       swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:18; depart on:

RED 13;       swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:17; depart on:

RED 14;       swim 100m, finish by the BLUE 0, target 1:16

Finish 15 swims.




A slightly less intense session that offers a challenge to all, is to swim 20x50m off a 91sec interval. This gets a little trickier. There are 2 ways to do this.

  1. Alternate the interval between RED and BLUE clock hand, thus starting on RED 0, BLUE 1, RED 2, BLUE 3 etc. to finish with RED 18, BLUE 19 for the 19th and 20th repeats
  2. Keep to one colour. RED 0, RED 31, Red 2, RED 33 etc. finish with RED 18, RED 49 for the 19th and 20th repeats


The session starts deceptively easy for most and I almost had a few moans about too much rest but once we were into double figures it started to take its toll. Especially when coupled with the idea of getting back before the RED/BLUE 0 (Option 1) with each swim. So break a minute on the first swim, then 59, 58 as you leave later but come back on the same time. At numbers 17+ you are in the low 40s and it will be challenging!


Heart rate

Another use for the big mostly redundant circle on the wall enables you to do away with taking another item to the pool. Without a Trisuit on covering the belt and stopping it flapping around when swimming I find a traditional HR monitor quite intrusive and distracting. Swim Club coaches often use the Equine Hand Paddle option to quickly get a reading of their swimmers efforts. In a squad situation this might make some sense but you could consider an easier if slightly less accurate option if on your own. As soon as you finish your repeat find the strong pulse in the neck, the Carotid Artery and press with the fingers. Use the clock to count the number of beats in 10 secs and multiply this by 6. Not exactly NASA high tech accuracy but not a bad guide to your training intensity. With frequent use it will act as a benchmark and to see similar times maintained as the HR falls or the HR maintained as you get faster will be a good indicator of improved fitness.


Future technology

At some point, sensors around a pool will measure your speed, laps swum, calculate distance and efficiency making for possibly a reason to mentally switch off from using the Wall Clock. Swim Tag has this right now but you still need to wear a large Tag and the information is not presented in realtime. A download later reveals how far you swam. Not much use if you were 50m away from a new max. Goggles with head up displays are on their way but still more focused on Heart Rate – from the Instabeat website –

“We are building a connected accessory for swimming goggles
that captures real-time heart rate, stroke type, and laps.
Instant heart rate information is fed into the swimmers’ eyes
and presented in a mobile app.”
This product has been floating around for a few years now but is still struggling to take off so for now how about giving our old friend on the wall a chance?!




Can’t we all just get along? Lane Etiquette

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Can’t we all get just along?


As you pay anything from between £4-£6 for a public swim you get to rent a space in the pool for a certain period of time. For your entry fee you get to displace a similar amount of water to me, other Triathletes, the slow Breaststroker, the Olde English Backstroker and even the Sidestroker. Unfortunately, this amount of £ does not get you your own lane and somehow we all have to get along. I don’t think we are at the stage of the cyclist/car user and that whole debate but we do have a quite different array of abilities, arriving differently equipped (wanting to use different equipment at least) and needing to share a common lane space.


I have been moaned at for swimming too fast in the fast lane with Stuart Hayes since a regular fast ‘laner’ was now not quite fast enough to jump in and hang on. I’ve swum with & witnessed James Beckinsale and Gill Sanders being moaned at during her Olympic preparations for being too fast in the usual fast lane. There is a lot of common sense that gets left in the changing rooms by all (and I mean all of us) when it comes to public swimming and we are all guilty. Public session means exactly that and those slower and faster then you or I have paid to be there and while irritating as that might be they have as much right as you or I. When those goggles/blinkers go on and the reps start accumulating though the last thing you want is someone ruining that one good effort when it was all falling into place. An OW swimmer did not hesitate to moan at me for swimming a length of legs only in a warm up so they had to overtake me recently. Should I have moved lanes for a single length? Could the OW swimmer have been more tolerant? If I had been kicking Breaststroke and so becoming an obstacle and inconvenience to his swim I think fair point. I should have moved but more importantly I would have moved. All pools should have a Breaststroke lane for safety reasons.


Some pools are now offering double width lanes so that overtaking is easier and safer. There may be some logic to this but usually this large channel in the middle stays quite empty and we have one big lane operating at a certain pace. Since many pools are 6-8 lanes wide to offer double width reduces the number of lanes available. With more single lanes more ‘abilities’ could be catered for. In the larger 8 lanes pools with singles lanes set aside for perhaps half the pool even other strokes would now have a safe harbour. A slow, medium, fast and strokes lane would help cater for more swim abilities. But what is a slow lane? A fast lane? It varies doesn’t it? At masters Swim Meets in the warm-ups they are usually segregated by times, lane1 is for those usually repeating 75secs per 50m and advancing across the 8lanes of the pool to 40secs per 50m. Slow, medium and fast demarcations at the end of the lanes don’t help, as the unfortunate regular ‘fast lane’ swimmers found out when we encroached on their space. As conditions dictate, some days you might only be a medium swimmer. Maybe those Slow, Med and Fast signs should have some average times on them to help people figure out where they should be. For the new Speedo On platform we spent hours figuring out Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced paces for Adult swimmers not from a swim club background. It took days!


I have had discussions with pool operators pointing some of these findings out since I often hire pool time, a few lanes at a time, during public sessions and witness the carnage that goes on. Lifeguards could act if it does not take too much away from the important duties of observing the pool and help move swimmers up and down lanes to keep the harmony but its never caught on. Most lifeguards spend most of the day cleaning. Ultimately though my business is to help people swim faster which is why I hire lanes. If you are serious about your swim improvements please consider a Tri club, a Masters Team, a coaching organization with hired lanes. Discipline, protocol, a conductor at the end of the lanes orchestrating your fitness in a controlled and safe environment in a social and competitive arena (when appropriate) has to be worth the extra money. These sessions usually work out to be no more then double the cost of a regular pool entry so given how good a supervised swim session should be and how much of a waste of your time a public session could be budgeting for structured sessions is something to add to your annual Fitness Budget. If you work shifts or odd hours and structured team sessions just are not going to work, then here are some guidelines as to what kind of session might just work a little more effectively in a public session and how.


  • Either avoid single lengths on a strict interval or swim them to a more relaxed interval, perhaps use the rest needed waiting for space to dictate the pace of the next length. If you get caught and need to wait for some space pick up the pace on the next and aim to ‘catch up’ the swimmer in front. Really give them some space though, remember a good streamline off the wall will shut down a large gap on an average swimmer. If 3-4 are in front having just pushed off in succession while you rest and coming into the wall are 3-4 more then take that spot and swim steady to recover on this repeat. Too much rest will make the set redundant and leave you possibly cold while you wait around too long as the next group go by.


  • Use HR to measure recovery rather then time so the set is not quite so regimented to the clock, which is where a lot of frustration creeps in. You can be sure that the second you want to get going on a certain interval a chain of swimmers will appear from no where and disrupt your swim. Choose an appropriate distance/main set of repeats and allow your HR to recover by 30-40 BPM between swims or as appropriate to the training effect your coach is trying to create.


  • Avoid drills for part of any length and stick to a main set of full lengths of full stroke. Abrupt changes of pace within a busy lane really make you unpopular. If you have drills to do, change lanes and group them together at a later convenient time in your session. I like the idea, in an ideal swim environment, of starting lengths with a short block of technique work and finishing the remainder of a length with full stroke but this is not ideal in a busy lane. Similarly choose fast drills if you must to keep your average pace constant such as single fist clenched or 6 strokes with both clenched/6 normal hands to avoid abrupt changes in pace


  • Fartlek training is highly adaptable to the pool and can help create a long distance block of multi paced/multi effort swimming. Runners use it and there is no reason why it will not translate into a swimming main set. You can make use of a distance to swim steady and a shorted distance to swim fast or you could choose a number of strokes to swim strongly before doubling that number for an easy block. A water proof MP3 player with play list could also be set up to create different length tempos. Random up-tempo pace sections are good fun when you need to overtake, read on for more details on how to overtake safely. A strong fast overtaking maneuver will really spike the HR and allow a good training effect.


  • No wall open turns are on option to stay out of trouble at the wall. Rather then get caught up in the mass of bodies resting along the wall you could if it is clear & no one is about to push off perform a roll turn into the wall but not touch it and swim away from it. This will avoid the temptation to stop, rest, chat, moan or procrastinate the rest of the session with the others hanging around.


  • Avoid paddles as they invariably will clip someone accidentally and lead to some kind of argument or if necessary keep to the small so that they do not protrude from outside of the hand too much. The soft mitts many manufacturers offer are of use at this time despite performing a much different swimming sensation, they are a lot safer to use in a busy public session.


  • Get your kick set done in a lower lane at the end of your session to keep clear of other swimmers and avoid Breaststroke kick. Breaststroke kick is the most violent and powerful of all the kicks. Most people do not realize how wide their kick is on Breaststroke, which leads to many issues.



The following will also apply to a structured team session and help everyone stay safe and keep the lane harmony to its fullest if some or all could be incorporated.


  1. Never suddenly stop in midstream unless it’s an emergency, it’s extremely disturbing for anyone immediately behind you. If you do suffer from cramp or lose your goggles, try to turn sideways and move to one side of the lane quickly so that anyone behind can still continue to swim past you without interference. The swimmer behind you can only base their swim movements (i.e. plans to overtake etc) on what they expect you to do and where they expect you to be. Sudden deviations from this will cause problems and lead to crashes.


  1. Overtaking: just like in a car always check behind you before pulling out to make sure you are not inconveniencing anyone who might also be trying to overtake you. Pick your spot for overtaking carefully, if we divide the length of the pool into thirds I would suggest the following:


Overtaking in the first two thirds of the length: you should move into the middle of the lane checking there are no oncoming swimmers in front. After a gentle and polite tap of the person’s feet in front move around them quickly. It is your responsibility to get around the person in front safely and quickly the swimmer in front should not have to change their swim to accommodate you. Slowing down a fraction if it is you being overtaken I am sure would be appreciated from the person doing the overtaking. With this in mind, as mentioned, the person in front should not attempt to help the person behind by moving around or getting out of the way. The person behind cannot anticipate these unexpected movements.


Overtaking into the wall, i.e. the last 3rd of the length: It should be a natural movement for any swimmer to move towards to the centre of the lane as they approach the wall from about the flags in to execute their turn centrally. This will aid a smooth movement to the opposite side of the pool for the next length. From this you can see overtaking at this point can be quite hazardous. If you plan to overtake someone in this area it is best to ease back a fraction, allow them the centre line and you should stay towards the side of the lane that you had been swimming up. As they move to the centre and push off to the opposite lane side you will turn and push off into the centre of the lane immediately setting you up to remain centre of the lane for your overtaking attempt in the first third of the next length. At this point you can see it’s important to check behind to be sure no one is attempting to overtake you.


  1. Intervals: 5second gaps are designed to allow you to swim your own swim without immediately gaining a tow from the swimmer in front if you push off too soon. Please be accurate with this, don’t be a drag queen. 10 sec gaps if possible would ensure you get your best-unaided swim with no draft from the person in front. If you do swim on someone’s feet you really are not putting in an individual effort. You would be vilified on the bike for doing this for too long so try not to let it become a habit in the pool. Leading a lane means you are working harder then those following. You get more out of the session than those following and will reap more from the time put into the session.


  1. If lane one swims clockwise, then lane two should swim anti clockwise and so on across the pool. This way you both lanes travel in the same direction when you are closest to each other side by side. This will help reduce crashing arms from any oncoming swimmers in the next lane whose hand trajectory is a little lower and wide. Not adhered to on the continent but crammed into our small 25m pools compared to the multitude of 50m pools there with our narrower lanes perhaps it is a good thing that we are a little more careful. Regardless of swimming clockwise or anticlockwise stay over to the side of the lane, keep the ‘middle’ lane of the lane free for overtaking.


6 Finish at the wall. Stopping short 2metres at the end of each set in the shallow end due to someone being in the way is a lot of missed distance each year. Swim through the offending gutter clutter blocking your swim finish, they will soon get the message. (Be careful/polite in those public sessions) Even if just one metre is lost with each finish it could be 30-40m each session. Try not to be one of those resting too long on the wall. Hanging on the wall at either end cluttering up people’s space to turn wins no friends


Being courteous to your fellow swimmers will go a long way. Also to your coach – If late, it is polite to get in at the back of the lane and proceed with the current set, slowly getting warmed up until you are ready to resume your normal position further up the lane. Ask your coach what the set is rather then jump in sneakily and follow hoping to figure it out. It is courteous and will stop you swimming into the back of the person in front when they start to unexpectedly kick and you did not notice. Bring two sets of goggles with you so that if there are any leaks, then swap them. Try not to sit there for 10 minutes fixing them. This infuriates coaches. Shower ahead of time; wear Flip-flops on poolside and swim hats in the water. This would be a great help to allow pool operators to start using fewer chemicals. We would all benefit from this and you’re more than likely going to race in a swim cap anyway aren’t you.






Henley Classic 2.1km swim

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Week in week out I lecture on how in openwater there is nothing to help keep you swimming straight apart from your stroke. Only a balanced, symmetrical movement with limbs creating equal movements should be relied upon, the alternative is lots of sighting!  You might have read this a few months ago as i discussed how many Triathletes effectively swim single armed –

Single Arm Swimming

Well finally all that goes out the window in the Henley Classic Swim as you swim on part of the rowing course that is a 2.1km straight stretch of the river which has two solid lane ropes either side to keep you penned in! Fantastic I hear you say. Well, this comes at a price, alarm goes at 3:05, yes Gatwick o’clock! The swimmers need to be out before the rowers get in and finishing a race before 5:30am does take some adjusting to. It feels like lunchtime but you need breakfast and a nap!

It is quite surreal seeing all the booms and barriers in the water to keep the rowing lanes separate and then there are the officials huts that seem to float on water. It is has a race course feel to it. The guys at Henley always put on a good show. Jeremy came for some lessons about 12 yrs ago and having swum the Bridge to Bridge and a few other events I have no qualms endorsing the races and the organisation. Bags ready when you exit, flip-flops in the right place, large buoys, lots of safety cover, hot chocolate & kayaks everywhere. And glorious Henley.

The stats above show a slow 2.2km but that included a near 4min pre start as I got in for a warmup. I won my AG in 28:28 so that was ok considering I am in quite heavy training for Geneva and the rest of the summer.

Camping was quite fun and it helped to be on site when the alarm went and bag check closed at 3:45. A parade of rubber down the river bank to the start under the amazing Lazer that outlines the straight course and before you know it, it is 4:30am and it is time to swim to the start. A mix of Triathletes and Openwater swimmers combine to make it quite a fast race with many categories including Non Wetsuits.

The water was warm and crystal clear, just idyllic conditions and you swim past some amazing sights, houses and boats and use the clock tower in Henley to sight once it is just light enough to see! It has been two years since the Bridge to Bridge for me <now the Thames Marathon> and I might just have to check dates for that again.

I mentioned we taught Jeremy all those years ago well it was lovely at the finish to have a few people in the water come over and say thanks for helping x,y,z many years ago with lessons and how they were enjoying their swimming. Matt M was a popular & fast swimmer at Putney Fitness not that long ago <now with Reading SC>  and great to be on a podium with him. Amazing progress. As  a coach and teacher there is nothing better then sharing a finish line with those you have helped.