I swim a lot … but I’m not getting faster …?

Ten tips to beat The Swimmer’s Plateau

Do you swim a lot but have stopped improving? You’re no longer getting faster?

This is a common issue for swimmers of all levels of ability – learners, people who are training for an event and elite competitive swimmer – and is called The Plateau.

Even elite swimmers can hit The Plateau and despite training for hours each day, they are not recording faster times, sometimes they are even getting slower times than they have done in the past.

The solution is not training more. The solution is to train differently, even just small changes can bust The Plateau and get you improving again.

If you aren’t getting fast anymore, despite lots of swimming metres and hours, think about these ten tips to beat The Plateau:

  1. Make sure you are having fun: Swimming is fun, that’s just science. Swimming only works if you’re having fun. Moving fast through the water, diving in, feeling strong in the water. These are all 100% enjoyable. If you have hit The Plateau go back to doing the stuff that drew you to the water in the first place and have a bit of fun every time you dive in. Don’t get out of the water if you’re not smiling and feeling amazing.
  2. Ask someone to watch you: A coach or an experienced swimmer may be able to see something small that you can improve to help you through The Plateau. You might be making a small mistake, every stroke that is keeping you from improving. The trick then is to act on the advice and feel the difference.
  3. Change things: Change the way you train. Go to a different venue. Complete a different set of reps. Swim for longer reps, or shorter sprints. Do more backstroke, breaststroke or some stroke that you rarely use.
  4. Be Patient: Think positively and stay conscious and in charge of your body every single stroke. If you are just going through the motions, you are not maximising your potential to swim well and swim effectively. Every single movement of every part of your body is important. Feel your way through and stay attuned to how your body is moving through the water.
  5. Go to the physio: If you have aches and pains and niggling little shoulder injuries, go and get help, get a massage, get fixed up. Little aches and pains might disappear from your conscious mind when you’re swimming but they don’t go away and could be impacting on how you move.
  6. Do some dryland training: Change things up a bit and move your body in different ways. This can help you get out of the rut and break through The Plateau. Go running, cycling or head to the gym.
  7. Use some swim gear – Fins (flippers, paddles, snorkel) to get you moving differently and using your systems more effectively. What is really happening is you are focussed and making more of an effort with specific muscle systems.
  8. Just do sprints – Do some sessions of short sharp superfast sprinting. Maybe you have adjusted t the hard endurance training and the long-distance reps. Break through The Plateau by just going flat out.
  9. Swim with friends: Ask a friend to come train with you or find a group to swim with. Sometimes we hit The Plateau because we have made our swimming a isolated, lonely activity. Make it a social exercise and don’t be concerned if you are not as fast as other people.
  10. Take a rest: have a rest week away from the pool or the open water and get recharged and reenergised. Maybe you’ve been pushing it too hard. During your week off, do plenty of stretching and other activities.
Photo by Jennifer Polanco on Pexels.com

Living, and swimming, with MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

By Belinda Rogers

I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for nearly 20 years now and although it has been life changing, I’ve made sure it hasn’t been life destroying.

My life is happy and active, even though I am now a full-time wheelchair user. I find it is less the MS that restricts me and more the obstacles that our society throws in my way that makes my life difficult. With the right equipment and support and true accessibility in our communities there is very little that I can’t do and enjoy.

And this is where MS Australia does so much excellent work in supporting people living with the disease, their carers and supporters, and in doing amazing research into the disease. Without MS working tirelessly on our behalf educating and advocating for us, life would be much harder for me and all the many others living with MS.

LINK: What is MS?


I love swimming and heading to the beach for the day. With more and more beaches rolling out accessible wheelchair beach matting and having beach wheelchairs available for use, this is easier and easier for me to do.

Accessible Beaches Australia has a directory of beaches near you that wheelchair users and people living with mobility challenges can access.

With the right wheelchair I can go bushwalking and spend the day out and about exploring with my dog. I have a wheelchair modified vehicle so I can retain my independence and make the most of going to new places.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com


Just before Covid hit I was fortunate enough to win one of the MS Go For Gold Scholarships which enabled me to achieve a long held dream and do a self drive holiday for a month through the UK. And it was through the generosity of sponsors of the MS Mega Swim, amongst other fund raisers, that the Scholarship is made possible to so many of us each year.

MS hasn’t ruined my life, but it isn’t all adventures and excitement either. There are many days when I am laid low by crippling fatigue and pain, unable to move because of agonising muscle spasms or even unable to eat because of lancing facial nerve pain.

And there are the indignities of bladder problems as well to deal with. But again, MS Australia is invaluable in the support they offer with their MS Connect phone service. Any time you ring, you’re able to speak with a knowledgeable and compassionate person to guide you through the tougher times.

The MS Employment team is also available with excellent advice to help you navigate your rights at work and to help you keep working as long as you want to. I worked continuously from the time of diagnosis until retirement a couple of months ago.

Without the organisation behind me, the last twenty years would have been so much harder. But with MS working in partnership with me on my journey,  living with the disease has been less devastating than it could have been.

Please, consider making a small (or not so small) donation to our MS Mega Swim fundraiser. Our club, Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club, is participating in the MS Mega Swim 18-19 February 2022 to raise $$ and awareness to assist people like Belinda who are living with MS.

Click through to our MS Mega Swim page and give a little so people with MS can fully participate in activities many people take for granted…

Should I use swim training equipment like flippers, paddles, pull buoys, boards etc …?

You want to improve your swimming so should you use equipment to give your training a boost?

You use equipment like weights and bands and machines and gloves and all sorts of other things in other sports so what about swimming equipment? Does it really make you better?

The answer is Yes …. and No 😊 haha, you knew I was gonna say that.

If you want to improve, there’s one piece of equipment every swimmer NEEDS and that is a pool buoy (sometimes called a pull buoy).

Pool Buoy

You use it between your legs to focus on your strokes, where most of your go-forward comes from. Plus you can hold it in your hands as a kickboard as well.

A pool buoy raises you into the correct body position. Don’t kick when using it, not even a little bit. Cutting out kicking means you won’t get puffed out and you can focus on the strength element of swimming – the upper body movements, the arm strokes. Make each stroke count, make each arm stroke long and strong. Use the pool buoy regularly if you are serious about swimming.

Mostly it should go between your thighs, but for more advanced workouts place the buoy between your knees and even ankles for a really good strength workout.

Flippers / fins

These are more controversial because although they are very useful they can become a negative training tool – turning into a crutch or even making your kick worse.

Good swimmers need shorter fins

The best flippers/fins for swim training are short and relatively stiff, not long and bendy snorkelling flippers. The long flippers can lead to too much bending at the knees and that’s a negative when you take them off again. The long flippers can help with ankle flexibility for learners but the goal for good swimmers is a small strong kick so shorter fins are usually best.

Firstly flippers/fins can help ease the pounding your shoulders take when you swim regularly, so that’s a positive, particularly if you have sore/injured shoulders or muscles in your upper body.

Secondly, they increase your leg strength and endurance if you exert some kicking effort when using them.

Thirdly they help with ankle flexibility – and this is all-important. Focus on the down kick and use them until your ankles start to ache.

Overall, yeah, give them a go but don’t use them all the time and use them properly, don’t put them on just to swim fast without trying hard.

The other thing flippers/fins do for swimmers trying to improve is raise their speed and their body position, so everything feels right. This is fun and a good learning opportunity. This is the feeling you want when you don’t have flippers on your feet, so feel it, then work towards it, but don’t be fooled by it.

Kickboard

Yes, you need to do some kicking and you can use a board or your pool buoy to assist. You don’t need a flotation device to practice kicking but it can help.

There’s two ways to hold a kickboard. Hands at the top and hands at the bottom. When your hands are at the top (front) of the board, your head is up, looking forward. This means you have to bend (arch) your back more to keep your feet at the surface of the water.

When your hands are at the bottom of the board, you can put your head down, look at the bottom of the pool and get into the correct swimming body position. You can even take an arm stroke to breathe on the side.

Paddles

Hand paddles can be large or small, and come with straps or without. Paddles can help developing swimmers learn to catch and pull the water more efficiently.

Swim training paddles – without straps and with straps

Paddles can help good swimmers get stronger and use their swimming as a strength workout. I like the paddles that have NO straps because you have to use a correct technique or they will fall off.

The problem with swim training equipment

All swim equipment can be overused and can lead to us not having a clear idea of where our swimming is at.

In short, use all these toys, some of the time. But swim with no toys every time. So, you might put fins on for part of your workout sometimes, but never for all of your workout.

It’s easy to use fins/flippers too much. Beware of the strain they place on your knees and ankles and the false impression they leave you with about how fast you are.

I like to always use the pool buoy for a few hundred metres in the middle of my training sessions, but I never use it in the warm-up when I am stretching and not straining anything or the main set, when I am focusing on swimming at ‘race pace.’

Paddles are an occasional add-on to give me an extra workout.

The only equipment you REALLY need are goggles, towel and speedos. Have fun everyone.

Yes children can learn to swim in the sea

What is old is new again and there’s nothing older than kids learning to swim in the open water. For generations parents have taken their kids to the local pool for swimming lessons. Now the outside open air, the space, social distance and the healthy salt water are appealing to parents looking for swim lessons for their kids.

And the kids are loving it.

Children who learn to swim in the sea are not fazed by the smallest wave, seaweed or jellyfish. They learn to love the outdoors and be a just a bit more resilient to the challenges of the natural environment. Very soon, after just a few lessons, the kids are asking when can we go back to the beach for swimming?

Learning swim skills in the open water

Relaxing and enjoying yourself is the number one item on the learn to swim agenda. Swimming only really works when you aren’t freaking out, scared or panicking. So learning to love the beach and all the flora and fauna is important.

Human bodies float just a bit easier in the salt water so getting that all-important high horizontal body position is just a bit quicker for the children swimming in the sea. You have to be able to float before you can swim so this step is achieved faster in the ocean than in a pool.

Blowing bubbles under the water is the next step and this means learning to live with a bit of water occasionally getting in the nose and mouth. For kids who are sensitive to chemicals like chlorine this can be an issue. But the salt water is healthy and getting used to sea water in and around your face is important for water safety. If you fall off a boat or jetty, you want to be confident of being able to swim back, not in shock from the strange feeling of water on your face.

At Williamstown Beach we set up floating marker buoys for the kids to swim around, so we can do ‘laps’ just like at the pool.

In addition to freestyle we teach breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, survival backstroke, sidestroke, swimming under the water and treading water.

But more than that – in the sea we can teach straight swimming and group swimming more easily from the beginning, while kids are still developing their stroke technique. We also teach sighting, surfing, diving under waves and dealing with the chop and rough water. Kids learn about currents, rips, tides and sea creatures.

In just a few classes kids who have never before been comfortable in the open water are loving the whole experience and they are already showing signs of more resilience.

Even small kids learning the basics can do it in the sea. We are teaching kids as young as 6 in groups at the beach. These kids will enjoy the water for a lifetime. They are learning to love the great outdoors and be safe at the beach.

If you are interested in your kids learning to swim at the beach, follow this link to our booking page for information about our Junior Dolphins for under 10s and Junior Dolphins LEVEL UP for Over 10s groups.