Open Water News

How to train for a long distance swim event or tri

Nine tips for building endurance in swimming.

Are you planning a big swim event or three this summer? Maybe a triathlon? 

Triathlons come in a few distances: 

  • Sprint = 750m swim + 20km bike + 5km run 
  • Olympic = 1.5km swim + 40km bike + 10km run 
  • Long Course = 3km swim + 80km bike + 20km run 
  • Half iron = 1.9km swim + 90.1km bike + 21.1km run 
  • Ironman = 3.9km swim + 180.2km bike + 42.2km run 

Open water swim events also have fairly standard distances: 

  • 1.2km (like Pier to Pub or WOW Challenge 1.2) 
  • 2.5km (plenty of these around) 
  • 5.0km This is a FINA junior official distance 
  • 10km FINA official swimming marathon 
  • 25km FINA ultra-marathon (don’t even think about it) 
  • Channel swim (like the English Channel) = over 33km 

Depending on your starting level of fitness, for any event over about 1000m, you need to put in a significant amount of work to build swimming endurance.  

Here are some tips to follow to build your endurance for open water and triathlons: 

  1. Learn to swim straight and sight effectively in the open water. Swimming off-course can add hundreds of metres to your swim event. Both sides of your body have to be balanced. Strokes have to be long and straight. To sight effectively, look before you breathe in by lifting your head only as high as your goggles out of the water. Your nose should still be in the water – blowing out bubbles. Make it a natural part of your stroke. Never inhale then left your head to look around. 
  2. Swim three times per week minimum – in addition to your other fitness activities. To build swimming endurance, you should be doing two hard pool sessions and one long open water swim (minimum) every week. It doesn’t matter whether you run a lot, cycle a lot or go to the gym. You still need to swim three times per week to maintain your skills and feel for the water. There are plenty of fit people who fall apart in the swim leg. 
  3. Going for a long slow swim does not make you a long-distance swimmer or eligible to enter long distance events. An event is always tougher than training, even if only in your mind. So, you need to raise your heart rate during training to build your fitness and endurance. Your heart rate while swimming needs to be at least double (minimum) your resting heart rate to get any fitness benefit from the activity. Swim fast and train smart. 
  4. Complete 2.0 km each swim: Swimming 500m – 1000m per swim session doesn’t cut it. Yes, start small but quickly build up to two or more kilometres. Really if you are not swimming 2km total pre session, your progress and improvement is going to be very slow. You are not pushing yourself. 
  5. Swim intervals on a timed cycle. Yes you want to swim a long distance but the best way to build up to that is to swim short distances repeatedly on a limited time cycle. So, 10 x 100m @ 2.0 minutes is better for you than 1km @ 20 mins. 
  6. Stretching: Yes. Do stretching. Lots of stretching.  Stretch your calves, your thighs and do a full range of stretches every day. Do the swimmer’s stretch – elbow behind head. Firstly, stretching helps you avoid cramping, strains and muscle injuries. Secondly stretching helps you be flexible and fluid and swim properly in the water.  
  7. As you get close to the event, swim at least half the distance of your event a couple of times. So, if you are training for a 5.0km event, swim 2.5km or more at least twice in the month leading up to it. 
  8. Experiment with feeds and drinks you will use before and during the event. Don’t leave it to the event to try that new energy goo. Personally, I like bananas and apples for food and sweet black tea for a drink, with hydralite for a few days beforehand. Don’t forget to take your vitamins and eat sensibly. 
  9. Taper – Yes ease off in the last week before the event. So that means no heavy weights, hard gym sessions or extreme workouts of any kind. But still go for your three swims and do some exercise every day. 

Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

Dump your lazy, land-based breathing habit with these ten tips to breathe like a swimmer.

There are four steps to sustainable swimming – 

  1. Breathing, 
  2. Floating, 
  3. Kicking,
  4. Arm strokes. 

Every learner and every parent thinks only about number 4) – developing those big powerful arm strokes.

Plenty of adult learners neglect the most important first step – breathing – and breathing for swimming is unlike breathing for any other physical activity. When you enter the water, you need to start breathing like a swimmer and drop your “land-based breathing” habits. 

Land based breathing is often shallow and slow. Land-based breathing is often inhaling through the nose. When you’re exercising on land, your breathing is often fast and in and out through the mouth and nose. To breathe like a swimmer is to get the maximum benefit from each lungful of air. Swimmers focus on the exhale part of breathing because inhaling comes naturally – it is a hardwired reflex.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here are ten tips to get you breathing like a swimmer. If some of them sound repetitive, umm, yes: 

  1. Inhale deeply and quickly through your mouth. The inhale has to be fast and deep – the air must get to the bottom of your lungs straight away. And it has to be through your mouth. You might not realise that land-based breathing does not involve quick, deep inhaling. Usually it’s more relaxed, takes a long time and breathing is often quite shallow. Mostly we breathe in and out through your nose. In swimming It’s in through the mouth and out through the nose.  
  2. Exhale slowly and steadily from your nose – you can even close your mouth and hum to ensure the air is leaving through your nose. 
  3. Swimmers generally don’t hold their breath. When your face is in the water, you should be exhaling, slowly from your nose. Your mouth can be closed (so a little hum is good). Little bubbles are leaving your nose so no water can get in and you are safe. 
  4. Practice breathing like a swimmer – quick and deep inhale through the mouth, and long slow exhale from the nose by putting your head under the water and watching your bubbles. You should be able to produce a steady stream of little bubbles from each nostril that can last up to about 10 seconds. 
  5. When you turn to breathe in, your aim is to only lift your head enough so that one eye is out of the water, and one remains under the water. So, you aren’t lifting your head very much at all, you are turning your torso using your abs.  
  6. Practice taking one breath every three or four strokes. You can take one breath every two strokes when you’re racing or swimming fast but as much as possible train yourself to lengthen your exhale. 
  7. Learn bi-lateral breathing. Everyone has a favourite side for breathing but you really do need to be able turn to the other side if necessary to take an inhale. And always breathing on one side means you will develop an unbalanced stroke and become stronger on one side than the other. You won’t swim straight in the open water. 
  8. Your leading arm needs to hold you up as you inhale. Don’t start your stroke until your head is back down, exhaling. So, if I turn to my left to inhale, my right arm is stretching forward holding me up. My left arm is pulling back hard but my right arm stays in that forward position until my lungs are full of air again. 
  9. Breathing is done quickly in the back half of the stroke. If I am breathing on my left side, my right arm is stretched forward and I turn to inhale when my left arm is passing under my face. The inhale must be all over by the time my left arm is returning back, through the air to the front of the stroke.
  10. Breathing is all important to swimming. When you’re exhaling you are relaxing. When you hold your breath you are tense and that is bad for swimming. Children develop their swimming breathing skills by playing in the water, by going under the water, by blowing bubbles in the water so spend time doing all these things.
Photo by Jess Loiterton on Pexels.com

Most importantly – remember this: Swimmers don’t hold their breath, swimmers exhale and stay relaxed. Play around in the water and blow bubbles to get on top of this skill.

Swimming with dolphins at Williamstown Beach, Melbourne

There have been more dolphins at Williamstown Beach this autumn and winter than I have seen before. And what happened yesterday has never happened to me before.

So what has happened was – Rick and I were swimming quite quickly when I saw a little dolphin swim underneath us – the tail was flat not a vertical sharky tail.

I looked around and saw a couple of big dolphins bobbing up and down next to us. As soon as I got near a no-boating marker, I stood up on its ledge to look around. Then it became clear that we were surrounded by dolphins. There were about 20 and they wanted to say hello. So I cleaned the goggles and tried to duck dive underwater and swim around with the dolphins.

They were in no hurry to leave us and it all happened very close to shore.

Dolphins in Port Phillip Bay are a separate species called Burrunan Dolphins and are under threat. There’s said to be about 120 left in the bay and a smaller number in Gippsland Lakes.

Burrunan dolphins have white markings on their tummy.

Respect always pays dividends in swimming

Most of us are not training for the next Olympics but we all want to be fit, healthy, strong and to keep improving at swimming. Maybe you have a goal (good idea) to complete a big swim event in the future. One thing I like about swimming is the respect you need to make it all work. This goes for adults as well as kids.

Kids who find themselves in competitive squads and going to race meets soon work out there are no short cuts, no way to improve on their own. To prosper in the sport, respect must become a cornerstone trait of their personalities.”

In this apparently very individual sport, they need the group, the team, the coach.

There’s no shortcuts. You need your team, your friends, your coach.

When you make swimming your physical exercise activity you are taking on the toughest of all sports. Sure, it’s very low impact, so pretty safe, but it’s tough physically and mentally. You require strength, aerobic capacity, cardio fitness, co-ordination and all-over conditioning. Talent and body type can help but these attributes are dwarfed by commitment and respect. In order to succeed in our world, it all boils down to one thing: Respect.”

There’s method behind the occasionally repetitive madness of swim training. You don’t get much benefit from doing something once. You have to repeat that thing, that skill, that set, hundreds of times over months and years to change yourself. But more than that – You have to accept and be ok with all that. You have your swim training friends to share the experience with. This is your lifestyle and when you respect and accept it, you get the full benefits.

You’ll meet the swimmers with all the gear, the apps, the jargon who are doing it on their own. Please reach out to them and offer support 🙂. You need to be in a group with other swimmers, doing it together, respecting each other, learning and supporting each other if you want to get the most of this thing.

I’m not saying this to get you to pay me money (really 😉), I’m just urging you to be part of the scene, participate in the groups, learn from each other, support your mates. This thing is not an ordinary sport, it’s a level up from everything else. 

The flipside of respect is that really good swimmers can commonly become a bit arrogant – perhaps coz they know they are better? Haha this is an old problem and issue.  But if you level up from mere mortal human being to swimmer, and to open water swimmer, maybe you have earnt the right to feel good about yourself. You’ll know when you’re good, coz you’ll have respected the process of getting there.

And check out our latest vid from the 9am Swim group here.

Get your hand behind your elbow …

“What are you talking about? Get your hand behind your elbow? What does that even mean?”

A long straight freestyle stroke is much more efficient than lots of short strokes. And long strokes are faster through the water, even though your stroke rate falls.

Freestyle technocrats – swim geeks who focus too much on correct technique (like me)  – have an important, if obscure, rule:

Get your hand behind your elbow as soon as possible and keep it there as long as possible, even in the recovery stage.

Left hand is behind the left elbow, even in the recovery phase

Step by step, that means:

  1. After your hand enters and catches the water, get your forearm vertical as soon as you can, bending from the elbow, using your bicep strength. This brings your hand ‘behind your elbow’ if looking from above.
  2. Keep your elbow high and forward during the pull and push phase of the freestyle stroke and lead with your hand.
  3. Brush your thigh, or hip, with your thumb to ensure that you have long straight freestyle stroke.
  4. At the end of the stroke, as your hand exits the water down near your thigh, lift and pull your elbow (not your hand) to bring it back to the front. Drag your hand forward by pulling with your elbow. Leave your hand behind and let it ‘hang’ off your elbow as you recover your arm to the front to begin the next stroke.
Right hand is ‘behind’ the right elbow

Don’t be a crab. Crabs can’t get their claws behind their little elbows. Their claws are always pointed forward from their elbows and many, many freestylers are a bit like crabs.

As soon as their hands exit the water at the end of their stroke, they lead with their hand and get it back in front of their elbow. This leads to shorter strokes, shoulder injuries and pain in the elbow joint. Also leads to heartache for your coach when watching from the pool deck ☹.

John Travolta Staying Alive (from Saturday Night Fever). This is a great freestyle drill

Try the ‘Stayin Alive’ (John Travolta) drill. Like the Fingerdrag drill, this one is mostly about your elbows – keeping them high and forward and getting your hands behind them.

In the Stayin Alive drill, you get both arms straight at the same time and really push them straight.

One arm is stretched forward to 10 or 11 o’clock and the other arm is stretched back to 4 or 5 o’clock.

It’s an exaggeration of good freestyle (like all drills). It will help you train your brain to tell your body to keep your strokes long and get your hand behind your elbow.

Wakey wakey – are you a snaky swimmer?

“I’m raising awareness about Swim Self-Delusion-itis. You could have it now and not even realise.”

You might not even realise that you’re snaking your way down the pool or through the open water. This is one of those bad technique habits you can get into without even knowing you’re doing it. 

Is everything just a bit difficult? Are you looking up at the sky when you turn to inhale? Are you swimming off in an unpredictable direction in the open water? Are you trying really hard but not really improving as much as you’d like? Is there lots of splashing and moving and not enough gliding and sliding through the water?

Right now, you’re probably saying: NO this doesn’t apply to me. But how would you know?

You most probably don’t even know that you’re rolling around too far and not keeping your hips steady. You might be bringing your arms under your body in an S-shaped pull and that will lead to over correcting, sinking and not enough strength pushing you forward.  

You might be creating a lot of resistance through the water and don’t even realise how good it can feel when you get things right.

You’re probably also be doing a big scissor kick if you are a snaky swimmer, especially on the stroke when you are turning to inhale.  This is part of the over-correction and balancing act that snaky swimmers have to perform to stay traveling in a straight direction. 

Video is the best friend of the snaky swimmer and the enemy of Swim Self-Delusion-itis, a serious condition impacting millions of people around the world. I’m raising awareness about Swim Self-Delusion-itis because this huge problem can affect even the most confident swimmers. You may not know you have it right now.

So please, get it checked out. A friend watching on poolside might be able to tell you, or show you with a simple video on their phone. A coach is best placed (of course) to give you advice and analyse your technique. But left undiagnosed, this condition can worsen so don’t put your head in the sand and pretend that it can’t affect you.

Being a rolly and snaky swimmer is best diagnosed with video because, when told about it, most swimmers flatly deny it..  

“I am staying firm in my core.” 

“I am reaching out straight, I’m pulling through straight.” 

“My legs are straight and my kick is small and steady.” 

Sure. Sure. sure. Let’s fix you up Snaky. 

First: Swim down the centre of a pool lane with the line underneath you. Make sure you keep your hands well wide of the line through the entire 360-degree cycle of each arm stroke. That means your hand will never break your view of the line. 

Your hands need to point to 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock upon entry. Your shoulders are wider you’re your eyes so you might think you are reaching straight in front of you when you are clearly coming in close to your body’s centre line. 

Second: Do some kicking practice. This is important but you probably don’t want to hear it. I don’t like saying it. You don’t need a board, just kick for a few laps. Keep your kicks small, and your legs straight from the hips down to the toes. Practice a fast furious kick and a slower more deliberate kick that still keeps you moving forward. 

Third: Buy borrow or steal a swimmer’s training snorkel – This will really help you develop a nice balanced stroke technique.  

Try these drills: 

The Swordfish – kicking for three strokes on each side is a good one for this. Like all drills it exaggerates the movements we need to develop the good steady core technique that stops snaking. 

The John Travolta Stayin Alive drill – that means both your arms should be straight at one point in the stroke cycle. One arm reaching forward to 11 o’clock and one arm reaching back, down near your hips pointing at 5 o’clock. 

One arm freestyle – Hold one arm out in front perfectly straight and complete a whole lap of freestyle with one arm. This helps you develop balance and core strength when you need it – during the pull phase. You should be able to swim straight even using just one arm.

Ten tips to build your aerobic capacity

Do you lose your breath and get ‘puffed out’ after swimming just a short distance?  Do you want to be able to go further than you have gone before – not just while swimming but during all physical activities?

Or maybe, like a lot of athletes, you can run or bike for an hour, non-stop, but you can’t swim for more than a minute or two without needing a rest?  You’re not actually tired, you don’t have muscle burn, you’re just ‘puffed out.’ 

More than other sports and physical activities, you need to develop excellent aerobic / lung capacity for endurance swimming. And using swimming to develop aerobic capacity – the ability of the lungs and body to absorb oxygen and transport it to your muscles quickly – will help in other activities.

You build aerobic capacity by swimming long distances but this is difficult when you have to keep stopping. Swimming only works as a fitness activity when you have developed good aerobic capacity. You can speed up the process by trying these ten aerobic training tips. Some may not apply to you but at least some will definitely be worthwhile thinking about and trying: 

  1. First – go back to basics. Every now and then playa round in the water, diving down, blowing bubbles. Forget about inhaling. Your body knows how to do it without thinking. Just make sure you are breathing in deeply and quickly when you do emerge to get air.
  2. Exhale and relax – You only need to consciously think about getting your exhale correct. But are you actually thinking about it? Or are you focused on: ‘When am I breathing in again?’ Sit on the bottom of the pool or sea and exhale. When you have no air left in your lungs, stay down for a few seconds before coming up – to reprogram your body to not to be impatient about inhaling. 
  3. Once you can breathe out a steady stream of small bubbles for ten seconds, then make sure you can emerge to quickly breathe in and submerge again and repeat the ten second exhale. Just because you can do it once doesn’t really count. You have to be able to come up for air and go back down again, sit on the bottom again and make your exhale last ten seconds again. And again. And again.  
  4. Master bi-lateral breathing. Breathing on both sides means you have more control, more confidence and more choice about when you breathe. There’s no reason why you can’t inhale on both sides of your body while swimming, except in your head. Your head controls your body and all its movements. Take control.
  5. Keep your head down and exhale for three freestyle strokes for four full 25m laps. Then try going for five strokes, then seven strokes. This is difficult. Try swimming a whole 25m lap with no inhaling. The longer you can go without breathing in the better you are getting at using the oxygen you have in your lungs already. Don’t overdo this. Don’t get light-headed. 
  6. Even when you are doing a lot of strokes without inhaling, avoid holding your breath as much as possible. When your head is in the water, you need to be exhaling as much as possible – so a long slow steady stream of bubbles from your nose (mainly) is the key to all this. 
  7. In the open water the general rule is we inhale more often than in the pool but we need to be more confident about our aerobic capacity in the choppy sea than in the flat calm pool. If you want to swim in the open water, these skills are twice as important for you. Don’t breathe everything out, keep a little air in your lungs when swimming in the open water. But be able to keep your head down if needed.
  8. Swimming fast in intervals with an elevated heart rate will build your aerobic capacity a lot faster than long slow swims – but you won’t feel it initially because you’ll be having interval breaks. Keep an eye on the timing clock – improvement is incremental so may not notice without checking your times. But most importantly, occasionally go for a long swim – longer than you think you can manage and you will surprise yourself. You may have developed good aerobic capacity without really testing it out. Then you’ll really be getting fit, feeling the muscle burn because you’re at the edge of your aerobic system’s ability to supply the muscles and your anaerobic system is taking over. 
  9. There’s a wall in swimming similar to The Wall you hit when going for a long run. It can be harder to just push through it in swimming (without stopping) because, you know, you’re in the water and you want to keep moving and not drown. That wall will dissipate (have faith in yourself) and keep going. When you are puffed out, your anaerobic system is ready to take over.  
  10. The better you get at all this, the better you’ll be at all aerobic sports and activities, not just swimming. Developing your lung capacity with these swimming exercises will make you a better runner, cyclist, sportsperson and human person. Swimming is the best way to build your aerobic capacity. Once that’s done your body starts to build strength and anaerobic ability itself when you workout. All sportspeople, footy players, netballers, runners, cyclists, couch potatoes, armchair experts etc, should be going for a regular swim and they will, after the Coach Jason revolution, when it will be mandatory.

Ten tips for a magical Lazy Freestyle

Murray Rose in the early 60s did it as did Shane Gould and many other Australian crawlers but then it fell out of fashion in the late 70s. 

“Congratulations Jason, you’re getting a gold medal,” said my coach sometime in the 80’s. 

“You’re Australia’s laziest freestyler. Why can’t you have a go?” 

I thought I was having (a bit) of a go, but these were the days of trying to be Mark Spitz, of S-shaped pulls, big splashy kicks and high stroke rates.  

Since then, science, the genius of Ian Thorpe, Alex Popov and others have shown us there is a better way to swim. 

A long, strong, straight stroke is faster and easier than plenty of short, fast strokes. When you get it, the feeling is magic. You can slide through the water easily for thousands of metres without getting exhausted. 

“When you get it, the feeling is magic”

We’ve all seen a lazy freestyler, often as they cruise past us, going much faster than we are. A lazy freestyler can look slow but mysteriously speeds through the water. The water loves the lazy freestyler largely because they have worked out how to slide through the water by minimising resistance. They get extra speed from swimming well.

Not everything needs to be done totally perfectly for lazy freestyle to work. You don’t have to be a zen master of technique to be able to swim easily for miles and miles. But you do need to think about a few very important things.

Have a quick read of these ten elements of lazy freestyle: 

  1. While it’s called lazy freestyle, your mind is active the whole time. You are managing every little movement, because they all count. You are never dreamily going through the motions without thinking. You are never leaving it up to muscle memory.  
  2. You are putting your hand in the water at the beginning of each stroke , pushing it forward and feeling the water. This is essential. You have to love this part of the stroke and know how important it is. 
  3. Meanwhile your other arm is pulling back powerfully, with a high elbow and a vertical forearm. 
  4. This is when you can take a breath. When your breathing arm is passing your face and your opposite arm is stretched forward holding you up. 
  5. Controlling your exhale is crucial or you’ll be rushing to get to your next arm stroke. If you can’t go under the water and exhale constantly and steadily for 10 seconds, that’s where to start. 
  6. Your core muscles, your abs are powering all this. Your shoulders are rotating almost 180 degrees but your hips are fairly steady and firm. 
  7. Your kick is narrow, not very big, it’s at the top of the water (most importantly) and is working independently of what is happening above your waist.  
  8. You feel long, narrow, tall, strong but lean, sharp, fluid. You feel powerful but never heavy. You’re in charge, in control but also fluid and in touch with the water. 
  9. And you are using significant strength to make it happen. But there’s more to lazy freestyle than muscles. You don’t need big muscles, you need a willingness to use what you’ve got. 
  10. You have to love the water for the water to love you back. You have to feel the water, not smack it, you need to want to be in the water for everything to happen smoothly.  

How to taper for swimming events

Have you got a big event coming up? Have you heard about tapering your training but don’t know exactly what that is about?

Tapering is not simply reducing your training or not training before a big event. Swimming tapering is different to the reductions you might make for running or cycling.

Plus it’s a very individual thing. It’s different for everyone and every kind of event. Ideally, you need a coach to give you some individual advice on how to taper your swimming and exercise regime as you approach your event.

If you are training for a long-distance swim event (or triathlon) try these 8 tips to adjust your training as the event gets closer:

  1. Tapering or resting? Firstly, ask yourself – have you been training hard enough to warrant a taper? No really, tapering is for people who are training seriously most days of the week and a swimming taper lasts up to four weeks (or more). Maybe you might be better off taking a few days rest before the race. Even then, you are best advised to still go for a swim, but make it an easy one, with a few longer reps with rests, a few drills and short sprints, again with rests.
  2. Get in the water. Tapering still involves plenty of swimming. You need to be swimming a lot in the lead up to an event or you risk losing some of your inherent feel for the water. So, in the last couple of weeks, you lower the intensity of your workouts but still spend plenty of time in the water. Maintain the frequency of your training – if you usually train four times per week, keep it at four or go up to five, don’t go down to three.
  3. Go easy. Double your easy, slow, warm-up metres and double your easy, slow cool-down metres. Cut out some of the hard main-set metres. You can mostly forget about butterfly but dolphin kick is good to keep your core activated and your feel of the water strong.
  4. Swim at race pace: Do a few laps at race pace, as hard as you can. But because we are in taper and going pretty easy, these have to be short with plenty of rest in between. So, sprint for just 25m, do it a few times with plenty of rest between these reps.
  5. Drills. Along with plenty of easy swimming, do all the drills, like Catch-Up, Fingerdrag, pool buoy, one-arm freestyle and kicking sets. You can use flippers and paddles but sparingly.
  6. Yoga instead of weights. Ease off weight training and heavy gym work a couple of weeks before an event. If you are into weight training (not compulsory for many distance swimmers), tone it all down a couple of weeks before an event.
  7. Don’t stress. Distance swimmers are used to hard work and long training sessions. Missing out on hard training can make endurance swimmers stress that they are not working hard enough. You taper your training when you know you have been doing the work.
  8.  Go to bed: Look after yourself in the lead up to an event. Don’t party too hard, eat well and get to bed early for a week beforehand. Try to get one hour more sleep per night than you usually might manage.
Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

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.
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