2011

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Dec 29, 2011

Extreme Swimming Events in the New Year (Are you up for the challenge?)

If you are after some challenging yet exciting New Year resolutions, why not set your goals a bit higher this year and attempt to properly train for and then undergo an extreme swimming event. I stress one more time the "train" part of the resolution as taking part in extreme swimming events without proper training is just plain reckless and could lead to serious injuries as we saw with David Walliams' Thames swim charity event. However, don't let this put you off. If you train a correct and smart way, your venture into the world of extremes should be an exciting one. Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University is here to share her extreme swimming events insights.
Polar Bear Swimming by farlane

Enter Jenna
As swimmers, we like to challenge ourselves to go a little bit further or a little bit faster every time we hop into the water. While at times, we do enjoy a leisurely swim or snorkel, there are also times when we feel as though pushing ourselves to our outermost abilities is a must. For those swimmers who are looking for a way to spice up their swimming, here are a few challenges that just may be right up their alley:

Note: While entertaining, we don't necessarily recommend that all swimmers, even those with advanced skills attempt any of the following without proper training and preparation:

Swimming the English Channel (La Manche)

If you are looking for a challenge, then by all means try to swim the English Channel. The swim is a 21 mile swim in cold water with strong currents which are bound to move you over and double your distance. The best days for swimming the Channel are in the summer, but even then the water is only 60 degrees, and those that keep records of the swim only certify swimmers that do not wear wetsuits. On top of combating strong currents and chilly waters, swimmers will also have to keep an eye out for boats and jellyfish – neither of which are too fun to encounter.
English Channel Swimming Association

However, there are people certified to help you out if you so choose to cross the Channel. Certified pilots will help you stay on course and help you avoid jelly fish and boats so that you can experience the safest and most efficient swim. They will also give you food and water, and help you if you should run into an emergency situation. Either way, you will be in for one heck of a swim. Swimming the Channel is by no means an easy feat. In fact, more people have climbed Everest than swam the La Manche.

Polar Bear Plunge

If you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, or is just near a body of water that stays pretty chilly all year long, then you have probably heard of the Polar Bear Plunge. These events are usually held on or around New Year's day and require swimmers to strip down to their swimsuits in chilly temps to jump into frigid waters. While this may not be a great swimming challenge, it is definitely a water challenge in and of itself that will be sure to shock your system. The largest plunge in the U.S., called Plungapalooza, is held in Maryland at the Sandy Point State Park every year.

While many Polar Bear Plunge veterans claim that the event cleanses them and boosts their mood, many doctors forewarn plungers of the dangers of jumping in to ice cold water because of the shock it can have on the body. (Note from Swimator Blog: It is much better to take it nice and slow when getting in and make sure to do some test runs before the actual event, so your body gets slowly used to the extreme temperatures).

Swimming the Cook Strait

Although not as long as the English Channel, swimming Cook Strait in New Zealand is just as daunting. This 19 mile swim is between the North and South island of New Zealand in waters that are teeming with marine life, and is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. In addition to giant squid, Cook Strait is home to numerous species of dolphins, fur seals, and whales, including Orcas. However, it isn't the marine life that you have to worry about.
Cook Strait extreme swimming conditions

The Strait often has strong winds, large swells, and rough waters, and it is also right in the path of the roaring forties. The Strait also has strong currents which are often undetectable due to lack of tidal height change. Only 65 people have successful swam the Cook Strait, so you can imagine it is not for the faint-hearted.

So if you are in shape, undergone the proper training and looking for a challenge, consider one of the aforementioned. A few other honorable mentions include Catalina Channel and the swim around Manhattan Island. You could even attempt the Triple Crown of Open Water if you feel up to it.

From Swimator Blog: There are literally thousands of opportunities out there to get your extreme swimming bug out of your system. The above mentioned events are just a few of the most challenging examples. However, I will stress it one more time. If you are thinking about taking part in any of the plentiful extreme swimming events around the world, please do make sure you have a proper training plan starting many months prior to the event. As with marathons in running, swimming in extreme conditions in open water is becoming more accessible and more interesting for swimmers from all over the world, however, it could cause serious injuries if not taken seriously. So, don't be foolish, get your swimming technique sorted, then build up some endurance and rough/cold water conditions tolerance before becoming an extreme swimming junkie :). All the best to the New Year, may all swimming dreams and attempts come true.

This is a guest post by Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, she hopes to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn't writing, you can find Jenna with her nose in a book, or her headphones in to block out the rest of the world.

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Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Dec 19, 2011

How to breathe with Swimmer's snorkel (front/center mount snorkel)?

Since I am on the topic of breathing while swimming, let me explain, what seems as an obvious procedure, how to breathe through the swimmer's snorkel. Before we get to that, perhaps a bit of an introduction of what the swimmer's snorkel is and how it can help you improve your swimming technique.
Swimmer's Snorkel - #1 swim gear


Contrary to a common belief, the centrally mounted snorkel is actually not a modern invention. The first documented record of a front mount snorkel as an aid to swimming can be traced back to 1860s. Wow, how impressive is that? And today 99.99% of swimmers think how hip and cool they are swimming with the newest gadgets :). Funny, how most of us associate things with the first experience we have.

Well, anyway, so what is swimmer's snorkel. As the name indicates the front mount snorkel attaches to the front of the head instead of the side as regular scuba or snorkelling snorkel equipment. It also has a more of a streamlined shape where the tip bends towards the back of the head and the snorkel body is flatter instead of round. And finally, it attaches to the head with a strap and not clumsily to a scuba mask (I opted into not wearing my snorkel when I scuba dive as it always just gets in the way).

Front mount snorkel is designed to help swimmer's technique and the snorkel can do this in several ways. First, when swimming with the center mount snorkel, the swimmer does not have to worry about breathing, therefore has one less thing to worry about and can bring undivided attention to some other part of the stroke such as body roll, early vertical forearm or healthy kick. Second, the snorkel serves as a sensory cue to keep ones head down while swimming. The swimmer can use the snorkel as a reminder to look at the bottom. Third, it is just plain fun to swim with a snorkel and it breaks up the monotony. Fourth, a swimmer can also use the center mount snorkel to help with chicken peck breaststroke problem by attaching the snorkel upside down and in the back along the spine. Fifth, using the front mount snorkel can help strengthen your lungs and here we come to the whole idea of this article.

So how do you breathe with the front mount snorkel you may ask? There are two basic ways. Obviously the intake of air has to go through the snorkel pipe, so I will not discuss that. However, the variation comes in when we talk about exhalation (getting rid off your air or blowing the air out of your lungs).

Exhaling through your nose

First method is to utilize your nose to blow the air out before the next inhale. This method makes sure that you are not sending breathed out air back into the snorkel pipe, so your pipe air is nicely rich with oxygen at all times. As we all know, when we exhale, our breath contains much higher concentration carbon dioxide than during the inhalation process, so by exhaling into the water we are getting rid off it there instead of the pipe. Furthermore, by exhaling through your nose, you actually get rid off the air quicker since you cannot control the amount of air coming out of your nose as you can with your mouth. However, this is not necessarily an advantage at first as it takes some time to get used to the fact that you inhale and exhale through different parts of your face. So, until you get used to it, you might feel like you get rid off all your air and then need to very quickly inhale. Also, don't forget that you still need to purge the water from the snorkel via your mouth when you push off the wall or if you get water in your snorkel at any time of your swim.

Exhaling through your mouth

The second method uses only the mouth to exhale, so the excess CO2 gets sent back into the pipe, it mixes with the fresh air and then it is inhaled as mixture back into the lungs. You may be wondering, why in the hell would I want to breathe out into the pipe through my mouth, that doesn't make any sense. I want oxygen, you told me so in the bilateral breathing article, don't I? Yes, you are correct, however, as anything in training, we always strive to improve something about what we do, be it perfecting your technique, strengthening your kick or improving your lung performance. And this is where the swimmer's snorkel also comes into place. Since you inhale and exhale through your mouth into one single plastic pipe, the air that you subsequently inhale has less oxygen and more carbon dioxide than normal fresh air. This in turn makes it over time a bit more difficult to breathe and you need to really focus on properly purging the air out as well as your stroke. Think of it in similar terms as in hypoxic breathing swimming sets where you'd breathe every 3rd stroke, every 5th stroke and every 7th stroke for a certain distance (25,50,100 or more if you are advanced).

There is one handy piece of additional attachment which can be placed on top of the snorkel tube and the sole purpose of this gadget is to restrict the flow of air into the tube. It is called the Cardio Cap. While using the Cardio Cap your lungs have to work even harder to get the appropriate oxygen intake. In a way, it is like swimming in an altitude where the air is a bit thinner. So, you can be in Colorado or apparently now even in Australia, even if you are at your local swimming joint. If you are not into buying gadget and you'd rather try this in some other way, you can always stick your tongue into the tube during the inhalation process which makes the inhalation a bit harder as you are restricting the intake flow.

Dry Top - keeps water away
So what is the key take away from all this breathing through swimmer's snorkel stuff? It is simple, there is no right and wrong here. If you use the snorkel to improve some part of your stroke and do not want to worry about getting into an oxygen debt, then breathe out through your nose (if you can master this technique). If you are a bit more advanced and can do many things at ones or if breathing out through your nose causes you some issues, then why not purge your excess air out through the pipe to make you work a bit harder. Ideally, you'd be able to switch your breathing type and pattern on the fly, so either of these is possible, but this comes with time and practice as everything else in the complex world of swimming motions :). For example, I've been always using only my mouth to breathe in and out of the snorkel. If I switch to the nose exhalation, I get a bit confused and constantly have to think about breathing through my nose, so in theory it actually defeats the purpose of the snorkel as I cannot concentrate on something else. Of course, if I were to practice the nose breathing technique, after while it would be like second nature to me and I could enjoy my technique work in more comfort.

If you really struggle with using the center mount snorkel, perhaps the issue is that you are afraid of getting water into the tube and choking on it. In that case, you should check out the Dry Top attachment. The Dry Top is a small, yet sophisticated device which attaches to the top of the snorkel and prevents any water seeping into the tube while you are swimming. So, leave your worry behind and get snorkeling :).

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Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Dec 15, 2011

Top 7 Swimming Gift Ideas this Christmas (Gifts from Swimmers for Swimmers)

If you are still on a hunt for the one perfect Christmas swimming gift for your loved ones or even for yourself, don't look any further. Let me highlight a few swim items which I think would make a perfect gift for a swimmer.

Gifts for swimmers of all abilities
Firstly, I apologize to those swimmers who do not celebrate Christmas, but this swim gift list does not have to be only for this holiday occassion, so feel free to get ideas for your holiday or for any other celebration such as birthday or nameday. Or sometimes giving a swim gift, just because it is a nice thing to do, can go a long ways.

Personally, I am not a big fan of useless gifts which one does not need or which are for decorative purposes. If I give a Christmas gift, then it has to be a true useful item which the person will get to utilize in their live. I know, I know, this ideology does not work well with many as it should be the idea of a gift that counts and not the gift itself. But I still have hard time giving something that I know the other person will not use. With that in mind, same ideaology can be applied to swimming gifts. Some swim items are not very useful, even though they might be cool looking, on the other hand, some swim items make swimmer's journey to a good swimming technique much easier. With further ado, here are the top 2011 gifts for swimmers:

Swim Gift #1: Swimmer's snorkel to get your mind focused without the breathing distraction. Whether you want to work on your rhythm or your above water recovery using the Swimmer's snorkel will keep you distraction free.

Swim Gift #2: TechPaddles or Antipaddles to get that forearm feeling the water and improving your stroke efficiency with the high elbow catch also called the early vertical forearm.

Swim Gift #3: Zoomers Gold or shinfing leg fins to stop your legs from sinking to the bottom, to teach you the right way to kick and to strengthen the right kicking muscles.

Swim Gift #4: SafeSwimmer Float or Aquaspotter for your open water safety. If you are in the triathlon or open water group, safety is the number one concern when you are out there without any swimming lanes or swimming pool walls. So do not take it for granted.

SwimSense Performance Monitor
Swim Gift #5: Wetronome or the Finis Tempo Trainer to find your perfect stroke rhythm and to keep you going like the Duracell bunny.

Swim Gift #6: Subscription to goswimtv.com or the Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set to be better equipped with the right knowledge from the best in the swimming business.

Swim Gift #7: SwimSense or Swimovate Pool Mate performance monitoring watch gadgets to give you even more to think about when you swim :). These swim gadgets are really only for the advanced group who need to keep track of their swimming with online training logs, analyze their stroke counts and pace. However, they do add a bit of a motivation to your swimming which is always useful.

Bonus Swim Gift: last but not least you can recommend Swimator Blog to all the enthusiastic swimmers on your list to give them the gift of knowledge :), so their swimming improvements come in leaps and not in strides.





There you have it, the best Christmas gift ideas for swimmers as I see them. I just concentrated on swimming technique related gifts, so have omitted some obvious swim items such as swimming Ts with different slogans, customized swimming caps or just plain ol' swim suits.

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Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers

Dec 12, 2011

Three Tips for Learning to Float (Set yourself up for a floating success)

Learning to float can be a daunting tasks for many novice swimmers. If you are just starting out or tried it out before and got discouraged because you couldn't get passed the floating stage, perhaps the following piece of advice will help you to get over the initial learning curve.

Keeping your arms at the surface or out of the water causes
your butt and legs to sink
Whatever the reason may be, whether you are afraid of falling due to the weightlessness feeling in the water or you are afraid of hitting your head on the bottom of the pool or just the thought of tipping over to your back scares you, without learning to float you cannot continue and enjoy swimming. Learning to float is an absolute necessity in a good learn to swim program, so do not try to skip this step. The more time you spend on learning to float and the better you will get at this will determine your next progress.

From my previous head and body position posts, you already know that your eyes need to be pointing towards the bottom of the pool and you need to stretch your body into a nice straight line at the surface of the water. However, as simple as this sounds, it is still very difficult for many to get to the relaxed long position. So let me give you a few tips which will ease your transition from standing up to floating, thus setting you up for success.

1) Eliminate any unnecessary movement

How you start your exercise determines in many cases how well you can do the exercise, so let's focus on what to do with your body before you actually get into the floating position. The main point here is that you need to be flush with the water and ease yourself into the float instead of starting your float from high up and falling into it. Imagine the following, take a tennis ball and drop it into the swimming pool while standing on a chair on the side of the pool. Chances are the tennis ball, driven by gravity, will hit the water and get submerged and then pop back up to surface and then again gets submerged a little less and pop back up to surface. The tennis ball will do this few times until it reaches a calm floating state. Now, instead of dropping the ball from the standing on a chair position, bend down to the pool's edge and nicely place the tennis ball onto the water. Because you were gentle, there is no bopping in and out of the water, the tennis ball just nicely floats without any distractions. Similar concept applies to anything you do in swimming, especially when you are just starting out to learn to float. If you start too high, you will more than likely be sinking and coming back to surface and sinking again, so it is important to eliminate this extra movements from the start. So, next time you are practicing your floats, assuming you are in a shallower water where you can stand up, squat down (bend your knees), so your shoulders are flush with the water. I don't mean, bending forward, just get yourself lower into the water, so your distance from the surface of the water is smaller (like with the tennis ball). The only thing that is sticking out of the water is your head. Your body is still vertical, just lower in the water due to your knee bend.

Keep those hands under water.

2) Start below the water

When you are nicely submerged up to your neck in the water, you are basically in a good position to get started. When you first learn to float, you should have your arms extended forward (no elbows bending here please :)), so you add more weight to the front of your body which in turn will make it easier for your legs to float. However, this is where many novices run into trouble as they try to stretch very tensely with their arms forward like they'd be reaching for apples. This causes their body to be rigid and more importantly their arms stick out of the water when they float. So, extend your arms forward and relax them. You can pretend there is a ledge 1/2 foot (~15cm) below the water and you want to rest your palms on that ledge. Let the water support the arms and relax your neck and shoulders. At no point in time should your fingers or hands break the surface of the water, otherwise, you will start slowly sinking.

3) Get into the position before you start

Let's recap, you are close to the surface with your shoulders below the water, your arms are extended forward, yet relaxed and they are below the surface of the water. The only thing that remains is to take a breath, put your face in the water, so your eyes are looking at the bottom of the pool and your entire head is below the water. At this stage you are ready to give yourself a little gentle push from the bottom of the pool or from the side of the pool and you can float. Note: if you want to blow bubbles, feel free to do so, but I'd suggest to try both variations, with blowing bubbles and without as some folks do not float very well and when they start blowing bubbles, they are getting rid off their floating ability even more :). However, don't be afraid, most of you will float very well as your lungs will keep you at the surface.

Applying downward pressure on the arms and upper body.
As mentioned above, the major issue here is that your arms should never ever break the surface of the water as it is with majority of novices which try to float. Another way to think about it is that your arms and your body do not actually form a true straight line, you are pushing your arms a bit down when you float. This is very bad analogy in terms of our history, but it could work in this sense. Do you remember Hitler's straight arm greeting which was used by Nazis during WWII? If so, then just move the arm from that position another foot (~30cm) up towards the sky and you will have the right position for your arms. Maybe a bit less gloomy analogy is to pretend you are laying on your stomach on a bench (as if you are floating). The bench is about a 1/2 foot (~15cm) high off the ground. Your chin is right at the edge of the bench, eyes looking down and your arms are extended forward and your fingers/palms are touching the ground somewhere in front of the bench as opposed to being a straight line extensions of the bench itself.

Have fun with it and remember, patience and gentle movements are very important when learning to float. You can get more tips to improve your swimming by
Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Dec 5, 2011

Get Speedo's Fastskin3 for Free (Swim Smarter, Not More Expensive)

That got your attention didn't it? Well, now that you are here, let me reveal the well guarded secret how you can get your own Fastskin3 from Speedo totally free.
Fastskin3 Swimmer Models (sponsorship=slavery)


What is Fastskin3?

It is a supposedly revolutionary swimming equipment composed from 3 parts of swim gear: swimming cap, goggles and a jammer suit for men and shorty suit for women. Not much innovation there in terms of type of equipment, is it? However, the main idea here is that by wearing the Fastskin3 equipment you eliminate or streamline certain contours of your body to make yourself more efficient in the water, therefore become faster swimmers. Sounds good so far?

Well, don't go celebrating an efficient swimming stroke just yet :). I have nothing against Speedo and am a great fan of people who try to promote swimming or bring swimming to the next level, which obviously Speedo's Fastskin3 racing system is doing, however, I just can't help and be critical in response to the video Speedo put out as an introduction to the Fastskin3 swim wear. It just seems that swimming is becoming more about technology than about the swimmer him/herself which makes the sport exciting (at least for me). However, who can argue with our society if this is what it takes to keeps people interested in the sport. Without interest, any sport is as good as dead, so introducing a new technology is unfortunately a necessity in today's world.

If I watch and listen to the Fastskin3 video (watch it below), I can't help but wonder what the hell they are talking about half the time. Perhaps this was their marketing approach to provide a video full of terms 99% of people on the planet do not understand and confuse trustworthy swimmers into thinking that by purchasing the Fastskin3 equipment they will become faster. Sure, we can't stop technology from entering our daily lives and we definitely cannot stop progress as that is a natural way of things. However, we can still wonder and question it can't we? :) Let's breakdown the Fastskin3 swim gear and see what we can get out of it for free.

Fastskin3 Swimming Cap

Speedo indicates that the swimming cap was designed with 3d global head scan. Hmm, unless they are going to custom scan everyone's head, how does that help you, since everyone's head and neck are different. They also indicate that the cap features IQ fit profile. I can't even begin to understand what that is. Does that mean if you have certain IQ it works better for you? And don't even get me started on the Speedo hair management system which goes below the cap. It totally resembles a very old school Lycra swimming cap, nothing more and nothing less. However, I can see how it helps to keep your hair out of the way and smooths out the contours of the head. Finally, the Fastskin3 cap is designed to fill the curve in the shape of your neck, to make the back of your neck more streamlined. From the video, I fail to see this feature, but let's take their word for it.

So, how can you get the Fastskin3 swimming cap for free? Well, the cap helps to streamline your body, so let's focus on how you can achieve the same result with your head without a cap. No matter what slick and fancy bleeding edge swimming cap material you have on your head, you will not swim faster unless you fix up your head position. I discussed the high head position problem on this blog on many occasions, so next time you are working on your head position with nice and tall body line and flat neck, just imagine you have the Fastskin3 cap on your head and perhaps this visualization will help you get the right streamline effect. So in a way you will use the new Fastskin3 cap technology to your benefit without actually spending a dime. If you really would like to get even closer to the Fastskin3 streamline efficiency, you can opt into wearing two swimming caps. One latex and another silicone over top of it. Beware though, this will increase your head's buoyancy a little, so you will have to push your head down with a bit more effort, so get used to it before you race in it.

Fastskin3 Goggles

The goggles just look plain bizarre for my taste, but let's say we give them a futuristic chance. Again and IQ fit type of stuff with 3D seal. Can you imagine something else than 3D seal? How would a 2D seal work? :). The Fastskin3 goggles are advertised to improve contours of swimmers head. Ok, I can see how that would make some very small efficiency difference if the goggles were smoother, but then again, everyone's eye socket sizes are different, so not one size fits all solution here I am afraid. The next thing is the advertised hydroscopic lense with 180 degree field of vision. First, humans don't even have 180 degree field of vision and I am not so sure how something like that would help you in the swimming pool anyway. I've never heard anybody complain about needing more field of vision in the pool. In open water swimming, there it is a bit of different story and that is why those full goggle masks are quite popular. Speedo also says the Fastskin3 goggles have secure and confident fit. I say, any goggles have secure and confident fit if they are under a swimming cap, they match the swimmer's face and the swimmer feels good about them.

Put goggle strap under your swimming cap
So, how can you get the Fastskin3 goggles for free? Well, make sure you buy goggles which are comfortable and not too large on your face. When wearing a swimming cap, put the goggle strap under the cap, so they are more secure. Then if you can, move the edges of your cap over the goggles, so the goggles and the cap create more of a smoother contour. That said, however, no goggles will make you swim faster if you do not fix your stroke. So instead of buying the newest of the newest swim goggles, why not concentrating on improving your head position during breathing. Keep your head low, make sure you blow out bubbles before you breathe, so your breath is brisk and try to maintain one goggle in/one goggle out of the water position. Another way to describe it, if you breathe during freestyle, push the top of the head into the water, so it will feel like you are swimming down the hill. This is an unusual feeling that many of use need to get used to before it becomes natural. The SwimSmooth guys explain it very well in their Clean Up your Stroke DVD set.

Fastskin3 Suit

Speedo is definitely onto something when they say their Fastskin3 suit is a network of bonded seems and panels. In fact, majority of newer swimming suits are just that. :) The Speedo Fastskin3 suit is uniquely zoned and graduated body compression system, it offers precision support and greater stability in the water. Ok, now this makes sense, the more you compress your body the more streamlined you will be in the water, right? However, what is precision support and how can you get greater stability with a swimming suit in the water? What you will get is your butt and thighs not flopping around while you swim, thus reducing a bit of a drag, which is a good thing of course, but unless it is a flotation device you will not get any extra support nor will you feel more stable. And we all know what happened to the full body suits, last time swimming companies tried to change the swimming rules. Speedo also claims that the suit enhances the speed of starts and turns which I actually believe, as your body is in the highest speed during the start or turn activity and it is fully submerged under water, so any small extra wiggle will slow you down.

So, how can you get the Fastskin3 suit for free? How about improving your core body muscle strength in order to be able to hold better streamlined position when your feet and arms are forcing your body in all the directions. Also, what about not swimming on your stomach during freestyle, but practice a proper body roll, so your body glides better. Finally, improving your freestyle kick efficiency by making sure your kick is small and compact as if you were kicking in a bucket and paying close attention to what your legs do when you take a breath. Do they go into scissor like motion? If it is a yes, then just keeping your feet in line with your body instead of doing a scissor kick trumps any drag reduction by utilizing a Fastskin3 suit or any suit as a matter of fact.

Speedo is a pioneer, but not for everyone

I don't doubt that Speedo has done a great job on their research when producing the Fastskin3 cap, Fastskin3 goggles and the Fastskin3 suit and the claimed 16.6 passive drag reduction, 11% improved oxygen economy, 5.2% active drag reduction is probably true. However, this only applies to the top of the crop Olympic swimmers such as Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Jessica Hardy, Rebecca Soni, Ian Thorpe or Sun Yang. It is not an accident they mention the following sentence "the world's fastest racing system combined with the world's fastest swimmers". Without the world's fastest swimmers, it is just another ordinary cap, goggle and suit combination, so don't be fooled by marketing and swim smarter instead of more expensive. On the other hand their marketing probably works well since I spend the time writing this article :). If you want to find out more about the Fastskin 3 equipment visit for men and for women.

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Safer Swimmer - the must have swim safety device for all open water swimmers

Nov 28, 2011

What is bilateral breathing? (Does bilateral breathing mean to breathe bilaterally?)

There is a fundamental difference between actually performing bilateral breathing and the ability to perform bilateral breathing in freestyle. Many beginner swimmers get confused with the terms they read on miscellaneous swimming blogs and learn to swim sites. They often read about bilateral breathing and automatically assume that they have to breathe to both sides all the time. By all the time, I mean breathing every 3rd arm stroke, so the rhythm would be: breathe to the right, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe to the left. Then they are all confused why swimming has suddenly become very hard for them and they are breathless when they reach the end of the swimming pool. Finally, they resort to reading more about bilateral breathing and wondering how come it is not helping their swimming. It actually made their swimming harder. If you fall into this category, read carefully the following advice.
Do you have the ability to breathe bilaterally?


The key concept to understand is that bilateral breathing is just a term used to describe a motion in swimming where a swimmer breathes to both sides. That does not necessarily mean that to swim properly you need to rhythmically breathe to both sides though. What it means that you should know how to breathe to both sides aka bilaterally, but there is time and place where the actual rhythmical bilateral breathing is needed.

Like it or not, our bodies have two sides and if we heavily strengthen one side by repeating a certain activity our bodies will evolve, so to say, and adapt to that particular activity. The adaptation usually comes in terms of strengthening or stretching muscles. Unfortunately, the majority of us are either right handed or left handed and only few are ambidextrous. My guess is that if you do a bicep flex to show off your muscles, your leading arm will probably have a bigger bulge. Or next time you are in your bathroom, try cleaning your teeth with your weaker hand. You will see how difficult it is. Swimming on the other hand, requires a certain level of ambidexterity and here we are back at the bilateral breathing problem. If a swimmer only knows how to breathe to one side, it could create a whole lot of problems such as, not having the same body roll to both sides, not swimming in a straight direction in open water, imbalance in important neck muscles or you might permanently end up with a Popeye like mouth grimace :) (and many more). So, learning to breathe to both sides has also a health benefit as well as swimming benefit.
Make a Popeye mouth to breathe


Also, imagine you are swimming in a race or in the ocean and you only can breathe to your right side. Now, what if there is a swimmer with very strong and splashy kick to your right side or there are huge waves coming from the right. What will you do then? Take the beating and keep breathing water instead of air and potentially choke your way back to the finish line or to the beach? If you can't breathe to the other side, then that is probably what you will do, but if you can, then you just switch your breathing to the left and you are set and water choke free.

So as you can see, breathing bilaterally has a lot of benefits, but back to the initial point I was making. Bilateral breathing does not only refer to breathing rhythmically to both sides, it most importantly refers to the ability to breathe to both sides. You need to understand that your body needs oxygen. While you can strengthen your lungs and make your oxygen consumption more efficient, the more oxygen you have the better you can perform. Therefore, the more breaths you can take during your swim, be it 100 meters (yards) or 1500 meters (yards), the better off you are in terms of not feeling out of breath. Therefore, if you set yourself up to rhythmically breathe every 3rd stroke, which means you breathe once to the left and once to the right and so on, this means you are not getting oxygen for three strokes and this is where most beginner swimmers go wrong. Even though it is only 3 strokes between breaths and it might feel ok for the first length of the pool after a little while you start feeling the lack of oxygen. You might as well quit swimming and join the extreme apnea divers if you get high on lack of oxygen :). It would be much more beneficial if you breathe every other stroke, where you only have one stroke without breathing and you breathe only to one side at a time. Sounds much better doesn't it?
Keep a good body line when breathing


You might now be wondering, well, how is that bilateral breathing if I only breathe to one side all the time? Easy answer. You will not breathe to one side all the time. You can try breathing to the left half the pool length and then breathing to the right the other half or 20 strokes to the left and 20 strokes to the right etc. This way you will make sure your body both gets enough oxygen and stays healthy. Note of warning though, the assumption I was making here is that you are able to breathe properly and every time you take your face out of the water to breathe you do not slow down. In other words, your breathing technique is not causing drag problems in your swimming. If you feel that this breathing every stroke is not for you, why not change it a little and breathe two times to the right and then two times to the left with three strokes between. This is still much much better in terms of oxygen intake than breathing every third stroke at all times.

If you think you have the freestyle bilateral breathing ability down to 100% perfection, you can test your breathing skills by breathing every stroke. This means you breathe with every arm stroke and maintain the true rhythm of bilateral breathing. In other words, the rhythm is breathe right, breathe left, breathe right, breathe left :). This is an advanced skill and you might feel quite dizzy if you try to do this for too long with too high a stroke rate frequency. However, it is a great test of how well and efficiently you can breathe without sacrificing your freestyle streamline. If you can do this well without zigzagging all over the place, it comes in extremely handy during your freestyle swimming races or swim workouts as you will get much more oxygen than anybody else. If you think I am crazy, think again. This is a true pro skill which is used by the best of the best in the world.

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Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Nov 24, 2011

Swim Smooth DVD review: Clean Up Your Stroke (Practicing one thing at a time)

Swimator Blog November 24, 2011 Final rating: 5/5

The Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set is not your usual learn to swim program on DVDs. It is more of a series of short hints and tips addressing a few important aspects of an efficient freestyle stroke. The DVD is split up into a few logical sections: Breathing, Head Position, Leg Kick, Body Roll, Recovery, Hand Entry, Catch and Pull, Visualization. Paul Newsome, an accredited level II triathlon coach who coaches triathletes in Western Australia, will breakdown each of the parts of the Freestyle stroke into a few drills, so you can concentrate on one part at a time and don't get all tangled up with trying to swim the full stroke whilst also trying to fix a problem.
Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set

Breathing - Get the oxygen in

Breathing is the essence of any sport's activity and swimming is not any different. Actually, a good breathing technique in swimming is even more crucial than anywhere else since we are a bit tied to a certain rhythm and cannot take a breath whenever we want. The first part of the Clean Up Your Stroke DVD explains the importance of bubbles and the usefulness of bilateral breathing as well as shows you some drills to make your breathing a bliss. If you want to know what bubble bubble breath stands for or what a very useful isometric exercise is, just get Swim Smooth's DVD set and you will find out :).

Head Position - Say no to neck pains

Your head position is one of the key factors which determines how efficiently your body moves through the water, so it is very pertinent to get this right. Paul describes the pros and cons of the two schools of thought regarding your head position in the water. The old school, water at your hair line vs. the new school with eyes at the bottom of the pool and water going over your head. Which one is better for you? I am a fan of the new school of thought, so if you are starting out your learn to swim endeavor, this is the way to go. Once you become more advanced and go into open water or triathlons, then it is time to play around with your head position, depending on the water conditions and your body floating ability.

Leg Kick - Turn on the motors

Strong legs is one of the key spices which make your swimming delicious. Without a good kick, you can forget it. Even though you should not kick very fast at all times when you swim, your entire learning to swim career revolves around drills which require a good kick for a good balance of your body. In the Leg Kick section, Paul discusses the proper way to streamline (or torpedo as they call it down under) and the drills that can help you with keeping your body in an arrow like body shape for as long as possible. He also shows you the right way to kick with a very simple yet effective drill as well as explains when you should utilize fins in your workouts to maximize their purpose for kick improvement.

Paul Newsome working with his swimmers

Body Roll - Rollin', rollin', rollin'

The importance of body roll was discussed on Swimator Blog many times and it is a key concept in swimming. Without a proper body roll, you will struggle to breath, you might suffer from shoulder injuries and you will also never reach your full potential in your swimming. Paul shows you an unarguable fact which proves that rolling your body is better than swimming flat. Then he explains and performs a few effective drills which will help you get the right balance and body roll in the water. For example, the 616 or 323 freestyle drill which helps you with improving your body roll and subsequently with bilateral breathing.

Recovery - Relax and enjoy

Recovery is the motion your arm/hand performs out of the water. This is what most of us see when we watch a swimmer in the pool or in the Olympics. However, instead of just an aesthetic part of the stroke, the way a swimmer performs arm recovery determines how effective the swimmer's stroke can be under the water. In the Recovery section of the DVD, you will be introduced to Alexander Popov drill which made the Russian swimming tsar the elegantly graceful swimmer he was. Paul will also show you the difference between high elbow and straight arm recovery and how they affect your stroke.

Hand Entry - Don't over think it

How you enter your hand into the water usually determines how well you can grab onto water and push yourself through the water at the later part of the stroke. Fingers first, flat hand, crossing over or thumb first? Those are just a few concepts Paul addresses in the Swim Smooth's DVD section called Hand Entry. Furthermore, if you suffer from shoulder impingement, perhaps Paul's Spearfish drill for hand entry practice could just be the thing to get you rid of the pain.

Paul Newsome explaining the importance of a high catch

Catch and Pull - Go forward

"To S pull shape or not to S pull shape, that is the question :)". If you ever wondered, how your hand/arm should move through the water during freestyle, wonder no more. Don't be stuck in the 80's, forget about S pull shape. Pull straight through and maximize your swimming force. In the Catch and Pull part of the DVD, Paul Newsome explains why the S pull shape is an old school thought and why it is inefficient. He then goes on to explain what sculling is and how mixing cold and warm water in your bath tub could actually be an important motion in learning the under water pullthrough in swimming (btw, this is one of the best analogies to explain a concept in swimming I have heard in a long time). Finally, Paul talks about the time and place for using paddles and pullbuoys, which goes hand in hand with what I am preaching on the Swimator Blog, trying to get all the triathletes to start swimming smarter and not just following what they see in other inexperienced triathletes.

Visualization - Smooth swimming is priceless

Some of us like to learn by reading, some by listening, some by watching. We all are different, however, no matter what your learning style, if you combine two or three of these learning styles together, you will be more likely to succeed. In swimming or any sports, seeing someone perform the particular motion and trying to mimic this motion is priceless. In the last Visualization section of the DVD, Bill Kirby, a 2000 Sydney Olympic gold medalist from an Australian relay team will swim for you for a few minutes, so you can visualize his lean and smooth stroke next time you are in the pool. Give it a shot, it could just do wonders for you.

swim smooth's DVD BOXSET - everything you need to improve your swimming out of sight!
Clean up your Freestyle stroke

Bonus, who does not like bonus?

There are a few extras included as a bonus in the DVD. You can learn how to improve your stroke rate with the revolutionary Metronome device, how to write your own swimming workouts, what is the equipment that should definitely be part of your swim gear bag and more. An important Open Water Skills section is also included. It is loaded with tips on wetsuit purchases and specific open water swimming drills. Even though swimming is done in the water, to be a good and healthy swimmer, you need to have some core strength and good flexibility. In the last extra section, Paul will guide you through some important stretches to improve flexibility and some dryland exercises to help you gain the right swimming muscles strength. The third and last DVD included in the package contains a full 8 week program for you, so you have some initial guidance in and out of the pool to get you started on your way to perfect freestyle stroke.

Finally, if you really want to see Paul Newsome in his sexy blue swim suit :), you should definitely get his DVD set. If this does not entice you, how about a great English and Australian accent guiding you through your swimming stroke correction drills :). If you are still unsure, perhaps you'd like to read about the techniques in his new book Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers and Triathletes .


Summary: Pros and Cons

So, there you have it. The Swim Smooth's Clean Up Your Stroke DVD set is a very nice resource for swimmers who are looking to improve their freestyle stroke or just overall swimming fitness. All the different sections have nice guidance from Paul as well as a few example swimmers in the water with a commentary and text to explain what you should be focusing on and what you should avoid. Each section also has some examples of how not to do it, which in my opinion is priceless comparison for the visual learners out there. In a way, listening to Paul is like having a coach on the pool deck tell you exactly what you should be doing.

I'd say that the Clean Up Your Stroke DVD is targeted towards swimmers who have already acquired some basic skills and are now looking to make their swimming more efficient and streamlined. The breakdown of the DVD into meaningful parts of the freestyle stroke brings a quite logical view of what an improving swimmer should focus on. I would not recommend this DVD to true novice swimmers who are just getting accustomed to the feeling of their bodies in the water as the concepts, yet not advanced, are a bit tough to apply to your swimming if you struggle with some basic body and head positions. I'd mainly recommend this DVD to all the folks who can already swim up and down the pool a little and are feeling frustrated that they are not really improving anymore or just don't know where to go next with their improvements.


Remember, focus on one thing at a time and if you start feeling like all is going to hell, then stop, refocus and try again. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.

Final rating: 5/5

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Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Nov 17, 2011

Zoomers Gold review: Improve your freestyle kick in a soft rubber comfort

Swimator Blog November 15, 2011 Final rating: 5/5

One of the toughest things to learn in swimming is a proper effective and efficient kick. Many coaches can tell you that having a great kick is the essence of fast swimming, however, many coaches also struggle with teaching the proper kicking technique. No wonder though, the right kicking movement, whether it is freestyle, breaststroke or another style, requires good body coordination, so the right muscles get fired up at the right times. Swimming coaches can explain the kicking technique in many different ways, using different analogies which might bring out the ahaa moment in your kicking learning process, but there comes a time where we do need to enlist the outside help of some swimming gear, in particular swimming fins. I've already talked about the shinfin leg fins and how they can help you with your kick and proper body position, however there is another type of fin which is used successfully and widely by swimmers. The special fins are called zoomers and I'll introduce you to the youngest of the zoomer family, the "Zoomers Gold" edition from Finis.
Zoomers Gold Review: improve your freestyle kick


What are the features of Zoomers Gold?

In layman's terms, a zoomer is actually just a regular fin with the tip cut off, so it is shorter without the flexion at the end. However, don't let that undervalue the work Finis has done with their Zoomer Gold edition. Apart from having a very cool yellow color (btw, great product marketing approach on Finis' part), the material and the shape of the Zoomer Gold fin is much much better than any fin that I have come into contact with. The zoomer fits very snugly on my foot and is very soft around the heel area, so I don't have to use socks or plasters to keep my heel from getting chaffed and blistered up as is the case with the majority of fins out there. The tip of the zoomer is more rigid, however, it still allows for some flexion, so you don't feel like your ankle is going to snap off every time you kick. Since the zoomer fins are shorter than regular fins, they are much easier to throw into your swimming gear bag and transport around. You can use Zoomers Gold to improve your freestyle, backstroke and butterfly kick (no breaststroke sorry :)). The fins are designed to help the swimmer build strength in the right muscles during the kick as well as improve ankle flexibility, so the final kick without the fins is a beauty. Finally, if you are naive enough to refuse to buy items produced in China to cripple the Chinese economy, you are in luck as the Zoomers Gold is made in Malaysia and Finis even provides a toll free US based phone number to call in case of any support questions. I wonder if anybody ever called them during a swim workout :), I haven't tried it, but if you do, don't hesitate to share your experience with us. The Zoomers Gold edition comes in many sizes which accommodate the majority of the feet in the world and is as good swim gear for beginners as for competitive swimmers, so you can't go wrong.

What will Zoomers Gold do for me?

It is no secret that the more flexible your ankles, the better kicking potential in the water you possess. If you have friends who are competitive swimmers, you might very often hear them complain about twisting their ankles very often. I lost count a long time ago as to how many times I sprained my ankle playing ultimate Frisbee. Ankle braces became standard equipment for me when doing any type of running sport. All this is due to the extreme ankle flexibility needed to maximize the kick's efficiency. Don't worry though, most people will still kick just fine without having ankles made out of rubber. Usually, triathletes, runners and cyclists have very stiff ankles, as they should, in order to keep them stable during their specific activity, however, this creates an issue when they enter the water element. Their ankles and subsequently feet do not act as extensions of their legs like a fin, so triathletes generate much more drag and less power from their kick which causes them to sometimes struggle during their learning to swim process. Zoomers Gold are here to help though. The stiff front blade adds an extra pressure to the top of the foot which stretches the ankle in the right direction. So if you suffer from the stiff ankle syndrome and decide to use zoomers regularly and properly, you should see some results in your kick in a few weeks as your ankles get a bit looser.

Another common mistake, this time not caused by genetics and repetitive motions :), is the size of the kick itself. Many swimmers tend to over do it and have a very wide and slow kick, instead of a faster smaller kick (like kicking in a bucket). With the Zoomers Gold this is actually almost impossible to do without feeling very awkward. The shorter, stiffer blade of the zoomer pushes you to maintain a faster, shorter kick which by itself should help you with the propulsion needed to go forward instead of a stationary or even backward kick struggle.

Since Zoomers Gold are so short and have a very intuitively designed angle of the outside fin, they feel as if they are a part of your foot. This is good from the aspect of being able to feel the right motion of the top of your feet as they freely press against the water going down on freestyle and up on backstroke. (Let's not talk about the other part of the kick where you kick with the sole of your foot - this is a bit too advanced.) As a bonus, it is very easy to walk in zoomers since they are so short.

Finally, you have probably heard this many times from your swim coaches and swim instructors or you have read it in swimming magazines, but it is pertinent that while kicking freestyle or backstroke kick that there is very limited knee bend. So keeping the legs straight and only letting the water pressure slightly push your knee back is the way to go. If you pretend to swim with straight legs, you will probably think you have straight legs, but in reality, you will actually have the correct kick which allows only for a very slight knee bend. The power of the kick comes from the quadriceps (your thighs) and hips, so if after using the Zoomers Gold fin you don't feel slight burn in your thighs, modify something about your kick. You can strengthen the right muscles for your kick with variety of kicking drills.
Zoomers Gold Review: stop the blisters


Summary: Pros and Cons

To summarize, the Zoomers Gold fins are one of the most comfortable fins I have ever had the pleasure to train in. They work the correct thigh and hip muscles to improve swimmers' kicking ability. The zoomers are very easy to carry around as they are quite light and small. With the zoomers, it is much easier to perform certain swimming balance drills as the swimmer has more power in the kick. Finally, the yellow color is very hip and cool :).

Word of caution though, do not use Zoomers Gold throughout your entire swim workout. You should incorporate usage of zoomers into your workout to help you with your kick, however, stay away from using zoomers just to keep up with the faster swimmer in the next lane. This is a pitfall which many swimmers and triathletes fall into. Remember, first slow down and learn the right kick, before you can speed up and enjoy it. I'd not recommend swimming more than 20% of your workout in fins.


Pros:
Cons:
  • could be a bit odd feeling at the beginning to swim with zoomers, so you need to have patience and determination to get your kick right
Final rating: 5/5
  • usability/effectiveness - 5/5
  • material - 5/5
  • look and feel - 5/5
  • price/value - 5/5

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Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Nov 7, 2011

How to start with open water swimming (Tips on how to transition from the pool to open water with ease)

Open water swimming is supposedly one of the fastest growing sports around the globe. I am not sure where I heard this statement, and it is probably not true, however, the fact is that open water swimming and triathlon are becoming very popular. If nothing else, just the simple fact that there is a market for enjoyable open water swimming holidays all around the globe is a good indication that the sport is gaining traction. And since, 70% of our planet's surface is covered by water, it only makes sense we'd discover it sooner or later :).

Rostislav Vitek - Capri-Napoli Grand Prix winner
With the increasing popularity of open water swimming popularity,there also comes quite a big challenge for open water event organizers and for swimmers themselves. The open water events organizers struggle to make sure that swimming events are safe and many swimmers have a hard time understanding that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in the pool. New swimming skills and an understanding of the environment are required in order to fully enjoy mother nature's outdoor liquid wonders.

I've sat down to discuss some open water training tips with one of my friends from my younger years in the Czech Republic, who has gone through the difficult transition from wall to wall pool swimming to a very successful world wide open water swimming career. Meet Rostislav Vitek (Rosta), a 2008 Beijing Olympic participant, English channel swimmer, multiple Czech record holder in open water races and one of the world's top open water swimmers. In fact, Rosta is an extreme marathon swimmer as he loves participating in events, such as the Argentinian 57km swim from Santa Fe to Rio Corondo. He has won this event on a few occasions. Just to bring his achievements into perspective, he swam the 4th fastest English Channel Swim time (7:16,25) in the history of the La Manche crossings. Now these are credentials any swimmer would be proud of.

Anyway, enough of the bragging, let's get down to business and talk about what you are interested in as a beginner open water swimmers and what you can do to help yourself with the swimming pool to open water transition. I asked Rosta a few questions:

Swimator Blog: What would be the first tip to give to someone who is just starting out or thinking about joining in the open water and triathlon frenzy?

Rosta: At the beginning you need to swim a lot in open water. I know this sounds simple, but just going for a swim in your local lake or pond instead of being in the pool makes a huge difference. Spend some time in open water before going to your races, so you get accustomed to the different environmental conditions (wind, water temp, rain, waves etc.) as well as reliance on yourself and not the swimming pool walls. Usually, whatever conditions you swim in at your home open water hole, you will be comfortable when swimming in a race. Just to give you some perspective, I spent three years plowing the open waters back and forth before I felt comfortable during my races and I started to understand the open water environment. After that I could migrate back into the pool and only use my races as my open water swims. However, to leave out practicing in open water, you would need to go to a race almost every week, so this is not for everyone.

Rosta keeping his swimming rhythm in the ocean
Swimator Blog: So what sort of things should a person do in open water? Obviously, not just mindlessly swim as fast as possible.

Rosta: For sure, open water swimming has a lot of nuances that the pool swimmers don't know much about. For example, sighting. Sighting is the process of raising your head out of the water to look where you are going during your swim. The idea is quite easy to understand, however, the hard part is to figure out how often to sight and what to look for. You can practice different sighting intervals until you figure out what is a good one for you, so it does not necessarily slow you down and make you more tired. One way to do this is to count your strokes in between your sightings, so for example, you can sight every 50 strokes to begin with and see if you can keep a straight line. With sighting also comes the experience of knowing what to look for. The most common mistake is to look for a floating buoy or something on the water, however this technique does not work. You need to pick a large object (house, tree, TV tower etc.) in the distance in the direction you are swimming before you begin a race and then just quickly look for that object during your sighting while swimming. There are many other things you also need to think about and consider while in open water, for example how to breathe, how fast to move your arms, when to eat etc.

Swimator Blog: That's a good advice. Should you have any tactics during a race or how does racing in open water differ from swimming pool racing?

Rosta: Well, in the swimming pool, it is just you in the lane with nobody around, so you have to rely on your speed. In open water, it is not so much about who the fastest person is, but about who is the smartest tactician. Obviously, you do have to swim fast to be with the best, however, you don't have to do it alone. In open water races, and this is very hard to get used to coming from the swimming pool, you should attempt to swim in a pack of swimmers so you can utilize drafting. If you swim alone and employ the same tactic as in swimming in the pool, you will be doomed. Just pick a group of swimmers that have a similar or a bit faster speed than you and stay inside the pack. It is the same principle as in cycling. So, sometimes you need to conserve your energy by letting someone else do the work, instead of letting your competitiveness get the better of you. However, in shorter triathlon races, this is a bit different. For triathletes, your race tactic will depend on how long the swimming part is and on how good of a swimmer you are. Either you will just fight to survive the swim, in this case, you should heavily invest in improving your swimming technique or you will cruise to the end of the swimming leg with plenty of juice left to continue with the race. While swimming in a triathlon, you do need to keep in mind that there is still biking and running left afterwards, so not much sprinting is done at the end of the swim here for most triathletes. Instead the focus on fast swim to bike transition is in sight.

Sunny destination for outdoor swimming workout
Swimator Blog: Ok, the drafting makes sense. Very hard to get used to coming from the pool though :). It needs a lot of practice. You mentioned that for someone starting out in the open water sport, swimming in the open water should be the main aspect of their training. Do you recommend leaving out the swimming pool altogether?

Rosta: No, not at all. For beginner open water swimmers, the importance of swimming in the open body of water is not necessarily for energy draining workout purposes, but for getting familiar with the environment and learning the different tactics and techniques such as sighting, drafting, recovering, right arm movements etc. However, you can still get great preparation workouts in the swimming pool. Preferably in 50 meter swimming pools as it better mimics the open water scenario.

Swimator Blog: What type of workouts should you do in the pool then?

Rosta: Well, this fully depends on how skilled a swimmer you are, but you should definitely focus on your swimming technique, so your stroke is efficient. Some technique work should be part of every workout no matter how advanced a swimmer you are. Then you can simulate open water race conditions by for example swimming series of 50s. 4x6x50 or 4x20x50 (depending on your skill ability) and every set of 50s is on a bit faster interval while maintaining the same speed. So the first set of 6x50 is on let's say 1:00 interval, second 6x50 on 55 seconds etc. You need to maintain the same time for every 50 even with the lower interval. This simulates how your body gets more tired during the race and also the sprint towards the end of the race to the finish line as that is where most of the races are won or lost since drafting tactics are used. It is something called the "endurance speed".

Swimator Blog: Would you recommend the use of any swimming gear for the open water swimmers or triathletes?

Rosta: If I really have to choose, I am a big fan of technique oriented swimming gear, so my number one recommendation would be the front snorkel. This tool is great for getting your body aligned and keeping you in the rhythm while also improving your lung power. As far as other swimming gear products currently popular among triathletes and open water swimmers, such as paddles and fins, these are not necessary. I would not recommend using these unless you already are a pretty good swimmer as this type of gear can cause more harm than benefit with a bad technique. You are much better off doing some technique work.

These were just some introductory tips from Rosta about how to get started with open water swimming. If you have any specific questions you'd like to ask Rosta, please feel free to put them in the comments as this is a unique opportunity to gain inside knowledge on open water swimming from one of the best open water swimmers in the world.

I will bring more insights from Rosta's vast open water experience in future open water posts, so stay tuned and don't forget to join our growing Swimator Facebook community or follow us on Twitter @360swim.
Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start

Oct 31, 2011

New 50 meter pools contribute to swimming success in the UK (Improve your swimming in 50 meter pool as well)

Many swimmers do not have the luxury to train in 50 meter pools, however, some of us do have the option and still choose not to do so. The following article will give you some information about 50 meter pools and Olympic size pools in terms of what it could mean to your swimming success.
outdoor 50 meter pool with a 25 meter diving well in Finland


This is a guest post by Matthew White (@serious_square) a swimmer and water polo player based in the UK.

During my time with the Great Britain Junior Water Polo Team one of the many places I had the privilege of playing was Barcelona. When I was there in 2001 there was a rumour that there were more 50 meter swimming pools in Barcelona than the whole of the UK, a statistic that we all knew could easily be true but were never able to verify.

What may have been the actual fact was that there are more 'Olympic size pools' in Barcelona than in the whole of UK. This is because in 2001 there appears to have only been one, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre. This was the only pool to meet the 50 meters by 25 meter (10 lanes) standard. In 2011, there are now 3 more official Olympic sized pools in the UK: London Aquatics Centre (the venue for the 2012 summer Olympics), Sunderland Aquatic Centre and the John Charles Centre for Sport, in Leeds.

Since 2001 there have been a number of swimming pools built that are 50 meters in length, notably Manchester Aquatics Centre, Cardiff International Sports Centre and the K2 near Gatwick airport to name just a few, we seem to be getting the idea that for our swimmer athletes to compete at the very top level they need to be training and racing in full length swimming pools. Just as it would be ridiculous for a 100 meter runner to sprint 50 meters, turn and run back, the dynamics of training in a 25 meter pool are completely different to that of a 50 meter pool.

In Australia, a country with a population a third the size of the UK they have built 47 Olympic Sized swimming pools and they consistently produce swimming and water polo teams that compete regularly with the very best in the world. Does their success boil down to having more quality swimming facilities? I would argue that it is an important factor, however, probably not the only factor.

Swimming is amongst one of Britain's most participated sports, so the pool of potential athletes probably matches or exceeds that of Australia, therefore, nurturing top athletes with the very best swimming facilities is very important. Looking at UK swim teams performance in the pool since the Sydney Olympics in 2000 the theory of an increased number of 50 meter pools aiding top level performance could gain a more weighted argument.

Year2000200420082012
Gold002?
Silver002?
Bronz022?

The table shows an increase in medals between 2000 and 2008, plus in 2008 British swimmers made more finals than any other Olympics before. Looking at this purely quantitatively, more pools = more medals – but it is not as simple as that. What will happen in the 2012 Olympic Games in London is still to be decided and your guess is good as mine. Will the team GB break records and bring home more medals than before?

One might argue other factors contribute to a country like Australia's success, firstly, the climate is far warmer and from my own experience potentially Olympic standard athletes get fed up with getting up on a cold dark mornings and training for two-hours before school – therefore just quit or 'burnt out' as it is called. I don't know what the 'burn out' rate for Australian athletes is, but personally I find it far easier to getting up to a bright warm morning as opposed to a cold dark one. So one could argue, to be an Olympic swimmer in UK is much more psychologically challenging than in warmer and sunnier countries like Australia.

Olympic size pool with 10 lanes in Cyprus
Other factors have to include training strategy, when Bill Sweetenham came in as National Performance Director of Team GB after the unsuccessful 2000 games, he employed what was known as 'tough love'. The details of his methods are unknown to me, however, what we do know is that he was heavily involved with Australian swimming before he joined Team GB and therefore must have been the same. We also know that those methods helped improve the GB swimming teams world performance.

There are always going to be more factors than 'the quality of swimming facilities' and accessibility. But looking at the number of recent pools built in the UK, someone must be realising their importance, both for elite athletes and for the general public. For me, the increase in 50 meter pools has directly influenced UK swim team's national performance and I would be interested to hear from readers about their own country.

The future seems quite bright for swimming in Britain, and no doubt the 2012 Olympics effect will go further in increasing funding and participation for the next swimming generation. At an age still young enough to compete, but getting nearer to coaching 'age' I personally am quite excited about the potential new facilities and interest in aquatic sports has received and where they can take us in the future.

More about Matthew: He writes swimming and pool related articles for Aspect Pools who sell everything to do with aquatics from swimming pool chemicals to garden swimming pools.

From Swimator Blog: If you have the option to train in 50 meter pool, you should definitely jump on the opportunity. Practicing in 50 meter pool has many benefits Here are just a few. It is much harder to swim as one cannot rest on the wall every 25 meters, so you will get stronger over time and coming back to the 25 meter pool for training will feel like a walk in the park. You also have more time to practice the miscellaneous swimming drills since you do not have to loose focus with too many wall turns. Also, usually, there is more space in the 50 meter pools, so you have less swimming traffic in the lane. If your main swimming goal is to improve in open water swimming or triathlons, 50 meter pools should take up majority of your indoor training. However, that said, it is not a good practice to only train in 50 meter pool as it is quite easy to loose speed and loose the grip on your turns. So make sure you strike a good balance between your training locations. Happy swimming!
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