11/1/11 - 12/1/11

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

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

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