2013

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Nov 27, 2013

8 Ways to Use your Hand Paddles

Hand paddles are commonly used in the swimming pools around the world. In fact, you hardly ever see a pool deck or the infamous Lost and Found basket (yes, they do exist) without a pair of them laying around. They are either loved or hated. The main rudimentary idea behind the original hand paddles was to increase the surface of your hand to pull more water, however, apart from the 100s of different paddle types, there are many other ways to utilize this piece of swim equipment. So without further ado, here is a list of top XX ways you can use hand paddles (note: I am not focusing on the different types of paddles, just different ways to use the regular hand paddle):

1) Strappless paddles - Even though they are used on your hands, they serve an additional purpose. By taking the wrist straps off or using the strapless paddles (ex: Agility paddles from Finis) you basically are more inclined to lose them from your hands if your underwater stroke has some unexpected deviations form the straight pull. The paddle only attaches to the tops of your middle finger(s) forcing you to think about what your hands do.

2) Kickboard - You don’t necessarily need to use a kickboard to do your kicking. Just hold onto one paddle with your outstretched arms and voila. Many swimmers press down on the kickboard when they kick which is not good. You need to be gentle and relax in your shoulders, so the water can carry you. The kickboard is there just to guide you, so using hand paddles instead of it, is a great practice to steady those front arms. Keep your face in the water and when you breathe, keep the paddle without going down.

3) Lopsided swim - This one is a lot of fun. For this you don’t need to put your paddles on different appendages as above, but you will only use one paddle on the hand of your choosing. By using a single paddle, you are basically offsetting the balance in your core body, so one side of your core is forced to work that much harder to keep your body from snaking around the swim lane. You can also make it more interesting and add one flipper to the opposite leg :).

Holding with hand to increase forearm power
4) Sculling - Either put the paddles on the normal way or just grab them between your thumb and your fingers and utilize their surface to make your sculling efforts a bit more challenging. Remember, sculling movement is not a breaststroke movement, just do very narrow figure eights from side to side and feel the water pressure on your skin. The pressure is the same the entire time, refrain from putting a lot of pressure pushing out to the sides and easy bringing your hands back together.

5) Hand holding - Since we mentioned earlier removing straps from your paddles, why not just grab the paddle with your fingers in the front, thus allowing the paddle to extend further into your forearm and therefore, forcing you to swim more with your forearm ores rather than just your hands. It will create a very similar effect as the Tech Paddles

6) Catch up swim - There is no need to put on your paddles for this exercise, but you can definitely utilize them in a different matter. As with the kickboard paddle exercise, just hold one or both paddles in front of your body in one hand and every time you bring your moving arm forward, just replace your grip. This catch up drill is great for working on your underwater catch. Keep those paddles submerged below the surface, so you always have your hand below your elbow in terms of how far they are below the surface.

Homemade breaststroke kicking paddles
7) Breaststroke kicking - If you adjust the paddle straps in a bit different way you can slip the paddles onto your inner ankles and use them to increase the surface area of your foot during your breaststroke kick. Thus giving the correct idea of how it should feel when you push off the water with your inner legs. This is a bit more tough to do properly and not all paddle straps are long enough to achieve this foot fit. If you do go after this, I suggest getting a smaller set of paddles which you dedicate specifically for this. NOTE: I don’t recommend you try this while swimming very hard as it puts a lot of pressure on your knees, so you could end up with an injury right after you spend an hour adjusting your paddle straps :). Patiently and slowly to start with.

Paddle only with a finger strap
8) Splashing your fellow swimmers :) - Since paddles have larger surface, it is very easy to throw larger amounts of water at your swimmer friends or even the onlookers outside of the pool. Try it, it is fun :). You can even make huge water bubbles on top of the water, but about that another time.

And there you have it. 8 ways to utilize your hand paddles without having to spend money on additional swim equipment. You can actually just have one entire workout with your hand paddles without putting stress on your shoulders. So, if you were a skeptic about hand paddles, maybe you can re-evaluate your position and be creative. Now it is time to dust off those good old plastic plates and get in the pool to enjoy them once again :).

If you have any other uses that were not mentioned here, please do share. I'll be happy to include them.

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

Nov 8, 2013

How To Do Back to Breast Turns (Open vs. Bucket vs. Cross-Over)

In the individual medley races, there are a lot of transitions between strokes: fly to back, back to breast, breast to free where each swimmer could either gain or lose time on the opponents. Usually the most complex turn is the one from backstroke to breaststroke and in the history of swimming this turn has evolved into a very fast and sophisticated movement sequence which is quite tricky to master for a lot of us and even very good swimmers take a bit of coordination and time to learn it. Here is a run down of the turn evolution from the time it was required to touch the wall on swimmer's back to execute the turn.

Back to Breast Open turn or Touch turn

The open turn is basically very similar to a one hand touch freestyle open turn with the only difference that one glides to the wall on back. The most important part here is to reach for the wall on a side still slightly leaning on the back and then very quickly bring your legs to your chest. In other words basically you are pivoting on your butt to make this rotation turn. This turn is the easiest to master and when done well can be very effective.


Backwards flip turn or Bucket turn or Rolling turn or Suicide turn

The bucket turn requires a bit more skill, but it basically is just a backward flip with the touch on the wall. The main point to talk about here is that the start of the turn has to be with the palm touch way below the surface of the water. So actually the swimmer has already initiated the turn before the hand touches the wall. After that again tucking your knees is the common element. One problem with this turn is that it requires quite a good lung capacity to execute the breaststroke pull out afterwards, so unless you can hold your breath long enough to not cut the breaststroke pull out short, I would not recommend it. Hence the name "Suicide Turn" I presume :).


Cross-over Turn

This is the newest of the turns. If executed well, it is much faster, so in shorter individual medley distances such as 100 or 200 it would make more sense to learn it. However, if you look at it quickly, you will probably feel confused as to what hand touches the wall and on what side to flip your body to:). No worries, the below video is very good at describing how it is done. I couldn't have explained it better. In short though, after you touch the wall with your upper arm over your body (keep on your back slightly), you will need to drive your butt in the direction below the hand that touches the wall to complete the turn. So in a way it could be performed on a side or as a regular tumble turn depending how coordinated the swimmer is.


Confused? No problem, the pool is yours and with time you will get it :). Maybe the below video will help. It has more detailed explanation with some dryland practice for the open turn and the cross-over turn:


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

Sep 26, 2013

Aquaviz Review: The Swiss Army Knife Among Swimming Prescription Masks

Swimator BlogSeptember 26, 2013
Final rating: 5/5

I’ve grown up as a full blown chlorinated pool swimmer with lifelong search for the perfect fitting goggles. I swear, I must have tried like 50 different types and always found them inadequate, either they leaked or the suction was too much on the eyes until I found the holy grail, Swedish goggles. Ever since then, for the last 20 years, I’ve been an advocate for these tiny egg shell like contraptions, even in the outdoors during my open water swimming sessions. They are the perfect invention, simple, affordable and they work. However, there is one problem, I need glasses to see well. In the pool it has worked perfectly fine, but outside in the wild it can get a bit tough without a 20/20 vision. And this brings me to my new gadget, the Aquaviz mask with prescription.
Aquaviz prescription mask
Me, SaferSwimmer float, and Aquaviz

This is awesome, I can finally see the beautiful scenery around me when I swim in the Finnish lakes and seas. That was my immediate reaction when I first put on my new prescription goggles from Aquaviz. I no longer need to consider wearing contact lenses and do not have to expose my eyes to potential bacterial infection from the sometimes quite murky waters. I know this sounds like a really corny advertising text, but it is totally true. Let me tell you a bit about this new goggle gadget of mine.

What makes the Aquaviz mask so special?

The outside looks no different than any other ordinary swimming mask, but the secret lies within. Instead of having a prescription glass be part of the goggles, the Aquaviz has it separated and changeable. Inside the mask there is a removable glass layer which can be attached to the inner part of the goggles. Just snap it in at the nose bridge of the mask and voila, you now have full blown prescription goggles. This opens up quite a lot of versatility to yours and your family’s swimming endeavours. Everyone can now use the exact same mask with their own prescription attachment or without. Of course, if you go for a swim together, then you will all have to have your own mask with your own prescription piece. :)

As I mentioned earlier, I am an avid supporter of the minimalist Swedish goggle design, so you can imagine that when I first put on my new Aquaviz mask with its scuba diving mask contour, I had a quite a strange feeling. It felt like I had an alpine ski mask strapped to my face since the goggle profile is so much larger than the one of Swedish goggles. After a few swims it still feels a bit awkward at the start, but shortly into the swim, I don’t even notice it any more. Different types of swim masks are now widely popular among open water swimmers and triathletes, so if you are used to a mask already you probably won’t feel any different. Even if you do have doubts about masks like me, don’t worry, after a while you get used to it and the ability to see clearly just trumps it all anyway :).

Adjustable strap around the head
Easy to adjust strap

The mask details

As you probably already know, selecting the appropriate goggles/mask for your swimming life is not always easy, but Aquaviz makes the choice quite simple. There are varieties of color types available. Mine is a black prototype, but I’d have to recommend you stick with a clear mask type rather than a black one. With a non-seethrough sides your field of vision to the sides, top and bottom is quite limited and when you for example swim on your back, you will really have to tilt your head to your chest to see who swims in your draft wake. With a transparent material, it is much easier to see around you.

The strap is very easy to put on and has a split at the back for better hold on your head. The strap is also adjustable from sides with just a push of a small button, so quite simple for anybody to master. Yet another reason, I like it. The rubber is quite comfortable on the skin on my face, so even after swimming for a few hours, the goggle ring imprint around my eyes is barely noticeable. I can still come home without scaring my daughter that a bug-eyed monster has emerged from the depths of the deep dark waters. Even though that is always fun to do.:)

How about lenses fogging up?

Well, as with any goggle type there is always a risk of goggles being fogged up inside, however, the newest Aquaviz masks have some sort of a thin layer added to the mask inner glass which keeps the fogging to minimum. This anti-fog layer should not be rubbed away, so you need to be very careful about touching the inside glass of your mask. I made a test and rubbed the anti-fog layer off (with very hard rubbing I might add), but the goggles still stay fairly fog free. Even on the worst day, I only get it fogged up around the edges, but not in the middle. You can always ask the guys at Aquaviz to send you a fog free wax that they send with their older mask versions.

Removable lenses
Detachable lenses

Is Aquaviz only for swimming?

To my amazement, the prescription is much more versatile than that of regular swimming masks. The inner prescription piece does not have to be used only in a swimming mask, but also during your scuba diving and it can even be fitted inside a ski mask. The provides both scuba and ski masks into which you can just simply snap your prescription lenses and you are ready to embark on an unbelievable discovery of the tranquil depths of our earth’s waters or have an exactly the same experience as you'd with your GoPro camera whizzing down the piste. I am an avid scuba diver, skier as well as a swimmer, so it is definitely a plus a huge money saver to not have to purchase specially made prescription masks for each of the sports that I love to do every year. I love simple as you can see from my devotion to Swedish goggles and Aquaviz IS simple :).

How does Aquaviz know my prescription?

At the order time, you will have to fill out a very simple form which will have information from your optometrist, so go get your eyes checked or dust off that old prescription from your last visit. At the least, you will need your dioptre measurements for both eyes and your pupil distance number. There is also a possibility to get bifocal or varifocal lenses, so basically the inner lenses of the mask are just like regular glasses which makes it also much more useful.


Summary: Pros and Cons

There you have it, my new Aquaviz. I'd just summarize it like this: simple, versatile and effective. Just a few weekends ago, I went for a 4km swim around Seurasaari island in Helsinki. I have never done it before, so did not know what to expect, however, I was definitely glad I brought my new mask. Besides having an enjoyable swim, which was much warmer this time of the year here in Finland than expected, I was just amazed how splendid the surroundings were. So thank you Aquaviz for making me enjoy swimming in a fully new stunning dimension. I definitely now "see the world the way it should be" :).

Pros:
  • interchangeable prescription
  • easy to clean prescription lenses
  • comfortable on face
  • good price considering that there is a prescription inside - starting from 80 USD (60 EUR) - more info US, Europe, UK, Australia
Cons:
  • higher profile on face (not larger than normal mask, but I'd like to see this reduced as much as possible)
Final rating: 5/5

Clear vision once more
The vision is perfect

Easy to remove lensesAll the benefits of normal glasses
Snap me in or pop me outJust like your regular glasses





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

Sep 11, 2013

Warm down your way to recovery

Last time I talked about learning to swim slow to improve your swim technique, but how about swimming slow during warm down for recovery (also referred to as cool down). When I compose swim workouts where we swim faster sets which is almost all the time, there is a choice to add a lot of rest to allow for the body to recover or better yet to add some easy swimming to allow for recovery. This is however, where the problem usually arises. Many swimmers, especially masters swimmers do not have the right mind set for these easy recovery swims. One group of swimmers, just don’t get it and no matter what the coach says, they still race up and down the pool like Speedy Gonzalez during the easy swims, another group does not know how to slow down, and some just don’t know because nobody ever properly explained it to them.
Warming down is a skill

So, let me set the record straight on warm down or recovery swims. They are in your swim workouts for a reason. One way to think about them is in terms of napping during the day to gain strength for the next adventure that is going to come in your busy life. Slowing down and relaxing during the cool down swimming is like the mini power nap that we all crave right after tasteful lunch and it is the key to better performance on the harder swim sets. You should not be trying to race the person next to you or catch up with the rest of the group who is 100 meters/yards ahead of you in the practice, you should mainly be concentrating on getting your heart rate down and recover.

Many times, there are recovery swims in between swim sets, but they are also used very often inside them. For example, you can have a sprint set of 4x50 meters/yards with 1 minute rest swam in a way that you sprint first 20 meters/yards from a dive and the rest 30 meters/yards is an easy recovery swim. During the easy swimming, you should loosen up, think about how the fast swim went and what you could improve on the next one.
Take it easy, but don't let your technique suffer

You might have just noticed that I mentioned something else than just recovery, there is also a secondary, not so often talked about, aspect of easy swimming. It is the time to gain composure, check your stroke, see that you are doing the right things and perhaps even play around with your stroke to try new techniques (ex: straight arm recovery on freestyle or backwards swimming). After all, you swim slowly, so take advantage of the slowness to improve something :).

Now, if you have a friend or a training partner on your swim team who is guilty of dismissing the idea of easy swimming, share this post with them to help them understand that they are really only hurting their swim performance.

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

Aug 30, 2013

How to swim slower and improve your freestyle

Many of us are caught up in our fast paced society often forgetting to just stop and think. This causes us to do things over and over without realizing that there might be a smarter way to help us go forward. As a swim coach or a swimmer you should always be trying to adjust your ways and explore new things. May it be trying to swim in the mornings rather than in the afternoons or venturing out to swim backstroke if you only swim freestyle or working out in your bus ride on the way to work etc. etc. What I want to talk about today is slow swimming which is one of these things that is really outside the norm for most.
outside the box
Learn to think outside the box

I believe that learning to swim slow is one of the hardest things you will ever learn in swimming. Now you might be wondering, why in the hell would I want to do that. Well, hang on, let me explain a bit more. Let’s go back to your early years when you were learning to write. None of us (well maybe some prodigies :)) started to write in the speed we write now. We started by slowly practicing and perfecting each pencil stroke until we became proficient in each and every letter. Then we started to combine them together to form words, sentences and later on practiced our signatures to be as fast and as efficient as possible, so we don’t waste time with all those documents that require our signature nowadays:). Since swimming is composed of so many small moving parts of your body, it becomes a quite complex form of exercise, so slowing it down makes only sense. Except there is the problem of the water element where we feel like we have to move fast to stay afloat, thus omitting the actual act of learning how to swim slowly. The difference between swimming and writing is that we cannot start swimming slow at the start of our swim learning efforts, because it is so much harder than swimming at a speed which will cause the currents to lift your body up to float. However, we can at least fake it a little :). At the start of your learning, think of it more like doing the motion slowly while maintaining a good speed with your kick (use fins if your kick is not as efficient). Rushing everything will only lead to disasters and frustration. Yes, breaking down the swimming stroke into small parts is great for improvements, but unless you are able to slow down the stroke to practice the small parts and work on every single movement slowly, it will not work very well.

Slooooow dooooown and leeeeaaaaarn
Slowing down your swimming will have an effect on your balance and coordination. If there is something wrong in your stroke, you will feel it right away as you won’t be able to slow down much without losing balance or going under water. As mentioned above, you don’t have to slow down everything at one time and swim like the Tsar of swimming. You can use fins to help you float a bit better, but then move your arms very very slowly to work on the correct movements.

When you have mastered the basics of swimming, one of your ultimate goals should be to increase your time (you heard me right :) for 50-75 meters/yards. The longer it will take you, the better you are off as your balance and coordination have improved and your body control is much better. It is a very similar principle as with learning to swim backwards.

So next time you are in the pool or are deciding what you will swim next, include a slow 75 in there and see if you can improve something. Don’t be sucked down to the need for speed level and learn to slow down. Do it often enough and you will see the improvement, I promise.

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

Mar 16, 2013

4 Swimming Pool Apps to Keep You Afloat

Even though this blog is mainly about swimming, how to do it better, more effectively and efficiently. Some readers have their own pools where they practice they strokes from wall to wall or vertical kicks in the deep end. If you fall into this category, Adam from Country Leisure pools is here to give you a few tips on mobile apps which can make your life of the pool maintenance easier, so you can spend less time worrying about your pool and more time doing what you like, swimming :).

Enter Adam:

Swimming pools are a fun part of owning a home, enjoying the summer sun, but most importantly very convenient way to improve ones swimming potential. When you own a pool, it is useful to get a few smartphone or tablet apps to help improve the cleanliness, care and management of the pool, otherwise you are going to ever regret getting one as you'll spend more time and money cleaning it. Although the apps are a useful tool for pool owners to download, remember that you do not want to take the phone into the pool with you when you use the apps or it might just drown, unless you have a good waterproof case protection with you.

How’s My Water

How's My Water from iOS App Store
How’s My Water is an iPhone App that allows pool owners to accurately determine the health and balance of pool water. Since the water can become contaminated or require adjustments when it is filled, the app is a useful tool to make appropriate changes.

According to PoolCenter.com, the app uses the iPhone camera to take pictures of the test strips after placing it in the water. The strips are evaluated for color and accurate treatment advice is provided to pool owners for a custom treatment result.

The data is saved for future evaluation and comparison after the next water test. Although the app costs $5.99, it is a useful tool for any pool owner. It helps owners determine the safety of water and make appropriate changes to keep the water as fresh as possible.

Swim University

Swim University Mobile App
Swim University is among the top apps for pool owners because it provides a wide range of useful features. The app is available for free on iPhones and Android phones, so it provides many pool owners with the opportunity to find information that is related to pool care and maintenance.

According to PoolSupplyWorld.com, the app provides how-to videos, guides for buying pool-related supplies and blogs that help with specific needs. The app is organized to help with specific categories, such as a spa or a pool, and offers a wealth of information related to the care of a household pool.

Although the app provides several tools and useful elements, it does not have a high cost. In fact, Swim University is a free app that is available to every pool owner with a smartphone.

Pool Genius

Pool Genius from iOS App Store
Pool Genius is a useful app that was designed around new pool owners who might have several questions and concerns regarding the maintenance and management of a household pool. According to PoolSupplyWorld.com, the app can help pool owners weigh the pros and cons of different filtration systems and options for pool maintenance.

Beyond the basic tools and information, the app is made with simplicity in mind. Pool owners will not need to work around complicated systems to find information that is necessary to maintain or work on a pool. Furthermore, the user-friendly app is aesthetically pleasing for a better experience while using the application. Although it costs $0.99, the app is useful and can help new and experienced pool owners.

Pool Doctor

Pool Doctor from iOS App Store
Adjusting the chemicals in a pool is not always easy, especially for new pool owners. With Pool Doctor, it is easier to make appropriate adjustments and maintain the pool through changes that are suggested.

According to PoolCenter.com, the app will use three test results to determine the next step in adjusting the chemical levels. After the test results are entered, the app provides doctor’s orders for adjustments. By following the suggestions of the app, the pool will have proper chemical balances.

Since the app is useful for saltwater and chlorine pools, it is possible to find the right results with any type of pool. The app works on iPhones and Android phones, so it is useful to many pool owners. It will cost $1.99 and email tech support is provided to pool owners.

Owning a pool requires the right maintenance measures. Although it can seem complicated, pool apps are available to help owners make decisions, find information and make adjustments to chemical levels. It is possible to enjoy maintaining your pool, with a little help and information.

Note from Swimator Blog: There you have it, just a few simple apps to keep your pool in tip top shape. Don't let me stop you there though. With the mobile era exploding, I am sure that if none of the above apps fit your needs, with a little bit of searching through the miscellaneous app stores, you will find the one. Remember, pool maintenance should be simple and easy, so you can enjoy the benefits of having your own pool and perhaps take advantage of private in house swim lesson offers such as this one. Alternatively, if you are more of a self-taught enthusiast, you can check out this swimming tips app to get your swim technique in order.

This is a guest post by Adam Ray, an Oklahoma City based jazz musician, producer, and blogger. In the morning, you’ll find him near a French press and a content marketing blog. On the weekends, you’ll likely find him wielding his tenor saxophone on stage at a jazz club. Ray enjoys swimming pools and spas, and he works with Country Leisure, in Oklahoma City.


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