The Importance of Stroke Length

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How fast you swim can be calculated by a simple equation:

Swim Speed= Stroke Length x Stroke Rate

This is why good swimmers tend to be tall with a long arm span (as they already have a competitive advantage).

When trying to swim faster most peoples instinct is to increase their stroke rate (i.e move their arms faster). In reality this is not the best way to swim faster as increasing the rate your arms turn over will:

  • Push your heart rate up so you start working anaerobically and you will begin to fatigue quicker.
  • Exaggerate any flaws in your stroke so that each stroke becomes incrementally less efficient.
  • Unless you already have a strong smooth stroke, when pulling  you will chop at the water and have less grip on each catch which will feel like your spinning your arms with out progressing forward.

The right way to swim faster is to focus on increasing your stroke length, to do this you need to incorporate drills and practices that will help you maximise critical eliments of your stroke:

  • The distance you travel on each stroke pull.
  • The quality of your ‘Catch’ (the point your hand begins to pull backwards).
  • The length of your reach forward after your hand entry point.
  • The drive forward from your leg kick.
  • Your body rotation at the hip.

Focusing on your stroke length and not the rate your arms turnover, will gradually enable you to become a smoother more efficient swimmer, traveling further on each pull and using less energy to do so.

Next time you see a great swimmer note how effortless they look, it is normally because of their smooth, long and efficient stroke.

 

 

 

 

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Day 1 of the Open Water Season

Saturday morning April 22nd 2017 is the first day the Tri2o swim centre is open for the 2017 season and it opened on a beautiful clear sunny morning. Air temp 10c water temp 14c

Despite it being the first day of the season the lake was pretty busy already with some people even braving the 14c water with out a wetsuit. I decided to play it safe and keep the wetsuit on.

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The main change for my attire this year was I had sneaked a neoprene hat underneath my silicon hat to stop myself getting the classic ‘ice cream headache’ for the first lap. it was the best £9 investment. It stopped my head feeling the cold and even kept my hair completely dry for the swim.

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Once I was in the first 200m were pretty chilly and I did feel like 14c but as soon as I reached the first boy (2-3 mins later) the feeling of cold had subsided and it felt close to the perfect swimming temperature

The water was clear and clean and was like swimming in a mill pond and the blue sky only added to the enjoyment.

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I completed 3 laps in 45minutes which is a record for day 1 of the season (historically its been too cold to do more than one)

Skills I practiced in my session:

  • Acclimatisation to cold water (pre entry)
  • Shallow water entry (diving)
  • Flushing the wetsuit to keep warm
  • Siting to the buoy
  • Turning around the buoy
  • Long efficient stroke
  • Catch drills to improve stroke length
  • Speed work as approaching the buoy
  • Bilateral breathing to help swimming in a straight line

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Now the first session of the season is complete and the temperature is comfortable enough to train, its time to focus on fitness and skills, I will be posting some sessions on the website or get in touch if you’re interested in some coached sessions.

Preparing for the Open Water Season

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With less than a month to go before the open water swimming season starts I thought it would be useful to highlight what you can do in preparation of the opening day :

  • Wetsuit: It may have been a few months since you last squeezed into the wet suit. Before your first swim check it still fits. Check it has not corroded over the winter and address any holes with a neoprene adhesive.
  • Swim Cap: You may have been used to swimming in warm waters over the summer, but the start of the season tends to be significantly cooler. Invest in a neoprene hat  to keep your head warm. It will also mean you can swim for longer during the initial weeks of the season without getting brain freeze.
  • Booties and Gloves: Some people don’t notice the cold on their hands and feet, but if you suffer from cold extremities then investing in booties and gloves could help you enjoy your cold weather swim with out worrying about numb hands and feet.
  • Swim Buoy:  Swimming in the open water is very exciting especially the feeling of isolation and adventure, to ensure your safety (especially in rivers and ocean) investing in a swim buoy  is a must. the Swim buoy will ensure you are seen by passing boats. It also doubles up as a dry bag to tow some shoes, fuel or mobile.
  • Goggles: There are endless goggles on the market and the right ones tend to be a personal preference. Two things to think about for open water swimming are; protecting your eyes from the sun by using polarised lenses and making sure you have as wide of a field of vision as possible, generally the wider bigger lenses will help with this.
  • Dealing  with the Cold: Water temperatures in the early season are likely to be close to 10c. Being mentally prepared to be submerged in this temperature is a must, otherwise there is risk of panic attack or loss of consciousness in extreme cases. Practice being submerged in cold water baths or spend the first few sessions at the lake acclimatising to temperature before you swim off into the open water. All the previously mentioned accessories will help your body mange in cold water.
  • Build your Endurance: Open water swimming generally is longer and slower than pool swimming, use the next few weeks to focus on longer sets to build your endurance, which will help you manage the longer distances in open water.
  • Have a plan: Make sure you are making the most of each session in open water. If your putting in  the effort to swim outside make sure your session is structured to help you become a step closer to your goal. i.e you may want to practice swimming in large groups, or practice swimming alone for long periods. If this is the case make sure your sessions reflect this.
  • Have fun: If your goal is just to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, then no plan is necessary! Bring your friends to experience the swim with you are chat to like minded people to make some new friends who are as crazy as you are.