Speedo ambassador and triathlete, Rachel Rutherford shares her top tips for getting back into the pool and improving your swim fitness.
After a rather challenging year, we are finally able to get back into the pool and I know with races beginning again this year, we are all slightly nervous about how our swim performance has fared.
Having spent 2020 doing a lot of open water swimming, I got back in the pool to discover my pace had slowed significantly and quickly discovered I had picked up many bad habits over lockdown. Instead of getting frustrated, I have decided to look at this time as an opportunity to make some real changes to my swim training.
This being said, it’s always hard to accept that you have taken a backward step in performance (not limited just to sport) so in this blog, I am going to share some of my top tips, not only for getting back into regular swim training, but also staying motivated when doing so.
Set Some New Goals
Goals give your swimming a purpose, and having a purpose provides determination when the motivation is dwindling. This could be completing a 5km swim or taking 3 seconds off your 100m time! Once you have decided on your goal, you can tailor your training to achieving these!
Follow Social Accounts that really inspire you to swim!
Whether this is something as small as a post-swim coffee, or something bigger like a new swimsuit. I love being able to build up a collection of swimsuits that get me excited about getting in the pool. My favourites are:
Invest in a Swimming Watch
Being able to track your distance is really motivating, especially when you can see yourself swimming further and further as the weeks go on. Having a watch will also enable you to track your progress over time, and set yourself those all-important goals
In 2020, I completely abandoned all technique work and got used to swimming in a wetsuit in open water. In the last few weeks, I have started bringing this back into my swimming schedule, with at least one session a week focusing on the areas where I can really drive some efficiency gains. There are a few bits of essential kit to help you with these sessions which can be seen in the flat lay photo below.
- A kickboard: Your kick in the front crawl should be gentle, flow from the glutes and you shouldn’t be kicking from the knees. Hold the kickboard out in front of you and really focus on kicking from the bum. I recommend doing 2 length intervals.
- Speedo Elite Pullbuoy Foam: Sinking legs is one of the biggest problem areas among swimmers, and the pull buoy is great for keeping the bottom half of your body level, enabling you to focus on the top half of the stroke. In a way, it does a very similar job to wearing a wetsuit in an open water swim.
- Fins: Adding resistance to the kick reinforces the proper procedure of the kicking action. They stop your legs from sinking in the water and help with ankle flexibility which actively improves body positioning in the water! They are also a lot of fun (and make you go really really fast).
- Hand paddles: Much like fins, hand paddles add resistance, making them great for building upper body strength. As no water can escape between your fingers, you are able to put a lot more power into the pull stroke. In turn, this makes you a lot more aware of the stroke as you propel your body forward significantly more than using just your hands. It is important to build up slowly using paddles, so you don’t encourage any injuries in the shoulders.
- Snorkel: If you struggle with breathing in the water, using a snorkel will enable you to really focus on a specific area of the stroke without having to worry about catching a breath!
DISCLAIMER: don’t use all aids at once... It is important to work on one area at a time. If you try to fix everything at once you are likely to become overwhelmed and limit your progress!
Join a Swim Club
There are several benefits to training with others. Firstly, if you have committed to meeting someone for an activity you are much more likely to do it! Secondly, in a coached session you will have instant feedback on your swimming technique, meaning you can make significant improvements very quickly!
Most importantly remember to have fun.
If you are enjoying yourself, motivation naturally flows!
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