It wasn’t until very recently that I learned how to swim. I was 29 at the time and nearing my 30th birthday and I decided that it was time to learn how to swim and I’m so glad that I did. Swimming is so many things;

  • A life saver
  • A useful workout to improve your fitness
  • Relaxing, very much like a meditation session
  • A way to improve muscular strength without heavy impact on the joints

Easier Said that Done

When I decided that I wanted to learn how to swim I thought that it would be very easy to do it so I went down to the local swimming pool and jumped in. Without realising it I had jumped in, quite literally, at the deep end when I had planned to just get into the shallow end…That was a bit of a shocker to be honest! It certainly took my breath away.

After regaining my composure I attempted a bit of front crawl. I had an idea about how to swim but I had not really thought about it too much and it always looked so easy on the television at the Olympics…I couldn’t breathe properly without coughing, spluttering and inhaling water through my nose, I need some help…

Expert Swim Instructor

I decided that I needed to get some advice from somebody who knew what they were doing and that involved a lesson in Shoreditch, Central London. It was so helpful. The lady helped me to relax and not worry about swimming until I was comfortable in the water. In effect, not trying to run before I could walk.

After just 1 lesson I was training 5 times a week and trying to teach myself how to swim. It was tough, sometimes I hated going, other times I loved it. But I always felt nervous before I went to the pool. I think that was just a confidence thing but it lasted for a long time, around 4 months even though I was going to the pool 5 times a week.

The lesson I learned here was that to get good at swimming you need to feel comfortable in the water and that takes time. Going just once a week, even if it is for 3 hours at a time, is not as good as going for 20 mins at a time but 5 times a week. You need to get a good feel for the water and only then will you make good progress.

Swimming Faster

Faster Swimming

Swim fast!

After about 4 months I was much more comfortable in the water. It was at this stage that I wanted to be able to swim faster. Unfortunately I had picked up some bad habits which were fundamentally wrong and slowing me down without me realising it. I took guidance from another expert but this time around I had some video analysis done so I could see how I looked and sure enough I could see that it looked bad.

I had a load of drills to do and practiced a lot to improve my stroke efficiency. You see, swimming is not about powering your way through the water until you have perfected your technique. If you go to any pool you will see loads of young kids with very little strength gliding effortlessly through the water much faster than you. This highlights the point that you need to be as streamlined as possible in order to succeed in swimming speed!

Next post I will attempt to break down some of the lessons that I learned with the aim to give you some notes from the experts and maybe this will even help you swim faster.

Until next time,

Katie “Cambs” Smith

Images courtesy of arztsamui and frank242 /

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It’s been a while since I posted last, and for good reason…I have been travelling around a lot with little time to update the blog. However, that should hopefully change over the coming months as I free up more time to get back to writing on the blog again and look into swimming techniques and training regimes some more.

About Time I posted

I’m headed down to New Zealand where I will be working again. I’ve been in SE Asia for the last 10 months, mainly just travelling and doing very little training apart from one stretch of 4 months when I was at a fitness camp in Thailand with the guys over at Titan Fitness who run a gym down in Phuket. I have to say that I was not originally sold on the idea of the boot camp training style but I have been converted and here are some reasons why…

#1 – Transfer of Skills

Because I have been training for swimming I got into my head that I needed to always swim in order to improve my skills in swimming. Now that I have broadened my horizons a little I think that this was wrong and is a common misconception among many people. Most people think that if you want to get better at swimming you have to always swim, right? Well, no, I don’t always think so. Sometimes you hit a plateau where you can’t get faster or more efficient at a particular sport and by doing a different action you manage to smash through that barrier. There are many reasons for this.

So, get out there are play different sports because the way in which the body adapts and changes based on what it is exposed to will help to develop muscles and movements that you perhaps couldn’t do before.

#2 – Boredom

There is no denying it, no matter how much you love something sometimes that something can become a little boring…You need to change it up a bit, leave it alone for a while and come back to it at a later date when you have a fresh mind and renewed motivation for it. This is most certainly true of swimming and sport. If you look at any professional athlete they don’t train all year round doing the same thing. They take breaks and train in blocks. You should take notice of this and realise that there is good reason for this, to prevent boredom and complacency.

In addition, the body becomes very efficient at doing what it does a lot so your muscles and mind will not be working as hard once they know what they are doing. You can change that up by making sure you play different sports and change your training in a way to shock your body into new ways of behaving to prevent complacency from setting in.

#3 – Challenge

When faced with a new sport to play which you are not used to playing your mind and body are going to have great difficulties at first in trying to master that action. The brain will be working extra hard, forging new pathways through the mind in order to comprehend what you are attempting to complete and ensure that you do your best in order to achieve the desired outcome.

While at the same time the mind is working to control and move the muscles in a way which produces the desired outcome, it helps to maintain a healthy body and mind, creates new connections throughout the mind and keeps you active. As mentioned in point 1, these new found controls over your body that you have developed will help you when you go back to your original sport, such as swimming in triathlon.

So, I hope that this long awaited post has given you some inspiration for trying out something new. A new sport will help you train harder and achieve more in swimming, so go check out what options you have in your local area.

Until next time, and I promise to try my best not to leave it so long until I post again…

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Mental preparation can help swimmers concentrate on their sports performances while feeling good about their selves. Demonstrating the right skills and maintaining composure are two important factors that mental preparation for open water swimming can offer for these athletes.

Swimmers should know why these phobias occur in some people before getting mental preparation for open water swimming for each phobia. Fears or phobias have some things in common which means that the same techniques can be used to overcome them. Check out this video on YouTube for a little more guidance.

Cheimaphobia, cryophobia, or frigophobia – Fear of cold temperatures

Some people have this phobia because they have already experienced or almost experienced hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition in which a person’s body temperature is below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.

Thermophobia – Fear of hot temperatures

People who usually have this fear are those who have already experienced or almost experienced hyperthermia, a condition in which a person’s body temperature exceeds 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.

How can people deal with cheimaphobia and thermophobia with mental preparation for open water swimming?

People should slowly embrace the open water’s temperature once they gradually immerse in it. They should exhale as they jump into the water to prevent rib-cage contractions that can lead to oxygen reduction. By doing this, they will be able to breathe naturally. This will also help them grunt and shriek while swimming faster.

Fear and Anxiety

Face your Fears…

Next, they have to stay in the water for 90 seconds because its temperature may not feel comfortable immediately. They can start moving in the water as their bodies react because of active blood circulation. They should swim towards a tree or rock after 90 seconds has passed.

People should not think about how the open water will feel after they jump into it. If they do, their bodies will not get used to the temperature. They should always think about where they should swim towards to after jumping in the water.

Wearing a swimming wetsuit and swimming close to the shore should also be considered when people want to get over cheimophobia, especially if it would be their first time to go open water swimming. The wetsuit will let people stay in the water longer while keeping them warm.

Aquaphobia or hydrophobia – Fear of water

This type of fear exists because people have already experienced drowning or near-drowning in water, even if it is only in a bathtub. For some people, this phobia occurs after witnessing someone drowning.
Walking in the shallow part of the open water is a good way to start. People should take regular breaths to focus on their breathing. They should walk slowly into the deeper part of the water until their heads are immersed underwater. While being underwater, they should hold their breaths while squatting. They should gradually increase the amount of time they spend underwater at their own pace.

Claustrophobia – Fear of being trapped in enclosed spaces

People who usually have this fear are those who have already experienced not being able to escape from crowds. Swimming in water without breathing properly can be another cause.

Part of the mental preparation for open water swimming includes planning to swim closer to the back of the crowd or outside the pack in water instead in the front or in the middle of the pack. In this way, they will have more space to swim in while gradually dealing with claustrophobia.

When it comes to breathing, people should slowly exhale underwater and inhale above the water while swimming. They should keep their heads low instead of lifting them up while breathing. Although exhaling and inhaling through both mouth and nose is okay, some people feel more comfortable breathing through the mouth only.

Nosemaphobia or nosaphobia – Fear of getting ill

This phobia usually exists in people who have already experienced acquiring dangerous illnesses by swimming in water. These illnesses may include gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory infections, eye diseases, skin infections, and ear disorders.

Along with the right mental preparation for open water swimming, people with this phobia should check the places where they intend to swim. Swimming in supervised locations is also good.

To minimize the risks of getting ill, it is also recommended to: wash hands before eating, showering before and after swimming, and avoiding swallowing the water.

Galeophobia – Fear of sharks

People with galeophobia have already experienced being attacked or almost being attacked by a shark. Some people even acquired this phobia after witnessing someone being attacked by a shark.

People can deal with galeophobia with the right mental mental preparation for open water swimming which primarily involves learning more about sharks and how they behave. After that, they can look at pictures of sharks or go to aquariums that have sharks. This will desensitize them to the image of sharks as fierce creatures.

Bathophobia – Fear of depths

This kind of fear occurs in people who have already experienced sinking or nearly sinking in water whether they were unconscious or do not know how to swim. People deal with this fear by swimming 10 meters away from the shore before turning around and swimming back to the shore. They should swim without touching the bottom of the water as much as possible. After they have gradually become confident doing that, they can swim more than 10 meters.

Kymophobia – Fear of waves

This kind of fear occurs in people who have already experienced being injured or nearly injured by waves in water. These people can also have phobia right after losing someone important at sea during a storm.
Understanding why swimming underneath one or more waves is safer no matter how big it is is the first step in the mental preparation for open water swimming. Swimmers should actually dive deeper below a wave to avoid getting pushed back to the shore. While the wave has not disappeared yet, they should continue swimming below it after diving straight below it.

The mental preparation for open water swimming that people will learn for each phobia will help them enjoy swimming and their time in the water. In a lot of cases, these phobias are all in the mind and are nothing to be worried about. They can be controlled and certain precautions can reduce the chances that what the swimmer fears will actually happen.

One of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone when it comes to dealing with water phobias. In fact, I would say that a large percentage of the population do not feeling completely comfortable in the water and that’s because it’s not a natural place for humans to be. Check out some videos on YouTube, like the ones here and hopefully it will help to alleviate some of your swimming phobias.

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Whether you are an experienced or a novice swimmer, here are the top 10 swimming drills you can perform to improve your swimming technique.

1. The catch-up drill

Stroke the water by using your arm while keeping the other arm outstretched in front of you. Stop when your stroking arm reaches your extended arm, and let your extended arm stroke the water in the same way. Continue alternating your arms while stroking the water. Being the first among the top 10 swimming drills, this type of drill can help people use the freestyle swimming technique effectively.

2. The mid-point sculling drill

Lie on your stomach while letting your arms hang underneath your shoulders. To maintain your body in a horizontal position, kick gently or use a pull-buoy. Keep your elbows near the surface of the water while letting your forearms hang down. Sweep your forearms and hands out and back in repeatedly instead of backwards or forwards. The palms should be pushed outward as your hands sweep out. The palms should be pushed inward as your hands sweep in. As the second among the top 10 swimming drills, this drill is best used in a freestyle swimming technique.

3. The fist drill

Keep your fists loosely-closed or tightly-closed throughout this drill. Swim half the distance of the pool with closed fists and swim the remaining half of the pool with opened hands. Novice swimmers can start this drill by focusing on their legs and hands until they can eventually use their core muscles as well. As the third among the top 10 swimming drills, this kind of drill is ideal for people who want to use the freestyle swimming technique properly.

Here is a YouTube video which shows you how to perform the top three swimming drills:

4. The high-elbow pull drill

Go into the water as you slice your hand forward into it. Keep your hand just outside of your body’s midline. Avoid entering the water with the top of your head first. Otherwise, you will have a tough time setting up for the pull because you have to push against oncoming water. Outstretch your arm forward as you rotate your hips and as you breathe on one side.
As you start the pull, flex your elbows. Maintain your pull to the outside of your body’s midline. Make sure that you do not pull in the middle towards your chest. Your elbow should be close to the water’s surface as you raise it high. With your elbow, push the water back behind you towards your feet until your elbow is fully extended. Lift your elbow afterwards for the next recovery cycle. Being the fourth among the top 10 swimming drills, the high-elbow pull drill can help people use the freestyle swimming technique.

5. The relax-kicking drill

Keep your hands at your sides while floating flat on your stomach. Keep your hips at the surface of the water by keeping your back, head, and neck in a line. Kick your way through the pool while maintaining this position. Like the previous drills that are included in the top 10 swimming drills, this one is best used in a freestyle swimming technique.

I quite often check out what Swim Smooth have to say about kicking as it’s a much debated topic. Check this out for more information.

6. The sweet-spot drill

Swimming Front Crawl

Swimmer Training

Slowly kick with your legs after lying on your back. While keeping your face and mouth out of the water, gently rotate your body from side to side. Adjust your head’s and neck’s positions while using your core to balance on water. Balancing on your core will bring your hips and legs to the surface while keeping your back in line with your head. As the sixth among the top 10 swimming drills, the sweet-spot drill is best for people who want to improve their freestyle swimming technique.

7. The side-swim drill

With your right hand at your side and your left hand extended out in front of you, kick with one of your feet. Make sure that your head is locked to your shoulder as you keep the head down. After that, kick with one of your feet as your right hand is outstretched forward and your left hand is at your side.

8. The 10-and-10 drill

Extend one arm at your back while outstretching the other arm at the front. Make sure that the arm being extended at your back is resting against the edge your body. Keep your chin aligned with your chest and your ear against your shoulder. Stay on the side of your body where your front hand is located. The side of the body where your back hand is located should be facing the bottom of the water. Kick with your leg 10 times before stroking.

Stroking will make your body rotate as your front hand becomes your back hand after stroking with your front hand underwater. In return, your back hand will take over the work of your front hand. Being the eighth placer among the top 10 swimming drills, this drill is ideal for people who want to use the freestyle swimming technique appropriately.

9. The front-catch scull drill

Bend at your elbows while keeping your hands directly below them. Tilt your fingertips towards the bottom of the pool. Keep your head in a neutral position as you swim on your stomach. Slide your hands back and forth in 8-to-10-inches of sweeps while keeping your hands tilted at a downward angle. Let your legs behind you stay at the same level as the water’s surface. They should not drag you down as you do this drill. This ninth drill out of the top 10 swimming drills can help people improve their freestyle swimming technique. Here is another way to do the sculling drill:

10. The deck-up pull drill

Place your hands on the pool deck after you swim to the side of the pool. Do not put your hands close together because you will have difficulty doing this drill. The distance between them should be longer than the distance between your shoulders.
Extend your arms after pulling yourself out of the pool and do this 5 to 10 times. Afterwards, begin swimming again and focus on your pull. This pull should feel the same as how it felt when you pull yourself out of the pool. As the last among the top 10 swimming drills, this kind of drill can help swimmers use the freestyle swimming technique effectively.

These are the top 10 swimming drills you can perform to improve your swimming technique. If you are now looking for somewhere to practice these swimming drills, check out this pool finder and find a pool in your local area.

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It is more than obvious to see that swimmers always need to be in tiptop physical condition in order to be competitive in their sport. But what is less obvious is that there are many swimmers out there who are physically fit but still fail to achieve greatness in their efforts. There is that special “something” which separates the good swimmers from the great ones. And that “something” can be found not on the surface of an athlete’s body, but within an athlete’s mind.

A Champions Mindset

Like in almost all sports, an athlete needs to have the mind of a champion in order to be a champion. Mental willpower will give the athlete that extra bounce in their step that others have yet to gain. Mental muscle, along with physical muscle, will provide the athlete with an extra gear for the final push.

In the case of swimming, which is a sport of endurance as much as stamina, mental toughness comes into play in a different way compared to other sports. Some of the mental techniques that follow will strengthen a swimmer’s mental toughness, giving him/her a crucial edge in the waters. USA Swimming have written another excellent piece on the mindset required to achieve great things in swimming.

What the Scientists Say

Swimming is a sport of reflexes. Thus, a swimmer needs to find the right mentality to give extra motivation to these reflexes. Science gives swimmers the answer. According to neuro-scientists, a person’s mind-body coordination works better if one has a positive attitude.

When a swimmer enjoys what he/she is doing, naturally more motivation is to his/her actions. One is less sluggish and more alert when one is happy. As a consequence, it is of utmost importance that a swimmer keeps up a positive mindset when he/she is swimming. Only good things can come from this positive mental outlook, even when one is extremely nervous.

Nervousness Before Races

Now in all swimming competitions, most swimmers feel butterflies in their stomach right before the race. This mental nervousness is, in actuality, good. Being nervous gives energy to a swimmer. However, one cannot be weighed down by this nervousness, but instead use it like a trampoline to push oneself even more. The great swimmers, such as Ian Thorpe, Lenny Krayzelborg, to Michael Phelps, all had butterflies in their stomach, and yet they are known to us today as Olympic champions. Nervousness will always be there. This is why we must use it as a kind of mental exercise, which we will one day get used to.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, one of the most useful mind techniques for swimmers is meditation. The relaxation of the body through meditation not only helps a swimmer improve their breathing techniques, but it also makes the mind more focused. And as most sportspeople know focus is one of the key things in the making of a champion. One should never keep his/her eyes from the prize. A complete mental focus will enable a swimmer to keep on persevering, no matter the results. Swimmers will experience defeats, but what matters is whether one will let these losses get into one’s head or to use them as motivation for a future victory. In the end, it is all a choice.

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A lot of exercise gurus still believe that swimming is the perfect exercise routine. The reason they are saying this is because swimming requires the entire body to work. All parts of the body, from the arms to the legs to the lungs, are utilized in this sport. Not only is strength required in swimming, but also a rhythmic coordination with every part of the body.

Swimming never isolates a single part of the body; each body part must act in unison with the other. It is no wonder that swimmers are always in tiptop shape. On the other hand, one does not get to be in that kind of physical form without the help of a few cool swimming tools. These tools are used to help improve one’s swimming stroke as well as building up the muscles required to become an elite swimmer. In fact, most of these tools are very simple.

Kick-boards for Swimming

The first cool tool for swimmers is the kick-board. Kick-boards are usually used by little kids learning how to stay afloat in the water by kicking their legs. However, kick-boards are also a great tool for novice to intermediate swimmers looking to improve their technique. By using a kick-board, swimmers can build more leg muscle through kicking. In addition to this, a kick-board can also improve the footwork a swimmer, making them more streamlined in their swimming stroke and thus faster. Not only a tool for kids, the kick-board continues to be one of the primary tools for swimmers everywhere.


Another important tool for swimmers is paddles. Usually when one thinks of paddles, one is thinking of snorkeling. Nowadays, paddles, like kick-boards, are used by professional swimmers to improve their leg strength. However, paddles are also used to build a swimmer’s upper body strength. By placing the paddles on the legs, which makes them more resistant to the waters, more work is given to the arms and upper body to fight the drag of the paddles. By fighting the drag caused by the paddles, a swimmer can become stronger in his/her technique.


Once again, another tool that is mostly used by kids is now being used by professional swimmers. This tool is called the pull-buoy. Typically used by children, it is a flotation device that is placed between the legs of a person. For the reason that the pull-buoy is in between the legs, this allows the swimmer to isolate their upper body, and thereby building its strength. The pull-buoy also gives the thighs, an important part for the swimmer, a much needed workout.

Finger Paddle

Lastly, a more specialized tool for swimmers is the finger paddle. This a tool designed specifically for swimmers looking to improve their swimming stroke. With the finger paddle secured on the hands, swimmers can now try to improve the “catch phase” of their swimming stroke, namely the moment when the hands touch the water. Swimming experts have tried and tested all these tools, and if used correctly they can be instrumental for people looking to become better swimmers.

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Everyone knows that in order to become a top swimmer one must perfect a breathing pattern. Every breathing pattern is different from swimmer to swimmer, and so it is up to the swimmer to discover that particular breathing pattern that suits him/her. On the other hand, this is easier said than done. It can sometimes help a great deal to see proper breathing in action, so you can check out this YouTube video which shows some good breathing technique.

The Correct Breathing Pattern?

Most of the time, it takes months and even years to find the correct breathing pattern. In fact, a lot of swimmers give up on finding a suitable breathing pattern, and by compromising on their breathing they compromise the quality of their swimming. Swimming is, after all, a sport which makes breathing an integral aspect of the game. As a consequence, if one is having trouble finding the right breathing pattern, then there are some breathing techniques that will lead one in the right direction.

Conscious Incompetence

First of all, a swimmer’s breathing pattern is inseparably linked to their swimming stroke. If one has a bad breathing pattern, then one’s swimming stroke is bad as well. A poor breathing pattern will likely cause an awkward body position during swimming. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that one’s breathing pattern is synced up to one’s swimming stroke. This is why a swimmer must be conscious of his/her swimming stroke. He/she must see which part in their stroke slows down or speeds up, and this can only be recognized through laps around the pool. If a swimmer is conscious of these things, then one will be able to find one’s breathing pattern and incorporate it to their swimming stroke. Here, practice makes perfect.

Exhalation Underwater

Another breathing technique swimmers should constantly practice is exhaling under water. Most novice swimmers want to inhale and exhale once their head is above water. But the time when the head is above water during freestyle swimming is too short for an inhale and exhale. Thus, it is best for swimmers to practice exhaling under water. This will make their breathing pattern more in sync with their stroke.

The Golden Rule of Swimming

A golden rule in swimming is to keep your head still. When swimmers try to breathe during their swimming stroke, most of the time their head bobs around the water, because they are searching for air. However, swimmers must realize that drag is created and speed is lost when one moves his/her head. Out of all the breathing techniques, this takes a lot of practice. But when swimmers get a hang of it they will be able to increase their swimming speed as well as improve their breathing pattern.

Final Breathing Suggestion

Last but not least, swimmers should learn to inhale at a precise moment during their swimming stroke. This moment is when the water, because of the swimming stroke, moves away from the head and creates a “pocket” where the head is above water for a tiny second. Swimmers must learn to find this exact moment, since it is the moment when one either breathes air or gulps in water. When swimmers find this moment, then they have taken one more step in becoming an elite swimmer.

Swim Smooth, who offer excellent advise on all things related to swimming have compiled a list of some breathing drills which may be of interesting to you.

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If you live in the United Kingdom you will most definitely need a wet suit if you are going to be doing any kind of open water swimming. Even in the summer the water temperature is just not warm enough to swim without, unless you belong to the serpentine swimming club in London’s Hyde Park who swim everyday of the year even on Christmas day without wet suits…

But for the rest of us we’re going to have to get used to wearing one and learn to adjust our swimming for it.

Wet Suit Swimming

There are two main areas that we need to consider when swimming in a wet suit:

  1. The restrictiveness of the suit
  2. How much extra buoyancy it gives us

Let’s take a closer look at each of these points in turn.


You will feel this most in your arms and shoulders because of the tightness of the wet suit. If you are used to having a high elbow and bringing your finger tips along  the water’s surface in your stroke then it will affect you more than if you swing you hand up higher. In open water it can be beneficial to use a straighter arm in your stroke so as to prevent any tiredness as a result of fighting against the suit.

Using a straighter arm can actually be of benefit anyway because it helps keep the arm away from any choppy water in your path. Still, you need to get used to whatever changes you make to your stroke or feel in your muscles which are being used more aggressively as a result of a tighter wet suit.


For a lot of swimmers, especially those new to triathlon and coming from a cycling and running background, their legs tend to sink in the water. This causes a lot of drag and slows them down. When wearing a wet suit the additional buoyancy in the legs results in the legs coming up much higher and improves your efficiency in the water. However, this change can feel strange so you need to get as much practice in using the suit so you are familiar with how it feels to swim in it.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

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