Tag Archives: Advice

Terrible swim, great chat… Masters

On Monday I got into the pool just after 7am for my regular Monday morning swim session, but to be honest it was hard work. I was still really tired from the previous week’s work and hadn’t managed to catch up fully on my sleep. It really made me realise just how important rest is in regards to all of this training.

I plan to do mini 1km sets at a threshold pace when I’m swimming these sessions. The plan is to keep to a 1:54 / 100m pace (1 minute and 54 seconds for every 100m swum). I managed the first two 1km sets, but setting off on the third I just didn’t have the energy.

I could have pushed through it, but part of the reason for being tired was because I was busy at work – and there was still plenty to do on Monday. So instead of keeping going and wiping myself out for the day, I called it a day.

By doing so it meant I had a few extra minutes to chat to someone who is a regular lane buddy. I see her and say hello, but even after all these weeks we’ve only just got onto first name terms – I’m usually too busy swimming and then rushing to work. But on Monday I had a few extra minutes and we chatted for a bit. Naturally the talk was about swimming and our stroke (I’m a bit choppy with my left arm apparently) and during that conversation she mentioned that there was a Masters session at my pool twice a week – I didn’t know that!

So last night I went down to my first ever Masters session – in fact it was my first ever swimming “lesson” of any kind. I don’t remember being taught to swim but I presume that my dad gave me the basics and I got on with it as a nipper, I certainly was never a member of a swimming club. So I was a little bit nervous at the start of the session.

In the end the session was a swimming club session for teenagers with one lane roped off for the old folk. It doesn’t sound like much, but as there were only three of us it was plenty. We started with a warm-up as the coach watched our stroke and then gave tips.

She actually said that my stroke was quite good – which was gratifying to hear – I just have to focus on reaching a bit further and rotating a bit more. Although I’ve never had any lessons I have watched swimmers and read a few tips and hints and tried to adopt the good habits into my swimming – it seems that some have sunk in. After the initial assessment we swam few drills (I’ve never used a pull buoy before, so that was interesting) and continued to receive hints and advice from the coach.

It wasn’t a particularly intense session, although the different drills helped me work on different aspects, but I really enjoyed it and got a lot from it. I’m going again tonight 🙂


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This is the best I could do at my son’s solitaire game this morning. Does anyone have any tips?

(Although to be fair, I’m pretty pleased with this effort!)


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Open Water Swimming Advice

I don’t claim to be an expert at open water swimming, but I’m doing more and more of it and trying to follow this advice myself. So if you are planning to get some swimming done in the great outdoors, here are some tips:

Lube up

You’ve probably seen people getting into the channel covered in goose fat – and that’s really important if you are swimming without a wetsuit. I still need to work out what is best to use as insulation and I’m sure I’ll write more here when I do.

However, what most people forget is that even with a wetsuit it’s important to lube up. You don’t need to do it for warmth in the same way, but unless you have a really old, worn suit you’ll need to do it to avoid chaffing. Make sure that you put some Vaseline (or equivalent) around your neck so that as you breathe you don’t rub your neck on the wetsuit. You may want to consider other areas too that will rub – under your arms, your groin etc.


Swimming in a pool is easy – the lanes are clearly marked and you’ve also usually got lines in the bottom of most pools. So navigation is pretty easy. That’s not the case in open water, so looking where you are going becomes really important.

If you’re in an event you can usually follow the herd (unless you’re winning) and although you shouldn’t rely on that if you follow the masses you’re not going to go far wrong.

But even to follow you need to be able to see the people in front. If you swim crawl in theory you will rarely look forwards (down and to the side when you breathe – sure; forwards – less so). So sighting is the process of doing just that.

Basically, every 4 strokes or so glance up to check your position relative to where you’re headed. The idea is that you take an elongated breath and so don’t break your rhythm. You may need to do it with a couple of consecutive strokes so that you can see enough.

One good lesson that I was taught is to swim in open water towards a clear target (eg a buoy) and then swim about 10 strokes with your eyes closed. Then stop and see where you are in relation to where you should be – for me I was way over to the left. This means that when I’m swimming I always aim just a little bit to the right if I’m unsure of where I’m going as that usually straightens me up.


Even when you can see the turning buoys ok, there is still a trick to turning. I don’t mean the roll technique with your stroke (which I’ve never mastered), but two more basic things.

The first is to actually wait until you’re at the buoy before you turn. What many people do when they are first swimming in open water is see the buoy, swim a couple more strokes and then start to turn. What they forget is that you don’t swim as quickly as you run or even walk. If you look up and see the buoy 5 metres away swim a few more strokes and it will still be 3 metres away. Turn only when you’re actually at the buoy.

The second is that in open water swimming there are very few rules about physical contact – what that means is that people are allowed to knock, bash, hold or swim over you. Most people are fine and wouldn’t do this [on purpose], but at a turning buoy is where it is most likely to happen. So just be careful. Or use it as your chance to get your own back!


Having said all that, it is great fun, so enjoy it.

I hope that helps. See you out there.


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