Tag Archives: Swim Canary Wharf

Another one inspired by Sally

Swimming with Sally the other week has opened my eyes to the possibilities of London swimming. Normally when I come down for work I write the days off as non-swim days and leave it like that. Chatting to Sally and reading her blog made me realise just how many pools there are in London and how with just a tiny bit of effort I could swim in them.

Last night I was staying near Liverpool St. I nearly decided to go up to Swiss Cottage again as I knew where the pool was and had enjoyed my session, but than I decided that it would a) be cheating (going to a ‘safe’ pool), and b) be an unnecessary trek across London.

A little bit of Googling and I discovered York Hall baths in Bethnal Green, just one tube stop away.

York Hall Baths

York Hall Baths

A grand old building, a well maintained pool area, cool water and three wide lanes that were segregated by speed but also offered plenty of room for over-taking. What more could you want?

The pool was 33m long and my early morning brain couldn’t work out how many lengths I needed to swim to swim a mile, so I just kept going for 80 lengths (2,640m). And it was lovely.

Then I spent most of the post-swim changing time chatting to another guy that was swimming in the pool for the first time. The conversation soon moved on to how much, then how well we swim and so technique was quickly mentioned. As always in these situations I was happy to recommend Swim Canary Wharf. Ray, I think you may have a new customer!


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Improving my technique

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve started to see a technique coach who will hopefully make me a smoother and stronger (and therefore quicker) swimmer. My plan is to focus on technique over the winter, plus running, so I can come back in the summer as a better swimmer.

I’m using the excellent Ray Gibbs of Swim Canary Wharf to help me and I had my first session a couple of weeks ago. Ray is great as he is really enthusiastic, very knowledgeable, but yet able to deliver the information in an easy-to-understand way. You swim in his endless pool and he films you swimming from a number of different angles – highlighting areas you can work on. He then gives you drills that will help you to work on those areas and you need to go away and practice them yourself.

My biggest issue was dropping my right shoulder and arm (using them as a lever to help me breath – even though I didn’t need to do it, my brain & body are still struggling with it). So, despite not being able to use my fins, I’ve worked on the drill Ray gave me for the last few weeks. It’s hard work, but I *think* I can feel myself getting better.

Well this morning I had two strong pieces of evidence that suggest that it’s working and I am getting better.

The first was a comment from another user of the pool I swim in. We chat quite regularly and there are a few swimmers there who take a real interest in what I’m doing and the challenges I’m setting myself. We also have Adam Walker (an Ocean 7s swimmer) who occasionally swims in our pool, so I’m the other open water swimmer.

Anyway, this morning, as she got into the lane I was swimming in, she said:

“You’ve got a really lovely stroke. I was watching you from the side and it’s really got better over the last few months.”

She’s not just another plodder, she’s actually a swimming teacher for kids at the pool, so (and I don’t think she’ll be offended by this) while she may not be in Ray’s league, she knows her stuff. It was lovely to hear her say it.

The second reason is that after the technique work I decided to do a quick ‘sprint’ burst. I’m not very quick and I don’t try to kill myself, instead what I want to do is swim at a ‘comfortable’ capacity and then keep it up. I do:

– 100m at 1:50
– 200m at 3:45
– 400m at 7:35
– 200m at 3:45
– 100m at 1:50

It’s a nice 1km ladder and it gets me working hard. For those of you that don’t understand the terminology (and I didn’t until recently) this means that I swim 100m and when that’s done I rest for a few seconds, but 1 minute 50 seconds after I started the 100m, I set off to swim 200m; 3 minutes and 45 seconds after I started the 200m (or 5 minutes and 35 seconds after I started the 100m) I set off for the 400m. And so on. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, the point of this is to say that in the middle of this I did the 400m in 7 minutes and 5 seconds.

It’s not a blistering pace, but it’s pretty quick for me. But best of all – I was knackered from the weekend and it didn’t feel *that* tough. So I’m pretty sure it wasn’t about me muscling the water out of the way, it was down to a better technique. Yay!

This is what I looked like before working on the technique. Both videos shot by Ray at Swim Canary Wharf.


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Wet pants

After my swim this morning I did something that many swimmers must be familiar with. Instead of effortlessly stepping into my boxer shorts I got my toe caught, lost balance, had to put my foot on the [wet] floor and therefore now have wet pants!

Such a shame. because I’d had a great swim.

At the moment, under the instruction of my technique coach Ray (who is great) I’m working primarily on my technique. The plan is to become a better swimmer during the winter months, so that it is easier to become a quicker and longer swimmer once we get back into the open water.

The main technical flaw that Ray spotted was that I use my right arm as a lever to help me breath to my left (I only breath to my left). This means that at best I only have half the available catch on the right arm. So, again at best, I’m only using 3/4 of my possible catch – an obvious inefficiency.

The drill I’m doing at the moment is to swim on my side, arm extended, looking down the length of my arm, then to breath to the relevant side without moving my extended arm – it’s to teach my brain that I don’t need the help of that arm as a lever.

This morning’s swim was as follows:

– 200m warm-up freestyle
– 200m drills (right arm up, left arm back)
– 100m relax
– 200m drills
– 100m relax
– 200m drills
– 200m cool-down freestyle

It may not sound like much, but it’s bloody hard work, especially as I can’t use the fins (Grrr). I’ll go to see Ray again in a couple of weeks – so hopefully he’s noticing a difference.

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