Swim Smooth’s Paul Newsome is one of the leading coaches for triathlon swimmers. Here he breaks down the art of swimming into six essential areas to master:
Paul says: “If you hold your breath under the water it’s likely that you’re of the mindset that swimming is a lot harder than it should be; you store lots of air in your lungs, your chest is buoyant and you suffer ‘sinky leg syndrome’.
"Not breathing out enough causes you to store carbon dioxide, which will quickly make you feel anxious and out of breath.
"Use simple breathing exercises to help you develop a smooth exhalation in the water and feel more comfortable. This will help give you a better body position and really improve your swimming dramatically.”
2. Head position
Paul says: “Many swimmers (and some coaches) believe that every swimmer should look straight down at the bottom of the pool to improve their body position. However, if you have good stroke technique, you can achieve a high body position despite looking forwards, and for open-water swimming this is a major tactical advantage.
"There’s no universal head position that’s best for everyone and selection should come down to the individual. Try swimming 100m experimenting with your head position. Start by looking straight down, then elevate your head slightly every 25m and choose the best fit for your stroke that allows you to swim faster and more efficiently.
"Repeat this exercise in your wetsuit in the open water and you might well find that you can look further forwards, which can be a great advantage for navigation and drafting.”
Paul says: “Traditional swim coaching taught everyone to swim with a six-beat flutter kick. But a slower style, where the swimmer kicks twice for a full arm cycle, can be more efficient over longer distances. When performed well, it’s like a switch-kick, moving between the two positions.
"That said, if you’re a classic leg-sinker, although a six-beat kick takes a little more energy, your body will be lifted higher, reducing drag and with it your overall effort level. Many swimmers try to combine a two-beat kick with a pause-and-glide in the stroke as they’re looking to use as little energy as possible, but this causes them to stall between strokes and sink lower, particularly in disturbed choppy water.
“If you’re still working on the basics of your stroke technique such as breathing, alignment, body position and catch, then you’re going to be much better served using a light six-beat kick. Swim Smooth’s coaching philosophy is to only think about developing a two-beat kick if you’re quite an advanced swimmer starting to develop a refined swinger style of stroke.
“Elite triathletes like the Brownlees and fellow England Commonwealth medallists Jodie Stimpson and Vicky Holland swim with this style. The continuous transition from one stroke to the next means they don’t need a six-beat flutter kick to keep their momentum going.”
To read the second part of our 'Supercharge your swim' feature click here