Swimming by Zoe Hague

Swimming

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If I were to say that swimming had been my life, that wouldn’t be too far off the truth. I am 20 years old and have been swimming ever since I can remember. When I turned 8 I had my first try out with Hitchin Swimming Club and both myself and my parents knew from that day that swimming was going to be my thing. Between the ages of 10-18 I didn’t really have much of a social life, I was doing what I enjoyed best. Early morning starts, evening sessions and Galas nearly every weekend. As I became a bit older, school, exams etc started to play a part which meant dedicating all that time to the water became a bit tricky so I dropped a couple of sessions…However me being me decided “I know lets take up running as well”. As some of you may or may not know I am now a very keen triathlete.

 I am very grateful to say I have achieved a fair few things in my life that make me immensely proud to be part of the swimming/triathlon community. I was lucky enough to be chosen to go and represent my age group for Great Britain last July in the World Aquathlon Championships in Chicago. I was happy to be even taking part let alone managing to come 4th! When I returned home I decided a new challenge was in store. Between myself, my dad and my running coach the 3 of us (crazily) entered the full distance Outlaw in Nottingham. My family knew sport was going to be a huge aspect of my life however I don’t think any of us knew that I would be an Ironman age group winner having just turned 20.

If you asked 10 people who competed in triathlons, I’d say 8 out of that 10 would say swimming is their weakest area. I have always believed that swimming is one of the hardest sports to motivate yourself in. It takes up a lot of time and yes can sometimes be pretty boring swimming up and down the lanes for an hour by yourself. If you do see yourself as one of those people who struggles to get yourself out of your nice warm cosy lounge then personally I’d say there are three vital points to get over this and to become a better swimmer…

Find a training partner, not necessarily someone of the same ability but just someone where you both plan to go at a certain point, this way, backing out is much harder and you can’t let them down! Alternatively hunt for a masters swimming club/triathlon club. When I was a member of Hitchin Swimming Club, there was no option but to get up and train as it is already paid for, it is also much more of a social thing if you are training with friends.

Secondly, choose quality over quantity. I have noticed that beginners tend to move frantically in the water, over-kicking and pulling their arms through the water much wider than necessary which is wasting a lot of energy. Something to motivate you would be to really focus on your technique. Perhaps ask someone who you know is a good swimmer, or even a lifeguard who doesn’t seem too busy to watch you for a couple of lengths and to point out any areas of weakness. This should hopefully give you a new focus and knowing that you have areas to improve will get you out of the house!

Finally, plan your sessions! Turning up to the pool with just the incentive of swimming up and down for half an hour/hour, in my experience never works. Plan what you are going to do before hand, (I will list a couple of the sessions I usually do below for anyone who may struggle to design a set).

Example 1

  • Warm Up
  • 400m easy pace front crawl
  • Main Set
  • 400m, 300m, 200m 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m
  • 70% effort, maintaining the pace throughout, usually 1 minute rest between each set depending on ability.
  • Repeat if you have time!
  • Cool Down
  • 100m with a kickboard, 100m using a pull buoy, 100m normal swimming

Example 2

  • Warm Up
  • 10x50m
  • Alternating 50m drill, 50m swim
  • Main Set
  • 10x100m, 10x50m, 10x25m
  • The idea is to increase the speed every time, eg the first 100m nice and easy pace. By the last 100m you should aim to be max speed/90% effort.
  • Same for the 50m and 25m.
  • Cool Down
  • 400m easy pace, choice stroke.

These are just some example sets that I will occasionally do, very easily adapted to ability, beginners or advanced swimmers can use this just as a guideline.

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Essential Tips In The Water!

Swimming in triathlons is normally done as front crawl however breastroke is also allowed. If you are quite new to swimming, maybe have never had lessons or just haven’t swum for a long time then here are my top front crawl tips where I spot the most mistakes being made.

1) A good front crawl body position should be streamlined and as flat as possible at the water surface, with the head in-line with the body. The body position is the most important starting point. If you find your legs are dropping, maybe use a float or pullbuuoy to raise them for a while. Focus on this before anything else!

2) Try breathing in every three strokes, focusing on the following points: While your face is in the water exhale completely until your lungs are totally empty. Turn your head to the side and take one sharp intake of breath. Lower your head quickly back into the water. Try and make sure only one goggle is out of the water when taking a breath to prevent disturbing the stroke as much.

3) The phase most people over look is the arm pull. Keep your elbow slightly bent as you reach your hand in front of your body to enter the water. Entry should be between the centre line of the head and the shoulder line and the hand should be directed with the palm facing down and out so the thumb first enters the water first. Pull your arm back in an S shape keeping it as close to the body as possible.

4) Many swimmers bend their knees too much whilst kicking. This creates large amounts of drag and is probably the number one reason for a swimmer’s legs to sink low in the water. Instead of kicking from the knee you should kick from the hip with a relatively straight leg.

Yes swimming is hard but practise makes perfect and who knows, maybe your first triathlon is on the horizon.

“From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it”

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Zoe Hague

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