How do you know if you're going to have a good swim today?

How do you know if you're going to have a good swim today?

Paul Newsome · 6 minute read

You know that feeling immediately before diving/jumping into the cool waters of the pool/ocean - or pushing off from the wall - when you're really not sure how your swim is going to pan out? Today we'll look at some simple visualisations to help!

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I'm sure you know that feeling immediately before diving/jumping into the cool waters of the pool/ocean - or pushing off from the wall - when you're really not sure how your swim is going to pan out? 🧐

You know, that nervous anticipation about whether today is going to finally be that breakthrough swim that you've been hoping for when everything falls into place 💪, or whether you're going to have a bit of a shocker and wish you'd never started?! 😩 [ED: trust me, that happens to us all! 👌]

Maybe you've set yourself the task of a challenging session this evening and you're sat there right now with the jitters wondering how you'll fair? 

How can you predict 🔮 how you're going to feel to help stave off some of that nervous energy and what processes, visualisations or mantras can you put in place that might help you get back on track if/when the wheels do start to fall off to ensure that you can still enjoy your swim?

Last week we were on a family camping trip 🏕️ and my daughter (now 11) said that she wanted to spend her hard-earned pocket money on going to see a fortune teller so that they could predict her future. 

We were a little taken aback by this request from someone so young and who is normally a maestro for living “in the moment”. We assured her that sometimes it's best not to know how things are going to pan out because that's what makes life so interesting.  We tried to encourage her to see that really life - and how you experience it - is all about what you make of it and how you respond to the situation as it presents itself.  We felt quite the proud parents to return home at the weekend to see that she'd immediately printed out (and coloured in 🖍️) these sage words and stuck them on the family fridge:

Of course, Forrest Gump (my all-time favourite movie 🍿) is famous for the quote, “life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!", and I'd argue that your daily swim session is a little like this too 👍.  The actual beauty of going for a swim is that you can't predict how you're going to feel, but you always know that you'll feel better for having done it, even if all you manage to 'achieve' is some “me-time” to sort through the various other issues in your life that you might be dealing with at any given time ✌️. 

And that is of course what makes swimming so great - you find yourself back in the womb-like embrace of the warm water with all the time in the world to sort through life itself, emerging feeling that little bit better about things. You'll certainly never regret a swim.

That all said, you can certainly put some measures in place to make the best of the situation and how you're feeling at any given time, and today, I'd like to share with you 3 very simple visualisations that I personally think of (in the order I think of them) when I first jump into the water to ensure that I connect well and feel the water as best I can on any given session, so here goes:

#1 - my kick:

I acknowledged in my recent collection of 5 new YouTube video clips (the Swim Smooth Stroke Correction Hierarchy) that I may seemingly have scant regard for the leg kick, because I tend not to overly focus on it. If you were to swim in my Squad here in Perth, or with any of our Swim Smooth Coaches you'd likely notice a distinct lack of traditional leg kick work with a kick-board etc.  But does this mean we have zero focus on the kick here at Swim Smooth?  Absolutely not - I personally think about mine all the time, especially at the start of a session when I'm trying to get myself off to a good start and into my rhythm! We don't actively do pure (or traditional) kick sets for two reasons:

  1. In the Stroke Correction Hierarchy I discussed one of our principles of “cause and effect” and how a lot of what happens at the back of the stroke can be directly attributed to what is happening at the front of the stroke. Fix that and you simplify the process dramatically;

  2. Our niche is to provide quality coaching to predominantly adult swimmers and triathletes wanting to become better at distance freestyle swimming. Studies have shown that even

    the best swimmers in the world only source ~11-15% of their entire propulsion from the kick, and - as I pointed out in the new YouTube videos in parts 4 and 5 - and over-emphasis on kick can occur if you've overly focused on lengthening your stroke as much as possible which can significantly damage your economy.

Consequently, when I hop in for my swims the first thing I think about is not about how hard I'm kicking or whether I'm doing a 2-beat kick (like Shelley Taylor-Smith immediately below), or a 6-beat kick (like my wife Michelle in the two videos below Shelley), but simply whether I can feel the rhythmical tap-tap-tapping of my toes past each other with each kick

And that's it - cue #1 sorted 👍

#2 - my recovery:

I like to imagine I'm showing my armpits to the side of the pool (a funny thought, you might think!), but this encourages me to rotate well and feel freedom and ease in my shoulders, especially if I've spent the day tapping away at the keyboard all hunched over and stuff!

#3 - my rhythm and versatility:

OK, OK, I freely admit that I've had a “man crush” on double-Olympic gold medallist, Alistair Brownlee for many years. Actually, it's less of a crush and more of a fascination in his versatility. 

Alistair primarily breathes to his left when he's racing, but here - at the 2018 Commonwealth Games - he displays his aptitude for breathing to his right as the conditions (and tactics) dictated. 

Whenever I want to ensure I get off to a good start in my open water swims especially, I'll always channel a little of Alistair's rhythm and versatility which I find massively helps. I might not be able to match his cadence (and certainly not his speed!), but it's more about how fluid and purposeful he is with his strokes that brings my own stroke to 'attention'.

Hope these simple tips and quick visuals help you?  I'd love to know what tips you have of your own to ensure that you make the most of your swim to ensure that you can do whatever you can to control how it will ultimately pan out for you?

Until next week, Swim Smooth!

Feel good