Category: Articles

Swim Fins: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Training with Flippers

Here’s the swimmer’s guide to swim fins: when to use them, how to pick out a pair that matches your goals in the water, and reviews of some the best swim fins available. 

Training with fins is simply the best.

You get to experience speeds that your heroes swim at (or faster). Being able to power through the water at a velocity that you can only dream about doing with regular swimming is intoxicating, and a top reason why we all scramble for them the moment coach scrawls “w. fins” on the whiteboard.

But training with fins is more than just going really, really fast.

It can also help us become better swimmers sans fins as well, help improve ankle flexibility, and improve the weakest part of our kick–the upkick.

In this guide to swim fins we are going to cover a whole bunch of stuff, like:

  • The research showing what happens when we kick with fins on;
  • The reasons they can be so effective at helping us become better swimmers;
  • The potential pitfalls of relying on them too much;
  • The only things that matter when choosing what kind of swim fins you are going to rock out with;
  • And a roundup of the best fins for competitive swimmers.

Let’s do this!

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Swim Fins

The Effects of Training with Fins

You already know the general effect of strapping the equivalent of a jetpack to your feet:

You go absurdly fast.

Grant Hackett and Michael Phelps, when engaging in a week of going head-to-head in training strapped on fins at the end of a practice and swam :21 seconds low for a 50m free. Long course.

Beyond going quick, according to some research (and our experience) using fins in practice does the following:

  • They drastically lowered kick frequency, an average of 40%.
  • There is also a decrease in work expenditure, with reduced energy cost of 40% at comparable swimming speeds (meaning you can match your top swimming speeds with much less effort).

Swim Fins: The Benefits

1. They can help ease the pounding that your shoulders take every day at practice.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I got from a coach was to use fins during warm-up. Strapping them on at the beginning of the workout helped avoid some unnecessary strain on those all-important shoulders.

Whenever I was fighting off a fresh case of swimmers shoulder during my late teenage and university years I was often instructed to strap on the fins to help ease the strain on my upper body. This ranged from swimming with fins to doing straight kick, but the premise was simple—remove the load from the shoulders and onto the hips and legs.

Fins can be a great training aid for when your upper body is either injured, or you want to ease into your swim workout.

2. Increases overall strength and endurance in your legs.

Fins are tools of resistance. Your legs contain the biggest muscles in your body–that added work means that they are getting a harder workout, something that is perfect for increasing overall power and conditioning.

If you wanna go next level with your power and strength work combine your fins with a pair DragSox. It gives you a strange mix of added speed and resistance at the same time compared to your regular kicking speed. Your legs won’t know what hit them.

And lastly, for swimmers who prefer to dangle their legs limply behind them like kelp as they swim along, fins generally help boost the cardio/aerobic nature of their work. Not kicking when you have fins on your feet generally leads them to sinking, so by nature of maintaining any kind of forward propulsion you have to kick.

3. Easier to hit the upkick.

Our coaches are always telling us to work on the upwards phase of our kick, but it can often feel a little weird. We’ve become so accustomed to kicking downwards—which is a much more natural kicking motion—than kicking up, which leaves us feeling disjointed and awkward.

The added surface area of fins helps you really feel out the up-kick.

If you really want to work on your up-kick throw some vertical kicking into your practices—you’ll come to appreciate how important it is when kicking vertically, especially with dolphin kick.

4. Uh, using them is really fun?

Swimming with fins is fast and fun. Flying under and across the water, whether dolphin kicking or swimming, at lightspeed is quite pleasurable.

The speeds we attain are higher, the wakes we create are massive (sorry-not-sorry swimmers in the next lane!), and we get to swim at paces we rarely are able to when straight swimming.

Simple as that.

5. They help improve ankle flexibility.

The importance of ankle flexibility for swimmers is hard to understate, and is one the most important factors in having a deadly kick. A low range of motion in your feet means that you are kicking water downwards, as opposed to kicking water backwards.

A reason a lot of triathletes and newbie swimmers have such horrendous kick is because they have next to no range of motion in their ankles.

When we are wearing fins you come to understand this—the extra surface area extending to the tip of them provides additional ankle extension and surface area to plant into the water to push you forward.

Fins put your feet into a position where your ankles are largely forced to be pointed/extend, which will help improve overall flexibility in your feet.

6. Improved body position.

If you are using the fins to kick, and not simply dangle behind you, your body will ride higher in the water. It gives you that amazing feeling of skimming across the surface of the pool.

This effect is especially noticed in swimmer’s whose kick isn’t very strong, and therefore tend to sag and bulldoze their way through the water.

Fin-powered swimming shows you the body position you want to attain during your regular swimming and reminds you how crucial it is to work on your kick.

Swim Fins: The Downsides

1. They can become a crutch.

The swimmers who scramble for fins the fastest are usually the ones with the worst kicks. They become dependent on the tool, and can hide their shoddy ankle flexibility behind the raw quad and hamstring power we rely on with fins.

You will never catch up to your fast-kicking teammates by always reaching for the fins every time a kick set comes up.

2. You can’t use them during meet warm-ups.

Every competition warm-up I’ve ever experienced or been on deck for, from summer league to Trials to masters meets, don’t allow their use during warm-ups. Which makes sense. Meet warm-up is already a nightmare, last thing we need is people zipping back and forth with flippers.

Don’t make your pre-competition ritual reliant on them whatsoever unless you are planning on sneaking off to the corner of the dive tank to do some vertical kicking.

3. Blisters.

I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of fins over the years, and some of them have left some truly unsightly blisters on my feet.

Not fun.

The first time I used DragSox and fins at the same time I walked off of the pool deck with a set of blisters that made it look like I had spent an afternoon dolphin kicking the bottom of the pool.

How to Choose the Best Swim Fins for You

Picking out a pair of swim fins seems like a no-brainer–pick out the biggest, baddest pair of the bunch!

But if you want to make the most of this piece of swimming equipment, and want to avoid getting bruised heels and blisters, than here is what you need to know about picking out a pair of swim fins for yourself.

1. Length of the fins.

When it comes to training with fins, length is the most important thing.

But probably not for the reason you think.

Fins might all look the same, but they should serve a function beyond just going fast. They should match up to what kind of training you are doing. While we all scramble for the long fins because in our minds long = much faster, this isn’t necessarily the case. The longer your fins, the more difficult it is to kick with any kind of turnover.

If you take one thing away from this guide, remember this: long fins will collapse your kick frequency, and short fins are border-line pointless for longer, distance-oriented swimming.

In sum–

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Swim Fins

2. Open heel vs Closed Heel.

Until recently almost all swim fins designed for competitive swimmers had closed heels. More and more now we are seeing fins that have the open heel, with a strap going around the ankle to keep the fin in place.

Personally I much prefer the open heel fins, as it will usually provide you with a fuller range of motion.

The problem with really rigid fins that have closed heels is that if you have decent ankle flexibility the top of the heel will dig into your Achilles when you are kicking.

In my experience these type of fins also stay on the foot much better, which comes in handy when you are kicking all out, or pushing off the wall.

3. Stiffness of the fin.

Another important thing to consider when buying a new pair of fins is how rigid they are. For this reason, I would recommend that you either get your hands on a pair you are thinking of buying to assess the stiffness for yourself.

Zoomers, for instance, one of the most popular set of fins you will find in a swimmer’s bag, are quite rigid and unforgiving. Most diving fins are similarly rigid, made of a hard plastic.

The more stiff the fins, the harder it will be to kick.

While a stiff fin may be useful for getting fit, or getting a harder workout out of your legs, they promote a slower tempo kick, which doesn’t benefit swimmers who are trying to get faster.

Additionally, really stiff fins tend to dig into the top of your heels as mentioned in the previous point.

4. Sock or not to sock.

One of the things that drive me nuts about using fins is the blisters that sometimes come with their usage. To combat this as an age grouper our coaches had us bring old cotton socks to put on to help mitigate some of the rubbing.

Nowadays there are all types of socks designed specifically for this purpose.

If you are using a more rigid, rubber fin I would recommend getting a pair of socks if you are going to be doing substantial training with your fins on.

5. Silicone vs. rubber.

More and more high performance fins are being made with silicone these days, and thankfully so.

Silicone rubs and blisters your feet a whole lot less than rubber, which means that you can kick to your heart’s delight without worrying about destroying the skin on your feet. The suppleness of silicone also promotes a more fluid and natural kicking motion.

 

Source: Yourswimbook

Author: Olivier Poireir-Leroy

Featuring: Swim Tots

About Swim Tots:

Originally AQUATOTS Morningside, this swim school became known as SWIM TOTS in 2014 – a Swim School focusing on babies, toddlers and special needs children

It is run by Leanne Mc Laren, a physiotherapist and mom, who studied under the pioneer of infant swimming – Nell White – for 12 years.

SWIM TOTS swim school keeps up to date with research in the Paediatric and swimming world. SWIM TOTS proves that learning to swim is therapy and therapy is learning to swim.

 

Contact details: 

Address: Rivonia Sports Centre

Cellphone: 082 572 4809

Email:  saswimtots@gmail.com

Le Clos bags 3 medals at FINA Swimming World Cup event

Johannesburg – Olympian Chad le Clos claimed an impressive three medals at the opening leg of the 2018 FINA Swimming World Cup in Kazan, Russian over the weekend.

According to SuperSport.com, Le Clos was the top performer winning gold in the 200m butterfly and silver in the 100m butterfly and the 200m freestyle.

He rounded off his performance in the pool with the 200m freestyle silver medal on the final evening of swimming action, clocking 1:48.10, behind the USA’s Blake Pieroni, who led from start to finish to take the spoils in a time of 1:47.32.

The South African swimming star brushed off a surprise defeat from the first day to turn in a gritty fight to win the 200m butterfly gold medal on Saturday against Russia’s Daniil Phakomov, who held a slight lead for the majority of the race.

At the last turn, Pakhomov had a 0.72s lead over Le Clos but the South African surged over the final half lap to out-touch the Russian posting a time of 1:56.58, to Phakomov’s 1:56.90, with Hungarian David Verraszto finishing in third place with 1:59.03.

The Olympic gold medallist was edged out in the final of the 100m butterfly on Friday with the USA’s Michael Andrew winning by a whisker in a time of 51.96, beating Le Clos to the wall by 0.04s with the South African sharing the silver-medal position with Russia’s Egor Kuimov as they touched at the same time of 52.00.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ryan Coetzee just missed out on a medal, finishing behind Le Clos and Kuimov and posting a new personal best of 52.10, while in the 100m freestyle he swam to another personal best of 49.88 to finish fifth.

During the first day of the series, Coetzee finished seventh in the 50m freestyle in 22.66 and ended off the competition with a 5th place finish in the 50m butterfly with a time of 23.45.

Max Kieser missed out on a place in the 100m butterfly final, finishing eighth in his heat in 58.48, while in the 100m freestyle heat he clocked 53.81 and ended in 5th place.

James Dhooge featured in the 100m freestyle heats but could not advance to the final finishing seventh in his preliminary round clocking 54.85.

The next leg of the FINAL Swimming World Cup Series will be held in Doha from September 13 to 15.

 

Source: News24

https://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/WaterSport/le-clos-bags-3-medals-at-fina-swimming-world-cup-event-20180909

Featuring: B’s Swim School

“The B Swim Safe program was developed with the singular focus of saving children’s lives. Our job is to give children this incredible skill and their families peace of mind”

– Brendan Varrie founder of B Swim Safe
Located in the heart of Bryanston – this is one swim school you WANT your children to attend!
About B’s Swim School: 

B’s Swim School has been in operation since 2005. Brendan has a lifelong background in aquatics. After spending a number of years in the learn to swim arena it became clear to me that there is a gaping hole when it comes to Infant and child safety.

It is my belief that no child should take longer than six weeks to learn to swim and pick up the necessary skills that ultimately could end up saving their lives. We follow a systematic approach that builds children’sskills and confidence slowly but steadily through daily attendance.

 

Contact details:

Email: brendan@bswimschool.co.za

Cellphone: 0836499067

Address: 27 Chesterfield Road, Bryanston

 

Sunburns: Why You Should Use Sunblock

What comes to mind when you think of summer?
The beach? The warm sand and cool water? Activities with friends? Hiking, swimming, rock climbing, etc? Vacations?

Those are the things I think of, plus one big one. Sunburns.
Being a redhead, I tend to get sunburns a lot, even though I make sure to put on sunblock before outdoor activities. I just always forget to reapply it in time.

I’m sure many of you have had sunburns before and know the itching, burning, and peeling that comes along with it. However, I’m also sure there are some of you that don’t get sunburned as easily, some who don’t really care if you get sunburned, or some who just forget to put on sunblock before an activity in the sun.
It can be hard to remember to reapply, and frustrating to need to reapply it in the middle of your activity, so you may ask, ‘Do I really need it? Does it really do anything in the long run besides preventing peeling or blisters?’

The answer is a resounding YES. And anyways, who wants blisters or peeling? Not me.

Besides the uncomfortable burning and itching of a sunburn, here are some very convincing reasons why you should care what happens to your skin in the sun, and why you should always remember to use sunblock!

Damaged Skin

Your time in the sun without sunblock is damaging to your skin. Wouldn’t you like to have smooth, soft, spotless skin well into your old age? Well, the first step to accomplishing that goal is putting on sunblock. Here is a list from the Cleveland Clinic that shows what you may be getting from the sun, and it’s not good:


(Fact Source)

Nobody wants their skin to age before they do!
It’s much easier to prevent these things from happening than it is to try and reverse them later on down the road.

The Real Danger

The most important reason you should always put on sunblock is the danger of cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, but it could be a lot less prevalent if people always remembered to use sunblock before spending hours in the sun.
So next time you go out in the sun without sunblock – think about how your decision might affect your life a couple years down the road, and what consequences you may have to live with.

Don’t Burn Often?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t burn when you go outside. Your skin could still be getting damaged. Damage from the sun occurs over a lifetime, and the sun doesn’t care who you are. Whatever your skin type or color, sunblock should be a part of your life.
If you are trying to get a tan, put on sunblock. It will do you no good to spend hours upon hours outside in the sun without sunblock.


And remember, the sun still comes out in the winter. Even if it’s really cold outside and your arms and legs are covered up, don’t forget to put sunblock on your face!
Also, If your activity has to do with water or snow, it’s especially important to put on sunblock, because you get twice the amount of sun exposure. You have Ultraviolet light coming from the sun itself, and then from what is reflected from off the surface of the water/snow.

So, What Should You Do?

The good news about sun damage to your skin, is that you can prevent it. Here are some tips to help you avoid the negative effects of sun-damaged skin:

  • The time of day when the sun’s UV rays are the harshest is 10am to 3pm. So avoid being out in the sun during these hours, if possible.
  • When you go outside, use sunblock! Always, always, always use sunblock! Even if you don’t think that you will be going out in the sun, bring some with you just in case. I have a tube of sunblock that is small enough to fit in whatever purse or bag I have, so I am always prepared.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunblock with a SPF of 30 or greater.
  • Most sunscreen says to apply it 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun. You should reapply around every two hours. If you are in the water or sweating a lot, you should reapply more frequently than every two hours.
  • Make sure you get all your bare skin! Make sure to get your ears, behind your neck, the tops of your feet, and your hair part.
  • Wear protective clothing when possible; a hat with a brim, a swimsuit cover, UV light filtering sunglasses, etc. can do a lot to protect your skin!

Sensitive Skin?

There are sunblocks that are made for those with sensitive skin. Two examples are:

Badger SPF-30


(Image Source)

This sunblock is simple, with only five ingredients! It is unscented and all natural, and won’t irritate your sensitive skin.

La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen


(Image Source)

This sunblock is SPF 60. It is also fragrance-free. It is suitable to use under makeup, includes antioxidants, and has a matte finish.

You can check out this link, or this link, for more suggestions of sunblock for sensitive skin.

Cross-training: Top 5 Activities for Swimmers

Cross-training is an important part of any training plan, especially for swimmers. Spending too much time in the water can actually do more harm than good.
One of the major benefits of exercise is increased bone density from impact and gravity. This leads to healthier bones for your whole life. When you swim, there’s no impact and less gravity, so your bones don’t get this benefit and may actually decrease in density (much like an astronaut’s).
So what can you do outside the pool to improve your swimming? Here are the top 5 sports that will improve your swimming performance the most.

5. Running

Distance, interval, or hill training is a great way to train for mental and aerobic stamina.
Runners tend to have lean, muscular bodies with a low body-fat percentage.  This is ideal for swimming as well, since both sports require efficiency over bulky muscle mass.

runner running silhouette

Running also fosters mental stamina, since it is physically grueling and repetitive, much like swimming.
Building mental strength and choosing to keep going after exhaustion will generate discipline in the pool.
Caution: Running can also decrease ankle flexibility, which is essential to kicking well in the water.  If you feel like your ankles are getting less flexible due to running (or cycling), it may be time to explore other options since this will mess up your swimming!

4. Soccer

Soccer provides a great full-body workout, focusing especially on lower body strength. Lower body strength is the key to a powerful kick in the water.

soccer football

It also helps develop quick reflexes, since you are constantly shifting and adjusting position to follow the ball. Quick reaction time is important in swimming for the start of a race, as well as performing efficient flip turns. A slow reaction time off the diving board can cost you the race!
One huge benefit of using soccer to cross-train is that it puts no strain on your shoulders. Swimming strains the shoulders because of the constant arm rotation, so giving your arms a break while you train is an added bonus of soccer.

3. Yoga

While I personally don’t enjoy yoga, athletes from any sport will benefit from trying it!
There are yoga poses and exercises designated specifically for swimmers (to increase flexibility in ankles, shoulders, etc.).  But more broadly, practicing yoga a few times a week consistently will increase overall flexibility, bone density, and body alignment.

yoga wateside

Bone density and body alignment can become disrupted if you spend too much time in the pool.
There’s no gravity impacting your bones (which lets them get weak), and you use your pectoral muscles way more than your back (and legs), so your body is thrown off balance.
Backstroke helps even it out a little bit, but yoga can be the key to developing overall body symmetry and restoring that natural balance that you’ve been missing.  Skeptical?
What about breathing?  A huge part of yoga is learning to breath rhythmically.  Sound familiar?  It’s important in swimming too!  Like swimming, yoga teaches you to breathe deeply and regularly even when your body is contorted or moving in unnatural positions.
Sound useful now?

2. Water Polo

An obvious addition to swimming, water polo is one of the few sports played in a pool.

water polo
Neon Tommy Photo via Flickr

Aside from treading water and having to swim from position to position, water polo has hidden benefits to swimmers that may not be as obviously related to swimming.
One benefit is just spending time in the pool. Swimming, unlike any other form of exercise, is performed under altered atmospheric conditions.
In the water we feel lighter, less dense, but also completely enveloped in another substance which slows our movements.
Getting used to the feel of the water and how our bodies react differently in it takes time, and can come as a shock if you’ve been out of a pool for the entire off-season.
Maintaining contact with a pool without having to swim laps can be a huge benefit and can also help you associate the pool with fun activities, not just monotony.

1. Gymnastics

Believe it or not, gymnastics is the #1 sport/activity that benefits swimmers.  Like distance runners and dancers, gymnasts tend to have a low body-fat percentage and have lean, muscular frames.

gymnast gymnastics

Gymnasts have amazing core strength from twisting and flipping, which is essential for rotation through the water.  Not to mention amazing ankle and shoulder flexibility, both very important for stroke power.
Core strength also helps with flip turns, which can slow you down more than any part of the lap but also give you a speed boost if done well.
The most important skill that gymnastics (or dance) can teach, however, is body awareness.  The tiniest change in body position can make all the difference in a jump or vault.
Wouldn’t it be great if your coach said, “Raise your hips and rotate them 20 degrees more with each stroke”, and you could just tell your body to DO it?
Try gymnastics or dance to get a better feel for where each part of your body really is, versus where you think it is. Your coach will thank you!

From: UnderwaterAudio.com

Why Learn Several Different Swimming Strokes?

Are you wondering if learning all the different swimming strokes makes sense? Or if sticking to your favorite swim stroke is enough?

Three children practicing breaststroke movements on dry land
Learning several different swimming strokes requires patience but has its rewards.

For example, you may be a beginner triathlete being able to swim breaststroke. But you’d like to be able to swim much faster for an upcoming event next summer, and need to learn freestyle.

Or you may be a long-time swimmer that can swim the breaststroke or freestyle stroke well. But now you are wondering if being able to swim the butterfly stroke or the backstroke will bring any advantages?

The Benefits Of Swimming Several Strokes

Well, I think that besides a more significant time investment, there are only benefits to know several different swimming strokes.

  • When you swim several strokes, you use more muscles, and your body gets a better workout.
  • The risk of a swimming injury is decreased because you don’t always stress the body with the same movements, and the musculature is more balanced.
  • Your swimming fun is increased because your workouts are more varied when you can choose from several swim strokes.
  • The skills that you learn in one stroke can often be transferred to another swim stroke. For example, the balance skills that you learn for the front crawl are also needed in the backstroke. Or the body undulation that you need for the butterfly stroke is also an asset while swimming breaststroke.
  • Knowing several types of swimming strokes can also be a significant advantage in triathlons. Obviously, if you know freestyle, you will swim faster and tire less than if you only swim breaststroke during the event. Switching to breaststroke, in turn, can be interesting when you need orient yourself, as you have better visibility than when you are swimming front crawl. And if you know backstroke, you can roll on your back when you are tired and take a few strokes in that position to recover.

In conclusion

So my recommendation is that if you aren’t in a big hurry and need to learn how to swim one particular swim stroke as soon as possible, it pays off to learn how to swimthe four competitive strokes.

The Different Swimming Strokes / Styles

The most common swimming strokes or styles are the freestyle stroke, the breaststroke, the backstroke and the butterfly stroke. They are well-known because they are used in swimming competitions.

collage showing the four competitive swim strokes
The swim strokes used in competitions

Besides these common strokes, other styles of swim strokes exist like the sidestroke, the trudgen, the combat swimmer stroke, etc. They are used less often but can also be fun to learn.

Let’s have a quick overview of these popular swimming strokes now.

The Freestyle Stroke

The Freestyle Stroke or front crawl is often the preferred stroke of seasoned swimmers. It uses alternating arm movements with an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick.

Freestyle is fast and efficient. In fact, it is the fastest of all swimming strokes. That’s why it is used in freestyle competitions and in the swimming leg of triathlons.

Breaststroke

Breaststroke is the most popular swim stroke of all. In breaststroke, both arms execute half-circular arm movements at the same time underwater in front of the swimmer. The arm recovery also occurs under water. The legs simultaneously perform a whip kick.

A young man swimming breaststroke
Breaststroke

Breaststroke is often the first swimming stroke taught to beginners. In fact, many casual swimmers can only swim this stroke.

The advantage of breaststroke is that beginners can keep their head above the water. This avoids breathing and orientation issues. More experienced swimmers, however, submerge their head during the stroke cycle to improve efficiency.

Breaststroke is the slowest of the competitive strokes.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke stands out among the competitive strokes because of it’s unique and spectacular technique. It uses a symmetrical arm stroke with an above water recovery. It also uses a wave-like body undulation and a dolphin kick.

A man swimming the butterfly stroke
The Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly is the second fastest swim stroke after freestyle. It has a reputation of being hard to learn and is quickly exhausting. But once you have mastered it, swimming a few lengths of butterfly can be a lot of fun!

Backstroke

As its name suggests, backstroke is swum on the back. It uses alternating circular arm movements and an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick similar to the one used in freestyle.

A woman swimming backstroke with arm extended overhead
Backstroke

In competition, backstroke is faster than breaststroke but slower than butterfly. Physicians often prescribe backstroke swimming to people experiencing back problems because it gives the back an excellent workout.

Sidestroke

The sidestroke is an old swim stroke swum on the side that uses a scissor kick and asymmetrical underwater arm movements.

A man swimming sidestroke
Sidestroke

Sidestroke is not used in swimming competitions and is therefore swum less often nowadays. Nevertheless, it is easy to learn and can be an interesting alternative to the popular swim strokes. It is also used by lifeguards to rescue victims.

Overcoming Fear of Water and Swimming

Lots of people experience fear of water (aquaphobia). This article discusses this fear and proposes a few basic exercises in the water to help you overcome this fear.

ear of Water – Causes

Fear of water can have lots of different causes:

  • It often exists as an instinctive fear related to the fear of drowning.
  • It can be caused by the fear of the unknown, of what might be lurking below the water surface in deep, cloudy or muddy waters.
  • It may be related to a bad experience that occurred in childhood.
  • It may have been transmitted to a child by parents that were themselves afraid of water.
  • It may have been ingrained by swim instructors that used inadequate or stressful methods to teach swimming.

Putting Things Into Perspective

You don’t need to feel bad if you are subject to fear of water because everyone has a different level of water confidence and this level of water confidence can change depending on circumstances.

For example, I acquired basic swimming skills as a child, and those skills have evolved with practice over the last few years since I took up swimming again. Nowadays I’m not afraid of swimming in a pool or in small to medium ponds. However, if I do swim in a lake or the ocean, I still have a certain level of anxiety before starting, and especially so if it’s in an unfamiliar location.

The point I want to make is that even experienced swimmers can sometimes experience fear of water or at least have a certain level of anxiety.

Basic Exercises – Instructions

Let’s now try to address your fear of water by doing a few basic exercises in the water. To give you the maximum level of comfort while doing these exercises, I suggest the following:

  1. All the exercises can and should be done in shallow water. There is no need for the water to go higher than your chest, so you can always feel safe.
  2. Doing the exercises in a swimming pool with clean water is best because you can see what is (or more precisely isn’t) in the water and so you will be more relaxed than if you did the exercises in opaque water.
  3. For the same reason, it’s advisable to wear swimming goggles while doing the exercises. This way water won’t get into your eyes, and you will be able to keep them open all the time, which will help you to relax.
  4. A supportive person being at your side while doing the exercises can be of great help, and especially so if he/she is an experienced swimmer that is comfortable in the water.
  5. If you can’t get the help of a supportive person, I recommend that you do the exercises in a swimming pool supervised by a lifeguard which knows what you are trying to accomplish and can keep an eye on you.
  6. Ideally, you should do the exercises when the swimming pool isn’t crowded, to avoid getting stressed out by people that splash or trash water around you.

There is no need to rush through the exercises. The primary goal is always to stay comfortable. Even if you only manage to do one exercise per session at the pool, it doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable. Slow down if you start stressing. Even if it takes several weeks or months for you to get through all the exercises and overcome your fear of water, so be it. Think baby steps.

Acclimating To Water

To get started, we will do a few exercises for you to get comfortable being in contact with water and then to enter the water:

  1. At the shallow end of the pool, sit across the pool edge and let your legs dangle in the water, sweeping back and forth. Take your time to enjoy the sensation of the water flowing around your legs.
  2. Scoop up water with your hands and apply it to your face, as if to wash it. This is to get used to having your face being in contact with water.
  3. Scoop up water with your hands again, hold your breath and then splash the water into your face. As you are wearing swim goggles, your eyes are protected, and you can try to keep them open. As you are holding your breath and sitting upright, you should notice that the water can’t get into your nose and mouth. Enjoy the refreshing sensation of the water on your face.
  4. Slowly get into the water via the steps or ladder in the shallow area of the pool. Make sure that the water doesn’t get above your chest. Walk around for some time, staying in the shallow area of the pool. Enjoy the sensation of the water flowing around your body.

    Submerging Your Head

    The next few exercises will let you progressively lower your head into the water until you are comfortable having your head under water. We are still (and stay) in shallow water.

    1. Hold your breath. Slowly crouch down until your lips are just above the water surface. How does it feel? See if you can get comfortable with having the water so close to your lips. Then stand up.
    2. Hold your breath. Slowly crouch down (with mouth closed) and see if you can get your mouth underwater, having the water surface being between your mouth and your nose. Notice that water can’t get into your mouth.
    3. After a while, notice that your nose is still above the water surface. If the water is calm and there are no waves, try to breathe through your nose while still having your mouth under water. Notice that you can breathe through your nose even though your mouth is under water. Then stand up. Repeat this often to get comfortable breathing with your nose being so close to the water surface.
    4. Hold your breath. Slowly crouch down until your mouth touches the water surface, then goes under water. Crouch some more until your nostrils touch the water surface. If possible, hold this position for a few seconds, then stand up to breathe.

    What you need to know at this point is that it is entirely ok to have water touching your nostrils or even having some water getting into your nostrils, as long as you are holding your breath and your head is upright. Because of the way the nose connects with the head, water can’t rise high enough in your nose to get into sinuses in that position. It’s only when the water gets into the sinuses that it becomes unpleasant. In fact, once you’ll have become an experienced swimmer, you will have water flowing into and out of your nostrils each stroke cycle, without ever having water getting into your sinuses and with you barely noticing.

    Now let’s get back to our exercises:

    1. Again hold your breath, then crouch down until your nose is under water, the water surface being between your nose and your eyes. Your ears should not be underwater, so slightly tilt your head forward. Again, notice how some water gets into your nostrils, but at the same time notice that it doesn’t rise very high in your nose and that because of this it doesn’t hurt. Try to hold this position a few seconds, then stand up to breathe.
    2. Hold your breath. Slowly crouch down as before. Now tilt your head slightly backward. Slowly move down until your nose, and your ears are below the water surface, but your eyes are still above the water surface. Because you are holding your breath no water can get into your mouth and only a little bit of water gets into your nose. Notice how water gets into your ears, and your hearing becomes muffled. Again try to hold this position a few seconds before standing up.
    3. Now what you need to know at this point is that some water will get into your ears. But this is also ok because the water will be prevented from going further by the eardrum and will flow out of the ear as soon as you leave the water. So you can’t get hurt.
    4. Hold your breath. Now slowly crouch down and let the water cover your mouth, nose, ears and move further down up to the point where your eyes move below the water surface. As you are wearing swim goggles (hopefully good ones), water can’t get into your eyes. Try to hold this position a few seconds, then stand up again and breathe. Once you are comfortable with your eyes below the water surface and can keep your eyes open, take the time to observe this strange world below the water surface that opens up to you.
    5. Once you are comfortable doing the previous exercise, you can add up the ante a little bit and make a bobbing motion, where you rhythmically submerge and emerge your head. This will get you used to have your head being regularly submerged, which will be useful later on when learning how to swimthe popular swimming strokes.

      Blowing Bubbles

      Once you are comfortable having your head under water, the next step to overcome your fear of water is to learn that it is possible to exhale in the water without getting water into your nose and mouth. The best exercise for this is to learn how to blow bubbles.

      1. Breathe in while standing in the shallow area of the pool and hold your breath. Then crouch down so that your mouth is below the water surface, but your nose is still above the water surface. Slowly exhale through your mouth, blowing bubbles in the water. You will realize that as long as you do exhale, water can’t get into your mouth. The same is true if you do hold your breath. Stand up again to breathe in.
      2. Repeat the previous exercise but now crouch down so far that only your eyes are above the water surface while your nose and mouth are below the water surface. Keep your mouth shut and now slowly blow bubbles through your nose. Again you will notice that water can’t get into your nose as long as you hold your breath or exhale. Stand up to breathe.
      3. Repeat the previous exercise but now blow bubbles in the water through both your nose and mouth.
      4. Finally, repeat the previous exercise but with your head completely under water.

      The Human Body Floats Well

      So far, we have practiced a few basic exercises to overcome the fear of water and to get used to being in the water. Now we will see that it is, in fact, easy to float in the water without much effort.

      If you get anxious around bodies of water, you may believe that in the water you would sink to the ground like a stone. If this is the case, it may come as a surprise to you that water, in fact, supports the human body very well. In most cases, people can float effortlessly without using their limbs as long as their lungs are filled with air.

      This is because your body, being made of 60% of water, is slightly less dense than water provided that your lungs are filled with air.

Swimming Pool Etiquette – Rules of Conduct for Lap Swimmers

Swimming pool etiquette (also known as lap swimming etiquette) is a set of informal rules of conduct that ensure a smooth swimming experience when several swimmers share a lane.

As a new (lap) swimmer you are often unaware of the existence of a swimming pool etiquette. Nevertheless, over time you’ll notice that the more experienced swimmers follow specific informal rules when they share a lane. So if you want to appear as a well-mannered swimmer and get along with other swimmers, it is important to get educated about lap swimming etiquette too.

Swimming Etiquette Rules

So let’s enumerate the rules you should follow while swimming in a lane:

Gauge the speeds of each lane and join the lane where the swimmers swim at your pace. This is because it is distracting for experienced swimmers to have to pass slower swimmers constantly.

If you are alone in a lane, you can swim following the middle line.

If there are two swimmers in the lane, it can be split into halves, and each swimmer swims on his side of the lane. Or the swimmers use the “circle” format described hereafter.

If there are more than two swimmers in the lane, they should circle in the lane. This is most often done by swimming counterclockwise.

When joining a lane, slowly enter the water and wait on the side during one lap until all swimmers have noticed that you will join the lane.

If you are the second swimmer to join a lane, discuss with the other one how you will share the lane.

Don’t dive into the lane from the starting blocks when you join a lane. This can be distracting or even frightening for swimmers who are concentrated on swimming their laps and don’t know what is happening. Normally, diving from the starting blocks should only be done during practice under the supervision of a coach and when lap swimmers don’t use the lane.

If you want to pass a slower swimmer, tap him on the foot so that he knows your intention. He will then stop at the end of the lane and move to the right corner so that you can pass. Do the same if you are the person being passed.

Don’t push off the wall right in front of a faster swimmer, especially if he’s going to do a flip turn. Let him/her pass first.

Likewise, don’t push off right behind a slower swimmer to directly pass him by. Leave him some room before pushing off.

Some swimmers, often breaststrokers, swim stubbornly in a straight line and never make way to other swimmers. However, it is more challenging for front crawl or backstroke swimmers to see other swimmers. So make way and swim around other swimmers if possible.

If you chat with a fellow swimmer, do it on the sides of the lane to not obstruct the lane end for the lap swimmers. Do the same if you need to rest.

Don’t cross the pool right in front of a swimmer.

Don’t use a whole lane for walking, aqua jogging or some random exercise when the pool is busy.

Don’t “borrow” a piece of swimming equipment that you haven’t brought yourself and seems abandoned. It may well be needed by one of your fellow swimmers very soon.

5 Fun Facts About Swimmers and Sleep

Getting more sleep is the easiest way to swim faster this season. Here are some fun factoids about sleep and swimmers.

Competitive swimmers understand how important it is to work hard in practice, crush it in the gym, and to eat well.

You spend an endless amount of time drilling your technique, working your core strength, and developing the conditioning and strength to become a faster swimmer.

And yet, for way too many of us, we pass on one of the easiest ways to supercharge our performance in and out of the water. Getting lots of sleep is the easiest and dare I say it—most enjoyable—thing you can do to become a faster swimmer.

Quality time between the sheets is the ultimate performance booster: it helps you to recover faster, improves your mood profile (we all get a little cranky when short-rested), and yes, will help you swim faster over the long run.

Here are some fun facts about swimmers and sleep:

1. We don’t get enough of it (duh).

Swimmers have a gong-show schedule. During high school it looked like I was going on holidays each morning as I shuffled out the door for morning practice. With an overflowing bag for my swim gear, a bag for school books, and a bag full of food for the day, it looked like I was getting ready to conquer Everest.

By the time I got home I was generally exhausted, but still had to push through and get homework done before doing it all over again the following day. The days were never long enough for everything I needed to do.

As a result, when I needed more time to catch up with friends, finish homework, or whatever, it meant that sleep was the first thing to go.

While sleep deprivation isn’t particularly unique to competitive swimmers, we are particularly bad at getting anywhere near 7-8 hours a night.

When researchers followed a group of elite Australian swimmers during preparation for the Beijing Olympics, they found that the athletes averaged only 7.1 hours of sleep on rest days, and a paltry 5.4 hours when there was a morning workout the next day.

2. The harder you train, the more sleep you need.

The amount of sleep our body requires scales with how hard you are exerting yourself while you are awake. The harder the training, the more sleep you need to recover and bounce back.

Some nights your body will need ten hours, others you will feel great after seven. Shooting for an exact number of hours of sleep per night isn’t realistic as your sleep demands will be different depending on how training is going. The amount of sleep your body requires after a 1,500m loosen up swim is going to be different than the recovery needed after doing 20x400s best average.

Knowing this, plan naps and earlier bed times during particularly aggressive phases of training (Hell Week, or your holiday training camp, for instance).

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian focuses on getting 10-12 hours of sleep when training at altitude at the Olympic Training Center. It’s 8-10 hours at night, with a solid nap between workouts to help recover from the daily thrashings in the water.

3. The more intense your workouts, the harder it will be to sleep.

The inability to get good sleep after a high-intensity thrashing at the pool is one of the odd experiences of being a high-performance swimmer.

It doesn’t make sense on the surface of it: You go to the pool, sprint your brains out for a couple hours to the point that you are crumpled up on the pool deck, and then when you get home you have a hard time falling asleep.

Those super intense workouts stress the body in a big way. As you limp out of the aquatic center there is a lot going on inside of you: cortisol (the stress hormone) and norepinephrine (adrenaline) are spiking. It takes a while for your body to return to normal, with norepinephrine taking up to 48 hours to level out after all-out exercise.

This is another great reason to make sure you tack on a generous amount of active recovery to the end of those speed and power workouts.

In my own experience I’ve found that getting to sleep after those brutal speed-and-power workouts is much easier if I allow time for a 15-20 minute warm-down.

4. More sleep makes you mentally tougher.

Think back to the last time you were running on low sleep. What was your mood like? Probably not awesome, right? Sleep deprivation makes us grumpy. No big surprise there.

Restless nights of sleep also makes training feel harder than it would when regularly rested. Study after study has shown that perceived effort—how hard you feel you are working—spikes from sleep deprivation.

Which means that we are less likely to push ourselves when groggy and tired.

The dryland and swim workouts are hard enough already, no need to make them feel more difficult than necessary. In this way, being properly rested makes you mentally tougher.

5. And yes, more sleep means faster swimming.

Being rested is a great feeling. We feel fresh, energized, and ready to rock and roll. This translates into faster swimming.

When a group of varsity swimmers were told to increase their nightly diet of sleep by an hour they experienced significant drops in times in the water in just six weeks.

The study, done with swimmers at Stanford, found that reaction time off the blocks improved, turn time improved, and most impressively of all, the swimmers shaved an average of half a second on their time to 15m.

That’s an absurd amount of improvement for something as simple as getting a little more shut-eye each night.

The Next Step

Knowing you need more sleep isn’t the issue swimmers face—it’s managing your time and making it a priority to get into bed earlier that is the challenge.

There are some simple things swimmers can do to get more sleep:

  • Turn off the smartphone at night. Laying in bed while scrolling through your social feeds will keep ya perked up. Power down the screen in bed and put the phone across the room to remove the urge to check it.
  • Plan out naps. If you can’t get more sleep at night work on getting a power nap somewhere in the middle of your day. A 30-minute nap is enough to help boost mental and physical performance after a 4-hour night of sleep.
  • Time management. At the end of the day this is the biggie—you need to prioritize sleep by wrangling the rest of your schedule. Stay on top of your schedule by working to get ahead of your schoolwork, planning and prepping meals, and creating a cut-off time each night for you to begin preparing for bed.

10 Things Swimmers Can Do for Exceptional Team Culture

A swim team’s culture can boost your chances of success in the water just as easily as it can hold you back. Here’s how you, the elite-minded swimmer, can do your part to create exceptional team culture.

Great team culture is one of those things that everyone wants, is fun to lob around as a goal for the club, and yet, is hard to pin down or measure.

But you know it when you see it.

Great culture is unmistakable: success is sustained no matter who swims there. The team performs consistently well. Athletes are motivated to be there.

Bad culture is hilariously easy to spot as well: The bad group body language. The inconsistent performances. The low motivation and lack of direction.

Culture is easy to talk about in the abstract. We all want it, after all. But intentions are not good enough. Great team culture isn’t something you talk about, what you think or what you plan on doing. Great team culture is what you do.

Here are ten things swimmers can do to their part in creating a culture where they and the whole swim team are successful.

1. It starts with ownership.

It can be easy to look at the coach as the be-all and end-all for team culture, but at some point, athletes need to step up as well.

The reality is this: an environment that encourages risk-tolerance, is psychologically safe and promotes excellence benefits you just as much as it benefits anyone else.

Don’t wait for other swimmers to be the ones to step up. Yes, it can feel scary stepping up and taking the lead. It takes a lot to be the one to suggest to do one more rep above and beyond what is expected.

It can feel like you are the odd swimmer out by doing the workout properly and not complaining. This is okay—being excellent isn’t normal.

While your coach lays out the workouts and sets a standard for what is expected, it’s still on you to deliver on those expectations.

2. Embrace the newbies.

When a swimmer first joins your group or lane they are most receptive to the tone and attitude of the group. It’s your chance to make a great first impression and set the standard of what is expected.

Welcoming the new swimmers to the group also gives you a chance to remind yourself what kind of expectations you would like to have of the team and group.

3. Work with the younger swimmers. 

Many of my favorite memories as a young age grouper were when the older swimmers—who I idolized—took a few moments of their practice to ask how my workout was going, to give me a quick pointer, or to encourage me to try a harder interval.

You don’t need to be a world record holder to have a serious impact on other swimmers in the pool.

4. Struggle together.

Getting through it together matters. Some of my favorite memories from my age group days have nothing to do with personal best times or records. They stem from the times where as a lane or as a group we persevered through a set or a workout.

It felt like it was us against coach or us against the workout. We didn’t always win, but on the times we did it brought us together.

Struggling through stuff together encourages cohesion. There’s no faking the bond that comes from throwing down on Hell Week together and coming through mostly unscathed.

5. Put the backstroke flags away.

When practice ends do you scurry to the locker room or are you helping put the lane ropes away? The backstroke flags? The yard sale of equipment behind the blocks?

You shouldn’t have to wait for anyone to ask you to help with this stuff.

The New Zealand All-Black rugby team, arguably one of the most dominant teams on the planet, clean their own locker room after games. Not assistants, or a janitor, or stadium staff—these revered professional athletes take it upon themselves to “sweep the sheds.”

Stepping up and taking care of your training and competition environment isn’t a chore—it’s showing that you care enough about the culture and the environment to spend a sliver of your time looking after it.

When you care for your environment you develop team-building pride for your crew.

6. Stand for your teammates.

Here’s a simple goal statement for you and your group: On this team we cheer for each other like crazy.

Get your cold, water-logged shorts off those chilly metal bleachers and stand up for your teammates when they are on the block. We’ve all experienced the chills and goosebumps before a big race when your squad gets up and does a banger of a cheer for you right before the whistle.

Make that the standard for your team. Not only will you swim hilariously well, but you’ll have every other team looking over in envy.

7. Get on board with the buddy system.

Accountability can work from a host of different directions. Here are some of the examples you are most familiar with: your parents getting on your case about working hard, and your coach on your case for showing up to practice.

But accountability seems to take on a different shade when it’s coming from one of your peers. After all, you are in the chlorinated trenches together. So there’s a kinship and an understanding there.

Partner up with a teammate who has similar goals as you (maybe not the exact same event) and work together to be more consistent in training.

8. Address what’s hurting the team quickly and together.

Problems happen to every club, good or bad, tiny or super. It’s how quickly and in what manner they are addressed that makes all the difference.

Here are some ways to stay on top of adversity and use it to help propel the group further:

Team captains. Weekly team meetings can help keep the ship on course through the season. Captains also manage some of the intra-personal stuff that can bubble up into real problems. They can help mediate issues and provide an added layer of accountability within the team.

Evaluation. Where can we improve as a group? What are we doing that is totally working? Quick evaluations done regularly can help the group from drifting off mission and stay focused.

Peer help. How can you help someone else in the group to be successful? We don’t need to go this alone—when a group of swimmers gets together and supports each other some insanely awesome stuff starts to happen. Risk tolerance goes up (you feel more comfortable going all out on your goals when you know you have people behind you).

9. Effort is always louder than talk.

At the end of the day, all the rousing speeches, the pep talks and the fancy championship banners don’t matter a chlorinated lick if you aren’t leading by effort.

This point is particularly applicable to swimmers who aren’t naturally extroverts. Generally we view leaders in the pool as being really vocal: but words don’t mean much if they don’t match up to the effort that is being put forth in the water.

In fact, it’s your actions that are the true barometer of your leadership abilities. You can rah-rah your teammates until you’re blue in the face, and talk about having a high expectation of excellence, but without the matching effort it’s got the opposite intended effect.

Look, no one is perfect. No disputing that. You’re human, which means that you are indebted the same amount of off days as every other swimmer on the team. But if you are leading, and the expectation is that you want an all-in effort from other swimmers in the group, you better be bringing the noise in the pool as well.

10. Leadership is found in the quiet moments.

Listening to a teammate who is having a rough day or a bad practice. Giving another teammate a reassuring pat on the back after a bad race. Pushing a teammate to a breakthrough performance in training even though your workout isn’t going as great as you’d like.

Leadership is found just as much, if not more so, beyond the rah-rah speeches and the boisterous cheers. It’s in the countless little moments where success and failure happen on your way to championship season.

This is great news for the quiet swimmer who prefers to lead by example. You can be a world-class introvert and still lead like a champion.