I think the first thing to remember is that 80% of front crawl is spent on your side. I describe this by asking swimmers to imagine there’s a spike going through their head and coming out of their bum and that they are rotating around that pivot as if they were inside a tube. Not a pretty metaphor, but a useful one. 80% of time should be spent on your side so don’t try and stay square on. Staying square on becomes a problem because breathing to the side is incredibly awkward in this position, whereas when the body is rotated you don’t really need to move your head to breath. Like most things this will work best when you are relaxed and get into a rhythm and avoid the temptation to fight with your breathing. Over time you will pick up the right time to breath and it becomes part of the stroke, instead of an addition to it.

A surprisingly common breathing error that goes hand in hand with this is lifting your head to breath. By lifting your head you trigger a drop in your hips, creating drag and slowing you down. When breathing you should be looking to the side, in fact I tend to tell swimmers to think about looking slightly behind to get their breathing right. Don’t look up.

 Swimmer in the pool

Breathing technique transitioning from the pool to open water

Crucially effective breathing is all about relaxing. If you’re new to outdoor swimming or are thinking of transitioning from the Aspire Channel Swim to swimming in open water there will likely be a temptation to fight open water. Swimming in a pool is exactly the same as swimming outdoors, the environment might change but the stroke doesn’t. The best advice is simply to replicate what you do in the pool when you are in open water. There are some subtle changes to that, particularly when it is quite choppy but fundamentally what you are trying to do is stick to that rhythm, relax and replicate what you do in the pool. It’s not a different stroke.

General stroke, transitioning from pool to open water

Because it is a different environment I think a lot of people try and hone their skills in open water, but it’s actually best to become an expert in the pool and then make the transition. If you’ve been taking part in the Aspire Channel Swim that’s the perfect time to consider trying out open water. Having spent that much time in the water and developed that skill base, it sets you up nicely.

 River Arun Swim

How to swim faster for longer

Interval training. It feels logical to think that it’s all about distance and then begins the long, slow process of trying to swim more and more lengths. But if what you are trying to achieve is improvement in speed, then that comes from doing classic interval training. So rather than go in and try to achieve a certain number of lengths, split your session up into different sets.

Land work for strength

For me, land work in two specific areas is important for swimmers. One is strength-based land work, in the gym, and the other is flexibility. Strengthening the muscle groups you use for swimming will enhance performance and if you combine that with flexibility you will reduce the risk of injury. People seem to think that to improve swimming all you need to do is swim which is not true, the vast majority of training is swimming but actually land work is important and shouldn’t be ignored.

Greg Whyte tensing

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