Become A HUUBster Like Ali, Jonny, Frederik, Caroline, Dave and Jenson

As you look ahead to the approaching race season it's important to choose the wetsuit that will be the fastest and most comfortable for your individual stroke.

If you love Swim Smooth coaching, you'll adore the HUUB range of wetsuits and swimskins. That's because we worked with HUUB to design each suit to match a particularly stroke style and actually improve that swimmers stroke technique as they swim in it. Slip into the right suit for you and you'll be amazed how much faster (and more comfortably) you swim in your shiny new neoprene wonder!

Olympic and World Champions (and other all-round-cool-people) have been discovering this since the range was launched in 2012:

The Brownlee Brothers, Frederik Van Lierde, Dave Scott, Jenson Button, Caroline Steffen, Richard Varga, Cassie Patten, Rasmus Henning and Richard Murray have all chosen HUUB! (Oh and the Hoff too)

The full HUUB range is in stock in our UK distribution centre and ready and waiting to be sent out to you wherever you are in the world. And remember, if you live outside the European Union you can save on the 20% sales tax too - awesome!

If you find you ordered the wrong size after trying it on, that's no problem either. You can take advantage of our free-exchange-shipping offer - we'll send out your replacement size to you free of charge, wherever you are in the world. If you have any questions on selecting your suit or about sizing, please send the very friendly Linda an email at: sales@swimsmooth.com

Read our full guide on selecting the right suit for you and order with confidence today: www.swimsmooth.com/huub

Swim Smooth and Swim HUUB!
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It's Just One More Jelly Bean In The Jelly Bean Jar

One neat way to visualise your swimming training is to picture a jelly bean jar:


For any single swim session - no matter how hard or how long - you can only put one bean in the jar. The key then to filling the jar and reaching your peak fitness is to complete consistent sessions week in and week out.

This is very much how elite athletes look at their training. Each individual session isn't of great consequence, it's a consistent block of work that matters. These blocks might be anywhere between 4 and 16 weeks in length, perhaps with a key race or series of races at the end.

Thinking about your own swimming like this is a great way to see the big picture. If you push yourself so hard one week that you burn out, lose motivation and need a week or two off, then the jar fills slowly, or not at all. Instead create a routine that you can repeat week after week through whatever life throws at you - even if that's less than the maximum you can do on a good week.

For a great example of this, check out Paul Newsome's 50 sessions he completed in the build up to his win at the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim around his young family and full time coaching work. You probably won't be training the distances Paul does but the principle is exactly the same: www.swimsmooth.com/paul-mims-training.html

As you go along with your own training, try and ride the ups and downs with this big picture mindset. No matter how well or how badly an individual session goes, it's really just 'one more bean in the jelly bean jar'!

Swim Smooth!
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Swimming Souplesse With Emma Pooley

In the world of cycling, great rider's pedalling techniques are studied and admired. Through training for tens of thousands of hours and turning millions of pedal strokes, a professional cyclists movements are a finely tuned model of efficiency. By applying just the right pressure to the pedals, in the right direction, at the right time, they make pedalling look deceptively easy - in fact almost effortless.

The French have a word for this - Souplesse - which is hard to translate perfectly into English but speaks of a rider's pedalling suppleness: a fluidity of movement, the smoothness of transition from one pedal stroke to the next and a sense of seamless rhythm. All time cycling greats such as Coppi and Anquetil were famous for their souplesse and the sense of artistry it brought to their riding.

Co-incidentally, in Perth Paul Newsome has been working with cycling World Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist Emma Pooley on her swimming. Emma's got a background in triathlon before cycling and is getting back into the sport, winning the Swissman Extreme Triathlon last year. Whilst working on developing her freestyle stroke, Paul asked her about Souplesse in cycling. Here's a brief extract:




[R-L] Emma, Paul and Richard Stannard in Perth yesterday
After his morning swim, we also quickly asked Perth squad regular Matt Illingworth (triple Commonwealth Games medallist) about his transition from cycling to swimming:




Of course it's not just cyclists who have souplesse, great swimmers also use a finely coordinated sequence of fluid movements. And just like with cycling all that hard training has - ironically - brought their stroke to a point where it can look deceptively effortless too.

If you've been focused on trying to take as few strokes as possible per length then it's quite likely you've started to lose touch with the smoothness and continuity of your stroke. Perhaps you need to work a little more on your swimming souplesse, making your movements relaxed but continuous, smoothly transitioning from one stroke to the next.

As you do this, still use the full range of your stroke but keep things smooth and rhythmical - without any hitches or pauses - and you'll soon be on the way to becoming a faster and more efficient swimmer.

Swim Smooth!
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Like Mixing Hot And Cold Water In The Bath


'Feel for the water' is a concept that elite swimmers talk about to describe the feeling of getting hold of the water for good propulsion. If their hands and arms slip through the stroke with little attachment they lose that sense of engagement or 'feel' which they are looking for and are slower, and less efficient as a result.

But what does feel for the water actually feel like and how can you develop your own to improve your swimming?

At the very front of your stroke, you should enter the water and extend forwards with the lead hand into this position which we looked at in detail here a few weeks ago:


Notice how the elbow is slightly higher than the wrist and the wrist is slightly higher than the fingertips - that's vital. As the stroke starts, the elbow bends and the hand sinks downwards into this position:


As the stroke continues a little further, the hand continues to sink angling the hand to face further backwards as the forearm becomes more vertical:


This phase of the stroke is called 'the catch' because you are literally trying to catch a hold of the water and press lightly on it as you do so. The direction in which you are pressing is important, we're aiming to press it backwards to the wall behind us to send ourselves forwards.

Like Mixing Hot And Cold Water In The Bath

It is during positions 1, 2 and 3 above that you should be trying to 'feel the water'. It's quite a gentle feeling on the palm of your hand (perhaps more subtle that you are expecting). To give you an idea of how it should feel, imagine you are running a bath with the hot and cold taps filling up the tub. You start to mix the water with your hands and as you do so you can feel the light pressure of the water on your palms as you guide the water around.

The next time you are running a bath, or standing in the shallow end of the pool, practise doing this. Keep the hand flat and press the water with your palms, angling the hand to keep the palm facing forwards in the direction of motion. This is called 'sculling' and it should be a steady constant motion, not hurried, just fast enough to feel the water nicely:


Feel for the water is simply that light pressure on the palm of your hand, which you should be looking to feel in the catch phase shown above. 

Contrast this with moving your hands sideways through the water, slicing by leading with the thumb or little finger. Notice when you do this how there is zero pressure on the palm and your hands just slip through the water without any engagement. That would be a bad action for creating propulsion as there's no feel for the water at all.

Bring The Feel Into Your Stroke

Developing a great catch and pull through technique can take a while and is the subject of our full Catch Masterclass DVD (with free worldwide shipping only for another week!). However, just by becoming a little more aware of how a good catch should feel you stand to make some useful improvements in your propulsion, even if you don't turn into Ian Thorpe overnight!

After practising sculling in the bath or standing in the shallow end of the pool, grab a pull buoy and try our Scull #1 drill. You can see a video clip of it here. This is repeating that same sculling motion but while moving forwards through the water in a catching position. You're sculling left and right (not pressing backwards as you do in your stroke) but that's no problem, it still develops that feel which will transfer to your full stroke:


Don't worry if you find this exercise hard at first - that's simply highlighting this is an area of your stroke that is weak and proves you can make big improvements by developing it - so stick with it. If you don't move forwards, make sure your fingertips and lower than the wrist, and wrist lower than the elbow. In this position you would go backwards (fun to try!) :


After 10 to 15m of Scull #1, start swimming freestyle (keeping the pull buoy in place) and you should immediately start to feel the water better at the front of the stroke.

Ceinwen shows us her great catch
technique, pressing the water back
behind her to propel herself forwards.
Try It Even (Especially) If You Are A Complete Beginner

Traditional swim coaching first focuses on improving elements of your stroke such as body position, your kicking technique and getting your body rolling correctly through the water. Only later as you become more competent and faster does it start to address your catch technique.

At Swim Smooth we feel that is a mistake and more attention should be given to developing a basic feel for the water right at the beginning of a swimmer's development. This is particularly true for swimmers of the Bambino Swim Type who have very poor feel for the water, which is really holding them back from progressing.

Developing a basic feel for the water isn't an advanced skill that should only be left for advanced swimmers, it's a fundamental building block of the stroke which helps accelerate the rest of your development.

Swim Smooth!
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Like It Or Not, You Can't Avoid The Yellow Zone

A few weeks ago we were down at our local Ironman event in Busselton supporting many of our squad athletes competing in the race. Western Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches and water quality, and this year the competitors were greeted on race morning with some fantastically flat conditions. The Indian Ocean looked like a swimming pool with just a very light breeze over the surface:


Dream race conditions? Strangely, many of race competitors said after the race 'Hmmm, it didn't seem that flat out there!'. So what happened?

Take a look at the start, this is about 300m into the 3.8km race:

(expand any of the images in this post by clicking on them)

You can see the completely flat water out ahead of the swimmers but except for the few guys leading the race, absolutely everyone is swimming in choppy water, even if they are trying to find a bit of free space for themselves.

We're going to talk about two zones in there, the first (call it the red zone) is where swimmers are closely bunched, as their wake and splash combines, it creates a very intense turbulence. This is the 'washing machine' effect many triathletes talk about:

The reality of life in the red zone!

The second zone (call it yellow) is a lower level - but still significant - zone of choppy water created in the larger gaps between swimmers. Swimming in this zone the water will still feel quite choppy, much more so than in the flat water of a swimming pool.

Highlighting those zones on the original start image above:


The interesting thing about the yellow zone is how quickly it forms and widens out hundreds of meters wider than the field itself. Notice how the swimmers below nearest the camera are swimming in the light chop of the yellow zone despite being at least 100m wide of the main field:


Remember the wider ocean is near perfectly flat, this is all being created by the field of swimmers.

The same thing is true towards the end of the race where the field has spread out. Here's the last 100m of the swim course before the swimmers arrive, looking beautifully flat:


A short while later, once the pros have been through and some of the top age groupers, the yellow zone is already well developed and creating choppy water for these swimmers (who are taking around 60 minutes for the 3.8km):


If you look at the expanded image you can see the chop gradually fade away towards the horizon.

So what can we conclude? Very simply, you can't avoid disturbed water during an open water triathlon or swim race. Even if you are racing in a perfectly flat lake and try and swim off to the side of the field, the water will quickly become much rougher than you experience in the pool. This is just a fact of life when open water swimming!

For this reason it's essential that you develop a stroke style that is robust enough to handle these conditions.  If you've worked on trying to make your stroke as long as possible and added a pause-and-glide into your stroke timing then you'll be decelerated in the gap between strokes from the constant buffeting of all those small wavelets. In open water swims, you'll find you quickly slip down the field from where you would expect to place.

On the flip side, a stroke with some purpose and rhythm is going to be a real advantage to you, helping
you punch through the chop, which is why nearly all elite open water swimmers and triathletes have great stroke rhythm. Even a small lift in your stroke rate (say by 3-5 strokes per minute) will make a huge difference to your swimming efficiency in the great outdoors.

And the red zone? That's the place where you're going to get swept to a fast time drafting off other swimmers, so really you should be aiming to be in there mixing it up if you want to swim to your ultimate potential! It's not that hard to swim well in the red zone but practise and confidence will make a huge difference, which is why you should be practising your open water skills on a regular basis, even during the winter with a group in the pool.

A great example of this is one of our squad swimmers Janine Willis (right) who swam a PB of 57:30 at Busselton on her way to a stunning 9:30 finish. Janine regularly practises her open water skills in our Saturday session at Claremont Pool and is not afraid to get stuck in and draft behind other swimmers in the 'melee' of the red zone. Her reward: exit the water with the top age group women in the race, fresh and ready to dominate on the bike (no wonder she's smiling)!

Happy New Year and Swim Smooth!
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