How to practise in 2020

Whilst lockdown restrictions mean that most of us are not be able to swim right now, however, if you’ve had some Total Immersion swimming lessons or attended one of our workshops, you’ll know how important it is to practise your new skills. When you do get back to your public pool you may discover that it’s tricky to find space to do the drills and six-stroke practices, particularly when pools are now often limited to lane-only with stricter rules about overtaking etc. 

I’ve teamed up with TI coach colleague Penny Wilkin to offer some tips and strategies to help you practise your swimming effectively in a public pool.

·        It may sound obvious but do your research first – find out when the pool is quiet, what type of swimmers tend to swim when are there sessions when the pool is set up without lane ropes out? It will be easier to find space to do your drill practise if you don’t need to stick to lanes

·        Have a look around at other pools – some may have a children’s pool available which could be ideal for what you need, best to go outside of family swim times though!

·        It’s worth looking at other pool possibilities – it’s not always possible with membership options but think about hotel pools or spa pools which are often too small for real lane swimming but make ideal places to practise – blag some guest passes if you can! School pools are sometimes available and some private pool owners offer private pool hire, particularly at the moment when public swimming is still restricted

·        If your pool is lane-only, choose the slowest lane to do your drills before switching back to the faster lane when you are ready to swim full stroke

·        Make friends with people – this usually helps to break the ice and they’re more likely to accommodate what you’re trying to do

·        Practise your drills in the shallow part of the pool where you can stand up and then swim breaststroke or front crawl in and out of the deep end before beginning your drills again.

·        Do your superman to skate and 6 strokes and then swim a few strokes of breaststroke before starting another round of 6 strokes

·        Learn how to roll for air – swim your 6 strokes and then roll on to your back for air, take a moment, maybe do a bit of backstroke, and then roll down again for another 6 strokes. This practice is also great for learning posture, balance, alignment and breathing.

·        Try swimming super slowly – how slowly can you swim while still maintaining balance?

·        Look at how other people are swimming and see what you can learn from them, what would make other people more efficient? Try swimming like them to see what it feels like….and what you can learn.

·        If you can’t do drills – swim with focal points

·        Work on shorter intervals e.g. 25s/50s so you don’t feel under pressure to swim a continuous interval

·        Don’t be fussy about rest intervals – view enforced extra rest time as an opportunity. In contrast to fitness training, in swimming the longer you rest the better your focus and movement will be and so it will be easier to reinforce good movement.

·        How about the other strokes? Maybe try some breaststroke, for many of us this will be slower than front crawl

·        If you have wide lanes rather than lane swimming – practise your open water sighting with focal points (link to a blog/video?)

·        If the pool allows, you could do some of your drills and swimming with swim fins to give you some propulsion and speed so you’re less likely to get in the way of other swimmers. This also gives you a bit more mental space to think about your stroke rather than worrying about propulsion. Whilst we don’t recommend swim fins as a regular tool because they’re not so great for your stroke and can lead to bad technique and cramp, they make the difference between swimming or not swimming they’re worth trying

·        If the pool allows try a front crawl swimming snorkel. This is great for swimming further without breathing, can help with correct head position and gives you enough time to think about your stroke without running out of air. If you haven’t yet mastered breathing in front crawl, then this is a great way to be able to swim further without having to take a breath.

The key is to be flexible; have a variety of strategies and tools in your toolbox so if you’re not able to do what you planned you have some other options. Whatever the situation there’s usually something you can practise; learn to adapt your session so you always take something positive away from your swim and leave the pool a better swimmer.

 Penny Wilkin is a Total Immersion coach based in Coventry www.youcancoaching.co.uk 

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