Swim with confidence at Swimming Nature!

Swimming Nature were delighted to be featured in the Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue. Please see below our published article:

Speedy Swimming      

Jimmy aged 9, was not a strong swimmer. He blog-image-1 (2)missed the swimming classes his siblings attended, didn’t pick up much  from sporadic school lessons and would go to great lengths to avoid getting in a pool. It is not cool not to be able to swim, like not being able to ride a bike. And the embarrassment factor meant he refused to join a group lesson. Enter Swimming Nature’s FAST TRACK course. Four half hour lessons on consecutive mornings over the Easter holidays in the warm calm waters of the Kensington Close Hotel. His teacher Josh was engaging and fun and by the end of the first lesson Jimmy was already heaps more confident and had started to get the hang of the breathing. At the end of the week, not only was he happily swimming a length of front crawl but he has voluntarily signed up to a term of classes so he can get ‘really good’! A total triumph.

Swimming Nature have over twenty venues across London. Fast track courses from £135 for 5 days 1:1. Tel: 0844 504 0506. Website: swimmingnature.com

 

Article taken from Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue

Turner, E (2014) Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue, London4 504 05

Overcoming your fear of swimming

82c9afd2a64517036730ac64fa576577Swimming is a very impressive sport as it offers something that no other aerobic exercise does: the ability to work out your body without severe impact to your skeletal system. This is because water supports your body as you move (you automatically become lighter), whilst providing resistance to increase your muscular strength and decrease harm to your joints.  Due to these benefits this attracts a variety of people to swimming.

However, no matter what the benefits are there still seems to be quite a few people that avoid the water all together. This could be because of a bad experience in the water or an unexplained fear. Fear can be caused by many reasons such as feeling nervous in an unsettled environment or avoiding confrontation due to feelings of panic and agitation. Over time this fear may build as a mental block resulting in people avoiding swimming all together.

First you have to overcome your fear of the actual water. Once this is done you may find that you don’t even need that many swimming lessons as the anxiety would have worn of.

Here are 13 step by step directions that I have put together to change your attitude towards swimming and help improve your technique.

  1. It is never too late. If you feel that you are too old to start something new. Then why not start with the basics and set small goals and targets for yourself. For instance try to swim 10 meters continuously or count how many strokes it takes you to get to the other side (tells you about your rhythm and timing)
  1. Don’t overthink it. Adults have the tendency to over analyze the technique and as a result they lose valuable time of “real” swimming. As children we are fearless willing to dive right in and try different things, jumping first and looking later. Try to remember this feeling and enjoy the water more. Remember swimming is also about having fun in the water. Don’t think- just swim.
  1. Choose a pleasant environment and teacher. Good communication with your swimming teacher will make you feel more comfortable in the water. You will probably be more willing to improve your skills as you will know what is expected from you.
  1. Use the right equipment. To get the best out of your swimming lessons you need to choose the right gear to suit your body type. Choose a comfortable swimsuit and a good pair of fitted goggles. Shop around and make sure you buy swimming items that are best suited to you. Online shops include: www.swimshop.co.uk, www.sweatband.com and www.milletsports.co.uk
  1. Keep yourself calm and relaxed. It is very important that you keep your body stress-free while swimming. A tight, stiff body will use up more energy. So “Keep Calm And Just Keep Swimming.”
  1. Do not just hold your breath. Carbon dioxide in the blood is raised very quickly when you do not exhale. You should inhale when your face is out of the water and exhale when your face is in the water; essentially you can breathe normally.
  1. Train as much as possible. You can only improve on your swimming technique if you practice again and again. Set aside 2 30 minute workout sessions per a week to maintain basic health and fitness levels. In a single session try stay in the pool until you have done 400 meters of swimming or 16 lengths of a 25 meter pool at a medium to high significant pace.
  1. Try to learn the strokes step by step. If you are a beginner try not to focus too much on swimming a full stroke, instead focus on breathing and then progress to the correct body position which aids in developing kicking and lastly arms. By following these steps you’ll will be swimming in no time.
  1. Keep it simple. While swimming front crawl your arms should move under the central line of your body which means under the middle of your chest and your stomach. Try to keep your elbow higher than your hand at all times.
  1. Close your fingers. You can imagine that your hands are paddles. This will help you to catch more water and increase your swimming pace.
  1. Forget cycling movements in the water. One of the most common mistakes is to bend your knees excessively. This can result in a bad performance in the water. So, remember the leg’ movement begins from the hips. Straight legs, floppy ankles are a great starting point.
  1. Bring a friend. Instead of attending a swimming lesson by yourself why not bring a friend to join in on the fun. You can help each other out and even challenge one another.
  1. Don’t give up. You may not achieve your goal the first time so don’t be too hard on yourself. Try again and work on areas that you need to improve on. Ask your swimming teacher for advice, book more lessons and make sure that you maintain a healthy balanced diet to boost your energy levels and help improve your performance.

As well as being fun, swimming is a great way to keep fit and stay healthy. It is the ideal exercise to improve your physical and mental health. It might take a little while to adjust to the water but with a bit of help you can face your fear full on.

How swimming can help you

Young adult swimmerFind out how swimming can help boost your confidence and health. You can gain great fitness benefits as it tones your whole body and strengthens your muscles. Whatever your age, it’s never too late to learn to swim and improve your technique.

Swimming itself is a beautiful sport and an excellent non impact exercise. This is a great advantage as it protects the joints from stress and strain. The sport also provides physiological benefit such as stress reduction as water relaxes your body and calms the mind.

Through constant movement and relief; swimming helps encourage a healthy life style.

Through my own experiences of swimming I found that that none of your joints suffer because you are not in touch with anything solid. Not even a single muscle will be stiff during a lesson, as it’s relaxed and enjoyable. As you are utilising your entire body activating all your muscle groups this can lead to burning calories quite quickly and overall improvement of your fitness. You’ll build, strengthen and tone muscles as every bit of your body is moving and learn how to breath efficiently whether you are in water or not as breath control plays a big part.

Get a head start before your first lesson

Now that you’re eager to start swimming. You can start a few everyday exercises that will benefit you once you’re in the water. A simple exercise to start with is stretching your ankles. This can be easily done when you sit in the office every working day; just by pushing your toes against the floor one way and another, top and bottom, makes them more flexible.

This movement will help develop your kicking and is an essential first step in learning to swim confidently.

Now that you have focused on flexing your ankles for a more effective kick you can focus on the next element which is controlling your breath. You can try doing this anywhere, just be conscious about it; in and out, quick breath in and long release. Try to do it while taking a bath: quick in and long bubbles out. Do it a few times in a row when you walk or doing anything else and try not to get tired or out of breath. Breathe as naturally as possible but make sure it’s under control and that your are relaxed as this will help improve your swimming once you’re  in the water.

Once you are confident in the above techniques then it’s time to start swimming. Create swimming goals as this will bring a sense of achievement to your daily exercise routine and remember to have fun and enjoy the water.

Top Tips: Kicking and Streamline Body Position Part 2

Tips and tricks for body position on front

streamlinePart3

From a previous blog, floatation was discussed briefly with some great information to get you thinking about implementing this in the water.  Body position is our starting point. If your body is stiff, not streamlined with dragging arms and legs in weird angles, you might as well put a brick in your swim suit!

The key to floating

First of all push yourself up from the bottom of the pool with your arms out in front of you like a star onto your stomach. As you  slightly move forward take a deep breath and get your head down looking at the floor, let the legs move outwards to complete your star shape. If you are relaxed enough and not sticking your bottom in the air, then with some practice you will be floating as good as a beaver building a dam on a hot day. If this isn’t working then try adjusting your body into different positions that works best for you. The alternative is floating on your back, the best tip I have picked up was putting yourself on your back in a Y shape! This actually works best for me and the majority of my students I teach. As Neal from art attack would say  – “try it yourself!”.

Once you are feeling more confident with the whole concept of floating, let’s put it all together and try some common movements in the water.

Push and glides

As discussed before (in the kicking section) this is a really good way of focusing on your movement through the water. If you are holding a flat streamlined body position, you will move through the water with ease. It sounds easy but you will be surprised to see the amount of people I have taught who think they can just do this straight away.

Steps to remember:

  • Before you push off the wall, have your head down and arms out on top of each other in front of you.
  • Squeeze your ears gently so your face is in the water looking down.
  • When you are ready to take action, take a breath, push off with two feet and hold the glide until you slow down. If you have rolled onto your back it is quite likely you have squeezed your ears and head too hard and not relaxed your body enough.

As with improving any technique, practice makes perfect! Repeat the processes until you are getting some good power off the wall, holding that lovely streamline body.

Top Tips: Kicking and Streamline Body Position Part 1

Since the age of 9 I have been competing in the aquatic environment, along the way I have been able to work with some top coaches and teachers who have guided me on to achieving fast competitive swim times and swimming more efficiently.

blog-kicking

Thinking back to how I was taught (many years back) I don’t think it was ever the case that there was much focus on leg kick and streamlined body position. Shame really because both are very important in becoming an efficient swimmer which will form the focus of this two part blog:

Part 1) Kicking- The power of your legs will drive you through the water. If the legs are kicking in the right direction, in an up and down motion, this will help to power the arms out of the water and move your body forward or backwards if you are on your back.

Part 2) Streamline body position- This is extremely important when moving through the water. If your body is lopsided or moving from left to right then this will slow you down, it could lead to injury or lack of strength on one side of your body.

Part 1 Tips and Tricks on Kicking

Kicking can seem an easy task to accomplish however, help to form the real power behind the arm strokes and can actually becoming a challenging and stressful process to adopt correctly. From my experience teaching most children/adults when in the water seem to do this thrash around kicking style which makes more mess than movement. The common fault is that learners kick from their knee! This is bad news for you guys as you won’t be moving anywhere anytime soon.

First of all, to overcome this try to visualise your legs kicking up and down from your hips in a straight position (not bending your knee), this will help your brain and body think about that kicking motion. You can try using your arms by putting them in front of you and doing the up and down motion. Yes you will look like a bit of a loon but this little guidance could help you create some beautiful movement through the water. The aim is to keep your legs straight but allow a small flexion from your knees.

Now that you are focused on kicking from your hips with straight legs you can begin to focus on the next element essential to kicking, ankles. Like most things in the water, staying relaxed is the key here, so with the ankles this is a must. Power, flexibility and using the term “floppy ankles” are going to generate movement kicking on your back and front. (Think about a boat- the legs are the motor and ankles are the propeller.) If you are still struggling with this movement then think about flicking your shoe off when you were little (or like me sometimes still do it for target practice) you will soon enough be powering through the water like a salmon up stream.

Here are a few practices to get you on your way:

Put yourself in a floating position on your front near a wall, grip the sides with your hands, put your head down and start the alternate up and down motion, your foot should be relaxed in this movement and the downward kick too should feel harder as this is where most of the power comes from, but a great tip here is the upwards kick should be where you work the hardest. If you are confident enough blow slow bubbles, this will help in later stages, if not hold your breath but please don’t kill yourself. It’s always good to get the ball rolling. (REMEMBER NEVER KICK FROM THE KNEE)

After you have practiced this for a bit (and not put half the pool water on the side) you should then be up for making a little trip down the lane.

I will be talking about body position in the next part of this series in more detail but this practice will help you for now…Place yourself, your bottom and one foot resting close on the wall. The other foot should be flat on the floor and not on tippy toes (This may vary on how tall you are and how deep the pool is.) Put your arms out in front of you in a straight position, your hands should be on top of each other and focus on squeezing your ears so that you like an arrow slicing through the water. This is called streamlining. Take a breath, put your head down between your arms and push off the wall, once you’ve glided for 2 seconds start your excellent kicking position.

Set yourself targets in the water. Make it achievable. Aim to kick to 10m, then 15m and soon you will be strong enough to do a whole length. Once you’ve cracked this and now starting to race lane swimmers, you can use a float to develop strength and distance as you will be able to kick with your head out of the water. See the next blog to find out more on streamlined body position.

Top Tips: Learn how to tumble like a pro!

tumbleDuring a recent conversation with a friend who was doing a pool swim for charity, it came up that he could not do tumble turns. The challenge involved 4 length sprints and he was a little dismayed about the time he was losing by having to stop after every length to touch the wall, turn around and push off. So I thought it would be a great advantage for him to learn to tumble turn as not only will this give him a great advantage speed wise but will also help improve his feel for the water.

Here are 5 step by step practices that I put together for him to master his tumble turns in time for his next swim:

1. It’s all about the nose! Blowing out through the nose is the only way to prevent water getting up it without wearing a nose clip. Practice steady, rhythmical breathing, bobbing up to take a breath and then submerging to blow out through your nose.

Tip: If you struggle with blowing out through your nose practice your loudest humming underwater until it becomes second nature.

2. Get used to going upside down. Tumble turns can be a bit disorientating if you are not used to them so have some fun and practice handstands, tucking your chin in and bowing out through your nose. Once you’re confident enough let your legs flip over until you are floating on your back or standing.

Tip: Take a deep breath and remember to keep blowing out through your nose until you finish the movement.

3. Get some speed. Practice pushing off the wall into a handstand and flip over or if you’re feeling confident, a summersault.

Tip: Turn your palms to face forwards and use them to accelerate your upper body round, keep your chin tucked in and let your legs flip over your body.

4. The turning point. Determine the best distance from the wall for your turn. Try swimming up to the wall, rolling over and standing up; see how close to the wall you can actually get. Aim to finish horizontal after the roll over with your feet planted on the wall.

Tip: Experiment to find a comfortable distance.

5. The final push. Practice spending as little time as you can with your feet in contact with the wall. Once they are planted drive with your thighs as though you were jumping. Don’t waste time turning onto your front before pushing off, push off on you back if necessary in a streamlined shape and gradually roll over.

With practice you’ll soon be knocking seconds off your times and leading the field and once you are why not try a challenge or charity swim of your own?

Make the most out of your floating ability in swimming with these Top Tips!

Welcome to Swimming Nature’s first Blog of 2014!

After my first swim of the New Year I was approached by a club member who had been watching me and wondered if I could give him a few technique tips. His dilemma was that, due to a shoulder injury, he couldn’t do his usual weight sessions in the gym so he wanted to try to improve his swimming as part of his recovery and to maintain fitness. The main thing putting him off was that every time he tried to swim he sank like a lead weight!

Myth #3 The sinker

It takes time to adapt to the aquatic environment and learn to work with water, as opposed to thrashing your way through it. Swimmers often call this developing ‘feel’ for the water. Swimming is also a resistance exercise, similar to weight lifting, but places almost no stress on your joints and bones. So not only does swimming work your muscles but it doesn’t have some of the negative impacts that lifting weights can have.

Having worked with numerous Adult swimmers and multi sport athletes who struggle with this concept, one thought always enters my mind when people say they can’t float, Relax!
Don’t fight the water, learn to relax and let it do most of the work for you.

I explained to the guy that because body type has a lot to do with your buoyancy most world class swimmers could be classified as “sinkers” because they are leaner, muscly individuals, which makes them less buoyant. But it really doesn’t matter; anyone can be a good swimmer, or even just a floater.

Buoyancy is best achieved by relaxing, controlled breathing and adopting a body position that will allow you to take full advantage of the waters properties. Everyone can float but some people need more time and practice getting used to their natural position in the water and learning how to control it. Raising the arms closer to the head helps to redistribute the weight and is a better floating position than the common ‘T’ shape. Slow, gentle kicking will also help as it raises the legs closer to the surface of the water. So I advised him to try this on his own but also it’s worth looking into some lessons to help get him started.

What aspects of you swimming are you struggling to get to grips with in 2014?

Is your Swimming up to speed?

Is your swimming up to speed? Find out how to swim like a pro as the 2nd of our myth busting blogs tackles the S shaped pull.

Today I went off to enjoy my regular swim at the local pool and quickly clocked a second common swimming myth that has been passed down by swimmers and even some teachers over the decades. The dreaded ‘S-shaped Pull’!

Myth #2 Frontcrawl pull should be an S shapeFrontcrawl

It all started in the 1970s when ex-Olympian and US coach JE Counsilman, an innovator in the sport conceived the ‘S-pull’. The technique is typically characterised  by a thumb first entry at the front of their stroke, sweeping outwards, back in and then finally sweeping out again by the thigh and was thought to be the optimum path for the hand to follow in front crawl to produce propulsion.

I have to admit I was slightly mesmerised whilst watching this strange ineffectual technique and wondering why it was still in use and more shockingly, why it was still being taught! You may well have heard of this technique and even be trying to follow it yourself. If so, the main issue here is that the effectiveness of the S-shaped pull was disproved in the 1980s as it was only based on limited analysis of front crawl technique. It’s fundamentally flawed because it didn’t take account the roll of the body when swimming the stroke. So unless you have the physique of Sponge Bob Square Pants this technique and thinking are totally defunct. Not only can it lead to other technique errors developing but can increase the chances of shoulder injury too. So if you feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort into your front crawl pull and not getting very far it’s probably down to incorrect technique.

These days all great swimmers enter with a flat, relaxed hand, catch and pull the water straight back behind them as they rotate. It’s faster and has a much reduced risk of shoulder injury. I enjoy watching the swims of top swimmers like Mark Foster or Michael Phelps on youtube to see how they do it… purely for technique purposes of course!

Get in touch and tell us what aspect of swimming or stroke technique you struggle with?

Happy holidays!

Fact or fiction: Common swimming myths debunked

ID-100112438Myth #1 “Swimming is not good for people with asthma”

Whilst recently talking to one of our team member’s about why she doesn’t swim very often I realised that like many people she was put off by the various ‘swimming myths’ that are still around today. In an attempt to help her overcome these hurdles and realise the benefits of a regular dip I set out to see what common myths were out there and do some myth busting.

The first common myth that popped up this week when I asked some of our team members if they fancied joining me for a swim was asthma. Of course it could have just been an excuse but that only made me more determined to debunk this particular swimming myth. So if like them you thought that having Asthma was a reason not to go swimming you might want to think again!

According to the NHS, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma. That is 1 in 12 adults and 1 in 11 children. Although physical exercise such as swimming can be a trigger for many people with asthma, being fit can actually reduce the frequency of exercise induced asthma.

The fact is that a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit are important factors in managing asthma effectively. Swimming can be one of the best forms of exercise to help keep your asthma under control because whist in the pool environment you are breathing in warm, moist air rather than the cold, dry air that can lead to symptoms. Make sure you do a good warm up at the beginning of your session as this will also help prevent asthma symptoms during your swim. Regular swimming training can also increase the volume of the lungs and help you to develop better breathing techniques, as well as improved muscle tone and general fitness.

Swimming is still one of the best forms of exercise for people with asthma but as with any medical condition it’s always worth speaking to your Dr. if have not swum regularly before or suffer from symptoms during exercise.

Expectations are then that more Swimming Nature team members will be joining me on my next swim albeit with inhalers to hand should they need it.

I know that there are many more myths out there so get in touch and let us know what’s stopping you from taking the plunge or taking the fun out of your swim session. Keep an eye on the Swimming Nature Blog and we’ll help to bust your swimming myth!

Kick start your swimming!

 

With Christmas fast approaching nipping down to your local pool for a dip is probably the last thing on your mind but Autumn and Winter are an ideal time to start training for that summer Triathlon or getting a head start on your New Year’s fitness resolutions.

I am always pleasantly surprised to find my local pool much quieter at this time of year giving me the freedom to cruise along without any collisions or near misses with fellow swimmers. It also means that if you’re a bit more nervous about trying to make a start or improving your swimming you’ll have a more peaceful environment to practice in.

For many who are contemplating learning to swim the biggest step is the first one, just ask Johanna Derry from the Guardian who decided to take a lesson with Swimming Nature’s MD, Eduardo Ferré.

So, whether you only know head up breaststroke or like Johanna are always getting water up your nose and end up drinking the contents of the pool, lessons can help to give you the confidence boost you need to get your swimming under way. It is never too late to learn to swim so take the plunge!