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Macmillan All Out Swim

For the past few months we have been following Sam Brett, who is taking part in the 5km Macmillan All Out Swim Challenge in Brockwell Lido on 8 October. In our August session with Sam we worked on combating her most obvious stroke flaw: crossover of her arms and hands in front of her head. We looked at improving Sam’s body position, rotation, as well as asking her to concentrate on her hand entry, and gave her some drills to incorporate into her training sessions.

Earlier this month we met Sam at Parliament Hill lido to see how she was getting on.

“I have been practising what you told me and I feel as though my stroke has definitely improved,” said Sam.

There is only one way to check, so we got in the pool to see how Sam’s swimming had developed. Her hand entry was much improved and the cross-over had disappeared. Result!

With the swim only weeks away, Sam wanted some ideas to keep her training interesting and to also ensure she felt strong throughout the 5km. We gave Sam some ideas to mix up her training and incorporate speed work into her sessions. Sprints, intervals and changing pace will all improve fitness, stamina and speed. Sam trains on her own in a public session without a pace clock, and in lidos as often as possible, so here are some alternative ideas to traditional interval sessions that you can use in your own training sessions.

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Intervals without a pace clock

If your pool doesn’t have a pace clock, or you don’t know how to use one (see How to Use a Pace Clock if you would like to learn), then simply choose your distance (eg, 50m), swim at a hard but sustainable pace, count your rest (eg, 10 seconds), repeat ten times. Vary your distances, number of repetitions, effort and rest (eg, if you are swimming 200m, then you might do five repetitions with a longer rest). You want to aim to do each repetition at the same pace. 

Swim circuit training

This is a great way to improve strength and fitness, especially if you are lucky enough to train in a lido (lido swimmers tend to be more accepting of people doing odd things poolside!). Use the whole of the pool, swimming diagonally rather than lengths, working your way down to the far end of the pool. Choose landmarks to swim to (eg, set of steps, lifeguard chair, benches). Swim a hard but sustainable pace. Swim to first landmark and get out of pool. Ten press ups. Dive back in, swim to second landmark and exit pool. Ten squat thrusts. Swim to third landmark and exit pool. Ten burpees. Dive back in. Once you have reached the end of the pool swim maximum effort back to the end of the pool where you started. Repeat, if you can. Incorporate as many different exercises as you like. 

Swim fartlek

Choose a couple of landmarks beside the pool (they could be sets of steps, lifeguard chair, lockers) to break the pool up into sections. Using the same principle as fartlek in running, vary your pace between your landmarks. Eg, swim 60% effort to your first landmark, swim maximum effort to your second landmark, swim 60% to the end. Rest, repeat. Or use the 60% swims as your recovery. Vary your efforts and distances to keep things interesting.

Play swim snooker

Choose four colours (or three if you are not confident swimming butterfly). Assign a stroke to each colour. Each time you pass someone wearing a swimming costume or hat in your chosen colours, switch to the assigned stroke. Swimming different strokes will make you an all-round better swimmer, and changing strokes while swimming will also use different muscles. 

With her 5km Macmillan All Out Swim at Brockwell lido now just around the corner, it is taper time for Sam. She needs to reduce her weekly yardage so that she is in peak condition on the day of her big swim. We look forward to finding out how she gets on.

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Macmillan All Out Swim

Go all out for people affected by cancer and join Team Macmillan for the final edition of this unique outdoor swim series. Held at Brockwell Lido, south London, you can take on a 2k or 5k challenge as an individual or as part of a relay team. Whether you’re tackling the distance or you aim to smash your PB, you’ll be helping us to ensure no one faces cancer alone.

Brockwell Lido – Saturday 8 October

Sign up before Monday 3 October and use promo code H2OPEN30 to receive 30% off the registration fee

Enter now!

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.