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Speedo Says...

Advanced swim tips by Fred Vergnoux

So you’ve made the changes and tweaked your training. Now what? Elite coach Fred Vergnoux shares his next-level fitness tips and advice for staying motivated in this last instalment of his blog.

Stay motivated and challenge yourself

The beauty of swimming is that a lot of it is about repeating the exact same movements, which is good for practising and seeing improvements. But when it comes to results, I don’t want my swimmers to do the same training schedule today in the same way they did a year ago, I want them to do it better. If you want to improve and stay motivated, you have to make changes and continue to challenge yourself.

To continue to stay on track and improve your performance, aim to make one small change this week from the suggestions below:

Enlist a training partner

Start training with a partner. They could be the fitness same level as you (someone who can swim alongside you) or they could be someone who’s fitter; someone who you have to fight to keep up with, someone you can try to compete with. Or they could be someone who doesn’t have any specific skills, but might still be able to help you – say, by motivating you or by watching you swim and commenting on your swimming technique.

Vary your work to stay motivated

Motivation is often to do with change, so if you always swim at the same pool, at the same time, at the same place, in the same lane, go to a different pool on a different day. Or try training with a different club. Challenge yourself and your mind and see what else you can try.

If you can afford it, organise a little training camp. If you’re in the UK and it’s wet or it’s winter, and you can afford to, go to somewhere like Tenerife and swim in the outdoor pools.

Assess, improve and evaluate

You don’t want to get into the routine where you come to the pool and don’t know why you’re there – you should always have a specific reason and a plan. Then, you want to see that you’re improving or working towards your goal. I like to assess ability first, work on improving, and then evaluate, then keep repeating this sequence. Maybe take 15 minutes after your swim to reflect on what you’ve done.

Now try these advanced challenges…

Positioning evaluation

This exercise will help you track improvements in your body positioning and core strength.

Stand with your back against a wall, as if you’re in the horizontal swimming position, but on land: heels, back of your shoulders and bum touching the wall. The objective is to have your spine as close as possible to the wall. Ask someone to take a picture of your side profile. Usually we find that the lower back is curved and you can actually fit a hand between your body and the wall. Aim to improve your technique and body positioning so that each time you perform this exercise the distance between the wall and your spine is reduced.

Vertical kickboard

Kick with a kickboard, but hold it on its side in the water (instead of on top) to create resistance. To perform this exercise you have to work a lot harder on your power and your core. It’s a pretty good exercise to use for speed sessions.

Vertical kicking

To me, vertical kicking is useful to improve your kick, to improve your technique, but also your fitness training – it’s really hard! In an upright position (like treading water) perform your kick – freestyle, fly kicking or breaststroke, for example – with your arms either by your side, crossing your chest or straight up out of the water. Try 20 seconds of vertical kick, then 20 seconds of sculling and repeat ten times. Performing vertical kicking in breaststroke is especially hard.

Summary of the week

  • Enlist a training partner to help you stay motivated and improve your technique.

  • Make changes to your training to beat boredom – try a new lane, a different time of day, or even a different pool and club.

  • Assess, improve and evaluate your training every week.

That’s it from Fred for now, but if you’re looking for more advice on how to improve your swimming technique or your fitness, check out our News, Tips and Techniques area. It’s packed with tips, features and how-to videos covering all swimming strokes, as well as inspirational interviews with some of the world’s best swimmers.