Chlorine – the Breakfast of Champions

Swimming Tips for Beginners

Breakfast of champions

1. You need to get up early. I’ve never seen so many pitch black mornings since I started swimming and amazingly there are loads of other people who get up crazy early to swim for the pure pleasure of it too. I was a regular attendee at a gym for a long time (pre children) and have been running regularly (post children) and I don’t think I ever got up before sunrise just to go to the gym or to run.  Maybe swimmers love it more? And I wonder if cyclists get up this early – to be determined….

2. Pick a lane carefully, my sister wrote about lane etiquette in a previous post but even before that you have to negotiate the minefield of picking the correct lane.  How busy are they, have other people picked their lanes correctly (slowbies or even worse fasties in the wrong lanes). How many people are there just chatting at the end of a lane? And more importantly – why do they do this? If you just want to stand in the water and have a chat, get out of my lane!! The best moment of a swim session is arriving and finding you have a lane to yourself – bliss!

3. Pack your bag the night before. Otherwise you WILL forget something crucial. And it takes away one of your excuses when you wake up, peer at the clock and start to regret your plan.

4. Get a swim buddy and agree to meet them there. My research shows that if I am meeting someone at the pool I am 100% more likely to get out of bed, i.e. the couple of times I planned to go on my own, I just didn’t. You don’t get to chat much when you are swimming (one of the best things about running is you can put the world to rights while you are doing it) but you can fit a chinwag in during the palaver of showering, getting dressed and hopefully a coffee and pastry after.

5. Take a drink. I wouldn’t dream of going to the gym without a bottle of water.  And swimming is hard work. Even though I am still swallowing more water than I probably should be when swimming, it’s not the right kind of water apparently.

6. Have a plan before you get in the pool, in the same way as I wouldn’t just run out the front door without thinking of a route first, I can’t survive a swim session without a “route” planned. My sister started us all off on these plans she found on the internet [Swim Britain Training Plans]. There’s also loads of ideas on Pinterest (cue shameless plug for my Pinterest profile, do follow me, I’ve gone pin crazy recently for Triathlon-ing, Fitness and Gin generally), find it here [Swimming hints and tips on Pinterest]. We’ve printed the guides out and after much experimenting with laminating and plastic bags have found that a good old poly pocket keeps them readable pool side. It’s as simple as warmup for X lengths, kick for X, arms for X, alternate drill/swim, one length fast, one length slow etc etc.

7. Drills – these are worth looking up (or checking out my Pinterest board). Before starting my Swimming lessons I had no idea these even existed. Basically they are how you improve your technique, the principle is you over exaggerate one thing in the stroke for a length or more or make it harder in some way (like swimming (or in my case drowning) with clenched fists…I know CRAZY) and then when you go back to swimming “normally” you’ve improved your form or got stronger or whatever. Bear with me you experienced swimmers, I am sure there is a better way to explain it (and please do if you have the time and inclination). It’s as simple as pushing your elbow up higher in front crawl or pretending you are putting your hand in your pocket under the water. Look at some diagrams online or buy a book or check out my Pinterest board……

8. Buy a swim hat – not because you are trying to keep your hair dry, which is what I always thought they were for – but because it keeps your hair nice and tidy (hair in your mouth/eyes/nose is very distracting) and you are generally more streamlined too. Also buy a float and a pull buoy. Having kit to play with makes the session fly by.

But the most important thing that is vexing me currently is whether I should be washing my swimming costume and hat after every swimming session. Granted it’s a first world problem but I’m throwing mine in the washing machine willy nilly at present and I’m sure that’s not good. More research needed.


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