Winter Swim Routine Circling the Drain? Time to Rock the Boat

It has been 4 months since the last frigid open water swims here in Seattle and they feel like a very distance memory. Are you missing the “big pool” as much as we are? Sometimes its just hard to motivate yourself to go swim indoors, especially if you are already tired or have had a tough training week. But don’t skip that swim, your open water skills will really thank you come spring for keeping in shark shape. Use this time to hone your skills and utilize some great training tools.

Winter is a great time to hit the pool and work on technique in the water. Swimming is one of those sports where technique really matters…it is all about efficiency in the water. Give yourself a job in the pool. Go in with the mind set that you are there to accomplish a specific task. This will help break up the boredom of repetitive laps.

One of the most common mistakes made in swim technique is  fighting the water. Water is denser than air, the more you fight the more you increase drag churning your arms. This really just stirring up the water and wearing you out. Instead focus on quality long pulls, propelling yourself further forward with each smooth movement.

As runners and cyclists you learn to go faster by moving your legs faster. This is not the case with swimming. Let your upper body do a good share of the work here and focus on your body rotation. Your legs are best for helping your rotate your body in the water so that as you stroke with your arm it is timed to create a motion that you can pull against creating greater force. Think about trying hit a tennis ball with a racquet while in the deep end of the pool vs while standing on dry land. The force of your swing is greater as you push against the ground. The same idea is happening here- your body’s counter rotation to your stroke allows you to maximize your pull. It takes a great deal of core strength to achieve good body rotation – don’t skip those dry land days!

A fun tool to try out to help you with your body rotation is the TechToc from Finis. It is a waist belt that makes a noise as you rotate side to side. If you are not rotating well you will not hear the belt.





Always consider body balance as you are swimming. Is every part of you working together in a positive motion? On one of your swims don’t focus on trying to fix things just take an over all inventory of what motions you are making, how you are breathing, how you are feeling. Tune in and take stock. Think about what someone else would see if they were watching you from the deck. Take that back to your training journal and your coach to help formulate the game plan for improvement.

Water toys can be a fun addition to a workout but remember should be used as tools not as a crutch. Here are a few ideas you could work with:

  • Use your Pull Buoy to take your legs out of the equation and be able to focus on your stroke.


  • Use zoomers for more than just practicing your kick. Use them with your kickboard to practice kicking but rather than thinking about the kick think about your core and your glutes and making your kick come from those places.
  • Use your zoomers for a few laps of swimming and see if they help you connect your arms to your legs via your core.


  • Use paddles (sparingly and as shoulders tolerate) to help work on the catch and finding your lats.Unknown
  • The Tempo Trainer can help you work on your cadence in the water.




Other ways to make your workout fun could be meeting up with a friend or teammate. Sometimes just knowing someone else is working hard too helps you stick to your game plan. Take music along for the day but remember that if it distracts from your mental focus it may not be the best choice depending on what your goal in the pool is that day.

Also reward yourself for winter indoor. Consider buying a fun new swim cap or a new suit. There are new SIM swim shorts from Roka that are supposed to mimic wetsuit body position in the pool without overheating.




To swim like Michael Phelps don’t forget to work on your mental strategy and that can be done both in and out of the pool. In his book The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg gives us an inside to Phelps mental strategy. Phelps coach Bob Bowman taught him to make a record breaking swim simply a habit – how he reacted to his surroundings and circumstances was so practiced he didn’t need to think he simply reacted. Bowman taught him the “watch the videotape” – to visualize the perfect race every night and every morning . Then in practice Bowman would tell him to “Put in the videotape!”. This would insight Phelps to work as hard as he could and instead of being intimidated by it he simply executed the jobs as habit. Once this and a few other key habits were formed the habits spilled over into other aspects of training forming good training practices. Duhigg refers to these as “small wins”. He writes “a huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves”.

So sleep well tonight, “watch the videotape”, build your small wins and winter swimming will payoff in more ways than you may have initially thought!


Goals From the Team: And She’s Back!

The last race (other than a 5K) that I made it across the finish line was in 2011. I’ve had some setbacks with injury and other life events where I wasn’t able to put 100% into training. I always knew that I wanted to stay connected with the running and triathlon community because my setbacks were a temporary thing, and when the time was right I would come back refreshed and ready to bring out “Athlete Sheena”. Over the past few years, I’ve been at the group runs and cheering all of you on at your races. I’ve seen the CL team accomplish outstanding things that have inspired me and helped me get ready to be a part of the race as an athlete.

Goals for this year:
Tinkerbell ½ marathon in May
Pacific Crest ½ marathon (or 10k) in June
Obliteride Century in August.

Thank you all for being such great teammates! Cheers to all the amazing adventures we will have in 2015!!

Weekend Recap: Just Keep Swimming

This past Sunday the Ogre team headed out into a choppy and down right rough Lake Washington for an early morning training swim. Spirits were up but the team knew they were in for a tough workout ahead. The conditions were making an already challenging course much harder. Before setting off into the lake Coach ran the checklist..headcount, brightly colored (orange) swim caps, swim floats, staying in the group and keeping calm in a tough situation. The group of seven set out with two safety kayaks escorting the swimmers and providing aid if needed. The absolutely gorgeous day brought with it amazing views of Mt. Rainer but also a sight line directly into the sun and a glare that was dancing across the caps on the waves.  The tough conditions brought with them a different comfort level for each swimmer, and provided a lesson or two for everyone. The workout was handled with grace by all our athletes, finding limits and safely working within them.  We couldn’t have asked for more. As always it was treat to be in such good company.

For  a tough day in the water mental or physical here are some tips to help you approach an open water swim.

  •  Above all else safety comes first!
    • Don’t swim alone. Don’t swim in the dark. Don’t swim in conditions you are uncomfortable in. Don’t swim in high marine traffic areas.
  • RELAX: We often tend to stress/panic when we can’t see the bottom or more than a few feet ahead. This makes swimmers lift their heads and sight more often. They then forget to take a full stroke. Each time you sight by lifting your head, your feet drop and it disrupts your overall pace and stroke.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice the more confidence you gain and the more you will be able to RELAX.
  • RELAX: Remember your stroke, slow your breathing and focus on a smooth swim.
  • Learn to breath from both sides.
    • In case waves are crashing on you from only one side you want to be able to breath to the opposite side.
  • RELAX: Go out easy in the swim. Often the start of a workout or race bring excitement and adrenaline causing swimmers to take off too hard and too fast not leaving enough energy for later in the workout.
  • Follow the bubbles! If you can, get in the draft of someone just slightly faster than you and follow their bubbles. But don’t forget to keep sighting in case they are doing a poor job.
  • RELAX: Remember not to hold your breath. This happens typically when swimmers get nervous. If you need to, roll on to your back and catch your breath.
  • If you miss a breath due to a wave or another swimmer splashing near you, put your head back into the water, take 1-2 more strokes and breathe again.
  • Do not swim on an empty stomach. This can often contribute to motion sickness and fatigue.
  • If you do get motion sick while swimming try ear plugs, eating something with ginger before the swim and as a last resort if safe for you try a non-drowsy motion sickness aid like Dramamine.
  • Remember if you are physically tired before a swim this will often become apparent in your swim, form tends to decline and fatigue comes quickly.
    • If you have a bad swim remember its just one workout and that will not make or break your goal. Come back and try again when you are rested!Swim Club