As you probably have seen I recently visited Heron Island on a swimming holiday, as part of this we had 2 coaching sessions with former olympic medallist turned coach Graham Brewer.  Here are the top 4 things that I took away from my time with Graham, which I hadn’t focused on before….

Open Water Swimming Tips

breathing under water 1. BREATHING

Prior to going to Heron Island I was breathing every 5 strokes.  My thinking was that the less I take my head out of the water the faster I will be (this is partly because a friend of mine likened my breathing to taking minutes rather than seconds!).  Graham talked a lot about breathing and these 2 things really struck me as fantastic for my open water swimming tips…

a) Breathe more not less
This seemed a bit odd initially as I thought it would make me slower, but I realised that I was struggling and getting more out of breath after I switched from wearing a snorkel mask to goggles in August.  I thought it was just getting used to it, but I realise now that I wasn’t taking in or exhaling enough air.  Graham talked about the air circulating regularly in your lungs.  He himself does 1 breath/stroke, stroke, 1 breath/stroke repeated again, then 4 strokes no breath then repeat it all again.  Sometimes he doesn’t actually take a breath, but may breathe out.  It was a bit of a revolution to me, I kind of thought that there was only 1 way….  I now am breathing every 3 strokes and speeding along!

b) Hold your breath
Buoyancy was a big topic that Graham talked about in his open water swimming tips, one way to achieve this is to hold your breath.  Rather than breathing out as soon as you have taken a breath hold it for a stroke or 2 then breathe out.  This gives your body more buoyancy as there is more air in your longs and therefore the swimming will be easier.  PS easier to say than to do…


To bring your arm over into the next stroke, shrug your shoulder.  This forces your arm up and over and gives you the lift to leverage the next stroke.  Graham said if your shoulders aren’t aching after swimming you aren’t doing it right – my shoulders didn’t really ache until I did this….. oops


Previous open water swimming tips I’ve read and been told haven’t really focused on how much you should be rotating your body when you swim.  Or maybe I wasn’t listening…  But basically, your head doesn’t really turn that much it is your body/shoulders turning from side to side as you take each stroke that allows you to breathe.

head position in open water swimming tips4. HEAD POSITION

Where your head is in the water can slow you down, because you need to be as balanced as possible to glide through the water.

The front of your head should be in the water up to about where your swim cap is and your neck shouldn’t have any wrinkles in it.  Wrinkled neck means that you are raising your head which isn’t good for your balance or back!

Hopefully these basic tips will help you improve your swimming.  I’ll cover more of what I learnt with Graham in future blog posts.


Ps I wore my Shark poncho towel while I wrote this 🙂

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