For The Love Of Open Water

Open water swimming is all the rage at the moment and it is exactly what it sounds like – quite simply swimming outdoors in something that isn’t a pool! It can be a lake, the sea, a river, a large pond… essentially any swim-able expanse of water.

Open Water Swimming Events are totally different to impromptu ‘wild swimming’ and refers to an organised race or challenge but how exactly do you go about joining in with this fantastic craze?!

First things first,
Find a Local Group or Club

Open water swimming is a big movement at the moment after gaining popularity in the recent years.
If you live anywhere near the coast, then swimming groups are easily accessible, often complete with seasoned (and maybe mad!) swimmers who take a dip every day of the year.
These groups welcome new, novice swimmers and this a great way to find out about more events, discover good swimming spots and pick up tips from knowledgeable open water swimmers. There are also a large number of inner city swimming groups, who frequent rivers or lakes. A Google search will often get you the info you need regarding your local area.

Sign up to an Event

Signing up to an event might well give you the push you need to really take your open water swimming a bit more seriously. Open water events occur all over Britain, all through the year, but if you’re a beginner, then it’s much better to choose a summer event. There is massive variation in distance of open water swimming events as well as level of competition so you should be able to find something to suit you whether it be fun or serious.

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Open water swimming also occurs as part of Aquathlons and Triathlons if you’re into running and/or cycling.

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The easiest way to choose an event is to look at the events calendar on the very helpful H2Open Magazine Website. Almost all the British and a fair few overseas events are listed on the site with a link to register.

The main open water race season in the UK starts around May and ends around September. Event spaces get booked quite far in advance so make sure to get in there early! The best advice for a beginner is to book one late in the summer and start your outdoor training in spring. That gives you a few months of slightly less cold water to prepare in. If you want to book one now and have no experience, the best bet would be to choose one in late summer 2015.
A great event for beginners in the South of England is the Brighton Marina Open Swim in September, which has the option of a short 500m swim. For Midlands based beginners, then the Bosworth Masters Open Water event, has a similarly short distance of just 400m, is a good late summer choice.

Sign up to a Course

If you have a big open water event or triathlon on the horizon, then you can pick up a vast amount of  knowledge and skill on a short course. One day intensive courses are available all over Britain and are a great way to ask all those questions you have, whilst swimming with the protection of a small boat crew. Swim tourism is on the up too and this includes week or weekend long courses abroad. Some swimmers choose these during our own autumn, winter or spring, to train in slightly warmer waters that are comparable to our own summer.Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 15.05.26

Get the Right Gear

Open water swimmers are usually very particular about getting the right gear as it makes a huge amount of difference to the overall swimming experience and all swimmers have their own favourites.

Essentially, it is most practical to get yourself a wetsuit to train and compete in and a tri suit if you are taking part in a triathlon. Some may prefer to just wear regular swimwear for training but many events only let you compete in a wetsuit so it is best to practice in one too. A wetsuit offers more than just warmth; it offers protection and a small amount of buoyancy too, which is especially handy when you are just starting out. A full selection of the best wetsuits can be viewed here.

Many swimmers also choose to wear specialised boots, gloves and socks. These items will stop you losing heat from your hands and feet and also protect them in general.

In terms of goggles, then there’s a huge selection now available on the SwimShop website, but what you are looking for is a pair that offers a wide peripheral vision and UV protection from sunlight.

A pair of flip flops or similar to use when getting in and out of the water is more important than you might think. Protecting your feet from cuts, especially if you plan on swimming in rivers or lakes, is very important.

A very brightly coloured swimming cap is another essential item. It is vitally important that you be easily seen when swimming especially if you plan on swimming in busy areas where there are boats. Again, there are a wide selection of suitable caps to be seen if you click here.

All your essential items can be found on the SwimShop website.

Safety Tips

Open water swimming is not without its risks and being safe should be a number one priority for all open water swimmers, beginners and experts. The River and Lake Swimming Association website gives a really good objective look at the risks of swimming in rivers and lakes, and how to assess those risks. They talk about things like pollution and diseases that live in the water, getting into the water and looking out for signage. There are also the obvious safety tips of course, such as never swimming under the influence of drugs or alcohol and never going out alone for an open water swim.

Above all, enjoy yourself! Open Water swimming is a great way to get up close to nature and take part in a sociable and effective exercise!

Synchronised Swimmers – The Under Water Athletes

Synchronised swimming is a sport pretty unknown to lots of people and is generally described as just dancing underwater. Whilst this is an element, it totally fails to do the sport adequate justice. In order to excel as a synchronised swimmer, you need to have grace, rhythm, acrobatic skills, the ability to hold your breath for long periods and incredible strength.

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How it all began

Swimming was becoming a popular sport in the late 19th century and ‘water ballet,’ as it was then known, became increasingly popular with the rise of the swimming club. It soon gained status and large audiences soon began attending performances and were thrilled at the sight of women performing underwater.

In the USA the Kay Curtis Modern Mermaids Show performed at the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1933 and it later became a recognised sport in 1941. She went on to travel the world with the Red Cross and introduced the sport to other countries along the way. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979 for services to the sport.

An early lesson by
The earliest synchronised swimming lessons by Katharine Whitney Curtis in the 1930’s.

Hollywood movie star, Esther Williams, helped to popularise the sport through a number of films featuring heavily choreographed synchronised swimming routines, helping to bring the sport to greater international attention.

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How does competitive synchronised swimming work?

There are four different categories for competitors, all performed to music. Solo and duet categories are self-explanatory. A team requires between four and eight members, and a combo can include ten swimmers but they break off into different groups during the course of the routine.


Less points are given out when there are fewer swimmers as it is easier for smaller groups to synchronise their movements. Routines should last between two and a half minutes up to five minutes, although generally, the more swimmers the longer the routine.

Most competitions require participants to complete two routines. A technical routine sets down specific elements which must be completed in a certain order. There is a separate, free routine, in which participants can be as creative as they wish to impress the judges and score maximum points. Figure competitions are designed to allow young swimmers to show set elements without music and are a good entry into the world of synchronised swimming events.

Fitness is paramount and can not be underestimated!

Far from the ‘easy’ sport that many spectators believe it to be, synchronised swimmers have to work incredibly hard to achieve the required levels of fitness. It is common for them to train alongside speed swimmers and swim grueling distances, as well as take part in technical coaching sessions in which they must work on body control and positioning in the water. Weight training and gym-based work is usually a large part of the training regime, to maximise strength and stamina.

When groups of Olympic athletes from different sports were tested for fitness levels, it was the long distance runners who had the greatest aerobic capacity. Synchronised swimmers came in second, demonstrating the huge demands made on their bodies in this demanding sport.

If you fancy giving synchronised swimming a go, ask at your local pool about groups in your area.

Tom Daley Lighting up our Love of Diving

Tom Daley! How the nation loves Tom Daley! He is the poster boy for British diving and, thanks to his incredible success in the 2012 Olympic Games, the sport has become increasingly popular throughout Great Britain.

Having fronted television diving programme ‘SPLASH’ – which features celebrities successfully creating a spectacle from the high board in just a few weeks – the sport has come to the attention of the wider public, keen to view more of the stunning gravity-defying feats that have us all holding our breath in awe.

Tom Daley

Competitive diving

As a competitive sport, diving involves launching from a springboard or static diving board and performing athletic movements and often incorporates twists and turns. The process of competitive diving requires incredible strength, awareness and flexibility, as well as a head for heights and a great deal of courage.

Even Tom Daley confesses to moments of fear as he prepares to propel himself from the top of the 10m board. At this sort of height, any over-rotation or error of timing can result in a painful injury. Hitting the water at 30mph requires extreme precision, to achieve the perfect entry position of outstretched hands, followed seamlessly by a perpendicular body line.

Tom Daley diving


Synchronised diving

Competitive diving requires incredible strength, skill, flexibility and courage. For synchronised diving, which was added to the list of Olympic sports in 2000, the competitor must also include split second timing that coincides perfectly with a team-mate.
Two divers must perform the exact same dive in perfect synchronicity in order to achieve the highest marks. Considering the nerves that almost all the top divers feel when standing at the top of the ten metre board, the skill and technical ability required to achieve this amazing feat is incredible. Competitors are judged on the height of the dive, the forward travel, take-off and entry, with all elements needing to be performed in perfect unison.

Synchro Diving

Is diving a high risk sport?

People often think that diving can be classed as an extreme sport due to the heights involved and there tends to be a perception that divers are at risk not just of drowning, but of suffering injuries to the head, back and neck. However, this is mostly untrue and diving accidents causing severe injury are extremely rare in supervised swimming pools designed with depth especially for diving.

Getting started

Find your nearest swimming pool which has diving boards and there may well be lessons available or a club to join. Pool reception staff should be able to answer your questions and advise you of the requirements. However, do bear in mind that instructors will expect you to be competent and confident at swimming especially in very deep water – the usual depth for a diving pool is around 4m. Anyone can have a go at diving but particular attributes helpful for diving include; being strong, flexible, an aptitude for gymnastics (many professional divers have a background in gymnastics or dance) and courage.

Once you have embarked on diving lessons, you will be able to achieve ASA diving certificates to reward your progress and to spur you on to even greater efforts. As Tom Daley’s recent television programme demonstrated, even people who have never attempted the sport before can make astonishing progress with instruction and a great deal of nerve.


Children can be encouraged to participate in diving through ASA programme ‘Flip n Fun’. It is designed to attract children between 5 and 11 to become diving enthusiasts. It aims to make the process fun and attainable, encouraging primary school children to try something new and develop new skills.

Rather than starting by diving into the swimming pool, the Flip n Fun programme begins in the gym. Children are encouraged to use trampolines and crash mats to get them used to the motions of diving the co-ordination, balance and agility required to achieve body awareness and the correct positioning.

Once the classes move to the swimming pool, the fun element is maintained with the emphasis on developing confidence. The sessions involve a great deal of physical activity, including plenty of splashing about in the water combined with gymnastic tumbling and jumping.


As children become more confident and improve their diving skills, they are encouraged to join local diving clubs to further their prospects. Club members can participate in the ASA British Gas National Age Group Diving Championships as an entry into the world of competitive diving.

Alan Rapley’s 8 Week Swimming Plan

Here at SwimShop, we are constantly seeking new ways to help our customers excel in the water and look great doing it. So while that usually means crafting high-performance swimwear, today we are teaming up with champion coach Alan Rapley to bring you a training regimen that will truly push your skills to new heights.

Alan was Great Britain’s 1996 Olympic Swimming Captain, and is now one of the nation’s premier swim and triathlon coaches. He has devoted his life to developing speed and endurance in the water, and over the years his innovative techniques have benefited scores of prominent Olympians and international swimmers. Now, thanks to this challenging eight-week training programme Coach Rapley has decided to share with us, you too can hone your skills with the same regimen used by some of the world’s top athletes.

Alan Rapley

Coach Rapley’s training programme spans two months and includes 24 meticulously crafted workout sessions. Each workout includes one hour of rigorous exercises designed to hone your technique and unlock your maximum physiological potential. Whereas many athletes unwittingly dull their training sessions by doing the same exercises each time they workout, Rapley’s programme was specifically developed so that each session builds upon the last to achieve comprehensive strength and stamina increases over time.

As Alan puts it, “the sessions are designed to help you train smarter, getting the most out of each session.” So the eight-week regimen is sequenced to help athletes maximise their results through step-by-step physiological development. It was also designed so swimmers at all levels can complete the training; and because it only demands 24 hours in a two-month period, Coach Rapley’s regimen can be squeezed into even the most hectic schedules.

So if you are ready to break free of your uninspiring workout routine, unlock your true potential, and start making the most of every metre, dive into the myCOACH programme today. In just eight weeks, you’ll be a fitter, faster, and stronger swimmer—guaranteed.

The entire programme on a week by week basis is attached, together with an invaluable Reference Guide that includes all of the terms Alan currently uses in his myCOACH swimming sessions and a clear Session Plan User Guide. Enjoy!

myCOACH Session Plan & Reference Guide

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK ONE

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK TWO

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK THREE

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK FOUR

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK FIVE

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK SIX

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK SEVEN

myCOACH 8 Week Session Plan – WEEK EIGHT



Keep hold of your swimming Mojo!

We all know that swimming is one of the best exercises, but at some stage all swimmers will feel like they need a bit of a motivational helping hand.
Reinvigorating a love of swimming or enlivening everyday training sessions is actually easier than you think. Here’s our top ten ways  to make swimming more interesting, more challenging and help you keep hold of your swimming mojo!


Joining up to the British Gas Swimfit programme is a great way to add structure to your pool sessions. A huge number of pools support the Swimfit programme by providing poolside cards and sometimes even instructors for group sessions. The programme is specifically designed for those who want to lose weight, get fit and really see some progression in their swimming. It is a brilliant way to make any swim session more interesting if you don’t have the wherewithal to create a session for yourself. This taster session is a basic introduction to Swimfit, but those who sign up will find the sessions get more interesting and challenging. More information on Swimfit can be found here. Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.26.30


A good way to make swimming more interesting is to challenge yourself by learning a new stroke. Most recreational or fitness swimmers use breaststroke, backstroke and sometimes front-crawl. But not everyone can swim all 4 stokes, so why not  give butterfly a go or focus on a weaker stroke? Sidestroke is another one you don’t see very often, it has the benefit of keeping your head out the water and you can see where you are going. Have a go, only practice makes perfect!


Making one of your sessions a water-based exercise class is another way of adding variety. These classes are often included in the price of pool membership or can be pay-as-you-go. Examples of pool classes are; Aqua Aerobics, Aqua Jogging, Aqua Zumba and Aqua Spinning. Not all pools will offer all these classes but it’s worth picking up a timetable from the front desk to see what there is. Aqua Aerobics is ideal for those who want a low intensity workout, while Aqua Zumba is perfect for those who want to have fun while they exercise. Aqua Jogging or Aqua Spinning are harder work and both are really excellent calorie burners.AquaFit3 Slideshow


Another option is to think about the other water based swim disciplines, such as diving, synchronised swimming or water polo. Most clubs are welcoming to amateur newcomers. More information on getting into any of these new disciplines can be viewed here. Obviously location dependent, the more adventurous swimmer could perhaps try snorkelling or scuba diving. These swim based recreational activities are an ideal way to use the swimming skills you have already, to try something completely new.



Alternatively, you could give yourself a real challenge. Perhaps enter one of the hundreds of open water swimming events in the UK that occur annually or even a charity fundraiser, such as Swimathon. Swimming with a goal will keep you much more focused on your everyday sessions. Listings for most open water swim events, in the UK and around Europe, can be found on the H2Open website. Even if you didn’t want to enter an event, a change of scenery can be invigorating so why not step outside and swap the pool for a lake/pond/river/sea?! A guide to the best outdoor spots can be seen here, on the UK Wild Swimming site. Another helpful resource is The Good Beach Guide. If you live in a large city don’t think you’re missing out, there are plenty of beautifully restored historic pools and lidos, especially in cities such as London or Manchester.

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If you are finding swimming boring it could be the smallest and simplest thing that can make it better- music! Waterproof mp3s are fast growing in popularity and there are lots on offer, ranging in price. Fill it with your favourite music (definitely stick to up-beat songs!) or download podcasts and make yourself stay in the pool until they are finished. To view some waterproof mp3s click here.


It’s also worth including some land based activity to your exercise repertoire, if you don’t already. Many swimmers find themselves trying out a triathlon, which incorporates swimming with cycling and running. If you like this idea but don’t fancy the running, you could train for an Aquabike event or alternatively if you prefer to run and swim but not cycle, you could try a aquathlon.

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Finding a partner to swim with is a great way to feel more motivated. It’s much harder to let down a friend than just yourself. Swimming with a friend can also add a social element to swimming. Stopping for a chat between lengths and enjoying a drink afterwards can turn swimming into a meet up with a friend and not just a form of exercise.

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Many people trying to lose weight find themselves plateauing when they reach a certain weight and it’s is difficult to find motivation to keep going. Using Apps, such as My Fitness Pal, where you can log exercise and food as well as your weight, is a wonderful way to stay motivated and set yourself realistic goals. Usually, on these kind of apps you can input your current weight and a goal weight and say how quickly you want to reach your goal. With this data, it will set restrictions of how many calories to consume and how many you have to burn through exercise. You log your exercise, calories and do ‘weigh ins’ and it feels wonderful to watch the pounds slipping away!



Joining a swimming club can be a great way to motivate yourself if you are a more advanced swimmer as they provide you with mentoring, coaching and support. Swimming clubs tend to have a tiered squad system based on ability and are welcoming to newcomers and amateurs. There is usually a squad which isn’t taken too seriously and there is something for everyone! There are people who like yourself enjoy swimming as an exercise and want to take it a step further, triathletes who want to improve their swimming and people who were swimmers as a child and have either decided to come back to swimming or have decided to step back from full competitive swimming and have left the performance squad behind. Swimming club sessions are structured and well organised and swimmers are often given the opportunity to experience some competitive swimming if they want.
It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends and often training turns into an impromptu social event whilst undergoing some serious sweat!