Nutrition: Are you doing it right?!

Your food is your fuel, sports people cannot ever hope to reach their full potential if they fail to fuel themselves properly.

The field of sports nutrition is a constantly evolving one, but there are good basic foundations that you can follow yourself to optimise your training performance and recovery.

We all know, keeping up with the tough and grueling regime of a swimmer gives you license to eat a lot, and we mean a lot! However the key is making sure you’re eating a lot of the right stuff!

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 13.31.19
Ryan Lochte showing off his 10,000 calorie meal!

Setting the Foundation

You’ll already know intuitively how some foods affect you in the pool so with this in mind, think about what you eat alongside your training schedule. The best time to eat is around two to three hours in advance of your training session. Fuel your muscles and raise your glycogen levels by choosing food with a rough balance of 60% carbohydrates and 40% protein. A portion of meat or fish served with a big plate of vegetables and a small portion of rice is an example of a great choice.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 16.45.09

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 16.44.09 Baked potatoes work well with baked beans or chilli and some cheese.
Pasta is a good choice if served with tuna and a nutritious tomato sauce. Lean mince Bolognese or chilli are also good meals.

Some fat in your diet is useful but be sure to avoid junk and sugar. If you need a sweet treat after your meal, opt for some fruit, some sugar-free yoghurt or perhaps a square or two of dark chocolate, which is packed with antioxidants.

Remember to try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and opt for the dark and most colourful varieties, as these tend to contain the highest levels of protective nutrients such as antioxidants.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 14.25.30

Pre-Swim Snacks

It’s wise to have an energy-boosting snack before you train to maintain focus and get the most out of training.

Some swimmers swear by whey protein shakes for a great mix of easy-to-digest carbohydrates and protein, but these can be expensive and you can make your own by blending milk, ice cubes, a banana and some frozen berries.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 14.58.02 Fresh fruit is great for snacking on the go and cereal bars are equally convenient. Just avoid the ones that are covered in sugar.

Recovery

If you’re training hard, you will need to refuel your body within around half an hour of finishing your session. Your body needs protein to repair muscles, carbohydrates to restock diminished glycogen levels and a broad range of vitamins and minerals to fortify your entire system. A simple sandwich is a great choice with a protein filling and plenty of salad vegetables. Otherwise a specific energy-recovery drink or a handful of almonds with a glass of milk and an apple can do the trick. Remember that if you don’t refuel after training, your muscles cannot repair themselves and get stronger.

Hydration

Being in the water can lead you to think you are hydrated because you are surrounded by it. However, swimming makes you hot and sweaty like all high-intensity exercise, and you need to make sure you are regularly topping up your levels. Even a minor drop in hydration can make you slow, lethargic and befuddled – not ideal for setting those personal bests.

Keep a bottle of water with you at all times when you are training and sip water throughout the day.  Don’t simply gulp down 1.5 litres in one sitting and expect that to help. Spread your water intake out throughout the day and sip regularly. You can tell if you are adequately hydrated with a simple test. A well-hydrated urine sample is a light colour. A dark sample suggests that you rapidly need to start upping your water intake. Water is the key here – not sugary drinks which will simply add unnecessary calories and have few additional benefits.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 17.02.47

Be wary too of caffeine, which can dehydrate the body, although it can help with performance gains and provide energy.  A good-quality coffee or a few cups of tea will not hurt, but avoid drinking lots of diet coke and strong cups of coffee or your nerves will become shot and your body increasingly dehydrated. Caffeine can also inhibit nutrient absorption, so enjoy it as an occasional treat.

Calories

Swimmers should be careful to eat sufficient calories to train. An average man will typically need around 2,000 calories a day for a fairly sedentary life – without swimming training factored in. Speak to your coach about assessing correct calorie levels if you are training competitively.

Always prioritise quality calories over quantity. Anyone can eat 2,000 calories of chips in a day, but you can expect to regress in your performance as a result. Aim to pack in as many nutrients as you can for your calorie allowance. Rather than focusing on what you can’t have, embrace healthy foods and enjoy them in abundance – low-fat animal proteins, nuts, eggs, colourful fruits and vegetables and whole foods. Your times and distances should see a boost as a result and rapidly convince you of the benefits of eating well.

Top Tips for PB Busting

Once in a while everyone feels a bit sluggish in the pool and struggles to see any improvement. Maybe you feel you’ve reached a plateau or perhaps you are struggling to even get anywhere near your old personal bests? Read on for our top tips to beating your personal best swim times.

Are you ready?

Warming up is vital.  Rushing through a warm up or not paying it enough attention can be costly and swimmers will find they don’t perform as well in the pool.

For a training session of an hour, it is recommended that the warm up should last for up to 15 minutes. Ideally, begin with a few gentle lengths in the pool followed by some stretches. Swimming uses so many muscles, it is really important to make sure you have fully stretched in advance of a training session. After stretching, jump back in the pool for another few lengths varying strokes and drills to gradually increase heart rate and body temperature.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 15.19.56

Change your thinking!

Is your state of mind holding you back?
It could well be that a lack of recent PBs have caused negative thinking, which in itself becomes a circle of disappointment.

Remember it’s not a matter of ‘Can I do this?’ but a matter of ‘I can do this!’ Visualise yourself swimming at just over your PB or perhaps give yourself a specific time challenge. Remember, you have beaten your PBs before; you can certainly do it again!

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 16.54.34

Assess your Accessories

Drag can make a small but vital difference to your swim times. It might be time to reassess your swimwear and accessories. For racing, invest in a specialist low drag suit and goggles. Remember, even if you have previously bought these, they don’t last forever! Consider wearing a cap which also helps increase the hydro dynamism and help you glide through the water more effectively. It may make a small change, it might make a big change, but any change is at least progress!

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 17.03.58

Analyse your technique

Regardless of how advanced a swimmer you are, no-one is too experienced not to look closer at their technique. Depending on the level you swim at, a number of new methods could help, including analysing videos of pro swimmers and watching videos of yourself swim. Even if you do have a coach, a great coach perhaps, sometimes a second opinion will help. Short term swim clinics or swim holidays, frequently hosted by ex-Olympic athletes, are a great way to learn more about your own technique and how to improve it.
Getting stuck in a rut with your swimming times is a situation relevant to all swimmers at one time or another. Looking at these four key areas- warming up sufficiently, swimwear, positive thinking and technique, will certainly all help in getting those times broken again and again.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 15.22.20

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

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 14.16.49

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.

wetsuit
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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 13.43.04

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 15.12.18

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.

U102P200T1D179908F12DT20080818090312

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.

SPLASH

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.

under16s-flip-n-fun-diving_810_456_80_s_c1

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.