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!


Shaping up in a Swimming Costume

Having a swimsuit that flatters your shape is the most important part of feeling comfortable before taking the plunge for many women. With the broad choice of shapes and colours and styles available, there’s no reason why we can’t all find a shape or colour which helps us look and feel fabulous!

Pear Shaped

The ‘pear’ refers to a body shape where weight is carried on the lower half of the body when the hips are wider than the bust and shoulders. Women with pear shaped figures tend to want to create a balanced look by making their lower halves look slimmer and in turn show off their slender upper body. The Speedo swimsuit pictured below features wide set straps and a square neckline to widen the appearance of the upper body and balance the lower half. The pretty and eye-catching pattern of the upper body naturally draws attention and solid the colour distracts attention from the hips whilst the high cut gives the illusion of longer, leaner legs. To view this particular costume in further detail click here.


Apple Shapes

One of the most flattering designs for apple shaped women is a swimsuit with a different colour trim at the waist which helps define it. A tankini is also flattering as it covers the stomach area but still breaks up the abdomen and creates the appearance of a waist. A suit with rouching will also help flatter the stomach area. It is a good idea to avoid thin, spaghetti style straps and, instead, stick with wider shoulder straps. The costume below also features special tummy, waist and bottom control panels which enhance, smooth and control curves. It also has integral bust support and adjustable straps for a comfortable custom fit. To view this particular costume in further detail click here.


Inverted triangle

Inverted triangles are broader on their top halves, and may have larger chests that require extra support.
Typically you would be looking  for bust support if you are bigger on the top than the bottom. Structure in the bust, such as soft foam cups, a shelf bra, under wiring and wide straps will all help. Look for styles that are banded around the midriff and adjustable straps for a personal fit. Straight cut necklines, such as a classic tank will look sporty and wide shoulder straps offer more comfort than thin, spaghetti straps.
You can make thighs and hips look more in proportion with shorts style bottoms or bottoms that feature details, including rouches, bows, belts or ties.
Avoid high necklines and bandeau shapes which will create a uniboob and plunging V-necklines and halternecks, which will only make you seem broader.
The costume below has wide straps, soft padded cups and shelf bra support as well as powermesh tummy control lining and ruched  material. Click here to view this costume in more detail.

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Athletic/ Boyish

If you’re athletic or boyish, you will have only a slight waist and slim hips. You may in contrast  have strong, broad shoulders. Your body shape lacks the curves of a defined waist, so you want a swimsuit which creates the illusion of one. You can do this by wearing a one-piece suit with a high leg cut which accentuates long slender legs. A belted waistline swimsuit will give you the appearance of a nipped in waist. A curvy seam each side of the body will also help add balance. Pretty patterns and detailing will help to add a more feminine touch while balancing out a more athletic frame. The costume below has a clever multi-coloured print  to enhance shape and give an accentuated waist, to see this costume in more detail click here.




Hourglass figures are characterised by having a bust equal (or very close) in measurement to the hips, often with a small, defined waist. Women lucky enough to have a natural hourglass figure, will want to find a way to show off their feminine curves.
Vintage styles, such as fifties swimsuits, look fabulous on hourglass figures. Those with significant curves on top will benefit from inbuilt support and wide straps. Waists can be emphasised with a different colour trim or by wearing a bikini.
If you’re top heavy, go for a halter style neckline or underwired bust for extra support. Don’t be afraid of bold colours to show off your balanced curves. This bold swimsuit has some bust support and flattering ruching. To view this item in more detail click here. 


Swimwear that fits well means you will spend less time rearranging it and more time perfecting your swimming!

First Briton to Complete the Oceans 7 Challenge

For the first time in history, a Briton has completed the famous Oceans 7 open water swimming challenge. Adam Walker joins an exclusive list to become one of just five people ever to complete the multi-marathon swimming challenge. Walker completed the challenge this month having spent the last six years working towards it. On his incredible journey he’s met sharks, dolphins and jelly fish and raised an impressive sum of money for charitable causes. He now enjoys sharing his knowledge of open water swimming with others.

Adam Walker, first British person to complete the Oceans 7 Challenge

Oceans 7

The Oceans 7 challenge is exactly what it sounds like, seven swims crossing channels across the globe. It was created by Steven Munatones in 2008, the founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association, who felt that open water swimmers needed a challenge that rivalled the Seven Summits challenge of mountaineering which involves climbing the highest summit on each continent.

When selecting the seven swims for the Oceans 7 challenge, rather than choosing one swim from each continent, Munatones chose the seven hardest and most notorious open water channel swims on earth. The different channels can be swum in any order and there is no set time frame to complete them within. Three of the channel swims are in, or half in, Europe; the English Channel (20 miles from Dover to Calais), the North Channel (22 miles from Northern Ireland to the Mull of Galloway) and the Strait of Gibraltar (9 miles from Gibraltar to Morocco). The North swim is considered to be the most challenging open water swim in the world, thanks to its bracing temperatures, strong currents and bad weather.
The other four swims are further afield: The Molokai Channel, also known as the Kaloi Channel, is found in Hawaii and is 9 miles wide. The Cook Strait between the North and South islands of New Zealand is 14 miles wide and is thought to be extremely treacherous. The Catalina Channel is the only swim in the Americas and starts at the Californian coast near Long Beach, LA, to the island of Santa Catalina. Like the English Channel, the Catalina Channel is 20 miles at its narrowest point, it’s a bit warmer but you are more likely to encounter a shark there! The final swim, the Tsugaru Strait, lies between two Japanese islands, Hokkaido and Honshu, and is 12 miles wide. All these distances are at the channels’ narrowest points.

In order to complete the challenge, a swimmer needs to swim all seven channels, without a wetsuit and they cannot get out of the water at any time during the swim. It is undoubtedly one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet and one that only a tiny percentage of people are likely to ever attempt, let alone complete. You can find out more about the challenge in the film called Defeating Oceans Seven which follows the journey of the first person to complete it, Stephan Redmond from Ireland.


Adam’s Story

British swimmer Adam is a man of many names. Known to his friends as both Mad Adam and Ocean Walker, he wasn’t actually a dedicated swimmer before 2008. He was inspired to swim the English Channel after watching the film ‘On a Clear Day’ during a long flight in 2007. The film tells the tale of a man who decided to swim the Channel and he decided to do the same. This crossing signified the start of his journey back in 2008. He was aged 29 and finished with a time of 11 hours 35 minutes.
When he swam the Gibraltar Strait in 2010, he added to the challenge by making it a two way cross. He completed this swim in 9 hours and 41 minutes and the first leg set a British Record for the crossing. During his Gibraltar swim, Walker saw among other things a Pilot Whale. It was only after these two swims that he learned about the Oceans 7 challenge and began to turn his attentions to the next five swims.

His next swim was in July 2012 in Hawaii across the Molokai Strait, which he completed in just over 17 hours. During this swim, Adam suffered multiple jelly fish stings to the face as well as an attack by a Portuguese man o’war. Not only this but he also encountered a tiger shark during this swim. He used this swim challenge as the first to raise charitable funds for, and also to raise awareness of, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. He became the first Briton to ever complete the Molokai Swim.
In the October of 2012 he was off to California to make the Catalina Channel crossing, which he did, raising money for Sportsaid. He completed this in 12 hours and 15 minutes. The following summer in August 2013, Walker swam the Tsugaru Strait in Japan in a time of 15 hours, 31 minutes. Again he was the first ever Briton to complete this swim and once again Adam was joined by a shark for part of his journey. Earlier this year in April, Adam completed his sixth swim of the challenge when he swam the Cook Strait in New Zealand. He completed this particularly gruelling swim in 8 hours 36 minutes. During the swim he saw a shark swimming beneath him but luckily a group of dolphins stuck with him for an hour, in an apparent display of protection and support.

Dolphins 'protecting' Walker from nearby sharks
Dolphins ‘protecting’ Walker from nearby sharks

His final swim was much nearer his hometown of Huthwaite, near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, when he travelled to Northern Ireland to start the 21 mile swim a few weeks ago on the 7th August. This was the coldest swim yet, despite taking place in August. The swim finished on the West Coast of Scotland after 10 hours and 45 minutes, when Adam could happily say that he had finally completed the Oceans 7 Challenge.
Adam’s story can be backtracked via his own website or on the BBC website where multiple stories have been reported on.

Adam Walker is passionate about whale and dolphin conservation and much of the charitable aims of his swims are focused on their protection. He has a Just Giving page with more information on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Charity and it’s still possible to add to the impressive amount of sponsorship he has already raised. With a current total of £3,450, he is still a long way from his target of £10,000.
Despite not really being much of a swimmer before his incredible journey, Adam Walker has now set up some intensive open water swimming camps, both in the UK and abroad. Next March he will be running  two, five day technical swim camps in Malta. The camps in March are ideal for those training to swim the channel as the sea temperature at the time is comparable to the English Channel temperature in summer. More information and how to book onto either course can be found here.

Oceans 7 Hall of Fame

Adam joins just four other people in the world who have completed the challenge.
It was first completed by Irishman, Stephen Redmond, who began his journey with the English Channel in 2009 and finished the last swim in July 2012. In 2012 Redmond won the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year award.

The next to complete the challenge was Swede, Anna-Carin Nordin, who completed the challenge in July 2013. She was the second ever person but the first ever woman and adds this accolade to her World Record breaking Ice Swimmer event in November 2012.
Next was Michelle Macy of the US, who completed it just a week later in July 2013.
The fourth challenger was Darren Miller of the US, who completed the full challenge just another month later in August 2013.
The next (sixth) swimmer to complete the challenge will most probably be Penny Palfrey of Australia, who has one swim left and the next British person to complete the swim is, potentially, Kevin Murphy, who has three swims left to complete. 64-year-old Kevin has swum the English Channel 34 times, more than any man in history.

Adam’s story is fantastic and his determination and endurance is a real tribute to himself, his crew and his friends and family. Adam represents a long British history of open water swimming and it’s great to finally have a British name up on that list of Oceans 7 conquered. However, Adam is now faced with choosing his next great challenge…watch this space!

Take the plunge, join a Swimming Club!

Joining a swimming club is often the best way to make your swimming most effective. Perhaps you’ve been taking lessons and are looking to take your swimming further? Maybe you have ambitions to compete? Or perhaps you enjoy swimming and want to use it as a fitness activity? Whatever the reason for considering joining a club, you’ll probably have a whole host of questions… Read on for our comprehensive guide to joining a swimming club.

Choosing a Club

Smaller towns usually only have one swimming club. To begin with, particularly if you’re just starting out, it is often best to stick with the local club until you get an idea of how much training your level of swimming requires, the coaching provided and the level of competition available to you. Unless you have any particular reason to go elsewhere and drive out of town two, three or even more times a week it is usually best to stay local until you’ve really got an idea of what its all about!

Larger towns may well have more than one swimming club. Often the local council-run leisure centre is home to the most established club in the town and will probably be the easiest to find.  Clubs you didn’t know exist may also be found in garrison pools, swimming schools or at schools which have pools. If your town/city has a major Olympic training centre, then the club based here will obviously be very elitist and will be home to many top athletes.

If there is more than one club in your town, the most established is likely to be the biggest, oldest and, therefore, the club you will have heard about. However these clubs can have much longer waiting lists and pricier memberships. The main benefit of a larger club is that the level of coaching will be higher as they may well have paid professional coaches with many years of experience and a whole team of coaches to keep ideas fresh. Larger clubs also tend to have access to better quality pools and have more money in the pot to invest back into the club. However, the bigger clubs are more competitive and getting into the elite squad will be much more difficult. Smaller clubs may offer a friendlier, more laidback or perhaps more family friendly feel to them. Those in smaller clubs may benefit from one to one coaching with the same mentor rather than different coaches on different days. So, there are advantages and disadvantages of small and large swimming clubs.

The vast majority of competitive swimming clubs in England are members of the ASA. It’s always best to seek out clubs which are affiliated to the ASA because the organisation provides them with information and guidance, as well as laying down certain standards and benchmarks. In particular, clubs which are Swim21 accredited have been recognised as offering an excellent level of service to its members.
A full list of ASA swimming clubs in the UK can be seen here:

Nearly all swimming clubs have websites which are useful for finding out about the prices, session times and days, and to gain general contact information. Those club which have been Swim21 accredited will proudly display the kitemark Swim21 on the site. There will also be full guidance of membership details on the website as well as recent news about the club and their swimmers.

How are swimming clubs structured?

Before you join a swimming club, it’s helpful to get a good idea of the structure and framework of a typical UK swimming club. On the whole, clubs run as non-profit organisations which means that all membership fees go directly into the renting of the pool and the running of the club. The club is run by a board of committee members, such as the treasurer, secretary, chair, and president. Roles are typically carried out in a voluntary capacity. The club also relies on a wider team of volunteers without whom it could not operate. This includes the coaching staff and poolside helpers. Some clubs, particularly large ones which employ staff, become incorporated companies or charities.

Clubs are made up of a number of squads divided by both age and ability.
The coaching team will decide which squad you join after you go for a trial. Once you are part of a squad, you will be able to compete in swimming competitions and you can expect to have your first experience of competitive swimming certainly within your first year. To compete in any national swimming events for juniors, seniors or masters, you’ll need to belong to an ASA accredited swimming club and have your own membership to the ASA.

How much will it cost?

Every swim club is different but, on the whole, those who intend to swim regularly at a club (three or more times a week) will make a saving in comparison to paying for public swim sessions at the local pool. On average, monthly membership fees will range from £15 to £50 and will depend on the squad you end up in. There may also be a joining fee to cover administration.
Membership fees can usually be paid annually at the beginning of the year or by direct debit on a monthly basis. Individuals or parents in a situation of financial hardship may be able to receive reduced memberships costs. Not all clubs can afford a hardship scheme but many of the larger, more established clubs do offer some help when they can.

What will I need?

A swimming club will be in possession of plenty of training aids and the more established and elite the club, the more advanced the training equipment may be, but in general, you will still need some of the basic equipment yourself. The essential kit you will definitely need is a swimsuit, water bottle, cap, goggles and towels, along with a swim bag to keep it all in. Depending on the level or ability of the squad you may need some essential training aids, including pullbouys, fins and kickboards but you’ll be told what you need when you start training. Many swim clubs sell their own branded caps, bags, bottles, poolside t-shirts and jumpers but again you’ll be made aware of these when you start training. Clubs like members to use these where possible, especially for attendance at swim events and for many clubs, these items are an important method of raising funds too.


Questions for parents

Parents of children joining a swimming club will undoubtedly have plenty of questions. Every club has its own policy when it comes to safeguarding children, and all swimming clubs take this very seriously. If you have any concerns, it’s fine to discuss these with the committee. Many larger clubs will have designated safeguarding officers. You can ask to look at the policy too, or you may find it on their website.
Many parents choose to volunteer at a swimming club, although it’s not mandatory. Volunteering, however, is hugely rewarding and fundamental to the running of most clubs. It’s also a really good way to be a part of your child’s experience and feel that not only do you understand how the club works, but you are actively involved in making it work.
As well as kit they need, parents need to be sure to pack their children with a suitable drink for each session. They also need to make sure they’ve eaten a carbohydrate filled meal ahead of the session to make sure they have enough energy.
Swim clubs already expect children to have caps on before the session starts, so if your child needs help with this make sure you are on hand.

What else does a club offer?

Some swimmers feel that as well as swimming, a swimming club is a great place to make friends and socialise. You can really feel a sense of belonging with a group who have similar interests.

Joining a swimming club could be the best thing you ever did – give it a go!