Tag Archive | "Swimming"

How often should I swim to make a comeback at 16 years?


Hi, I’m a 16 year old swimmer and I’ve been off swimming for around 6 months due to illness and injury. And I was wondering as I want to get back on track and achieve better times how often would I have to train for and how long? Because I also want to achieve big with my swimming and see how far I can go.

Thank you,



Hi Chantelle,

My suggestion would be to get back into swimming around 3 times a week for an hour for one to two weeks and then gradually extend it to 3 x 1 1/2 to 2 hour sessions a week.  Once you can do this, add a 4th and 5th session into your schedule.  Ultimately you should be swimming at least 6 times a week (once a day) at 16 years and possibly more.

Speak to your coach in regards to a progression that you are both comfortable with.  You will need to communicate with your coach on how you are going, especially if you have been ill in the past.

Good luck.



The Swimming Expert

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Effortless Freestyle


Today I received my Effortless Freestyle pack and I’ve just finished watching the DVD.

I am impressed with the contents of the DVD because by watching it and then focusing on the different drills in the water, swimmers of all ages will improve their freestyle technique and skills.

In Effortless Freestyle, Coach Brenton Ford provides hundreds of hints and tips that will assist you to improve your freestyle arm strokes, kicking, breathing, body position, head position and timing.

There are a heap of skills demonstrated from above the water and below the water, which helps you to see exactly what you should be doing.

The program is ideal for junior and age group swimmers, masters, triathletes and recreational swimmers.  You can practice each of the drills and skills in your daily swimming program.

I selected the Individual Pack however there are three different packs to choose from.  The pack I received included the DVD, a video analysis checklist, drill cards to remind me how to do each drill, a swim cap and gear bag.

As many of you know, I am a fan of Brenton’s and his quality educational products.

Check out Effortless Freestyle today.

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Faster in Practice than Meets


Hi Gary,

My daughter is regularly faster in practice (from a push) than she is in her meets. What are some potential reasons for this?

Her coach says she needs to relax. If that really is the problem, easier said than done.



Hi David,

This is not an unusual problem for some swimmers.

I have coached many swimmers over the year who have had similar experiences.

Your daughter’s coach is right in what they say and I would also encourage her to relax and enjoy competitions.

With swimmers like this, what I do is set up mock races as part of their training program.  Each week for 4 weeks, we would stand up on a Thursday night and do Time Trials of various different events.  I would get the other swimmers to stand around the pool and cheer them on and this would create some pressure on each swimmer, similar to the pressure that some swimmers feel when they race.  Invariably all swimmers would swim pretty fast in these Time Trials and then when it came to the next competition, I would remind them of what is possible.  This worked a treat in 99% of cases with much improved racing by those swimmers who used to swim fast in practice and not as fast in a race.


The Swimming Expert

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How to use swimming to get fit at 43 years



I am 43 and have only recently started swimming.

I am managing 20 x 20 mtr lengths in 20 mins and was wondering what I should be aiming for, to ensure I keep a reasonably high level of fitness.

I have been constantly in the gym so my resting heart rate is between 52-58 but I want to focus on swimming to lean me out especially around the abdomen.

Is it possible to let me know what I should be aiming distance, time and no.of times per week to not let my fitness levels slip while I don’t go to the gym?



Hi Kishan,

Congratulations on starting swimming and you have progressed very well to be able to do 20 x 20 mtr lengths.

To improve your fitness, you need to gradually build up to around 40 minutes in the water.  You wouldn’t be swimming the whole time, however the extra time would allow you to build up to 40 x 20 mtr lengths.

These laps could be done in different ways and by trying each of the sets below, you will begin to improve your fitness. The suggestions below are based on 20 mtr or 25 mtr laps.

1. Swim 40 x 1 lap at a constant speed each lap

2. Swim 40 x 1 lap descending 1 to 4, so that the first lap is easy and then the second lap is a bit faster, third lap faster again and 4th lap as fast as you can go, then back to an easy lap.

3. Swim 1 x 2 laps and then 2 x 1 lap and repeat this 10 times.

4. Swim 4 laps, then 3 laps, then 2 laps and then 1 lap and repeat this 4 times.  This is my favourite and if you swim solid in the 4 laps and then try to get faster in the 3 laps, 2 laps and 1 lap, your fitness will improve quickly.

5. Swim 10 x 4 laps with 30 sec rest after each 4 laps

6. Swim 10 laps, then 8 laps, 6, 4, 2 and then 10 laps again with 30 sec between each lot of laps

7. Swim 20 laps and then 10 laps and then 2 lots of 5 laps

8. Swim 40 laps continuous at a good pace.

Hope this helps Kishan and gives you a few ideas.



The Swimming Expert

Posted in MastersComments (0)

Observations from a State Championship Meet

Over the last week I had the opportunity to watch the Victorian Age Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia.

I watched swimmers aged 10 years to 18 years compete over 6 days with heats in the morning (9:00am to 1:30pm) and finals at night (6:00pm to 9:30pm).

I have put together my top 10 observations from the Championships and provide it as a learning tool for age group parents and swimmers.

1. Swimmers Must be Race Fit

Those swimmers who had competed in swim meets leading up to the major Championships appeared to be more race fit than those who didn’t race a lot. On talking to coaches, most of them had their swimmers race in 3 or 4 swim meets leading up to the major Championships, however they were careful not to plan racing every weekend.  Race fit swimmers executed their racing skills including starts, turns and finishes better than those who hadn’t raced a lot.

2. Swim Downs Pay Off

For swimmers doing multiple events on the one day or over several days, swimming down after each event was crucial. As the swim down pool was in a different location to the competition pool, the responsibility of swimming down correctly was often left to the swimmer’s themselves.  This meant that swimmers who had been ‘trained’ by their coaches to swim down correctly had a distinct advantage.  Many of the younger swimmers struggled to swim down properly unless their coach was present to guide them.

3. Grazing is the Key

All competitors had to find ways to continue eating and regaining energy throughout some very long days.  With warm-ups beginning 7:30am for heats and 4:30pm for finals, the better swimmers were often at the pool for more than 8 hours a day.  To eat effectively, a majority of swimmers brought food with them to the meet as the food on sale was not appropriate for aiding performance.  There are a huge variety of appropriate foods for swimmers to graze on throughout the day. These are identified in www.NutritionForSwimmers.com for those who are looking for help with identifying the right foods.

4. Keep Warm Between Warm-up and Each Swim

The temperature varied each day with some days at 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) and one day at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).  For a majority of the Championships it was important for swimmers to stay warm.  I was amazed at the number of swimmers who warmed up well and then sat in the stands with a t-shirt on, especially on the cooler days.  The more prepared swimmers would ensure they wore a tracksuit and shoes to keep their feet warm, for as long as possible leading up to and between each swim.  On the hot day, most swimmers adapted well.

5. Stay Hydrated

The importance of remaining hydrated throughout such a long meet can not be underestimated.  Many swimmers were observed continually sipping on water throughout the day, with a majority of them carrying their own water bottles with them down to race and for use immediately following their swims.  Dehydration will affect performance and us the week got hotter, there were definitely some children who did not perform as they could have.

6. Skill Development Pays Dividends

It was quite obvious to observe which swimmers had spent time developing their skills against the majority who showed poor skills on a regular basis.  The wide variety of starting techniques and entries into the water leads me to believe that a lot more focus has to go onto the development of skills in practice.  There is no point continuing to race as you get older, doing the wrong skill.  In general, the skills improved the older the swimmers were (it would be disappointing if they didn’t!) however there were still swimmers in the 16 to 18 year age group who struggled doing effective starts, turns or finishes.

7. More Focus on Technique

This is the big one and an area that coaches must continue to address with their squads.  Learning the correct technique at a young age is crucial if swimmers are to go on and reach their potential.  There were so many swimmers winning races in all age groups under 15 years who had ordinary techniques.  It was obvious that they achieved their results based on hard training and guts and determination in both practice and competitions.  Technique includes the arm pattern, leg kicking action and the timing of these both, together with the correct breathing action and timing.  If there is one area where the standard of the Championships could have improved it was in technique.  This is an area that needs more focus.

8. Good Coaching Makes a Difference

Swimmers with proactive coaches who offered guidance to their swimmers seemed to get better results than those swimmers whose coaches were not in attendance.  It was great to see that a majority of coaches were heavily invested in their athletes and spent a lot of time working with them, encouraging and supporting them.  Some coaches spent a long time talking to their swimmers before races whilst others reminded swimmers of the 2 or 3 things they had been working on.

9. Parent Support is Critical

Parents play a major role in supporting a competitive swimmer and this was definitely the case over the past week.  Parents had to play many different roles including taxi driver, food supplier, emotional supporter and many of them also offered to time keep throughout the meet.  Maintaining a positive outlook regardless of your son or daughter’s performance is critical to providing support to them.  Swim meets can be emotional times for parents as they have invested so much time and energy into supporting their child.  I was delighted to get feedback from a number of parents who had read www.SwimmingForParents.com.  All of them provided examples of how the book had helped them to improve the support they provided to their child at practice and during competitions like this one.

10. Nerve Racking Experience

For many first time swimmers and their parents, a 6 day meet with heats and finals and the stigma of being the most important State level meet of the year meant that there were many nervous people at the Championships.  For many swimmers and parents they experienced situations for the first time.  These included:

– Competing at this level for the first time;

– Competing in a meet with heats and finals and having to come back a second time on the same day and aim to swim even faster;

– Attending sessions that lasted up to 5 hours;

– As a parent, watching your child compete in their first final, and many more.

Overall, the Championships were run very well and their were a large number of Interstate and International swimmers present.

To look at the results of all events and age groups, the link can be found at www.LiveSwimmingResults.com.

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Are 6 two hour sessions too much for a 9 year old swimmer?


Hello my dear,

I have a son. My son is 9 years. He is good swimmer.

I have a question of you.  Due to his age, my son several times a week to swim practice.

His coach says: 6 sessions of 2 hours a week to practice.  It is not too much for him to practice?

Please guide me



Hi TA,

To be honest, while 6 x 2 hour sessions is a lot for a 9 year old, there are many 9 year olds around the world who train this often.

I personally think it is too much at 9 years of age and would rather see sessions of 1 or ½ hours for children of this age.

Some coaches have a belief that this (6 x 2hr) is the right amount of training to do at this age and argue that if 50% of the time is spent on technique and skill development then it is very beneficial for the child (which it would be).  The key would be to maintain the child’s interest for that long.

My suggestion is to talk to the coach to find out the reasons they would like your child to do this much and then move forward from there. Most coaches have a really good understanding of what is required for each individual swimmer they are coaching.



The Swimming Expert

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Parent’s Guide to Competitive Swimming

For many parents having a “swimmer” in the family is not something they planned.  Most swimmers begin in a learn-to-swim program and progress through to advanced lessons. From there they are asked to complete a couple of sessions in a junior squad and before you know it they are entrenched and absorbed by the sport of swimming.  By this stage, parents begin to realise the commitment required by a swimmer to complete the necessary training and competitions offered in the sport.

As a swimmer I had the opportunity to observe my own parents first hand and how they managed me as a swimmer, and how they worked with, and communicated with my coaches.  I was also fortunate enough to be coached by three of the most talented and experienced swimming coaches in the world – Julie Dyring, Bill Sweetenham and Leigh Nugent.

As a coach for more than a dozen years I worked closely with swimmers of all ages and have been directly involved in the introduction of parents to the sport of swimming.

For a swimming parent, understanding the role of the coach, the role the parent is required to undertake, and the responsibilities of a swimmer is critical to ensuring a positive and successful experience for the whole family. Yes, the whole family is affected by having a swimmer in the family and learning how to balance your time and other family member’s needs around the swimming schedule can be a challenge.

Over the years I have observed many parents who are introduced to swimming for the first time when their child is promoted to a junior squad.

For most swimmers who train for competitions, the measurement of their improvement is through performance and parents are encouraged to understand the many different aspects to training and competitions in an effort to provide parents with a more complete understanding of the sport and what a swimmer is experiencing.

One of the aspects I love about swimming is that when swimmers compete, no one else can affect their performance.  They have their own lane and no one can tackle them, bowl them out, hit the ball past them or affect their performance in any way.  It is just the swimmer and the black line.

Children who choose to train and swim competitively learn so many life skills as they become more exposed to the sport.

In general their grades improve at school, their time management skills improve and they learn how to win and how to lose with grace.  They are introduced to goal setting and taking responsibility for themselves.  They are also exposed to the concept that if you work hard on a skill and commit to doing something correctly over and over again, it will improve.

Swimming for Parents is a vital resource for all swimming parents.  The book, available also as an eBook with instant delivery, is a lifelong project that draws on many of my experiences as a swimmer, coach, swimming administrator and now as a parent of young children who enjoy swimming.

This book has been written to educate parents of junior and teenage swimmers and has sold more than 3000 copies all over the world.

The second edition is now available at www.SwimmingForParents.com.

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Protein Supplements for Children


Hi Gary,  I appreciate your time and dedication

First of all, I want you to get to know more about my 12 years daughter whose life dream is to become an Olympic champion and a world champion Her life is dedicated to swimming and actually she is a champion here in our country ( Egypt) I always encourage her and give her all the support she needs.

My question is, her coach advised me to start giving her protein supplement as a way of helping her having stronger muscles

I know that it’s better for kids to have a complete healthy meal rather than having supplements but my concern is that she has no time to eat a proper meal, she stays late at school till 6PM then she comes home for her training sessions. I can only control her supper late at night after her training but the rest of the day she eats at school.

she trains 6 days weekly, 2 hours each in water and 4 times weekly, 2 hours each in the track ( running and jumping obstacles,…)

P.S. she didn’t reach her puberty age yet ! Please advise !


Best Regards, RY


Hi RY,

I do not believe in protein supplements for children and encourage children to eat a healthy meal and healthy snacks in between.

Protein is well known for its role in muscle development and recovery.  This role in development is especially important for the adolescent athlete who is still growing and maturing.

Protein is found in meats, meat alternatives and dairy products.  Good sources of protein include beef, lamb, goat, pork, duck, turkey, fish, tofu, egg, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans, lentils), soy products, milk, yoghurt, cheese and ice cream.

It is important that you look for ways to eat some of these foods at school when she is not in your care, as well as foods with the necessary carbohydrates and other vitamins.

For a 12 year old girl she is doing a lot of training 6 x 2hrs in the water and 4 x 2 hours on the track.

Please keep a close eye on her energy levels as 10 x 2 hour sessions a week is a lot.

I would strongly recommend that you download the following two eBooks to read, which will help you as parents and your daughter.

Swimming for Parents – www.SwimmingForParents.com

Nutrition for Swimmers – www.NutritionForSwimmers.com

All the best,



The Swimming Expert

Posted in Nutrition, QuestionsComments (1)