Useful Swimming Guides

Strokes – The rules at Crusaders

At Linslade Crusaders we apply the rules of swimming as set by FINA (the Fédération Internationale de Natation) and recognised by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and Swim England. Any breach of the rules in a race is liable to lead to disqualification, so it is important swimmers follow the rules in training to properly prepare them. The rules for each stroke are as follows:

Freestyle

swimming, crusaders, Linslade, rules, freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke

 

 

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SW 4.1 The start in Freestyle races shall be with a dive. On the long whistle from the referee the swimmers shall step onto the starting platform and remain there. On the starter’s command “take your marks”, they shall immediately take up a starting position with at least one foot at the front of the starting platforms. The position of the hands is not relevant. When all swimmers are stationary, the starter shall give the starting signal

SW 5.1 Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

SW 5.2 Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall upon completion of each length and at the finish.

SW 5.3 Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the surface

SW 9.2 (Medley) In Freestyle the swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke.

Backstroke

swimming, crusaders, Linslade, rules, freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstrokeSW 4.2 The start in Backstroke and Medley Relay races shall be from the water.  

SW 6.1 Prior to the starting signal, the swimmers shall line up in the water facing the starting end, with both hands holding the starting grips. Standing in or on the gutter or bending the toes over the lip of the gutter is prohibited. When using a backstroke ledge at the start, the toes of both feet must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad. Bending the toes over the top of the touchpad is prohibited.

SW 6.2 At the signal for starting and after turning the swimmer shall push off and swim upon his back throughout the race except when executing a turn as set forth in SW 6.5. The normal position on the back can include a roll movement of the body up to, but not including 90 degrees from horizontal. The position of the head is not relevant.  

SW 6.3 Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race. It is permissible for the swimmer to be completely sub-merged during the turn, and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.

SW 6.4 When executing the turn there must be a touch of the wall with some part of the swimmer’s body in his/her respective lane. During the turn the shoulders may be turned over the vertical to the breast after which an immediate continuous single arm pull or immediate continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn. The swimmer must have returned to the position on the back upon leaving the wall.

SW 6.5 Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back in his/her respective lane.

Breaststroke

swimming, crusaders, Linslade, rules, freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstrokeSW 4.1 The start in Breaststroke races shall be with a dive. On the long whistle from the referee the swimmers shall step onto the starting platform and remain there. On the starter’s command “take your marks”, they shall immediately take up a starting position with at least one foot at the front of the starting platforms. The position of the hands is not relevant. When all swimmers are stationary, the starter shall give the starting signal.

SW 7.1 After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. At any time prior to the first Breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn a single butterfly kick is permitted. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.  

SW 7.2 From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time except at the turn after the touch of the wall where it is permissible to turn in any manner as long as the body is on the breast when leaving the wall. From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.

SW 7.3 The hands shall be pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water. The elbows shall be under water except for the final stroke before the turn, during the turn and for the final stroke at the finish. The hands shall be brought back on or under the surface of the water. The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.

SW 7.4 During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer’s head must break the surface of the water.   All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.    

SW 7.5 The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. Alternating movements or downward butterfly kicks are not permitted except as in SW 7.1.   Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward butterfly kick.

SW 7.6 At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands separated and simultaneously at, above, or below the water level. At the last stroke before the turn and at the finish an arm stroke not followed by a leg kick is permitted. The head may be submerged after the last arm pull prior to the touch, provided it breaks the surface of the water at some point during the last complete or incomplete cycle preceding the touch.

Butterfly

swimming, crusaders, Linslade, rules, freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke

SW 4.1 The start in Butterfly races shall be with a dive. On the long whistle from the referee the swimmers shall step onto the starting platform and remain there. On the starter’s command “take your marks”, they shall immediately take up a starting position with at least one foot at the front of the starting platforms. The position of the hands is not relevant. When all swimmers are stationary, the starter shall give the starting signal.

SW 8.1 From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time, except at the turn after the touch of the wall where it is permissible to turn in any manner as long as the body is on the breast when leaving the wall.

SW 8.2 Both arms shall be brought forward simultaneously over the water and brought backward simultaneously under the water through-out the race, subject to SW 8.5.

SW 8.3 All up and down movements of the legs must be simultaneous. The legs or the feet need not be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other. A breaststroke kicking movement is not permitted.

SW 8.4 At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands separated and simultaneously, at, above or below the water surface.

SW 8.5 At the start and at turns, a swimmer is permitted one or more leg kicks and one arm pull under the water, which must bring him to the surface. It shall be permissible for a swimmer to be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and after each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the surface. The swimmer must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish.

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Using goggles at Linslade Crusaders

Using goggles at Linslade Crusarders Leighton Buzzard Bedfordshire

We recommend all of our swimmers wear goggles to prevent irritation while swimming in chlorinated water. Swimmers are also trained to execute tumble turns in the water and need to be able to see where the wall is.

 

There is a massive range of goggles out there, at varying cost. Finding a pair to suit the swimmer can be as difficult as choosing a pair of shoes.

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Choosing the right swimming goggles

There are three aspects to address when choosing swimming goggles:

1.  Fit – They do not let watcher in
2. Comfort – they do not chafe over the nose or apply too much pressure on the eye
3. Visibility – they do not fog up or scratch, and are right for the environment you are swimming in

Fit

This is decided by the seal of the goggles (not how tight the strap is). You should always try goggles on before you buy. If you are shopping online, check whether you can return them for a full refund if they do not fit and what postage charges there are.

The most common style of goggles are oval-shaped with a silicone gasket seal. When you try them on, the seal should provide a split second of suction – if they do not hold to the skin then will leak; if they hold too long they are applying too much pressure.

Competition style goggles are a much sleeker design to keep any drag to a minimum. They are often less adjustable/comfortable than standard goggles, so it is especially important to select the best fit. Some swimmers also find they sit too close to their eyes, with an off-putting feel of their eyelashes rubbing against the goggles during use.

For open water swimming masks offer a wide range of vision because of their size, but also increase drag.

Comfort

This can be harder to assess when trying them on. They may feel comfortable, but any pressure points can become very irritating over the course of a swimming session. This can be particularly problematic with pressure over or around the sides of the nose.

Standard goggles will often come with adjustable nosepieces, but you should check. Competition goggles often do not. If they are tight or rub the bridge of your nose, look elsewhere.

The strap is imperative for holding them in place, but has little to do with the seal. Most goggles have a split or two-part strap to hold them in place. These are usually better for swimming fast or tumble turns.

Visibility

You should choose goggles with an anti-fog coating. If you will be swimming outdoors you should also consider UV protection.

The goggles are important for protecting the eyes in water. If you have visibility issues then the majority of manufacturers produce prescription goggles. These can be more expensive, so experimenting with fit is even more important.

Goggles can come with different coloured lenses. The most common are:

Clear – these are designed for low light or overcast conditions where maximum visibility is required. They are suited to indoor use, but provide no protection from the bright lights around a swimming pool.


Lilac – these are designed for contrast against a green or blue background, such as the sides and bottom of the pool. They are suited to both indoor or outdoor use.


Smoke – these are designed to reduce light transmission and lower the overall brightness. They are best suited to outdoor swimming.


Amber – these are designed to enhance vision in low-light levels and reduce glare in high light levels. They are suited to both indoor or outdoor use.


Blue – these are designed to allow a moderate level of light into the eye, but maintain protection from glare in bright conditions. They are suited to indoor or outdoor use.


Mirrored – these are designed to reduce brightness and glare, with a mirrored coating applied to a tinted lens. They are suited to outdoor use.


Once you have established a make and/or model of goggles which fit you may wish to stick with these. However, you should remember that swimmers’ faces will change and develop as they grow up.

Using the swimming goggles

Most swimmers find the seal between the goggles and the face works best wet. The swimmer should splash pool water on their face before putting the goggles on. When done before getting in the pool this also helps the body start to adjust to the water temperature.

Once the goggles are on the swimmer should gently push the goggles onto the face, expelling a small amount of air and causing a slight vacuum. This helps the goggles stay tight against the face.

Where you have a split strap it should be adjusted above and below the eyeline, to provide the best stability when swimming and turning.

Goggles worn too tightly add pressure to sensitive parts of the eye. You can usually tell a swimmer is wearing their goggles too tightly, because they leave the sessions with marks around their eyes left by their goggles.

 

 

 

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Using a pull buoy at Linslade Crusaders

Pull Buoy Swimming Leighton Buzzard Befordshire LinsladeA pull buoy is a float which is designed to be placed between the thighs or ankles to provide support to the body while swimming without using the legs. The buoyancy of the pull buoy helps the swimmer maintain a good body position in the water, leaving them free to focus on their upper-body technique. It can have a secondary benefit of allowing the swimmer to focus on timing and/or their breathing action, as well as isolating parts of the stroke.

 

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For younger swimmers, you need to be careful not to use the pull-buoy too much because it places added strain to the shoulders. For older swimmers, it can also be used to develop upper-body strength.

Why use a pull buoy?

Where used correctly, it complements front crawl and backstroke. For breaststroke and butterfly, the added buoyancy in the legs can prevent a swimmer from effectively undulating (as the added buoyancy pulls them back up to the top of the water) and can make it hard to replicate the correct stroke technique. However, there are drills for even these strokes where a pull buoy can be used to improve technique.

Does it matter what pull buoy I use?

Yes. A pull buoy is generally a figure of eight shaped float (but not always). If the pull buoy is too small it does not provide enough buoyancy, allowing the legs to sink. If it is too big it provides too much buoyancy, causing the upper body to tip over and the legs to come out of the water.

Girls generally require smaller pull buoys than boys. Older swimmers generally require bigger pull buoys than younger swimmers.

With basic pull buoys the number of lines is a good indicator of the buoyancy it provides. The figure of eight may not be symmetrical, so which way up may allow small adjustments to the buoyancy it gives.

Using a Pull Buoy at Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

You also need to consider the width of the pull buoy. If the pull buoy is too wide it will push the swimmer’s legs apart, increasing drag. The swimmer then feels that position is natural and may swim with their legs apart as their default position. This can cause them to drag extra water up the pool with them.

The pull buoy may also present a profile to the water. The more it sticks out from the swimmer’s body the more drag it will create. This may be seen as a positive, because the swimmer has to work harder. However, with younger swimmers the focus is generally on technique and slowing them down may make their legs more likely to sink.

There are various pull buoys which are designed to be more streamlined, a couple of examples of which are below.

Using a Pull Buoy at Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

Common mistakes when using a pull buoy

Using the arms without rotating the body: Rotating the body is key to both front crawl and backstroke for power through the stroke. The body should roll through the water, with the recovering shoulder raised out of the water and reducing drag. When using a pull buoy some swimmers do not rotate the lower body at all. Others may rotate the hips, but not the feet. As the hips rotate the legs turn sideways with one foot in front of the other instead.

When we swim front crawl and backstroke, the head should stay still and the body rotate from your shoulders through to your toes. When we use a pull buoy we still want this rotation.

How to fix it: Stretch from head to tip toes, lightly engaging the core, and rotate the whole body – a bit like a kebab on a skewer. Another good visualisation is to imagine you are standing with good posture making yourself as tall as possible, with your toes pointed along the surface of the water.

Kicking legs (this is definitely cheating): This can happen for a number of reasons including lack of knowledge of how to use a pull buoy, an inability to isolate the arms from the legs, an automatic reaction to a lack of speed or a feeling the legs are sinking.

How to fix it: Firstly, most swimmers do not realise they are doing it so often it can be cured by discussion and practice. Secondly, the swimmer needs to ensure they keep their core engaged (which goes back to making yourself as tall as possible…)

Disengaging your core: The swimmer over relies on the pull buoy to keep them up, which causes their legs to sink.

How to fix it: When using a pull buoy, stretch from your head to your tip toes, lightly engaging your core and allow your whole body to rotate – a bit like a kebab. If you’re unsure how to engage your core imagine you’re standing with good posture making yourself as tall as possible. Even though we’re not using them, keep your toes pointed along the surface of the water.

The back arches because the pull buoy is adding too much buoyancy: This tends to happen to swimmers who have a naturally good body position or whose pull buoy is too big. The pull buoy adds too much buoyancy and lifts their legs out of the water. To compensate the arch their back to keep the legs in the water. These swimmers find that by adding a pull buoy, it adds too much buoyancy. In order to keep their legs in the water, they arch their back. Not only does this promote bad body position but it can also lead to back pain.

How to fix it: Some pull buoys have more buoyancy than others – usually the bigger ones. Others, such as the swim keel, are designed to sit just under the surface of the water. A change of pull buoy is probably required.

The legs swing out behind the swimmer: This tends to happen where there is a lack of rotation, the core is dis-engaged or the arms are pulling too far away from the body line.

How to fix it: The swimmer’s coach needs to work out why the problem is happening and provide guidance on how to cure it.

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Using a kickboard at Linslade Crusaders

kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedforshire


Kickboards are floats most commonly used to isolate the lower body while swimming to enable focus on kick technique and leg strength. They have been used since the 1940’s and are a great aid when learning to swim. 

 

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kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

A standard shaped kick board has a curved front end and two hand holes near the front.

The swimmer simply holds the float out in front of them, with their hands through the hand holes, gripping over the top of the float or, for a more streamlined position, holding the back end of the board. They then try to get their body in a horizontal position at the surface of the water and begin the leg kick. It is easier to start with a strong push-off from the wall than standing in the pool. The swimmer should turn their head to the side to breathe, not lift it up.

To practice backstroke leg kick, the swimmer should simply lie on their back and either hug the float to their chest or hold it behind their head flat on the water, to help keep the body at the surface as they kick.

kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

More streamlined kick boards are available, such as these.

kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

As swimmers progress they may find they use the kick board less. This is because technique development will work on a streamlined position in the water and kickboards can cause the front of the body to sit up, the legs to drop and place the neck in extension, increasing the risk of neck strain. The leg action also changes when a swimmer is more upright, with the kick coming from the knee and not the hip.

Kickboards are not recommended for endurance use. This is because swimming with a kickboard can increase stress on the shoulders and lower back, making injury more likely.

You should never swim with your kick board under your body. The buoyancy of the kick board lifts the chest up and increases risk of lower back strain.

Kick boards increase drag, even if held flat in the water. Certain manufacturers have started to develop alternatives to the standard kickboard. Two of the more radical examples of this can be seen here.

kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club and Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

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Using hand paddles at Linslade Crusaders

Hand Paddles at Linslade Crusaders Leighton Buzzard

Using hand paddles at Linslade Crusaders

Hand paddles come in various shapes and sizes. The smallest are known as finger paddles, because they sit on the fingers and not the hand (see right). Some also have things like fins and others have various holes in them. Some hand paddles are regarded as universally applicable across all strokes, whereas other paddles may be stroke specific. 

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So where do you start?

Why use hand paddles at all?

What happens under the water can be as important, if not more important, than what happens above the water during swimming. However, coaches will often struggle to see what is happening underwater due to a combination of the reflection of light off the surface of the water, the disruption in the water caused by the movement of the swimmers, the swimmers’ bodies obscuring the view and the division of their time throughout the swimmers they are coaching. Even if the coach is able to identify stroke errors they often have to wait until the end of the mini-set before they can feed back to the swimmer.

The efficiency of the catch and pull is the single greatest difference between good and great swimmers. Hand paddles, when used correctly, give immediate and direct feedback to the swimmer on what they are doing. If the hand enters at the correct angle and follows the correct path the hand paddle moves smoothly through the stroke. If the hand enters at the wrong angle or following the wrong path through the water the hand paddle will become unstable, letting the swimmer know they are getting it wrong. They can help swimmers learn to use the entire arm, with good hand positioning and strong catch holding the water through the entire stroke.

At a simple level the hand paddle also increases the surface area of the swimmer’s hand. The argument goes that the bigger the hand the stronger the pull – the stronger the pull the greater the fitness benefit. However, for younger swimmers the additional strain placed on the shoulder, particularly if technique is executed poorly, can cause injury with excessive use. That is why hand paddles are best introduced in the controlled environment of a swimming club as the swimmer works on improved technique.

Does it matter which hand paddles I use?

Absolutely. You should be looking for a hand paddle which is the right size and shape and is designed for the stroke you intend to use it on. For a starting paddle you should consider a “junior” paddle, not an adult one.

A standard hand paddle looks something like this:Leighton Buzzard swimming Hand Paddles

The holes in the hand paddle will have the effect of reducing the drag/resistance caused by the hand paddle and may also guide the paddle through the water. However, the straps cover most of the hand and will give additional stability which undermines the ability of the hand paddle to give feedback. If you had this type of hand paddle we would recommend you adjust the straps so the hand paddle is only attached to the middle finger.

A more advanced version would be this:

Leighton Buzzard swimming Hand Paddles

Note the greater number of holes, to reduce resistance. However, the wrist strap is more substantial and therefore more likely to get in the way.

Hand paddles such as the Finis Freestyler Paddle are designed specifically for freestyle technique development.

Leighton Buzzard swimming Hand PaddlesIt is shaped like and arrow-head with a keel underneath. There is only one strap to attach it to a finger. If the hand goes into the water at the wrong angle, or with a dropped elbow, the body of the paddle causes increased resistance. If the hand does not follow a straight path through the water the paddle twists, meaning the hand is less likely to cross over the midline as you extend forwards or pull through and unbalance the stroke. This reduces the risk of shoulder injury and provides better balance, which also tends to reduce the size of the kick.

Leighton Buzzard swimming Hand PaddlesThe best all-round hand paddle is probably the Finis Agility. There are no straps to worry about. The thumb goes through the hole in the paddle and the swimmer has to keep a light pressure on the paddle throughout the catch and pull otherwise it just falls off. The paddle itself is slightly curved, promoting a good high elbow position for the catch.

Common mistakes when using hand paddles…

Do not use them too soon. If you have poor technique to begin with they are more likely to cause injury than improve technique.

Do not use them for too long. In the early stages of using hand paddles we do not recommend any more than about 10 lengths.

Do not buy the biggest you can find. Fast swimming is a combination of strength, technique and turnover rate. Larger hand paddles may increase the resistance too much, slowing down the speed of the stroke and having a negative effect overall.

Do not compensate by spreading your fingers to add greater stability. The whole point is to receive feedback on what your hands are doing underwater. Spread the fingers out and you counteract the instability which provides feedback

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Using fins at Linslade Crusaders

Using fins at Linslade Crusaders Swim club
 
Why use fins?

The main benefits of using fins have little to do with working your legs and everything to do with improving your swimming technique. A proper kick technique is narrow and compact. The best kick is short and fast, not big and powerful.

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We use fins to increase the swimmer’s speed through the water, reducing the reliance on arms, helping to improve their posture and keeping their hips high in the water. The increased resistance of the fins can help swimmers kick from the hips, not their knees, and improve the strength of the up-kick. The buoyancy of the fins and increased speed can also lift the legs to the surface, reducing drag. This can help the swimmer focus on a particular aspect of the stroke, such as hand position, because the stroke rate is lowered and the body is more stable in the water. Technique is also less likely to deteriorate due to fatigue in the shoulders. It can also help with more advanced drills, which may not be possible without fins, and head position for freestyle and backstroke.

Ankles should flex when you kick. Using fins regularly for a small portion of your workout can help to increase your ankle flexibility.

Fins can also be used to help improve cardiovascular conditioning and fitness, but only in a controlled programme. The more muscles you use in the body, the greater cardiovascular benefits are felt. Adding fins to the equation for a portion of your training means there is an increased load and greater resistance in the water. This leads to a much more challenging workout with even more fitness benefits.

However, overuse of fins can, in some cases, also be detrimental to swim training. They can cause excessive fatigue to the legs, with associated loss of technique, or even injury. We do not use short fins for breaststroke, except for the breaststroke arms/freestyle legs drill, because the added resistance in the whipping action of the kick can place excessive force on the ankle, which can lead to poor technique and/or cause injury.

What are the best fins to buy?

It is about technique, so bigger or longer is not better. You should look for “short” or “training” fins and avoid “long” or “snorkelling” fins. Comfort is also important, so consider the flexibility of the fins and the heels.

The most common materials used in fins are silicone or rubber. Silicone fins are usually more supple and cause less rubbing on the foot.

Stiff fins can make the swimmer go faster but are less comfortable. Soft fins are more comfortable but may bend too much when power is applied. We would suggest softer fins are more suitable for younger swimmers.

Fins come with either open or closed heels. Open heel fins usually have a strap to hold them in place. They can give more flexibility, but can feel less secure than closed heel fins and can tend to squeeze the toes through the hole in the fin. We suggest closed heel fins, but if selecting a stiff fin you may find these would dig into the Achilles heel and an open heel fin is better.

Using fins at Linslade Crusaders Leighton Buzzard Swim club

Some fins are available which are specifically designed for breaststroke. These can be expensive and we do not ask our swimmers to buy these as part of their kit.

What if they cause blisters?

In general terms, a good fitting fin should not cause blisters and if they do we suggest you consider changing them. Some swimmers find petroleum jelly is useful to lubricate the area and reduce rubbing. Other swimmers have been known to wear thin socks. Special socks can be bought, at a price.

Can I use them when swimming at other times or pools?

That very much depends on the pool and you should check with them. They definitely cannot be used at galas, even for the warm-up.

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Hydration at Linslade Crusaders

kickboard Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedforshire hydrationWater makes up around 60% of your total body mass. It is vital for thermal regulation of the body, transporting oxygen and energy to the muscles which are essential for exercise and removing waste by-products of exercise from the muscles, such as lactic acid.

Recent research has shown that around two-thirds of young swimmers begin swim training in a dehydrated state. 

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When the same swimmers relied on thirst as a guide to when to drink they would only drink enough water to replace the amount of fluid lost by swimming, leaving them in the same dehydrated state.

When swimming the body will naturally lose fluids in an attempt to control the swimmer’s body temperature. A swimmer will lose between 125ml and 500ml of water per hour as a result. Because they are in water the swimmer is rarely aware of this.

What effect does dehydration have?

Dehydration effects brain function and athletic performance.

Any amount of dehydration causes a drop in performance. By around 2% dehydration (about 1 litre in an adult) that drop is significant.

What is the best hydration strategy?

The best hydration strategy is:

.  To drink water regularly throughout the day;

.  To drink between 500ml and 1 litre of water around 1 to 2 hours before training; and To drink between 250ml and 500ml of water per hour during training.

The body can only drink up to 1 litre of water an hour without discomfort. During training you should take regular sips of water, washing it round your mouth before swallowing it. Big gulps are more likely to pass through your body without being fully absorbed.

You can add a small amount of squash (for energy) and a pinch of salt (for electrolytes) to make the drink more effective. However, too much squash slows down the rate at which the body can take the water in.

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Avoiding cramp when swimming at Linslade Crusaders

Cramp Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedfordshireCramp is a short, sharp muscle spasm which most commonly occurs at the sole of the foot, but can also occur in the calves, of some swimmers. It is usually felt after a freestyle kick or a turn. It can be relieved with a bit of stretching and massage but makes it very difficult to continue.

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The exact cause of cramp is not completely

 understood. However, there are risk factors unique to swimming such as:

– swimming in a pool or open water where the lower leg is cooled by the water;

– assuming, because you are in water, you do not need to hydrate properly;

– using short fins, placing added stress on the muscles in the lower leg; and

– swimming with your toes pointed, holding the calf muscles in a shortened state and with your lower leg doing relatively little, then pushing off hard from the end of the pool, placing a great deal of stress on the calf and foot muscles.

These factors combine to mean swimmers tend to suffer from cramp more than in other sports, particularly in the lower leg.

While dehydration and poor diet may not directly cause cramp, they may be contributing factors, making it more likely.

(Click on below image for more information on hydration)

What has been established is that once you start to suffer from cramp you are more likely to suffer it again in future. This may be because you keep doing what caused it initially, because you are genetically pre-disposed to cramping or because it becomes a repetitive injury which is not allowed to recover.

Prevention

The first thing to remember is to stay hydrated, not just with water but with electrolytes, and to eat the right things to help your body before and after training. Avoid diuretics (food or drink which promotes removal of salt and fluid from the body and can lead to dehydration) including drinks with caffeine (check what is in that sports drink!), citrus fruits and pineapple.

Secondly, stretching is vital for maintaining flexibility in your muscles. It should be included in your warm-up and warm-down for pool and land-based sessions. Going from cold muscles to full-pace swimming without a proper warm-up places a lot of stress on the body. In any swimming set we include a warm-up, so it is important your swimmer turns up on time to complete this.

Thirdly, you may wish to try drinking a source of quinine (tonic water – preferably still/flat) or eating a banana a couple of hours before a swimming session.

Specific muscle stretches

The following muscle stretches are recommended by Swim England for the individual muscles on the calf and foot – hold each stretch for two minutes in 10, 20 or 30 second intervals.

Gastrocnemius stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other and lean against a wall. Bend your front leg and keep your back leg straight with your heel on the floor until you feel the muscle stretch in the back of the lower leg between your heel and knee.

Cramp Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

Soleus stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other and lean against a wall. Bend both knees and transfer your weight to your back leg, ensuring you keep the heel of your back leg on the floor. You should feel the muscle stretch in the back of the lower leg.

Cramp Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

Plantar Fascia stretch – stand with one leg in front of the other with the toes of your front foot on or up against a raised platform (such as a step or a wall). Bend both knees until you feel the stretch in the sole of your front foot.

Cramp Linslade Crusaders swimming club Leighton Buzzard bedfordshire

Alternative plantar fascia relief – roll your foot over a golf or hockey ball. If you find this too painful, try it in warm water to help the muscles relax more. This is a form of myofascial release…

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