Love Swimming, Love Life

I don’t usually sounds so gushing about a lifestyle and a love for swimming that turned into a hobbyist teacher having got my own children swimming when they were 4 and 6, but for now at least I’ve got the balance right: not too much, but enough, paid to do it so I more than simply cover the cost of the petrol to get their, and the professionalisation of club coaching and teaching is to be commended. It takes having the right people in post though; we do. I think we get on, we respect each other as colleagues – at arms length (the generational spread could hardly be greater), we collaborate, cover for each other, talk to each other, overlap our day/sessions from time to time and most importantly, universally I think, have a passion for the sport, as an art form, not just a sport. That sounds pretentious, but let me explain, or rather speak to us about swimming, really ask questions; we go into detail about body position, hand movements, head position, ‘feel for the water’ the nuanced difference between making a human as suited to movement through the water as the human body can be without becoming double-jointed and developing a huge lung capacity.

I’ve drifted off somewhat. The intention was simply to blog my sessions. Maybe I needed the literary warm up; I do. Whatever the activity, need a warm up that is.

I love Wednesdays (and Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) because I am at the pool for a few hours with swimmers I love Mondays and Tuesdays because I am not. A change is as good as a rest, a rest at the end of the week – like sleep, nourishes the mind. It has taken me a good four months though to cherish and protect my Mondays and Tuesdays from being filled with ‘work’ – stuff, as long as it is varied, is OK – ‘work’ is not. Being a martyr to anything is not a good thing, not that I’m doing the 22 hours a week I once covered, sometimes with early morning swims. I’d be up and out and at it for a film shoot, but that’s another story entirely. On set with a young team and young actors; I’d have enjoyed directing Byker Grove had I pulled that off some decades ago (I did work with the same actors on a number of information films). You see where my mind wanders when I let it? Stream of consciousness. Just the ADHD. I may have deleted this by the time I get to hit ‘publish’ (or not).

To the job at hand:

Three sessions: Para swimmers, PC1 (ostensibly 9-11 year old ‘learning to train’ swimmers) and Masters.

The variety counts for something. Some approaches are the same for them all: play to their strengths, identify and address weaknesses/faults, have empathy towards who they are and what swimming means to them.

I’ve worked with ‘disability’ aka ‘para’ swimmers on and off since I came to the club in 2008. Micro-class sizes, a high ratio of coaches/teachers to swimmers and other support is all vital – lets it work. We are well managed. The swimmers have a ‘safe space’.

What works for my 3 or 4 swimmers may not suit other lanes. Each lane is going at its own space depending on the individuals in the water and their requirements, expectations and levels of, how can I put it ‘bid-ability’. To some degrees what we do is negotiated, not that the swimmers are necessarily aware of these, but you have to get to know that and how they tick and behave to get their best out of them, to see them doing what they can do a little better, to try new things (within their capacity). We take breathers, I ask questions, we share stories and have a laugh – and we swim (well, they do).

The pattern of the session is warm up, main event, and swim down – even if the session is gentle and non-competitive. That said, 1 or the 4 likes to race. He gets to race from time to time but I sense the others are accommodating him, just like he is happy when they do something they enjoy: pushing through hoops, somersaults.

The principles of whole-part-whole and ‘individualisation’ are maintained.

A couple of lengths of front crawl, a couple of lengths of back crawl.

Some kicking on back and front.

Where I can add in a valid challenge I will do so. I like to do ‘Down The Line’ front crawl with all the groups. The simple activity of swimming straight down, and above the black line in the middle of the lane ensuring that the head is looking straight down, and each arm, left and right, is pulling and recovering either side of the black line. I picked this up from one of the dozen or more streams of video-clips I follow on Instagram. I’ve adapted this for back crawl with ‘Follow The Beam’ (no use for the sight impaired of course), where on the back the swimmer ‘lasers’ their upright recovering army through the roof along the beam 20 or whatever feet above their head.

Kicking with a kicker float. Generally one length at a time. Generally I am back and forth the length of the pool to speak to them at both ends. Rest matters. They swim once a week.

From the kick we add an arm stroke, on FC. The kick on the back might include a ‘fun one’ with a plastic cup on the tray-like float pulled along above their knees – the intention to encourage ‘long legs kicking from the hips’ and to discourage so called ‘cycling legs’. (The most advanced challenge tried with partial success, is to kick/swim BC with this plastic cup and a little water, on the forehead).

Then there are the drills: Zip-up or ‘zipper’ is a favourite for FC, though variations that develop the ‘high elbow’ recovering include ‘dragging fingers’, ‘little person running across the water’ and ‘hesitation’ – in each case the recovering hand staying close to or against the body and so encouraging a high elbow. I try to encourage a shoulder rotation and reach too. With BC the drills include ‘slomo’ and ‘hesitation’ : the recovering arm pausing at the vertical for a couple of seconds, or the recovering arm taking its time to recover. Either way it is necessary to kick a bit harder, to keep the body flat, the hips up, and ideally there is some shoulder rotation.

We do breaststroke, but only when I can easily have each swimmer doing their own thing. It might be a hip/knee issue, or coordination or resistance somewhere to change, or my figuring out how to ‘correct’ it, but this assumes I could or want to have them swimming legal breaststroke with the required symmetrical, synchronous arms and legs. It possibly is more natural to swim a sidestroke kick.

We also do butterfly, but for my lane, kick only. The fly kick is useful to incorporate into the transition on FC and BC of course, and is fun in its own right. We have used fins, and I’d recommend them. A little more propulsion helps with ‘feel for the water’, at speed, and is fun.

Along the way, or take fill a few minutes at the end of the session we do ‘three things’ each swimmer enjoys: a handstand or somersault for one of them, a star float or mushroom float for another, ‘streamlined bounce’ and ‘sitting on the bottom of the pool’ – playing watching TV or a video game! For a bit of fun!

I’ve used hoops to push through, noodles under the arms and pullboys for arms only, and even water-polo balls to swim with and throw over the 5m flags.

Have I missed anything? Probably.

PC1, the ‘Learning to Train’ group of 9-13 year olds are on Breastroke this week. My MacroPlan for the year has a 4 to 5 week rotation by week and calendar month between each of IM, FC/BC and BR with dive/turns and other skills part of the mix in every session. Closer to galas more time is spent on starts, turns and finishes.

A new intake of 8 or so swimmers at the beginning of the year changed the complexion of the squad considerably, particularly with a handful of 12/13 year olds who have come through our Academy later than we might have wished because of missing swimming during Covid lockdowns. Our hope is that these older swimmers will be advance to a competitive or development squad sooner rather than later. It means I have four swimmer types and would ideally have four lanes. A slight 9 year old may not train well with a developing 13 year old, and the two tend not to wish to be in the same lane in any case. Like playing an instrument in an orchestra, or ballroom dancing I guess, or any sport, ability level is the differentiator. More or less this squad is at the same stage, they are learning how to train, they still need to be taught to fix issues with butterfly especially, breastroke to some degree, competitive dive and turns and finessing/correction to FC and BC.

With an assistant/second coach, in this case a former club/university swimmer with considerable talent, 11 simmers only (out of a squad of 25), and only two lanes, we kept our eyes on a lane each. After a warm up I then build up the distance in a pyramid on the basis that after 1, then 2, then only 3 lengths at a time we will have notes to share, things to fix, stuff to talk about. We cover the usual things: kick too wide, warms pulling too wide, head bobbing (mostly addressed now), short/curtailed transition into the stroke. We also have one asynchronous illegal kick but with ‘hip/knee’ problem cited we need to go carefully. Ideally this would be looked at by a sports physio or taken up by a sports doctor – if indeed there is a problem. We can find that the default of the individual is to excuse something that they have always got wrong and no one has been able to put right as they have come up through the club. (In our younger teaching group swimmers we have a plague of screw-kicking !)

Drills include: breaststroke kick on back, three kicks one stroke (3K1B), extended glide (kicking into a two second glide, also one down, one up (1D1U) where the transition ‘keyhole arm pull’ is followed by a normal stroke. Others might have included fly or FC flutter kick with BR arms, or ‘one leg, one arm’ when the swimmer reaches diagonally behind their back to hold the opposite leg – then swims with just one arm, and one leg. If their BR is sound many can do this – flat on the water, finding their rhythm.

And onto Masters. A session I have taken since September but am now handing over to a newly appointed Masters Coach. A former Merlins Swimmer who swam through university (Bath), he will become quite the technical swimmer. He is hugely interested and invested in the biomechanics of the sport and has an urge to use technology. We wax lyrical about electronic whiteboards, or projecting videos onto a wall – Masters swimmers however, are probably not the most open to change. Once qualified I can see him gravitate towards elite age group swimmers where finessing the stroke is more achievable.


Coaching IM

According to my Meta Plan for the year I coach IM in the first week of the month – so a bit of everything.

The set of always written in advance, the metres totted up and times calculated. I like to jot down how this goes on the whiteboard so that I can make later adjustments for future sets.


This has more changes in it than usual.

Having introduced the Backstroke to Breaststroke turn I then took the opportunity to add Butterfly to Backstroke and Breaststroke to Front Crawl.

I then wanted some sprints, and to push them a bit. So include 2 x 50m with 3 or 4 swimmers against each other.

My second 90 minutes took in two teaching groups. Teaching Breaststroke can often be a challenge but today was the first time in 20 years of doing this that I had all 7 swimmers unable to do a breaststroke whipkick. This will take some unpicking and a whole raft of ideas to fix: kick with one float, then two, running through the kick in the side of the pool, kick in back, old English backstroke and so on. We managed to for in some dicing too.

PC1 Coach

A decade or so ago I took ‘Mini Squad’ as we then called it. The 9-11 year old competitive swimmers. I’m now back in this roll with so called ‘PC1’ – a slightly smaller squad as we progress them into more advance and demanding competitive squads sooner.

It is a delight to be back and feel so confident in my roll. The Level II coaching certificate that I had to retake having gone through to ‘most’ of Level III coaching in 2008/2009 was a useful refresher.

Having this blog is vital. I can dip into it on almost everything: the strokes and drills, land training and psychology, welfare and more.

A simple Macro Plan takes me through the year alternating through the month on IM, FC/BC, BR and FLY with a different focus and skill each week. And then each week broken into different drills, parts of the skill development and a weekly challenge.

I want to do analysis of every swimmer. We have a GoPro and iPad, though I also have my iPhone 11 Pro and a gimbal which I’d prefer to use so long as people can be reassured regarding child welfare.



Phase Activity Target TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 3 x 200m  (all slow and easy) as:

1 x 200m FC as 1 x 50m Kick, 1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

1 x 200m BC as 1 x 50m Kick, 1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

1 x 200m BR ‘Extended Glide’ drill.

15” after each 200m 600 14 14
MAIN 4 x 75 @ FC 1:05 1:30 300 /900 6 20
EASY: 1 x 100m FC ‘Zip it Up’ Drill 100/1000 2 22
4 x 75m @ BC 1:10 1:45 300 /1300 7 29
EASY: 1 x 100m BC ‘Slomo’ Drill 200/1500 3 32
4 x 75m @ BR 1:15 2:00 300/1800 7 36
EASY: 1 x 100m BR ‘Extended Glide’ Drill 100/1900 3 39
4 x 25m @ FLY 0:25 1:00 100/2000 4 43
Old English Backstroke to the Deep End 2 45
Block start to 12.5m, Turn from 12.5m to wall and back, Finish.


200/2200 15 60
S/D 100/200m easy if time available 2400m 200/2400m 60+


Having taken over 20 mins to complete a 14 minute warm up the swimmers were behind. Somehow they clawed it back over the next 20 minutes and completed the entire set.


Masters Monday 15 Jan 2018 MASTERS FITNESS C COACH COPY


Phase Activity TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 2 x 200m  as:

1 x 200m FC as 1 x 50m Kick,  1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

15” after each 200m 400 12 12
MAIN 4 x 50m @ FC 80% Effort 1:45 200


7 19
4 x 50m @ BC 80% Effort 2:00 200


8 27
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m FC ‘Zip it Up’ Drill

1 x 100m BC ‘Slomo’ Drill

3:00 200


6 33
4 x 50m @ BR 80% Effort 2:15 200


9 42
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m BR ‘3 kicks, 1 Pull’ 3K1P

1 x 100m FC ‘Catch Up’ Drill

3:00 200


6 48
S/D 200m + (‘til end) CH Easy, long, smooth, silent swimming 200


6 54+


Based on a diluted version of the B Fitness Session (itself a diluted version of the A1 Competitive session).


5 x 50m FC swam in o:56 so 1:45 Turn Around Time about right.

4  50m BC on 1:17 so 2:00 about right too


6 minutes was gained for resting during the session but there was exactly this margin left when they got to the S/D.




Phase Activity TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 2 x 200m  as:

1 x 200m FC as 1 x 50m Kick,  1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

15” after each 200m 400 8 8
MAIN 4 x 75m @ FC 80% Effort 1:30 300


6 14
4 x 75m @ BC 80% Effort 1:45 300


7 21
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m FC ‘Zip it Up’ Drill

1 x 100m BC ‘Slomo’ Drill

2:15 200


5 26
4 x 75m @ BR 80% Effort 2:00 300


8 34
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m BR ‘3 kicks, 1 Pull’ 3K1P

1 x 100m FC ‘Catch Up’ Drill

2:30 200


5 39
8 x 25 CH Sprint 1:00 200


8 47
S/D 200m + (‘til end) CH Easy, long, smooth, silent swimming 4:00 200


8 55+


This is a diluted version of the A1 plan for the same evening session. Distance covered is reduced to 2100m from 2700m. The Warm Up and Swim Down are reduced from 600m to 400m and 300m to 200m respectively.


Potentially increase the length of S/D given this age group and the need and benefits of a longer swim down.


TRT for the 4 x 75ms was increase by 15 seconds for each stroke.


Splits only available for the FC 1:15 so unsure how or whether to adjust the rest/


They were 3 minutes slower out of the warm up and gained more time on the BR 4 x 75m


By the last 15 minutes with the 8 x 25m CH sprints they were 6 minutes off schedule.


These were swum in 0:23 for FC.


However, there was enough margin to do a swim down in the 7 minutes remaining.


Masters Monday 15 Jan 2018 MASTERS FITNESS B COACH COPY


Phase Activity TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 2 x 200m  as:

1 x 200m FC as 1 x 50m Kick,  1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

15” after each 200m 400 10 10
MAIN 4 x 50m @ FC 80% Effort 1:30 200


6 16
4 x 50m @ BC 80% Effort 1:45 200


7 23
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m FC ‘Zip it Up’ Drill

1 x 100m BC ‘Slomo’ Drill

2:30 200


5 28
4 x 50m @ BR 80% Effort 2:00 200


8 36
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m BR ‘3 kicks, 1 Pull’ 3K1P

1 x 100m FC ‘Catch Up’ Drill

2:30 200


5 41
8 x 25 CH Fast 1:00 200


8 47
S/D 200m + (‘til end) CH Easy, long, smooth, silent swimming 4:00 200


8 55+


Based on a diluted version of the A1 Competitive Session Plan


This session went to plan, and even accommodated the two or more breaks to rest and chat that they like to take half way through. By the time of the 2 x 100ms we were 5 minutes off the schedule, but had exactly this level of margin in the S/D.


I could build in a 2 mins and 3 mins rest – but they will pick the moment to take this not me!



From this session plan for A1 Competitive three other sessions plans are worked up to cover a six lane Pool: A2 (Competitive), B Fitness and C Fitness. These are printed off in 24pt for the poolside, excluding Distance, Duration and Total.

Phase Activity TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 3 x 200m  as:

1 x 200m FC as 1 x 50m Kick,  1 x 150m Swim (rest after 200m)

15” after each 200m 600 12 12
MAIN 4 x 75 @ FC 80% Effort 1:15 300


5 17
REST 1 18
4 x 75m @ BC 80% Effort 1:30 300


6 24
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m FC ‘Zip it Up’ Drill

1 x 100m BC ‘Slomo’ Drill

2:15 200


5 29
4 x 75m @ BR 80% Effort 1:45 300


7 36
REST 1 37
4 x 75m @ FLY ‘Single Arm Drill’ 70% Effort 1:45 300


7 44
2 x 100m as:

1 x 100m BR ‘3 kicks, 1 Pull’ 3K1P

1 x 100m FC ‘Catch Up’ Drill

2:30 200


5 49
8 x 25 CH Sprint 0:30 200


4 53
S/D 300m + (‘til end) CH Easy, long, smooth, silent swimming 4:00 300


6 59+

For the A1 Competitive swimmers the splits were:

4 x 75m FC 1:07/1:08 giving them 7/8 seconds rest. Increase the TRT next time to 1:20 ?

4 x 75m BC 1:12/1:10 giving them 18/20 second rest. More than enough. So reduce?

4 x 75m BR 1:19/1:22 giving them 23/26 seconds rest. Reduce this or about enough?

4 x 75m Fly ‘Single Arm’ 1:22 giving them 23 seconds rest.

In both cases the 2 x 200m was rolled into a 400m without a rest. Necessary as they were getting behind on this session after 25 mins.

For a 2600m swim this came in at exactly 60 mins.

They did a 200m, not a 300m Swim Down.



Pre-Christmas Workout for Masters ‘A’

Masters Thurs 21 DEC 2017 A (COMPETITIVE) COACH COPY

Phase Activity Target TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 3 x 150m as:

FC 1 x 50m Swim, 1 x 50m Pull, 1 x 50m Kick,

BC 1 x 50m Swim, 1 x 50m Pull, 1 x 50m Kick,

BR 1 x 50m Swim, 1 x 50m 3 Kicks on Arm Pull, 1 x 50m Kick,

15” Rest after each 150m 450 10 10
MAIN Race Pace Set 1

6 x 75m FC @ 200m FC pace

Try to develop your underwater kick throughout the set.  

1:03 01:15 450/900 9 19
Recovery 1

200m FC  25m Kick on Side, 75m Breathe every 5

05:00 200/1100 4 23
Race Pace Set 2

6 x 75m BC @ 200m pace

1:10 01:30 450/1550 10 33
Recovery 2

200m FC  25m Kick on Side, 75m Breathe every 5

05:00 200/1750 4 37
Race Pace Set 3

6 x 75m BR @ 200m pace

1:18 1:45 450/2200 12 49
Recovery 3

200m FC  25m Kick on Side, 75m Breathe every 5

05:00 200/2400 4 53
4 x 25m IM Order Sprints: 1 x 25m of each: Fly, BC, BR, FC 0:45 100/2500 4 56
S/D 200m CH Easy, Long, Smooth swimming 02:30 200/2700 4 60+
TOTAL 2500m

Not helped by having one swimmer in the lane being joined by three others after she had completed the warm up. We began to make up time but cutting back the rest of the Race Pace Set in turn for 75m FC to 01:15 from 01:30, for 75m BC to 01:30 from 01:45 and for BR to 01:45 from 02:00.

I have found that there are Masters who want to add rest, and Masters who want to cut back on rest. I do rather think that they ought to go with the sessions prepared for them. I would worry that they not working hard enough on these Race Pace Sets if they can get away with less rest.

The programme also lost Recovery 3 so that could get it all done in an hour.


I have

Masters Thurs 21 DEC 2017 B (FITNESS) COACH COPY


Phase Activity TRT/Rest Dist: Dur: Total
W/U 3 x 150m as:

FC 1 x 50m Swim, 1 x 50m Pull, 1 x 50m Kick

BC 1 x 50m Swim, 1 x 50m Pull, 1 x 50m Kick

30” Rest after each 150m 300 10 10
MAIN 6 x 50m FC @ Strong, Firm, Steady Pace 75% 01:30 300/600 9 19
100m BC as  1 x 50m Hesitation Drill, 1 x 50m Easy Swim 03:00 100/700 3 22
6 x 50m BC @ Strong, Firm, Steady Pace 75% 01:45 300/1000 11 33
100 BR 1 x 50m Extended Glide Drill, 1 x 50m Easy Swim 03:00 100/1100 3 36
6 x 50m BR @ Strong, Firm, Steady Pace 75% 2:00 300/1400 12 48
100 FC 1 x 50m Zip It Up 50 Drill, 1 x 50m East Swim 03:00 100/1500 3 51
4 x 25m CH Sprints

Hold technique. Steady, Firm and Fast

1:00 100/1600 4 55
S/D 200m Easy Swim 05:00 200/1800 5 60
TOTAL 1800m


Somehow a generous 10 minutes for the Warm Up drifted to 17 minutes. They were happy to trim 15” of each of the above turn-around time.  So FC 50m to 01:15 from 01:30, BC 50m to 01:30 from 01:45 and BR 50m (reduced to x4 repetitions) to 01:45 from 02:00.