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Swim catch up

Returning to swimming after a lay off can be very exciting – yet concerning at the same time. We have not been able to swim the distances we would normally achieve in the pool, lakes or rivers.

The Lock to Lock swim series offers you a variety of supported swims that you can take part in for training, competition, or just for the celebration of swimming in open water.

The series starts its season in June with the 4K Eynsham to Kings, a downstream swim along the Thames. This is a great training distance for Ironman competitors to practise their swim. It’s also a fantastic distance to enter early in the season if you’re in training longer swim-event distances – such as the Lock to Lock 10K (July). But the 4K distance is still long enough to class as a good swim. If this is your first time pushing further distances, it’s a very exciting opportunity and a brilliant achievement once completed. It’s also a wonderful location to swim through.

The history of the Thames is fascinating, with incredible landmarks along its path. Travelling up and down the river on boats or running its paths is amazing – but swimming in it is completely different. You are in nature, not observing nature – in it!!!

The Lock to Lock swim series started with one lone swimmer following the twists and turns of the Thames from the medieval settlement at Eynsham. This stretch of river is surrounded by open pastures with ancient fields of special scientific interest, heavily protecting the wildlife that inhabit the area. It’s a joy to submerse yourself into the cool flowing waters of the upper Thames, and the magical water-level views of this beautiful environment deserved to be shared, which was the first intention of the Lock to Lock series.

The stone bridge at Eynsham was built in 1769, replacing the old wooden ferry. The build was funded by the Earl of Abingdon. This Georgian sandstone bridge is a wonderful landmark for swimmers who pass under its golden arches on their way downstream in the Lock to Lock 10K swim event. The 4K starts just downstream of the stone arches. As herons and egrets fly overhead, they remind us why the gathering of swimmers on these banks, early in the morning, is so special.

The swim series in order through the season: 4k June, 10K July, Oxford Classic Mile September, SwimRun end of September.

This river has always had some swimming activity through the years, but only by very few hardy individuals. It took some navigating to find a section that would hold intrigue for swimmers and beauty in its environment, and the 4K section between Eynsham lock and Kings Lock was top on the list – and our first event back in 2015. Having excellent entry points at Eynsham and exit points at Kings Lock, it creates a natural start and finish – with no loops!

We hold true to the origins of a wild swim: no fuss, lights, whistles or bells; just pure open-water swimming in nature. The Lock to Lock swim series has grown in popularity every year but in all of our swims, the numbers of participants are heavily restricted to maintain the openness and natural simplicity, echoed in the surroundings. The swim series was reported to be the best kept swim secret in the UK. Whilst Red Bull ranked the 3rd best SwimRun in the UK 2019, 2020.

After being unable to hold large gatherings in 2020, 2021’s swim events are especially exciting. We’re looking forward to meeting all the swimmers and supporting you from start to finish. As we ease from lockdown and enter the waters in larger groups, the magic of swimming can be once more. Go gentle with yourself as you gather pace; it’s been a while. Ease from the slumber, blow away the dust and allow the waters to clear.

I hand you over to Stuart Hacker, swim Coach at the SWIMCUBE, with guidance on swimming after a long lay-off.

Its good to be back...

I am so excited to be reopening the SWIMCUBE on Monday. We have all faced so many challenges over the last 12 months, but there is a real feeling of excitement building now. I am very excited to be taking part in the Oxford Lock to Lock 4km and hope to meet many of you there.

I love hearing from all types of swimmers who are excited to be back in the water. Our sport has something for everyone. Some swim for solitude, Some swim to race, some swim for the cold-water benefits…. But we all swim because we love the sport.

I wanted to write a short blog on getting back into training. Many swimmers and triathletes are concerned that they are ‘behind’ in their training and have so much to do in order to be ready for an event or race. Before I go on, let me say this:

Remember why you swim and don’t forget to enjoy the journey

It can be difficult to suppress that nagging feeling that you are playing catch up with your training, but I actually think that the enforced break presents a number of very good opportunities for your swimming:

Swimming is about efficiency and technique

Water is 800 times denser than air, so we need to be smart in order to move through it efficiently. The lockdown and enforced break from swimming means that bad habits will be far easier to change. Ignore the urge to get back in the pool and bash out as many lengths as you can. Why not get back in the pool and focus entirely on your technique?! Iron out those bad habits and start to ingrain positive new habits in your stroke.

Human beings are terrible at thinking about more than one thing at a time (especially when we are swimming). Break your pool session down into chunks, allowing you to focus on one stroke element at a time. A good way of doing this is a main set of 100’s, for example:

20 X 100m

Sets 1 – 4

Focus on breathing (how relaxed can I make my inhale and exhale? Am I holding my breath?)

Sets 5 – 8

Focus on head position (Look down at the black line in the pool and keep head still throughout. Try and avoid lifting your head during breaths)

Sets 9 – 12

Stroke timing. Maybe do a drill like ‘catch up’ on lengths one and four. Focus on front quadrant swimming.

Sets 13 – 16

Focus on rotation (keep your head still and work on your lengthening your stroke and rotating through your hips. Experiment with how this feels)

Sets 17 – 20

Try and pull everything together and swim as efficiently as you can.

This type of set can easily be adapted to suit the elements you are working on. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your stroke – That’s how we make changes.

Don’t get injured

Another very good reason to suppress that urge to play catch up with your swimming! Your body may not be ready to immediately hit the distances and paces you were hitting before. The worst thing that could happen is an injury that keeps you out of swimming and training for even longer. Enjoy the journey back and be kind to yourself along the way.

One last tip – Leave your watch in your bag for those first sessions back. Pace is unimportant at this stage. Your goal is to smile, focus on improving and ‘Enjoying that journey’.

I can’t wait to see you all soon. Feel free to reach out anytime with questions (or just for a swim chat).

Stuart Hacker


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