Category: winter swimming


This year, with the whole broken ankle thing, I didn’t make the icebreaker challenge. Luckily, that doesn’t mean I had to miss out on the lovely lunch and celebrations yesterday!

Such a lovely time in the sun with such lovely swimming friends!

A big congratulations to all the 2013 Icebreakers! I’ll be up there with you next year!

Full photo set over on Flikr

Winter swimming. Even in this conducive climate, most people think us ocean swimmers are nutters for heading out there every weekend (at least), rain, hail, shine and frosty water temperatures.

Well, there are a whole lot of reasons we do it (hint: it’s awesome!) but for me, one of the most stunning things about winter swimming is the water clarity.

A lot of it comes down to a couple of reasons:

  • Hardly any tourists out there stirring up sand etc
  • Hardly any tourists on the beach leaving their rubbish and crap to be washed into the water
  • Non-breeding season for all our ocean-dweeling friends like jellyfish and fish and sea grasses etc

It’s a bit hard to describe just how beautiful it is to swim in that water. Especially on those crisp, clear, sunny winter days. It’s also pretty hard to photograph faithfully, although I know I’ve certainly tried.

Luckily for everyone, there are better photographers out there than me. One of the best, in my opinion, is the talented Bondi resident eugene Tan of Aquabumps. On top of taking the kind of photos I’d possibly trade a limb or a family member to take, he has some great techniques he uses to great advantage. Like taking aerial photos of Bondi to stunning effect. I’m a bit of an addict of his daily email, but Wednesday’s really struck me as a brilliant example of just how clear that water is out there.

Do yourself  a favour and head over to check it out.

Stuff like this:

AquaBumps – one of my photography idols

Now tell me that doesn’t make you want to jump in for a swim.

After operation return to swimming got me back into the pool, and back to 4SEASons, part 3 consisted of a couple of Tuesday night regular 4SEASons session in the pool.

I continued to swim with the pull-buoy and band and with a bit of an assist to get in and out of the pool. Stock standard.

Then finally, after 7 weeks a follow-up x-ray and yet another visit to the fracture clinic…the good news was in: I could take the bloody orthopaedic boot off!

Unfortunately, there was still much work to be done to get enough strength, flexibility and stability back. The idea of walking on soft sand was pretty unthinkable for a while yet. I would have to be patient.

Then finally 2 weeks ago, after lots and lots of physio and exercise, it was time!

Part 4 of my return to swimming has involved getting back to my beloved Bondi beach and swimming in the ocean!

I have to admit I’ve chickened out and worn my wetsuit – the extra buoyancy (in my mind, at least) reduces the chance of coming down hard on the ankle. I’m still not up to running, let alone running on soft sand, and I lean on my lovely swimming friends as we head down the beach, just in case….

I’m not quite there yet, and I’ve obviously lost a bit of condition and fitness, but I’m back at the beach, baby, and loving it!

Yesterday I wrote about what it took to get back into the pool.the next step was to get back to actual training. Like many things, it’s far more productive to have someone telling you what to do, to push you further that you will on your own, and to pick up things that you might not notice yourself.

Lately the 4SEASons coaches had devised a plan for something different – a Sunday long session solely dedicated to specific technique training.

I emailed in advance to check on whether they thought it would be possible for me to do the session, and to make sure that I wouldn’t be disruptive to other people doing the session. Luckily, I have some of the most awesome coaches in the world and they assured me it would all work and encouraged me to come along.

The session was on a sunny but chilly Sunday morning. The session was held at the brand-spanking-new Prince Alfred Park pool, which I have to say is a pretty nice pool with great facilities…and has free entry until the 12th of November.

I had to switch out a couple of the drills, but it did give me the opportunity to play with one of my favourite pieces of kit – hand paddles.

I love training with hand paddles, and they are the perfect piece of kit for winter. There are two benefits to training with paddles. The first is that they increase the surface area of your hands, and therefore increase the resistance against the water. This is good for building extra strength in your arms…and feeling like you’re swimming really fast!

The second use of paddles is what I was focussing on during the technique day. They really exaggerate any technical flaws in your stroke. For example, if your hand entry isn’t fingers first, if it’s out by a little bit (think like making a “stop” signal with your hand” you’ll know about it…from the bottom edge of the paddles catching and kicking up water. The idea of the paddles is to help identify these little flaws, and to practice and embed the correct behaviours for a bit before taking them off. I certainly found myself with a couple of things to focus on about my hand entry.

Another thing that was great about the longer session, and running it on a Sunday (rather than racing against the clock of when the pool is closing on a weeknight) was that once we had finished the technique session, we took the time to do a 1km swim, no pressure around speed or times, just focussing on excellent technique and embedding the things we had learned at the session.

Then we had lunch and coffee at the cute little cafe there at the pool in the sun! It really was so nice to be back training, to be back hanging out with swimming friends, and to be able to enjoy a post swim coffee!

As I mentioned when I was writing about last Saturday’s training, winter is finally here..and that  means the new Icebreaker Challenge!
This year the rules have been tweaked a little this year….
The challenge runs from the 1st of June – 31st of August 2013.
You will earn points as follows:
  • 4 points – nude ocean swim ( aka no wetsuit ) with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 2 points – nude ocean swim ( aka no wetsuit ) with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 2 points – ocean swim in wetsuit with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 1 points – ocean swim in wetsuit with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 2 points – Icebergs Monday session with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 1 point –  Icebergs Monday session with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 1 point – Victoria Park Pool session.
Bonus points may be awarded by coaches for any swims deemed difficult or for acts of bravery or craziness.
You will qualify as an Icebreaker when you meet 20 points over the three month period of the challenge – and we will celebrate at the end of the challenge.

Last year I swam without a wetsuit whenever possible and ended up with loads of points. I wonder if that means I have a reputation to defend? Should I be setting myself a stretch goal? Or is that asking for trouble?

Regardless, it should be a good winter with the extra souls in the squad and a new challenge to keep me motivated!

Icebreaker!

This Saturday’s training session at Bondi was a particularly special one for me.

My little Sister Pia has featured on here a couple of times with the odd cameo. But did you know I have another sister? You wouldn’t have seen her on here before because she lives all the way over the other side of the country. On a farm. Inland from the ocean. And she has never been ocean swimming.

Well this weekend the little one had her engagement party and the bigger one came over…and I somehow convinced them BOTH to come along for a swim!!!!

I love those girls! I love that they came along and gave it a go because I asked them to. I love that they loved it, and I loved spending that extra time with them!

It was  a fantastic day. The water is still warm, we had a great crew of people (who didn’t even get too overwhelmed by the family reunion contingent), and the conditions were great. Mel was initially apprehensive…swimming on the West coast is a little more hazardous as there are more sharks…but the most dangerous thing on the beach was the risk of getting too carried away! Then to top off a magical swim, there was body surfing! Right off the shallow bank and straight onto the waves…brilliant!

What a way to start the winter…and the new IceBreaker Challenge!

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Hi everyone…sorry I’ve been a bit out of action with a non-swimming-related injury. I got back on the horse (Sea-horse of course!) on the weekend so posts are being drafted.

In the mean time, if you feel so inclined, feel free to pop over here and sign the petition for ABC pool to open longer over the winter. It’s a cracker of a pool with a great iconic location and  it seems such a shame for it to be shut allllll winter.

Back soon,

🙂 NQN

I pulled up a little sore on Wednesday after swimming hard on Tuesday night. Just a bit tight across the shoulders and arms. Sign of a good workout!

The set was more pacing, at randomly chosen varying distances (a “listening” drill from coach Kingy) rather than the usual planned and printed up set. Good fun and another hard swim.

The drill we did at the start was one that I really struggle with. I’m not entirely sure what it’s called (perhaps if my dodgy description rings any bells with anyone they could post a comment?), and I didn’t have any luck finding a YouTube clip to show you, so here goes my best explanation.

  1. Push off the end of the pool backwards like you would for backstroke.
  2. But keep your arms by your sides the whole drill.
  3. Propel yourself by kicking.
  4. Using your core (not by turning your head) rotate your whole body 180 degrees until you’re face down in the water. then rotate back the same way back onto your back.
  5. Do the same thing the other direction. Then alternate directions the whole way down the pool and back.

This particular drill is designed to work on body rotation. This is an unbelieveably big part of good swimming technique. Super important.

Good swimming technique, at its most basic, is about two things: maximising forward momentum, and minimising drag.

A good body rotation helps with both of these things through:

  • Helping get a good long reach when your arm enters the water. Try reaching your arm forward standing straight and holding your torso and shoulders rigid. Then twist your torso at the waist and angle your shoulder forward and look how much further you can reach. Same thing in the water.
  • Your arm comes more easily out of the water and higher on the return part of your stroke. Air has a lot less resistance than water so this is a good thing!
  • Your body is more streamlined and glides more efficiently through the water. Think about if you’re in the surf and a wave hits you front on instead of side on…..

In my case, this particular drill means water up my nose, wonky zig-zag path up and down the pool, and sore legs protesting that they aren’t used to getting so much use!

Guess I must need to keep practising!

Edit: if you odn’t believe me, I found a great SwimSmooth article on rotation. Much more comprehensive than mine and definitely worth a read!

As the winter swim season draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on one of the most common things I hear when someone discovers I swim in the ocean every weekend, even in winter.

“Winter swimming? Are you insane?”

Funnily enough, I’m at a point where I understand their reaction about as much as they understand my swimming. I’m a total convert to winter swimming, and have grown to love its charms.

Aside from the question about getting into the ocean, I recently came across an article about Why you should keep on swimming through the winter. This was mainly about pool swimming, but had some good points that apply to all swimmers.

As for me, I have quite a long list of reasons why I do it, and why I’ve grown to love it. so here goes….

  • Less tourists at the beach (and therefore less parking issues) so less crowd-dodging in the water.
  • It’s really not that cold. Not where I live and train. so far the water temperature hasn’t dropped below 17C. There’s actually a lag in water temperature to air temperature, so funnily enough the really cold water tends to be around November when people start thinking about getting into the ocean. And if the water temperature really bothers you. Ummm…heard of wetsuits? No rules against ’em!
  • The water clarity is better. No idea why, but it is totally true.
  • Wildlife. I think it’s a combination of the cooler water and less swimmers around, but there’s more fish, and it’s only during winter swims that I’ve swum with dolphins and whales (and even a wolverine!).
  • Body Surfing. A good enough reason all on its own.
  • A surprising number of winter swim days are actually pretty nice.  A quick review of the icebreaker notes shows there was one horrid day, one overcast, and one where it came in started sunny, rained, and then went sunny again. Not too bad all things considered.
  • There’s really no better start to the weekend. Salt and surf and sand, enough of a workout to justify a few wines on Saturday night, followed by coffee and good company!
  • It’s a well-kept secret, known only to a select few, that we actually have a ball out there. Even when the weather is sub-optimal. There’s this whole perception out there amongst the general populace that it’s difficult and cold and you have to give up your Friday night plans…when really, it’s amazingly fun.
  • It’s great for your summer race form. Keeping up training over the winter really gets you trained up for bigger surf, rougher conditions and cooler water. you can work on strength and endurance, and you’re not starting from scratch fitness-wise every year.

I know. I’ve given away a few secrets here. So maybe we’ll see you in the water next winter….

Saturday training marked the end of the winter, and more importantly the end of the Icebreaker season!

I know it’s actually a couple of weeks into spring here, but for reasons one can only assume were to do with being in tune with the natural seasons rather than subscribing to the unnatural calendar construct devised by an egotistical emperor (or something like that) our winter season went from equinox to equinox.

Winter, spring, or any season, it was a cracker of a day! Sunshine and surfable waves and clear water and not too much wind. In celebration of the end of the winter season (and perhaps to gain a final few extra icebreaker points) there were a few more newd swimmers than usual, despite the water being a touch colder than it has bene the last couple of weeks….definitely a shock getting in!!!

Our session was quite similar to last week’s, with squares and a couple of rip swims. It was definitely a different experience to last week, though. The weather and the waves for a start. I firmly believe that, even swimming at the same beach at the same time every week, the ocean always gives you something new. Occasionally it’s a lesson in humility, but more often it’s a pleasant surprise.

This week it was a wolverine. Yes, you heard me correctly. Luckily I’m not referring to this kind of wolverine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so much as this kind of Wolverine….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, that’s right. Mr Hugh Jackman was at the beach, in all his beardy muscly glory. It’s just possible a couple of our beach briefings were a little more giggly, and a touch longer than they usually are while all the ladies may have indulged in anything from a few furtive looks to outright staring (or in Leanne’s case, obliviousness!)

So there you have it – winter swimming….whales to wolverines!

We went off and had a lovely lunch with certificates and awards and new timetables and new challenges now the icebreaker is over (and perhaps a little bit of champagne!). Watch this space for all sorts of new adventures….as the weather warms up the fun really begins!

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