Swimming with World Champion and double Olympian, Katy Sexton! 

DCIM100GOPROI’m not sure what I else I expected, but wow Katy swim’s fast! Mind blowing-ly fast.

Last Saturday, Katy and I met at the Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex and started the set doing 8 lengths front crawl as a warm up. I obviously wanted to make a good impression so I attempted to swim at a decent effort-level to avoid being categorized as a “loss cause”. What actually happened… me thrashing-about in the pool trying to not look slow, while Katy effortlessly glides through the water and laps me in the process.

Katy and I met at The Performance Kitchen Studio in September this year – she filmed a TPK episode on the same day I filmed the Live Loosley take-over episode. We got talking about swimming and how it is the biggest barrier for people who consider themselves as ‘non-swimmers’ to try a triathlon. I experienced this dilemma first hand and after two years of triathlon, I still consider myself a ‘non-swimmer’.

Here’s a little bit about Katy…  Katy was the first British female swimmer to ever win a world title (check out the race on YouTube) and has represented GB at the Sydney and Athens Olympics. In 2010, Katy started her own swim school local to her hometown, and she has recently partnered with with iDailyWorkout to build a Swim Performance programme that targets swimmers and triathletes alike.

With so much knowledge and personal experience in being coached, in training and competing and in coaching herself, I just tried to soak it all in!! Swimming with Katy and getting one-on-one feedback about my stroke, was so amazing.

We spent just over an hour in the pool doing different drills and having a quick debrief after each one. Have you ever heard “high elbows” in swimming? I always thought that was something to think of above the water… I had no idea that “high elbows” under the water was something to focus on too. Turns out, it makes a BIG difference. Every set we did, Katy would watch my stroke under water and give me something to focus on in order to improve it. By the end, I was noticeably faster with a lot less effort.

Here are the main technique points I have to work on:

Relaxed hands, feel the water

The first thing Katy noticed about my stroke was my hands. I have been swimming with clenched fingers and sort of cupped hands. In my mind I was probably trying to replicate a paddle of some sort… But when you clench your fingers together you end up with a smaller ‘paddle’ than if you had just left them relaxed (its OK to have gaps in between your fingers).

Keep your elbow high on the pull through phase and keep wrists strong

Katy was really good at explaining the same concept in different ways. For high elbows, the comment that really worked for me was to picture a volleyball in between your body and your bicep during the pull phase of your stroke. It really forces your arm to be in more of  a 90 degree angle and keeps your elbow from dropping.

Work your kick without fins

My kick is pitiful! I don’t often do kicking drills because I feel bad holding up other people in the same lane as me. Well good-bye Miss Nice-Girl, I need to fix this ASAP.

Bubbles mean resistance

I liked this comment. Something easy to focus on and remember: bubbles mean resistance and resistance slows you down. Focus on catching the water and keeping a smooth stroke throughout the pull.

Use your hips and your kick to push your body over your arm (rather than just using your arm to pull your body forward)

I’ve never been a fan of the one arm front crawl drill. I always feel rushed and I find breathing a lot more awkward. What this drill highlighted to Katy was how straight body stays in the water. I have no concept of using my hips when I swim.

Breathe out fully into the water

It’s such a simple concept… breathe out while you’re under water so that when you go to breathe, you can take in more air. Makes complete sense. But for the life of me, I just can’t get the timing down! One day…


Getting one-on-one feedback on your technique and on what goes on under water (the most important part of your stroke), is so helpful.  Technique is just one cog in the wheel though… and I can’t wait to share with you what’s up next!!

Have you had your swimming technique reviewed lately? What do you focus on in the pool?

Respond to Swimming with World Champion and double Olympian, Katy Sexton! 

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