I like reading. And I like swimming. So the shelves in my office are full of books about swimming. Want to know what some of my favourites are? And, better still, want to win a brand-new copy of one of them for yourself? It’s your lucky Thursday! 🙂
Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox (Knopf)
Lynne is my hero. She broke the (men and women’s) record for swimming the English Channel when she was 15. She was the first person to swim the Cape of Good Hope (and, yes, she encountered sharks). And she was the first person to swim the Bering Strait (between Alaska and Siberia). This book is an amazingly evocative account of what it is to be a solo open-water swimmer: the cold, yes, but also the mental challenges, the loneliness, the exhilaration… Lynne’s writing will draw you in, whether or not you’ve ever swum in cold water in nothing but your swimsuit, hat and goggles. Oh, and she replied to an email I once sent her. So I kind of love her even more.
Open Water Swimming by Penny Lee Dean (Human Kinetics)
aka An open-water swimmer’s bible. I devoured this when I was training for my first Channel swim. Although it focuses more on OW swim races (rather than solo swims), it’s invaluable to anyone preparing for any kind of OW swim, in my opinion. It covers training, technique, safety, kit, psychology, tactics and final preparation. Oh, and you should listen to Penny Lee Dean. She’s held the World Record in, like, 13 open-water swimming events.
Swim Workouts in a Binder by Gale Bernhardt and Nick Hansen (Velopress/Cordee)
I never go to the pool without this book. It’s great: a ring-bound, waterproof set of dozens of swim sessions, broken down into speed, endurance, form, anaerobic endurance (and more) and well-structured with warm-up, drill, swim down, main set, etc. It even stands itself up at the end of the pool, so no worries if you haven’t got anything to prop it on. And I’ve found that, when I have this book at the end of the pool, other lane-users take me a bit more seriously (and let me turn/pass at the end). It’s everything you’d expect from a swim session, without the scary coach walking along the side of the pool. Each session has two options, one slightly shorter and one hard-core. Highly recommended (see my giveaway at the bottom of this post!)
There’s also a Workouts in a Binder for Swimmers, Triathletes and Coaches version, (available from Cordee, RRP £20) which is perfect for any triathlete. The workouts are divided into sprint, middle distance or distance, with IM and stroke work, too. There’s even a suggestion of how to work the sessions into a realistic training plan over a matter of weeks. A really useful resource jam-packed with valuable training information which you can go and put into practise straight away. Both Workouts in a Binder books are available from Cordee in the UK (01455 611185).
The Art of Swimming by Steven Shaw (Collins and Brown)
Steven is an ex-pro pool swimmer and a proponent of the Alexander Technique. This book explains his approach which marries both, with the aim of learning swimming in a way which really looks after your neck and spine (whilst making you a better swimmer!) It’s a really interesting look at how our bodies can interact with, rather than fight against, water. The book details basic drills and practices, before going into how to apply the technique to all four strokes. Even fly (Steven’s butterfly has to be seen to be believed). It’s well-illustrated with photos of real swimmers carrying out all the drills.
Triathlon Swimming Made Easy by Terry Laughlin (Total Immersion Inc)
Total Immersion – TI to its fans – is a popular method of swimming particularly favoured by triathletes (although anyone could learn it). It basically teaches you how to slow down your stroke and position yourself in the most streamlined way possible, so you slip through the water rather than thrashing around getting nowhere. It’s very gentle and very effective. Terry is the master of TI and this book is his guide for triathletes, although anyone could use it. There’s a ton of info in it, all very detailed, but very useful.
Swimming Anatomy by Ian McLeod (Human Kinetics)
If you find the human body interesting then you might like this book. I’m not scientifically minded in the slightest but I do find anything about sport and physiology fascinating and this book gives a detailed and illustrated breakdown of which muscles are used during swimming and how we can use strength and conditioning to improve our swimming. It’s focused on the explosive starts, turns and racing strategies of pool swimming but open-water swimmers will still find plenty of inspiration for off-season gym drills.
Swimming book giveaway
Would you like your own copy of the Workouts in a Binder I describe above? You should do. It’s really good. And its RRP is £20.
The nice folk at Cordee publishers have sent me a new copy (cos I wouldn’t give mine away). Leave a comment below telling me what you’d like to improve on in swimming – it could be “learn to breathe properly during front crawl” or “be selected for the 2012 squad” (if that’s the case, can I suggest you get some sleep, since you’re probably at the Commonwealth Games right now 😉 )
You have until midnight GMT on Sunday 10th October, after which I’ll pick a winner at random and send the book out to you in the post. 🙂