Monthly Archives: September 2016

Counting Swimming Laps

When I started to practice Total Immersion Swimming, I was able to swim non-stop, upto 3 hours, even then I didn’t feel tired. I only stopped cause I was hungry. The other problem that I faced was losing count of my strokes and laps. One cannot improve something if it cannot be measured. In order to improve my endurance, I need to know how far I swam. In order to improve my efficiency, I need to count my strokes. And in order to improve on my speed, I need to measure my time along with my distance. In this post, I would like to share how it can be done.

There are 2 main methods of counting laps. The first one is to count manually. The other is to use gadgets. Note that laps is one length of the pool, which is different from running tracks where one lap is when you return to your starting point.

The problem with counting manually is that it relies on the person’s mental capacity, and it can easily fail, especially when it gets to double digits. So personally, I started of with counting individual laps, but i usually lose count after 20 or 30 laps. At some point, I started to count pairs of laps. So going two laps then I count as one set. This helped me count upto 40 laps (20 sets) before I lost count.  And then when I started to do drills, as in focusing on different parts of the body when swimming or technique, then I started to count 5 sets, as a drill set. so I could do handle more than 50 upto a 100 laps (10-20 drill sets). Keep in mind though, with counting my strokes every lap, I do still miscount my laps. Then I just reset to the smaller number that I remembered.

At some point, I got tired and dizzy of trying to count my laps and strokes, and I just wanted to experience the silence of the swim, one of the reasons I like the water is the sense deprivation, counting in my head actually disrupts the silence. The silence sometimes gives me ideas and insights that I enjoy. I still have insights, but I find that they are more clearer when I don’t think about anything. I guess it is my way of meditation. In fact, one of my insights was “There has gotta be a way to do this automatically”, so I searched online and found a variety of options. And the options are increasing every year.

There are cheap options and expensive options. generally the cheapest is enough for certain people. But for others they want something more, and in that case, will have to and should be willing to pay for the higher price. Lets take a quick look at the options.

  • Cheap option – lap counters. Usually counts laps only, they are worn on the forefinger like a ring, there are manual ones where you have to press after every lap. and there are slightly more expensive ones where it does it automatically. look for for some of this.
  • Moderately Expensive option – Swimmovate Poolmate, Finis Swimsense, and garmin swim. These are swimming pool specific. Generally after a minimal set up they  count laps and strokes, and calculate and measure your distance, time, speed and SWOLF (your swimming golf score, or swimming efficiency index). Upcoming is a kickstarter project called swimmo. check
  • Really expensive option – suunto ambit; garmin vivo, 920 xt and the fenix series. These are actually multisports watches. So if you do more than just swimming, or plan to do a triathlon, then these are the watches to buy. They can even track an open water swim, as they have GPS that can track distance. If you want to get an in depth review of these watches (I seriously mean in depth), go to, he is a triathlete and a gadget geek, and he reviews a lot of sports gadgets.

Personally, I chose swimmovate poolmater as it was the cheaper option, It was all i needed, it automatically tracked my laps, distance, speed and SWOLF. But I had to manually copy those info onto my endomondo. The other qualm I had about it, is the straps were broken, and I can only send back to the manufacturer to fix, and it cost almost the same price of buying a new one. The more expensive ones had options to sync with mobile or computer. But if money wasn’t a challenge, I would buy the Garmin 920xt, as it has everything an Ironman Triathlete would need. The garmin swim apparently has the same chipset, but only for swimming laps, and no GPS.

hope you can make your own research and your owned informed decision after reading this post. Good luck and Keep on Swimming.

For information about swimming classes I conduct in Brunei, go to





Floating vs Treading Water

“Do you teach floating?”

I often get this question, either in promoting the swim classes, or during the class.

First and foremost…

What most people mean when they ask this question is actually treading. What’s the difference? Floating is when you don’t move and your body floats, treading is usually when someone needs to move in a certain way to keep their body afloat.

It is a lot easier for a floater than a sinker to tread water. see another article.

It is difficult, or impossible for a sinker to float. Because… sinkers sink.

The main reason some people ask this is because it is a requirement, mostly for entering the military, they are required to tread (what they say is float…) for a minute.

In my classes, I may teach this by request. But I must emphasize that treading or floating is not a sustainable way of surviving in the water, especially most people do not know the proper techniques to do so.

For more information on swimming classes. Go to

Sinkers and Floaters

When I learnt swimming properly at the age of 16, I thought there was something wrong with me, most of my friends were able to easily float, I seemed to struggle. As I refined my swimming technique, I realized my sinking legs tend to slow me down. I tried and I tried I couldn’t make it float, Teachers and friends keep on saying, just relax, allow your body to float, it seems unreal to them that one person doesn’t float as well as they do.

But as I started to learn to relax my swim, and doing open water swims, I realized that my legs sank less. As I taught others to swim, I began to see a pattern. Here are a few points I realized:

  • Most women float regardless if they were skinny or not
  • Most obese/overweight/fat people float.
  • Most runners have sinking legs
  • and in very rare occurences, ripped people, who have six packs? sink… like a rock… (regardless of how relax i tell them, or how much air they breath in and hold, they just sink slower)
  • the body interacts with the Pool water and Sea water differently. in general most people, if not all, float better in sea water.

So I have come to my own conclusions base on a few scientific facts.

  • Most women float, because in general they have higher body fat percentage then men. In general a healthy body fat percentage for a guy can go as low as 5% while a female will go as low as 15%.
  • Fat is less dense than water, so most people with more fat, will float better.
  • Most runners have more muscles than fat in their legs compared to people, in addition, runners experience a lot of impact in their legs, and in turn may cause their leg bones to be more dense than normal.
  • ripped people have low body fat percentage, as I understand it as low as 5%.
  • Sea water is more dense than pure water, of fresh water. therefore the body is more buoyant in sea water.

But I have learnt to accept my stature as a sinker. there are pros and cons.

  • Sinker
    • Pros
      • Can sink and dive
      • and due to that, have more control of movement in the water.
      • Still untested, the lack of buoyancy might mean that there is more inertial momentum (where is a physicist when you need one?)
      • generally sinking legs mean more muscle and more power, therefore they can actually propel themselves a lot faster.
    • Cons
      • Sink, I can actually sink effortlessly in the deep diving pool, I just need to breath out a few breaths. Thankfully for me, I still float in sea water (one of the fears I have, I have yet to ask my sinking students to try and tell me about it.
      • will use more energy to move upwards in addition to forwards
      • due to sinking legs, the forward motion is slowed down by the body’s profile which is less streamlined in the water.
  • Floater
    • Pros
      • can be easily relaxed in the water
      • they don’t have to try too hard to breath
      • most of their energy can be spent on moving forward rather than keeping them upward.
      • since their legs easily float, they can streamline in the water a lot easier. and can glide further without much effort.
    • Cons
      • they will find it difficult to sink or to dive
      • and relevent to that may find it more difficult to move around in the water
      • In worst cases, the body will float significantly making it difficult for the swimmer to balance and move in the water

When I teach people to swim, I actually assess first whether they are one or the other. It most cases for the sinkers, they will float (at least their head and chest) if they take in a deep breath and hold it in, and will start to sink when they let it out. A floater might even feel wrong for not being able to sink, as they can see their instructor (me) sinking to the floor, and they try to follow. Either can panic as they float or sink in the water. I share with them these facts and its pros and cons, and tell them they are who they are, and nothing can really change it in the short term. For now they just have to deal with it, and just use whatever is theirs to take advantage.

I don’t Recommend Using Kickboards



I don’t like kickboards

I… Don’t… Like… to use… Kickboards.

Granted… I have had used them before for myself and when I taught other people.

What are Kickboards? and why do people use them?

Kickboards are those flat floating devices that some people use to focus on kicking their legs in swimming.

Why don’t I like to use kickboards?

I am cheap, so using them would in general require for them to be bought.

I am lazy (or efficient as I like to put it), so I don’t want to carry things that I don’t have to, plus its a hassle.

But ultimately, I consider them as a handicap, especially for sinkers like me, (more on that soon), holding a kickboard puts the body in a significantly different body position than in actual swimming. So kicking while using it may differ in efficiency and effectiveness without it.

Why am I sharing this?

Partly just to express my thoughts and opinions, and the rest is to convince people they don’t need it in most cases, especially for beginners. I find that people who depend on kickboards to swim, tend to kick too hard and too fast, which tires them out, and discourages swimming, which might leave the learning swimmer negative thoughts about swimming.

Also, a student ask why I don’t teach swimming using them. So I share with them, I share with you.

What would I recommend?

for beginners, in a shallow pool, Just hold your breath and start to kick in the water, feel how the body position in the water and leg kicks work together to propel them forward. Floaters in general need to focus on their legs not being too high and splashing, while sinkers need to focus on pushing themselves upwards as well as forwards. In fact, I would also recommend everyone try and see how slow and relax they can kick and still move forward. One of the most common mistakes in kicking is thinking the faster your kick the faster you move, but in fact, it also depends on how you kick, it quite possible to kick the wrong way that the person sinks and even moves backwards.

What if you decide to still use kickboards?

Well, that is totally your choice, your choice to purchase one, and your choice to spend your time on it. And if you do, I would recommend to learn kicking without using it first, and later use the kickboard to train the legs to continuous kick, to build up a resistence to fatigue from kicking so much. But as my philosophy in swimming goes, It is better to do it slow and right first, before doing it fast.

Labuan Duathlon Challenge

Pre Race

I heard about the event from Iron Lady Wendy who joined the Open Water Swim Challenge in April. She suggested that I try it out. I registered for it a few weeks later.

In May or June, I found out a few runners were planning to do the duathlon as well, and they were just picking up cycling. So I trained with them a few times in cycling and a few brick runs.

In July, after the fasting month of Ramadhan, I picked up intermittent fasting, so I was training in the morning fasted, and training at night after break fast.

My wife was helpful in that she booked the accommodation based on the starting/finishing line. It turned out later that a few other competitors booked there as well.

The week before the event some of the others booked the ferry ticket. (I didn’t know we could do that). At first I didn’t care much, but as we reached 2 days before the event, I changed my mind  and booked an early ticket as well.

If I was by myself, I could have rode my bike to the hotel, next time either I am going by myself, or with other competitors, or my wife must have a bike as well. We were early there, so we had time to walk around to buy some stuff.

Race briefing

was suppose to be done at 5pm, good thing i decided to pick up my racepack around 4pm, and my buddies whatsapped in the group to share that the briefing was bumped upto 4pm. Among the changes in the rules were drafting was allowed, the route

Race Day

Event was 28 August 2016.

Scheduled Start time was 6:30am, we were required to be there by 5:30am. I left the hotel at 5:30am, which only took 5 mins bike ride. Set up my bike on the bike rack according to the bib numbers, and realized how packed it would be. Later, the bike racked actually collapsed, thankfully the other cyclists around was there to keep it up from collapsing completely. Upon inspection, the bike racks were already screwed hard together that the pipes were bent. Most likely the racks were overloaded. We stabilized the rack ourselves, but when I finished my first run, the volunteers were manually holding up the rack. Notes for the organizer, either fix this racks or avoid overloading them.

Actual starting time was  6:35am, I just followed the crowd, I didn’t realize until 1km later that my pace was 5min/km! decided to slow down a bit after that, but apparently I was still too fast. climbing uphill i decided to maintain, but now looking at my data, either my heart rate monitor got loose, or my heart rate went down, meaning i was taking it to easy. probably the latter, as it was going down hill at that point.

labuan duathlon challenge 2016 run1

I admit I slowed down before reaching the transition area. Wore my helmet and shoes and double checked before I rode off. I felt motivated to go fast, and overtook a few mountain bikes. (they must have been running very fast to be in front of me in the first place). and then a few people on roadbikes overtook me, and I realized that I can try to draft behind them instead. Since it was a draft allowed race. My first time being able to draft in  a race, I have to admit, I felt it was a lot easier to go faster, a few times that I felt it was too easy and tried to overtake the group, but I felt tired as soon as I tried to break away. I split and joined 4 different drafting groups. Either because I got left behind eventually, or at some point, I was able break away because I could easily climb a steep hill that they didn’t.

At some point, going down a hill and followed by a sharp turn to the right, I saw a friend who had fell down and at that point was getting back up. I was actually worried, and was thinking should I have stopped by? was she okay? Am I being selfish by just passing by to go for my personal best? Is this what it takes to be the best? ignoring other people? If it was a stranger I probably wouldn’t care, but this is a person I sometimes train with, someone that I know, someone that I <gulp>… care?  what if it was my wife? would I stop? most definitely! but why not a friend? The questions and discussion keep on popping up in my head. Especially when I passed by 2 of the friends that were accompanying her from the start, Marnie and Billah. Looking at my speed, I did significantly slow down after that turn, and only re-energized and focused after a difficult climb where I overtook a few people who couldn’t climb it, but later some of them overtook me again. Looking at that hill, the descent actually lowered my heart rate, I could have probably pushed a bit more, but I was out of gears, looks like I might need to invest in a better bike soon. I noticed according to endomondo, I was in an anaerobic state most of the time, either I need to reset the heart zone levels, or I was really there… didn’t feel like it thought, I thought I was doing peak aerobic, maybe under anaerobic level. But you know what the real kicker was? I was doing all this so far with no breakfast, and no sugar, I am still practicing my intermittent fast. If I was doing this anaerobically, where was I getting my energy? I am gonna research more on ketogenic diets and endurance sports and heart rates.

labuan duathlon challenge 2016 cycle

Getting off the bike, I was a bit weakened, demotivated, and started my run slow, might be the brick run effect, might be the questions popping up again, but after a few people I overtook on the bike overtook me back on this run, I speeded up a bit, but no where close to my 1st run. even the It was only after 2 things happened, Rizan Latiff was handing out energy drinks, isotonic and coke, and I took it up, and then on my way up to the mid point, I heard a heavy breathing of someone about to overtake me, and realized she was also doing barefoot! and then it hit me! this girl was panting! she is actually pushing it! my breathing was calm and relax, my heart rate was down. and at this point just about 3km left to go! I could push this, I could go fast again, and I did. When I heard my endomondo sounded off 1km left, I started to run fast again.

labuan duathlon challenge 2016 run2

Learning points

A few people I have met shared that they feel a mental challenge in doing endurance sports, but I don’t feel that I have that same mental challenge. I feel that given a slow pace, and no cut off time, and can go on almost indefinitely. But recently, I have been realizing, my mental challenges is not about going far, but it more on going fast. I have begun challenging that mental limit and have started again to feel the physical limits associated with it by trying to go faster than I usually go. Looking at the data of my performance, the mental challenges came up again. My second run, I should have pushed more, I was not physically tired, I was not panting, I was just mentally tired, I could have gone faster, but I told myself, I have done the first two legs of the race well, I can take this easy. It was only later I realize that I actually have the energy to go faster. I didn’t feel my legs were strained or stressed, I could have pushed it. Something I need to consider in my future training and events. So far I have mostly trained relaxed but far, I think it is time for me to train hard and fast.