Freestyling with Eva Fridman, swim coach and lover of the open water
By Nancy Heslin
Eva Fridman’s introduction to swimrun in 2012 was a tad brutal. She DNFed when her male teammate collapsed. The next year, having learned how to properly swim freestyle, she won the Women’s category at 2013 Öloppet, and has since done a bunch of swimrun races, including ÖTILLÖ 2014 and 2015.
“I like the combination of running and swimming, and the freedom of not being stopped by either water or land,” Eva tells SLM. “And competing in teams means you learn a lot about yourself as well as others. No swimrun partner is alike and that’s also a challenge that I love about the sport.”
As a child Eva developed asthma, which by the time she reached her teens led her to give up sports. “Medicine in those days wasn’t like today. In fact, it wasn’t until I started studying to become a physical therapist that I understood asthma shouldn’t be an obstacle for sports.”
Eva started running and “has not stopped since”. And even though she grew up in Gothenburg, on Sweden’s West Coast, where she developed the “greatest respect for nature”, it was only a few years ago that she learned to freestyle swim, thanks to Olympic swimmer Anna-Karin Lundin.
Anna-Karin is the founder of Simcoachen, which provides high-quality swim coaching for all levels, from beginners to advanced, across Sweden. And judging from Simcoachen’s Instagram, she has very content students.
“I started as her pupil and was then was asked to become a coach,” Eva explains, adding she has weekly groups in Valhallabadet, Gothenburg.
Simcoachen’s technology and tactic
Part of Simcoachen methodology is to provide video feedback. “Most swimmers have NO IDEA of how they actually swim versus how they imagine they are swimming. So filming underwater is a great tool for us at Simcoachen, or for any swim coach, to observe balance, rotation and streamline in more detail. Also, you see how to improve the catch and get a better understanding of the complex technique of swimming.”
Eva says that a common swimming mistake is the lack of support in the front quadrant and poor timing of the stroke, which throws of your balance. This then affects your breathing and your legs – in other words your whole stroke – and wastes energy as you create more drag.
Another point she emphasises is that many people have weak core muscles and bad posture from sitting in front of a computer all day. “One aspect that I emphasise with all my swimmers is that you have to do your homework on land as well as in the water if you want to achieve your goals. There is no quick fix.”
Open water swimming tips
“I love swimming outdoors,” she gushes. “Water is my element. I swim long into October, even when the temperature drops to 10°C, because being embraced by the cold water is very special – you feel alive and are completely in the moment. And the freedom of being able to swim across a lake or to an island in the sea is one of my favourite things.”
For those who are wary of the open water, Eva suggests taking an open water swimming course to get specific tips, support and help from a coach, and if that’s not possible, to use a friend who can either swim with you, sit nearby or maybe accompany you on a Stand Up Paddleboard.
“Swim in shallow waters to begin with so that you can stand up if you get tired or afraid,” Eva, who admits learning to swim an adult is challenging, recommends. “Always bring a safety buoy with you so that people can see you and that you can rest hanging onto it.
“Concentrate on exhaling – this goes for indoor swimming as well – make bubbles or talk or count under water. Retaining air by not exhaling properly leads to too much carbon dioxide in your lungs and triggers a reflex that increases your heart rate and causes hyperventilation. So whenever you feel short of breath when swimming think of EXHALING instead of inhaling. I know it sounds strange but it’s true that if you exhale properly you can inhale properly. It’s as simple as that.”
To become good at swimrunning, however, Eva stresses it’s not just a question of being able to swim or run. “You need to train for the transitions to get your body used to running immediately after swimming and vice versa.”
Women as role models
We talk about what makes a woman strong. “I think that a strong woman is a someone that is confident at all levels in life, not just training or being good at your sport. A strong woman supports other women and sees them as peers not as competition or someone to envy.”
When Eva took up swimrunning in 2012, there were few women on the course but she now sees more and more women trying the sport and “that makes me happy”.
“I think that good role models in the sport are key to encouraging other women, as well as shorter competitions so they can give it a try. Also giving women in swimrun – not just men – their moment in the spotlight is essential. Already I see a change in this sport for the better.”
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #6 (March 2018)