October 22nd, 2015

The Cook Islands

DSC_3570We are just back from an amazing RealSwim Adventure week set in the clear and warm waters of the Cook Islands. It is an amazing trip and we aren’t just talking about the swimming. Read on to see the latest package and itinerary for our 2016 Cook Islands RealSwim Adventure.

Introducing our brand new Cook Islands RealSwim Adventures package. The Basics provides just that – $1500NZD gets you a week of swim guides, safety cover, event hosting for the week, charter boats, refreshments and nutrition while on the charter boats. For flights and accommodation you have the option of booking yourself or we can help  … we have partnered up with Destination Management Cook Islands, DMCK . With The Basics at the minimum all you have to do is turn up to our swim start time/location each day, or you can ask us via DMCK to an accommodation and flights package together for you.  The Basics gives you the most flexibility (arrive early / stay longer / flights and accommodation of your choice and Budget).

It’s not just about the swimming. Don’t get us wrong, the water is clear along with guaranteed warm weather makes for fantastic swim conditions. However the Cook Islands RealSwim  week is all about getting to know the real Cook Islands; friendly locals, fantastic lagoons, cultural dinner evenings, fire pit theme dinner, a multitude of other activities and we’ll always make sure you have time to simply lay in the sun, read a book and simply enjoy being in paradise.DSC_3555

Day 1 & 2

Our Cook Islands RealSwim starts on Sunday in Rarotonga. Our trip briefing and first intro swim in the Muri lagoon is on the Sunday. We can work with you if you need to arrive on the Monday morning arrival of the Air New Zealand LA – Rarotonga flight. Our Sunday and Monday swims are all conducted in the beautiful Muri Lagoon. Dinner on Sunday night is at the Muri night markets where food stalls provide an exciting array of local cuisine

Day 3

Day three Tuesday starts with the locally famous ‘Boiler swim’. After lunch we fly 50 minutes to Aitutaki. With The Basics responsible for booking your flights to Aitutaki (Tues afternoon) and out of Aitutaki (Saturday afternoon). This is not covered in the trip price. We recommend you contact our Cook Islands partners , Destination Management Cook Islands by e-mail events@dmck.co.ck for assistance with connecting flights. You can book all flights direct with Air New Zealand. Accommodation in Aitutaki is also your responsibility with The Basics option. We recommend accommodation at or in proximity to Aitutaki Lagoon Resort or Aitutaki Village or Rangis.


Day 4

Starts with the exciting ‘source’ swim in the channel of One Foot Island and is followed with a lunch on a remote ‘Motu’ (Island). The afternoon you swim off the beach on the amazing white sands. The evening meals on our RealSwim are ‘pay as you go’ and gives you the chance to choose. The guides will organise a meal each evening and those want to attend are most welcome.

Day 5

For this exciting swim we venture into the rich almost purple waters of the outer reef. Sometimes scary, exciting and beautiful. Not to be missed. We’ll have lunch with Trina and Steve at their lovely Koru Café and a free afternoon to rest, lounge, sunbathe or rent a motor scooter and explore Aitutaki.

Day 6

This is the big one – Island to Island swim which is 4-5km depending on how straight you swim  Followed by an amazing picnic lunch on One Foot Island and then a short Motu to Motu afternoon swim . We head back to the hotel to get ready for our final night and an exciting dining experience. In the evening we celebrate our week with a fire pit dinner at the local Toa Moana oe vaka club.

Day 7

Provides the opportunity to refine technique and learn more about your stroke and open water swim skills as we round out the week with some coaching in one of the channels of the Samade loop.  The guides will book a location for a lunch which you can choose to attend as a final farewell. The evening flight for LA leaves late from Rarotonga. Of course many of you will want to stay on and enjoy some more beach time. Aituktai and Rarotonga provide more than enough opportunity to fulfill a relaxing post RealSwim holiday option.


Next Cook Island
RealSwim Adventures

April 17 – 23, 2016  
Spaces remaining

Oct 9 – 15, 2016  
Spaces remaining

E-mail – info@fitandabel.com


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September 2nd, 2015

Ruths Story

Ruth on the right

Ruth on the right

Swimming, and swimming outdoors in particular, gives me a wonderful feeling of wellbeing in mind and body.  Coming to the Lido, either for Rio training squad sessions or a lesson with Dan is time out of life, a little window of relaxation where nothing is more important than working on your stroke or your breathing.  That’s not to say that swimming doesn’t come with its own trials and tribulations.  Learning to swim (again) as an adult has been hard work.  An hour of concentrating on my ‘elbow driven recovery’ demands considerable effort, both mental and physical, and the learning curve never seems to level off any.  Some lessons I learnt the hard way.  I rather rashly signed up to do my first open water swim, a 3k event in early July, without realistically considering either how a rather sedentary winter had impacted on my fitness or quite how different the open water experience would be from pool swimming.  Early in the race I started to panic and to struggle with my navigation, the next marker buoy always seemed to be a million miles away.  My pacing went awry, I blew what Dan would call my ‘fou fou valve’ and had to get out after completing only half the course.  I was distraught – frustrated and embarrassed by my ‘DNF’.  it was such a thoroughly miserable experience that I started to wonder if I even liked swimming, but I was nonetheless determined to do better next time, and to be properly prepared.  After five more weeks of getting fit and having a laugh with the group, and lots of one-on-one physical and psychological coaching from Dan, I was ready to go for my next event.  This time I completed the course with ease, feeling relaxed and enjoying myself.  My time didn’t break any records, but I swam the swim I set out to do and was thrilled with my achievement.

I initially chose swimming partly because it was a sport I could do on my own, but one of the unexpected benefits of coming to the Rio Squad sessions is the wonderfully friendly and supportive community I have found myself a part of at the Lido.  Being an active member of this group and joining in the fun give me the motivation to drag myself out of bed at 5.30 in the morning to brave the great British summer weather and a sometimes chilly (sorry, ‘invigorating’) pool.  The amazing athletes I share the water with sometimes leave me awestruck and painfully aware of my own limitations, but their good company and Dan’s fantastic teaching always leave me feeling encouraged and inspired. And where else can you find ladders called Kevin and enough tasty cake to keep even Mary Berry happy?  The Rio Squad might have soggy bottoms but their baking doesn’t.



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August 19th, 2015

I Swim Because …


Some thoughts on swimming, written by members of the Rio Talent Squad…

Tooting Bec Lido. Londons Oasis.

Tooting Bec Lido. Londons Oasis.


“I’ll be honest, I don’t like swimming. This may sound odd as a member of Dan’s sessions but I’ve never been a big fan and didn’t go in a pool for 18 years before I started swimming with Dan. Getting up at 6.00am every Tuesday and Thursday might not seem like fun but when I decided to not swim in 2014 there was a massive gap in my summer. Tooting Bec Lido is an incredible pool which at times feels almost otherworldly (the strangest occasion was when I was the only person in this vast space and poolside there was a folk band playing beneath a gazebo and a woman skipping around the pool). When you put the lido together with Dan it transforms. Dan’s sessions are hard but fun and funny and he may often confuse people with his strange terms and funny accent but they make me get out of bed and feel great at that end of each session and for the rest of the day. Who needs more motivation than that? Even on my off days when I’m not swimming well it’s still a great place to be as the sun comes up and you’re under open blue skies. The Rio Talent Squad is a great bunch with mixed abilities and Dan makes it work. The cake is also a great addition although the quizzes have been missed this year. The lido is great to swim in, by yourself or with others, and I won’t go in an indoor pool because it’s just not the same. South London is lucky to have such an amazing facility and who can believe it’s 109 years old?” Mark M


“With Rio less than 12 months away ‘Swim Club 15’ is the last chance saloon for selection! Best way to start a day with a rousing swim, a bit of banter and the occasional slice of cake.  Rio ’16 has set me up for my two long swims of the season with a great Bridge to Bridge under my belt (or drawstring on my trunks) and a 10 miler down in Devon as a finale to the season.  The easiest and most enjoyable way to keep in shape over the summer and the ideal way to set up your day.” Richard K


It makes me feel alive”. Sue R


“ Summer sun shines through Rippled water, fresh and cool. I smile and swim on”. Stu W

Emma + Cake

Emma + Cake

 “I swim because I eat cake”  Emma


Getting mildly hypothermic and warming up on the bike on the way to work. A great way to start the day!” Chris 


Strip/Stretch/Scary Dan/Submerge/Suspend /Stroke/Shiver/Sprint/Scull/Shiver/Snozzle/Swallow/Struggle/Sink/Shiver/Streamline/Share/SMILE/Sod it/Just swim. Pip


I have never been happier this summer than when Ive been having a giggle in freezing cold water at one end or the other. Nicola




“The water demands swimmers.  The swimmers need a coach.  Add 1 cone of speed, 1 blue clock, 2 black lines, 1 unforgiving laser beam and 91.5m of cool water.  Mix well with a happy diversity of swimmers, some wetsuits removed, and add a pinch of lane discipline. Combine with a generous dollop of learning, laughter, enthusiasm and encouragement.  Sprinkle with sunshine and garnish with a touch of kiwi inspired magic.  Best served chilled during the summer months.  For me the recipe was the springboard into open water this season (think more fish out of water than the ease and streamlined movement of an otter).  A taste of joy (or was that a taste of lake!?).  Truly inspired!! “ Karen W

 “Another summer is soon ending, which also mean the countdown for my next group session will begging. Next June seems so far away! (well this was what happened for the last few years. Sadly I won’t be living in London anymore by next term)I used to be a runner and kept injuring myself until a feet surgery where I had to rest for few months. This is when I felt no choice to start swimming. Believe me I never liked the idea of doing lane swimming and found that very boring at the start. That was until I found the FitandAbel fitness group session at Tooting Bec Lido. I got hooked from session 1 and have never had so much fun training. This year I join the early bird group for the 6:10am session, people think I am crazy, I do to when I hear my alarm going off but after 2 minutes being in the water it always feels the right choice and the day feels lighter and I have much more energy after.Fun, laugh, friendship, outdoor fresh air, no more injuries since I learn to swim properly, cakes, I love my group training! What am I going to do in Montreal ? I will think about everything I have learn when I will go back to swim in our lakes. Thank you! Will miss you all next year.” Roxanne

“I swim because swimming makes me a better and happier person, and because it puts me amongst the best, kindest, bravest, finest, loveliest bunch of people you could ever wish to meet.” Barbara


 Thank you to all the amazing swimmers of the Rio Talent Squad / Tooting Bec Lido


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July 16th, 2015

Moving to the Dark Side

Leigh Davidson pictured also says "Thumbs up for the wetsuit"

Leigh Davidson pictured also says “Thumbs up for the wetsuit”

Nancy Shaw is a regular Tooting Bec Lido swimmer who has just been through a very thorough process in purchasing a wetsuit. She’s made a lot of good decisions on the way and learnt some good lessons. I asked Nancy if she would kindly share her wetsuit journey with our readers. Thank you Nancy. Ed

I am an Open Water Swimmer (plus many other things), I have swam competitively since age 5 (that’s 30 years ), pretty much all that time has been without a wetsuit apart from 3 years when I competed in triathlons at University. I have been a member of South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido for 10 years and have never worn a wetsuit in the Lido… until recently

I am training for a 7 mile lake swim quite early in the season (July 18th).  My 6am swims at the Lido started on the 3rd May – it was pretty ‘fresh’ many days and I struggled to build up my mileage, I started getting jealous when I saw swimmers in wetsuits enjoying their swims, coming out looking comparatively warm to me, swimming longer, being faster – I was jealous and frustrated that I couldn’t get my mileage up. After a few weeks I decided to explore the idea of investing in a wetsuit, I emailed Dan Abel, he had a very helpful response:

“The key is getting a wetsuit that is best for you not the best wetsuit if that make sense. I recommend trying Ocean Leisure near Waterloo as they have a good range. We all want a nice comfy wetsuit that doesn’t impact too much on shoulder flexibility or impinge the neck. The only way to know for sure is to try them on. Try the Huub Aura 3:3 women’s suit:


My research started; google searches, wiggle reviews, various wetsuit manufacturer website exploring particularly their technical data, triathlon and H2O magazine reviews, asking wetsuit-wearers at the Lido – some were very forthcoming answering my questions – thank you to them! A week of research I knew what I wanted to try on. I chose Sigma Sport shop in Kingston as I knew they had an option to try in a lake before you buy, wetsuit’s can be a big investment so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the right one for me. Sigma Sport have specially trained wetsuit fitting staff, I turned up with my swimsuit and got fitting. I tried on the Huub Aura 3:3, Orca Sonar, 2XU Z1 and Zone 3 Aspire – all ladies suits which is fantastic range to choose from all varying prices too and they had many more. The Zone 3 Aspire felt the best fit for me,  I asked them if they could bring a Large (which felt more comfortable on) and a medium to Shepperton Lake for me to try on in the water.

Saturday morning came, at Shepperton Lake, I paid my £10 deposit (refundable if you buy a suit) put on the Zone 3 Aspire wetsuit Large and off I went. Within swimming 200m I knew it was far too big. I did a lap (750m), go out & swapped it for an Orca Sonar Large, again too big, water was billowing all around my upper body, it was such a drag, I then tried on a Huub – too tight on my neck, finally I went for the Zone 3 Aspire medium – this fitted perfectly but I wasn’t convinced, did I ‘REALLY’ need a wetsuit? So I did a lap without…oh my goodness, I nearly drowned, amazingly I had already got used to the buoyancy that the wetsuit provided and I found it really hard to move my arms – it was a very odd feeling, by the end of the lap I starting to feel cold. I realised that if I wanted to do this 7mile swim well and comfortably I needed the Zone 3 Aspire wetsuit – I got out and bought it!


Dan Abel and Sigma Sport have been a huge support , enabling me to buy a wetsuit that fits well and enhances my swimming performance. This is an email I sent to Dan after my first training session at the Lido in my wetsuit:

“We had training last night at the lido, at the end of the session I swam a 300yd time trial to see how fast I could swim wearing my new wetsuit! On Sunday I swam flat out, managing 3:50, I was nearly sick at the end…last night after 50mins training in the suit, I managed 3:24 – a whole 26 seconds faster over 300yds, that’s almost 9 seconds a length/100yds – that is nuts! I went fast but wasn’t feeling sick at the end so I think I had a little more in me!…I cannot believe it, cannot believe it. So I now need to build how long I can wear a wetsuit for, it was hard for 1hour last night..”

Last weekend I swam the 3.8km Seahorse race in my wetsuit, I did it in 51:08, coming 3rd overall, 1st women and 7mins ahead of Brian Daly who normally would beat me – so the wetsuit is a great swimming aid! It keeps you lovely and warm, buoyant and saves years of training to reduce your times (OK that is cheating, but how else could you legally drop 26seconds over 1 week?)! The only issue I have had is that I didn’t grease up enough around my neck, sadly my neck got ripped to shreds in the salty sea water from the friction caused by the wetsuit. I had a pretty awful few days after, it has taken a week to repair…just in time for my 7miles this Saturday…watch this space!

Nancy Shaw


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June 8th, 2015

Cool Swim ‘Stuff’

In the north … summer is upon us. In the south you will need dreams of Fun Swims to get you through the winter months. Wherever you are we’ve compiled a little list of ‘cool swim stuff’ that we love and we think you may too:


AloeUp Sunscreen

AloeUp – It’s a sunscreen but it doesn’t feel like it. Any true open water swimmer knows the value of a good sunscreen and the importance getting it on at least 20 minutes prior to swimming. Ever have that feeling like your just putting chemical laced concoction on your skin? Try Aloe Up in the UK or New Zealand  . This is a sun screen we actually feel good about putting on our bodies. Its waterproof, doesn’t sting the eyes and the high Aloe content … well your skin feels just great – like you’re moisturising and protecting!


Predator – All New Titanium

Zoggs Predator Flex Titanium Reactor Goggles – Zoggs latest and greatest in the Predator range. We believe this is the most popular goggle of open water swimmers. It’s design seems to fit the greatest range of face shapes  and the unique ‘photochromic lense’ means it’s a goggle for all occasions cloud or sunshine. Available in New Zealand from July 2015.

The Garmin Foreunner 920XT – the latest in this Garmin range. It’s a more ‘wearable’ watch. Not quite a fashion statement but unlike previous models at least you don’t feel like you’re strapping a brick to your wrist! It’s easy to use, has open water swim (GPS feed) or pool (Non GPS inertial measurement) options. A nice clean display screen. Plenty of swim stats for the techs amongst us plus the important basics , distance time and speed. Most important is the massive battery life even while the GPS function is active.

Garmin 920XT

Garmin 920XT

PURE Sport Nutrition –  We love the stuff. Why? Its tastes good ! But of course there is a whole lot more ; No nasty aftertaste, natural fruit, no colour or preservatives, no lab made flavours  (you can read all of this on their website and it’s all True!). Already available in many places around the globe including the UK and New Zealand . Their electrotlye hydration range is available now. The Endurance Hydration range is available from July 2015. We tested it in January at the Epic Epic swim in Lake Taupo (17.5km) ~ we are pleased this product is now coming to market. If you’ve had stomach upset issues with feeding we recommend you give the PURE range a try. Pure-Pineapple-500g-350x350

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May 3rd, 2015

The Case

DSC_7031One of the most regular expressions we use when coaching is  “the fastest way to the finish line is a straight line and it is also one of the hardest things to do in the open water. It’s certainly a lot easier to achieve if you can see where you are going”  This is going to sound simplistic however, so many get it wrong; an appropriate set of goggles that gives you quality clear vision are a vital component of straight line open water swimming. As part of a normal progression in open water swimming a person will naturally figure out (by advice and trial and error) what the right goggles are for them. If you haven’t yet found the right goggle for you we recommend reviewing the  Athletes Goggle Guide.  Once you have found the right goggles LOOK AFTER THEM. No matter what the quality and or cost of the goggle you choose as soon as they are scratched they are going to significantly decrease your swim enjoyment and ability to see where you are going. What is going to scratch your goggles? Most common is finger nails when rubbing out the fog (use an anti fog spray instead) or leaving your goggles unprotected in your swim bag. If your goggles come in a case when you purchase them, keep them in your case when not using them. This sounds cheesy but it makes sense … ‘if they are not on your face they are in the case’ . If your favourite goggles don’t come with a case Zoggs manufacture this cool case which you can

The Zoggs goggle case

The Zoggs goggle case

purchase on its own for approximately NZD$14 or GBP£7. It’s a small price to pay to ensure your favourite goggles last a good period of time and continue to provide fantastic vision. It’s so simple yet so often over looked … once you have your favourite goggles look after them… … ‘if they are not on your face they are in the case’. 

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