Breathing is Overrated #SwimTechTues

Breathing creates havoc while you are swimming. Thats where the blog post comes from! However breathing is reasonably important to survival, let alone performance, so we need to look at the effect that the action has – and how we can minimise the effect on the body’s travels through the water.

breathing while swimming

 

Have you ever tried swimming without breathing? This is something I get the majority of my clients doing; regardless of the level of swimmer, novice or experienced, slow or fast. Keeping your head down gives you the opportunity to keep everything simple, stable and controlled. It should give you the chance to slow your stroke down and make it as efficient as possible. If you get the opportunity to, swim in the middle of the lane and focus on the line on the bottom of the pool. As you get more used to doing this, you can relax more. This will hopefully allow you to feel the speed that you are carrying, and that you are using both sides of your body evenly (arms/hips/legs).

[Tweet “Your breath should be a part of your stroke, your stroke shouldn’t change”]

Clearly, while this has great benefits and is a really good way to work on keeping a balanced and even stroke, you cannot swim a 400/750/1500m + swim without breathing. So as part of technical or aerobic swim sets you can do lengths breathing every 5 strokes, 7 strokes, or even 9 if you need a bit of challenge!

Alternatively, to practise keeping your head still and getting that rotation around a single axis, you can always look at using a snorkel. Swimming with a snorkel allows you to swim without moving your head to breathe. You can watch your hands coming down under the centre of your body. Beware though, don’t become reliant on your snorkel for all your swims though, otherwise you won’t be able to hold your breath comfortably when you are swimming normally and racing!

Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Free Up Those Hips #RunFormFriday

 

Running from the hips

We’ve talked a lot over the last couple of years about how posture is key to a strong, stable and fast run (and swim and bike!). To have good posture, you require a strong “core”.  If the core isn’t strong enough to do the job, it will change position and try to use something else to provide the stability it needs. This typically means the hips, hamstring and mid back become tense to try to give some stability to the area. Those chronically tight hip flexors? Yep, they attach to the spine, and if you’ve got a sloppy set of abs you’ll get your hip flexors trying to hold your spine together and they’ll stay tight as a drumskin for as long as they need to give up that stability.

Think of it this way.

The spine with a weak core is like some guy who can’t get any attention from the ladies at the bar, and as a result, needs a wing man to close the deal. He’s got himself dressed up, a thick layer of Lynx Body Spray on, but still can’t get the job done on his own, so in order to seal the deal, he needs someone else at the wheel.

That’s really the great thing about the body, no matter what happens, it will always find a way. We’ve all seen someone who limps, hitches, sticks their bum out, or leans over at the hips, and we think “that can’t be comfortable,” but they are all ways to reduce strain on some part of the body and get the individual to feel the least amount of pain and be the most efficient possible, even if it’s not ideal.

Compensations are an efficient, less painful way of getting the job done.

Now if we look at the hip specifically, we see no reason whatsoever that it should be restricted and less than mobile, at least from a structural perspective. It’s a very open ball and socket joint and can go through a huge range of motion before it gets to an actual end-range due to bony contact or capsular ending.

Pelvis and Hip Joint

The ease of motion is aided further by synovial fluid to reduce friction, thick cartillagenous lining, a strong but flexible labrum, and positioning on the side of the pelvis to allow the greatest range of motion through multiple planes of movement compared to if it were simply in a hinge formation like the knee or elbow.

 

So how do our hips affect our running?

As we run, from the moment our standing foot begins to pass under our body, the overall goal is to create optimal forward propulsion (and some upwards displacement). This propulsion is created by us effectively pushing the ground away beneath and behind our forward moving centre of mass. We can clearly see great examples of this propulsive extension pattern in many elite distance runners. Where running pace is governed largely by the combination of stride length and stride frequency (running cadence), it’s clear that the ability to extend well through the hips in the propulsive phase is a vital key to developing running speed and efficiency. Remember the length of our strides should come from the leg extending behind us rather than reaching out in front. If the hips are tight, then the likelyhood is that the pelvis will get pulled out of its optimal, stable position, so many of it’s attaching muscles are subsequently positioned in a disadvantaged position, and cannot effectively fulfill their role.

Tight hips

This means at best, if a runner lacks Hip Extension, they won’t be able to increase stride length enough to realise their true potential pace while remaining efficient. However, when it comes to movement, we humans have a remarkable ability to cheat and find ways to “get the job done” – as mentioned above.

 

How to mobilise your hips

The muscles of the hip that resist majority of motion are primarily found on the outside/front of the hip. These muscles play a key role in providing stability to the spine along with other parts of the core. This is where the side plank comes in. It can help to stimulate these muscles and force them to work together to help stabilize the spine in a position that doesn’t allow compensation, and therefore can re-set the hip and core to allow the hip to move properly. Throw a leg raise in there and you have some great stability and strength.

A good front plank should make your glutes incredibly tired from forcibly making them contract so that your hip flexors stretch and the abs bite down harder.

Hopefully this will allow you to get a higher and easier knee lift, and also leg extension to your running stride. This in combination with the other drills and comments we’ve made over the last year should go some way to giving your run more power, more speed and more stability.

The proof is always in the pudding. If you do something with a specific goal in mind, what you are doing should be able to tangibly move you closer to achieving that goal, and if it doesn’t you’re barking up the wrong tree. Give this a try, and let me know if it works for you

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Dreaded Kick Sets #SwimTechTues

Do you have “runner’s kick”? Lots of triathletes do! And it’s not a good thing, if you want to get better in your swim.

Can you point your toes and straighten out your feet? When you kick on your back or with a float, do you tend to go very slow, stay in one place, or even go backwards? Do you have a tough time with swimming drills because your kick is not propelling you forward fast enough, or even worse, dragging you down?

Do you wear fins in workouts just to “keep up”?

Did you start out as a runner and pick up swimming later to become a Triathlete?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may have Runner’s Kick! Have no fear, there are things you can do. Even the worst of kickers can develop an adequate kick for freestyle, which is all you need for a triathlon swim.

Runners kick

Here are some remedies:

Arms By Your Sides

I’m a big fan of physical feedback, something that reminds you, cues you in to what you need to do. Try this when standing: press your right thumb into the side of your glutes, then swing your right leg back and forward from the hip. Hopefully you should feel the muscle engage and tense. Now bend your right knee and flick your foot back and forth, hopefully your glute will go soft. That tension through your glutes is what you want to feel; a sign that you are kicking from your hips (and not from the knee). Try kicking face down with your thumbs pressed into your backside as a reminder for 25m. Alternatively you could do side kick, with the top arm/thumb providing your feedback.

Vertical Kick

Find water that is deep enough for you to kick in place. Let go of the wall, cross your arms, and kick in place in a vertical position (keep in a straight line), pointing your toes and keeping your chin above the surface of the water. Get your power from your quads and hips on this drill. Try 20 seconds at a time. If you’re already a strong kicker, lift your hands out of the water. If that is easy, go streamlined!

Use Fins

Yes! I am a coach telling you to use fins. But not to”keep up” in workouts. Use fins for a few weeks, but wean off them as you get closer to your event. The shorter kind are the only ones worth using. I prefer Zoomers but other brands may work okay as well. Fins can increase your ankle flexibility, allow you to do swimming drills with ease, and strengthen the right leg muscles you need to kick.

Increase Ankle Mobility

Sit on your feet. For more severe cases of Runner’s Kick, sitting on your feet can greatly improve your ankle flexibility. In Yoga, just stay in “Child’s Pose” a little longer and gain this extra benefit. Or just generally stretch. In a seated position, take one leg and bring it out in front of you. Extend your feet and push your toes toward the ground. Hold for about 15-20 seconds, repeat with other foot. You can do this several times a day.

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to use a kick board to improve your kick. When you already have a poor kick, something like a float will ruin your body position in the water and make life harder for you – either dumping your hips low in the water or forcing you to bend your knees which is what we don’t want!

Kickboards don't improve kick, they ruin body shape - encouraging bad habits! #SwimSmart Click To Tweet

Do I Need To Improve My Kick?

Remember: You don’t need a super kick to have a great race in a triathlon. Your kick is mainly for stability and body rotation, or small accelerations. A good strong, stable kick will aid good body position, and take pressure off your shoulders. My old coach used to tell me that 40% of your sessions should be kick! (Admittedly I was swimming 20+ hours a week, and over 75k most weeks!) The reasoning for this is that your legs use around 70-80% of your oxygen, but only provide up to 30% of your propulsion. In the same way that you do more cycling and running to improve their efficiency, you should do at least some kick drills to improve your kicking. I’d recommend around 5-10% to most triathletes of your average swim volume. In a 2k swim set, that equates around 200m. Not much at all, especially in a warm up or cool down.

Keep your legs long and relaxed.

Have patience, stick with these drills, and you will lose your Runners’ Kick before you know it!

Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!