Freestyle Recovery – Lift From The Elbows #SwimTechTues

Freestyle Recovery

Watching top swimmers, they predominantly have one of two types of freestyle recovery. Either high elbow – the classical style mostly taught, or with a straight arm recovery.

As mentioned last week, your recovery doesn’t do a lot for making you quicker – all that power comes from work done under the water. However what goes on above the water CAN waste a lot of energy. The more effort that you expend over the water, the less force and energy you can exert levering the body forward. Your arms also dictate the direction that you are heading, so if they are sending you off in another direction, due to a less than optimal freestyle recovery, then you will be wasting large amounts of energy.

Every aspect of the swimmer in the video’s stroke is designed to send him forward in a direct line. His freestyle recovery is no exception. Roland uses a high-elbow recovery that keeps his hands and arms close to the body as they move forward. The hand is relaxed and low, and travels directly forward rather than swinging out and around, or up and over.

When slowed down for a closer look, notice that the first thing out of the water is the elbow. Roland lifts with the elbow and keeps the elbow higher than the hand, all the way through the recovery. The pulling hand finishes in full extension, but then relaxes as the elbow takes over.

From under water, you can see that when one shoulder lifts and clears the water, it enhances the overall rotation of the torso and hips.  As Roland swims directly toward the camera, notice how small a surface area he presents to the water. By lifting with the shoulder, he presents only one shoulder and his head to the water. This reduces his frontal resistance and makes him more rocket-like in the water.

It’s best to focus first on lifting the elbow to initiate the recovery. This will give you a clean line, a relaxed recovery, and natural rotation. By lifting from the elbow, the arm can be very much more relaxed and come through straight from hips to out in front. A more tense – and as a result outward singing arm – will encourage the body to swing from side to side.

Freestyle Recovery

This should help you go much further for each individual stroke, with less effort – and hopefully faster! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

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

Heel Pick Up #RunFormFriday

One of the technique cues that runners sometimes struggle to master at first when changing their technique is the “Heel Pull”.

Heel pull running

Jeff Grant of Hillseeker Fitness has shared a great drill for mastering the “Heel Pull” in the short video below.


Successfully learning to pick the foot up under the hip engages the Hamstrings during early-to-mid swing phase, and offloads the work of the Hip Flexors to pull the swing leg through under the body, on to the next stride.

A common flaw in many runners is to run with a Hip Flexor dominant (knee drive orientated) swing phase. In particular resulting in overactivity in the Hip Flexors (specifically Rectus Femoris), tightness in the ITB (sometimes) and altered pelvic posture (almost always).

Learning to use the Hamstrings to contribute more in the swing phase, by picking (or “Pulling”) the heel up under the body, rather than overly relying on the Hip Flexors, creates a more balanced and efficient distribution of the effort around the hip and knee, especially given the strong and powerful nature of the Hamstrings as a muscle group – they are positioned and aligned to be powerful, prime movers.

A signature feature of POSE Technique is the specific focus on getting the Hamstrings working in this way. However we find that many athletes over-do this cue, with counterproductive results, as they start flicking their legs back in an effort to force the movement.

This drill will help to keep the heel pull movement under the body as desired, rather than becoming more of a flick.



When we speak about proper running form, we look to encourage muscle balance around the hips and pelvis in particular, combined with good posture, staying “long” rather than “sitting back”. Getting the Hamstrings engaging during the swing phase helps to achieve these two goals specifically by sharing the effort with the Hip Flexors, and keeping the whole leg motion neatly under the body (rather than over striding.

We are not POSE Technique coaches.

** Proper running technique is not “one size fits all” **

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. 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!

The Elbow Nudge – High elbows #SwimTechTues

The Elbow Nudge – High elbows #SwimTechTues

Swimming with high elbows is a common technical refrain – but what part of the stroke are people talking about? The bit over the water (recovery)? Or the bit under the water? The bit that the majority of people focus on is what is going on over the water, the bit that looks pretty and relaxed. But while this can help you stay relaxed and maintain a good direction, this isn’t going to propel you forward any faster. Where high elbows are really important is securing pressure UNDER the water to give you good leverage.

High elbows


With the pictures above, in the first you can see that the elbow is getting lower and lower so that the forearm is remaining horizontal – parallel to the surface of the water. As a result any pressure on the water is in a “pulling” motion from the shoulder, with very little power. My swimmers will be familiar with me referring to this as T-Rex arms!

high elbows

If your hands are level with or above your elbows, then you end up clawing at the water rather than pressing it back.

What we really want to do is gain pressure with the forearm as well as the hand on the water. This allows us to get the lats involved in the back – which are far bigger and stronger than the shoulder muscles. These muscles are the reason that Olympic swimmers are triangular shaped, so not just relying on the shoulders. You may have heard the term reaching over the barrel.

[Tweet “Thinking about high elbows under water could easily be thought of as WIDE elbows #FormBeforeFitness”]


High Elbows (Or Wide Elbows) – How To Do It

When you are swimming along with your arm stretched forward, think about giving someone a gentle nudge out to your side. I suggest to athletes that they think about just attracting someone’s attention, or moving a snoring partner – something to focus the mind. The reason for this is simple. When your arm is stretched forward, the elbow joint won’t allow you to move your forearm down to get it vertical. As a result the tendency is to push the hand lower and lower (see the first picture). If you can just move your elbow out to the side a fraction, the resulting movement is that the forearm can push down  like in the picture below.

high elbow

Getting your elbows high and wide allows you to engage the water with your forearms and “catch” the water


As you can see, between pictures 1 and 2, the elbow moves further outward allowing the hand/forearm to push downward. From here you have a far bigger paddle/lever to work with; and can press the water back all the way past your hips. Remember, you are not trying to break someone’s nose or ribs with that nudge, keep it controlled!

This should help you go much further for each individual stroke, with less effort – and hopefully faster! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

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


Running Hydration #RunFormFriday

People are not well designed to deal with heat or limited water. While we can survive for as long as a month in a moderate climate without food, we would struggle to stay alive for longer than two days in desert conditions without water. After oxygen, water is a close second on the list of essentials for life. Water makes up 60 per cent of your total body weight and performs many crucial functions, including nourishing cells; carrying food through the body; eliminating waste; regulating body temperature; cushioning and lubricating joints; and maintaining blood volume and pressure.

Every day we lose fluid by sweating, breathing and urinating. It’s the sweating in particular that runners need to pay attention to because as soon as you start to run, you start to dehydrate. About 75 per cent of the energy you put into exercise is converted into heat, and is then lost. This is why exercise makes you feel warmer. Extra heat has to be dissipated to keep your core body temperature within safe limits – around 37-38°C. Your body keeps cool by sweating, which makes the replacement of fluids crucial. Fail to consume enough fluid and your blood will thicken, reducing your heart’s efficiency, increasing your heart rate and raising your body temperature.

Running Hydration

Dehydration is normal

A one per cent loss in body weight from dehydration can significantly diminish the performance of some individuals. It’s important to limit dehydration as you run, but you must also be aware of drinking too much.

Ultra-distance runner, Professor Tim Noakes, author of The Lore of Running and leading researcher at the University of Cape Town, is worried that runners are following out-dated hydration plans: “The reason why athletes drink too much is almost certainly due to hysteria attached to the supposed dangers that dehydration poses to athletes and to the belief that fatigue is caused by dehydration so that replacing more fluid than is lost will ensure optimum performance. I find no scientific support for either belief,” he says.

Modest dehydration is a normal and temporary condition for many runners, and doesn’t lead to any serious medical conditions. Elite athletes, for example, don’t have time to drink very much at sub-five-minute mile pace, and are probably the most dehydrated runners on the course – a state that is easily and quickly reversed within minutes of finishing, by ingesting fluid.

Since running requires you to support your body’s weight while trying to complete a race in the shortest possible time, Noakes believes it could be more useful to measure whether keeping levels of dehydration at less than five per cent of body weight would lead to a better performance.

Not everyone would agree with Noakes but all researchers do agree on one thing: you need to start a run or race hydrated. By drinking 500ml of fluid two hours before a run – try water, a sports drink or diluted fruit juice – and another 150ml of fluid just before you run, you’ll have enough time for your body to clear what you don’t need before you set off.

Replacing fluid after a run is just as important. For every kilogram of bodyweight you lose, you need to drink one-and-a-half litres of fluid. Try to drink around 500ml in the first 30 minutes after your run and keep gulping every five to 10 minutes until you have reached your target. If you pass only a small volume of dark yellow urine, or if you have a headache or feel nauseous you need to keep drinking – a sports drinks or diluted juice (with a pinch of added salt) are your best options.


Your body has a finely tuned thirst mechanism that lets you know when you need to drink, but how do you know if you’re drinking too much? Excessive consumption is also a potential danger and has started to become an issue as marathon running has broadened its appeal to attract more recreational runners. Hyponatraemia means “low blood sodium” and is caused by excessive water consumption, which lowers the concentration of sodium in the blood. In its mild form, hyponatraemia will cause bloating and nausea; in extreme cases it can lead to brain seizure and death.

The group most at risk are women. Why? They’re smaller and less muscular than men, on average, so they sweat less and need to drink less. “Women may be more fastidious in following rules,” says Noakes. “So if they’re told to drink as much as they can, they may be more likely to do that than men.” An average woman needs to drink up to 30 per cent less than an average man – this will ensure blood doesn’t become diluted, lowering sodium to a dangerous level.

Anyone running for more than four hours should be guided by thirst, avoid drinking huge amounts of water, and use sports drinks that contain sodium. You can also increase your risk of hyponatraemia by using drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston studying marathon runners concluded that these drugs impair the body’s ability to excrete water.

How To Replace Fluids

You will undoubtedly need to replace sweat with fluids during some training runs and races so what should you drink and when? Water, diluted juice and sports drinks are all good fluid replacers. If you’ve been running for less than an hour, plain water is a good choice, but, if you have been running hard for longer than an hour, drinks containing sugar or maltodextrin (a slow-release carbohydrate) and sodium may speed your recovery. Researchers at Loughborough University found that when runners drank a sports drink (5.5g carbohydrate/100ml), they improved their running time by 3.9 minutes over 42km compared with drinking water.

Sports drinks containing carbohydrate also increase water absorption into your bloodstream, according to research at the University of Iowa, and that counts when you’re sweating heavily. Researchers found that drinks containing approximately 6g carbohydrate/100ml are absorbed the most rapidly. The taste of a flavoured sports drink will also encourage you to drink more of it – compared to plain water – according to a study at the McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Researchers at the University of Iowa originally thought that sodium speeds water absorption in the intestines, but they discovered that after you consume any kind of drink, sodium passes from the blood plasma into the intestine where it stimulates water absorption. In other words, the body sorts out the sodium concentration of the liquid in your intestines all by itself, so the addition of sodium to sports drinks is unnecessary.

While sodium in sports drinks does not have a direct effect on performance, it does have one key benefit: it increases the urge to drink and improves palatability. That’s because the increase in sodium concentration and decrease in blood volume that occurs when you exercise increases your thirst sensation, with the result that you want to drink. If you drink plain water it dilutes the sodium, thus reducing your urge to drink before you’re fully hydrated.

Despite growing concerns about hyponatraemia, it’s important to remember that for most runners, there is a bigger risk of dehydration than overhydration. Each of us sweats at a different rate, produces varying amounts of sodium in our sweat, and reacts differently to heat. Exactly how much you need to drink depends on how heavily you are sweating. The harder and longer you are working out, the more you sweat. Training in hot humid conditions also makes you sweat more, and some people simply sweat more than others.

Current guidelines recommend drinking anything from 300ml to 800ml of fluids per hour when you’re exercising. The upper end of that scale is almost certainly more than you need. However, you need to try different approaches to hydration in your training to establish a strategy that works for you and remember: you’re an experiment of one.

Exactly how much is enough?

So how do you know if you’re hydrated before you start a run? The easiest, most practical test is to check the colour of your urine. Researchers suggest that urine colour correlates very accurately with hydration status. Pale yellow urine indicates you’re within one per cent of optimal hydration.

Try to drink one litre of water for every 1,000kcal you burn daily. (An average male burns around 2,500kcal a day, a runner covering five miles a day more like 3,000kcal.) In general we need two to three litres of liquid a day – half from food and half from fluids. This is a minimum: if you live somewhere hot or you know you sweat a lot, you’ll obviously need more.

You can work out how much fluid you lose in a typical run by weighing yourself before and after. Remember to go to the toilet and remove your clothes before you weigh yourself, then remove your clothes and weigh yourself as soon as possible after you return. You can then assume that all of your weight loss is fluid.

The recommendation to drink one-and-a-half times the fluid loss accounts for the fact that you continue sweating after exercise (and losing fluid) and that urination is usually increased during this time. This method of calculating dehydration does not take into account water that is metabolised from glycogen stores when you exercise. “This does not need to be replaced,” says Professor Noakes. “According to one study, drinking to prevent any weight loss during a marathon would have caused the athletes to be overhydrated by 2.2kg.” Some researchers have, however, concluded that you should aim to match your fluid loss with intake during exercise. A study at the University of Aberdeen, for example, revealed that by replacing at least 80 per cent of the fluid lost, or keeping within one per cent of your body weight, performance is not affected.

In the past, many of the studies that set out to measure dehydration and performance were poorly designed and impossible to reproduce. Some studies do show that perceived exertion is lower when fluid is ingested, but in these tests athletes are asked to exercise at a fixed intensity for as long as they can; their performance may change from day to day, and may be influenced by external factors such as boredom. “Drinking fluid might enhance performance simply because it alleviates boredom,” Noakes concludes.

Studies where athletes are asked to complete a fixed amount of exercise in the shortest time possible – simulating a race situation, for example – do not show any beneficial effects of drinking at different rates. One study, led by Glenn McConell, senior lecturer at the School of Physiology at the University of Melbourne, found that replacing 100 per cent of the sweat lost during exercise did not improve exercise performance more than replacing only 50 per cent of fluid lost – which, again, suggests that if you follow accepted hydration wisdom you could be drinking too much.

So, while drinking might not lead to any physiological benefits that help you to produce a better performance, the majority of studies do agree that there may be psychological benefits. “The most consistent finding is that fluid ingestion markedly reduces the perception of effort during exercise at both low and high intensities,” says Professor Noakes, adding that, “all the evidence indicates that ad libitum fluid ingestion during exercise appears to be as beneficial as higher rates of forced ingestion.”

In other words, you should drink when you’re thirsty. By experimenting in training and races, ingesting varying amounts of fluid, you will establish how your body responds to dehydration and find out what works best for you. Just be sure, as you crest a sand dune in the Marathon des Sables and spy a watery oasis in the distance, that you outpace any camels in the vicinity. After they’ve had their 200 litres, there won’t be much left for you to slake your thirst, let alone refill your back-borne water bladder.

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about running hydration in the comments section. 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!

Bilateral Breathing #SwimTechTues

Bilateral Breathing

If you are able to breath to one side WHILE maintaining good form, then more power to you. However, very few people can do this. Bilateral breathing is seen as a must have skill, a must do with regards to technique.

Bilateral Breathing

The problem with only breathing to one side is that your form can become unbalanced and your weak side can have minute flaws, like crossing over and a low elbow, that will slow you down, or not provide enough power. Moreover, when only breathing to one side and breathing every other stroke like so many do, you do not completely exhale and thus breath out partially when you rotate to breath.

This last bit is incredibly problematic because your heart rate and rate of perceived exertion will rise without an increase in speed or effort. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually swim more smoothly, with less effort but still get faster?

Being able to undertake bilateral breathing is a skill that will allow you to swim straighter. Remember, if you’re pull is uneven and unbalanced, then without a black line to follow swimming in open water you are more likely to go awry. With your hands pulling in different directions, and with differing levels of power, staying on course requires a lot more care and consideration.

I don’t try and encourage bilateral breathing with my clients and swimmers, but I do teach them the skills to be able to breath both directions with ease. This means that in bad weather with waves and wind – or even in very sunny weather – that you can breath to an easier side and hopefully more freely.

How To Do It

Swim sets of 5*25 with plenty of recovery – 20 to 30s each – Do the first with no breathing (or as far as you can manage). Then for 2-5, swim with breaths every 9 strokes, then 7, then 5, then 3. What you will find is that rather than trying to rush through the strokes each breath, you will be more comfortable and more successful when you take a little more time and control over your strokes. By swimming slightly slower, you will use less oxygen, and feel less panicked. This in turn will help you be more relaxed and smoother about your stroke as a whole.

How To Do It Really Well

Focus on driving hip rotation  – this will give you the space to breath into.

Turn your chin toward your shoulder rather than trying to lift your head – this will be the easiest way to get your mouth out of the water.

Turn your head to breath as your hand comes under your nose – this will give you the time to breath in properly rather than feeling rushed when your hand recovers back over the water.

Bilateral Breathing

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

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