How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

How Much Should You Change Your Technique – Minimum Effective Change – #SwimTechTues

Often swimmers ask how much they should be changing their stroke/swimming – especially if they have races coming up. This is where I like to talk about Minimum Effective Change. It’s not dissimilar to the medical ideas of minimum effective dose – why use a sledgehammer to crack a nut! The issue comes with how much you can remember and make into a habit.

Path Of Least Resistance

When I coach I see that everyone moves and swims in their own distinct style. It’s why you can pick out particular athletes at events without being able to see their faces. Your swim style (or any other movement pattern for that matter) is a dynamic expression of your combined:
  • Limb lengths
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Areas of Restriction
  • Areas of Mobility
  • Stability & Instability
  • Neuromuscular Control / Co-ordination / Timing (or lack thereof)
  • that’s just for starters…
Not to mention the habits we pick up along the way through pain (current or previous) and daily postures we hold ourselves in. Taking all the above factors into account: as we swim or move, your body will try to follow the path of least resistance. For example in terms of mobility, finding the movement from the areas most willing, or strength-endurance, often emphasising imbalances…

Biomechanical Efficiency And Performance

As a coach try not get too hung-up on subtle changes in efficiency (real or perceived) that come with changing an athlete’s stroke. Minimising resistance to the water will increase efficiency (and speed). Increasing contact on the water will increase power (assuming the strength is there to manage it). There are plenty of fast and theoretically inefficient swimmers. Hell Ian Thorpe was not the technically most sound freestyle swimmer and neither was Michael Phelps; in both cases as a coach or a swimmer could look at either and theoretically make changes. But to make changes in either of these swimmers, would it really have made a difference?  
Minimum effective change

You’d suggest that Thorpe is crossing the midline here, and potentially even clawing at the water too. Didn’t stop him breaking the WR for 200 and 400 though!

  Biomechanical efficiency doesn’t automatically make a given swimmer faster… CONSISTENT TRAINING DOES Thus we should be more concerned about what we can do to affect a positive change to the athlete. In order to not over complicate things, we want to make the smallest changes possible for the largest impact.

Minimum Effective Change

Firstly, consider these points in combination:
  1. Most people struggle with swimming because they are creating large amounts of resistance to the water – almost as much resistance as the forward forces they are trying to create. This makes life tiring
  2. Many swimmers struggle with breathing, for two reasons; firstly that they are in a poor body position – so getting the mouth out of the water is challenging. And secondly, because they aren’t able to slow down or ease off – potentially for the same reason.
  3. Given that the athlete’s previous patterns demonstrated their body’s path of least resistance, the further away from this we deviate, the harder it’s potentially going to be for them to sustain the desired changes… at least in the short to medium term, while they should also be working on improving the physical traits that dictated their path of least resistance in the first place!
We have to ask ourselves not just why we’re coaching each athlete to make any given change, but perhaps most importantly to what extent we need the given change to occur to make life easier. If we take a given athlete, understand their current and historical training status and individual biomechanics, then work towards the concept of Minimum Effective Change to elicit the desired outcome, we can reduce the effort required on a given part of the body while achieving a modified swimming style that they can sustain effectively. Take a swimmer who is struggling to do more than 25 metres at a time for example: Once they get more comfortable in the water and able to swim lighter or easier – is what their stroke looks like important? Assuming no injury and they are happy, I would argue not. Obviously, if they are looking to swim further and faster, then we can build on those foundations, and add new things to work on. But until that point, stick with minimum effective change – ie getting the swimmer higher in the water. For me, the sweet spot is the change we can make to an athlete’s stroke which does enough to reduce stress and strain on their ‘weak link’, yet is subtle enough to sustain in the long run… after a bit of practice, of course 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!
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Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Swimming On Your Own – Being Your Own Detective #SwimTechTues

Most of us swim on our own – certainly the large majority of the people I coach do. Added to this, even if you do swim with a club, getting technical feedback can be few and far between. As a result, if you are trying to improve your swim technique and speed, it can be very difficult to know if you are making improvements.

To make these improvements on your own, you have to BE YOUR OWN DETECTIVE. This doesn’t mean that you need to obsess over every little element of your swim; just that you need an awareness of your body – and tools to help understand whether you’re improving or not.

Metrics To Help You Understand Your Stroke (And Training)

One of the best metrics to measure yourself by is your speed; the time it takes you to complete particular reps or your average pace. But clearly, in training, it’s not all about going hard all the time. It’s knowing how quick you go for a particular effort. It might be that you know you can hold 2 minutes per 100m all day every day. Or that if you’re swimming at race pace you can usually maintain 1.20/100m. Just a basic awareness of your speed can tell you a lot about how you are swimming. It may be that you realise you have to get your head in gear – and concentrate – because you’re swimming slower than you should be. Or it could be a sign that you’re tired/ill/stressed and need a break. Equally, you could be absolutely flying – in which case you might want to work out why!

Another score that people like to work by is stroke count. Simply put, counting the number of strokes that you take per length. BUT – and it’s a big but – lower stroke counts are not necessarily better. You could do fewer strokes but by gliding and slowing down end up going much slower. A better measure of your stroke is swim golf (or SWOLF). This is where you add your time for 25 or 50m to your stroke count. At any given effort level, you can compare your SWOLF score – and that will give you an awareness of whether what you have changed has had a positive effect; or whether what you think you have changed has actually changed!

 

Improving Your Awareness

When it comes to actually thinking about your form, you don’t have to be obsessive about your stroke! But you do require a little bit of an awareness around your body and positioning in the water.

My favourite way of helping create that awareness is by doing contrasting drills on consecutive lengths. It might be that you need to think about your head position; on one length you might swim looking directly forwards, on the next length you’d swim looking straight down at the floor. It may be that you want to improve the front end of your stroke and where you reach to. In which case you might do some sidekick and moving your lead hand up and down in the water to find the optimum position. Or you may be working on rotating more from your hips – so you could try and swim one length completely flat, the next with a massively exaggerated roll. In each case, there are drills that you can do to really nail down the form and the specifics – but then sometimes it’s just good to swim and play around with where you fit along the spectrum.

 

We All Love A Challenge…

A challenge that I like to do – and to give – is to swim a length as fast as possible and a length as slow as possible. The target is the largest possible gap in time – but there are two caveats. Firstly, you have to swim both with reasonable form (fairly obvious for swimming fast, not so much for swimming slow). Secondly, you need to keep the stroke counts within 2 strokes of each other – so you can’t just go crazy on the fast length. My best is an 18-second gap (13/31 – 11 strokes for both).

Swimming on your own can be a challenge when you can’t see yourself or you don’t have external feedback. But with a clock/watch, and an increased physical awareness, you can definitely embed good habits and improve your skills.

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!

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Getting Comfortable In The Water #SwimTechTues

Getting Comfortable In The Water #SwimTechTues

Getting comfortable in the water is a tricky business. Not least because you have to learn to control your breathing and your body in an alien environment! Added to that the fact that water is 750 times more resistant than air, and a brute force, “Just do more” approach very rarely works – or only works to a point.

Swimming Is Counter-Intuitive

When you learn to swim – there are certain things that it seems logical to do.

Looking forward seems like the sensible thing to do – after all, you want to see where you are going!

When you want to breathe you lift your head – because that is fairly logical.

You move your arms and legs as fast as you can to keep you afloat (and hopefully move you forward!) because it makes you feel like you are making a productive use of effort.

However!!!

All these things that seem logical and rational in your brain when you start will actually be holding you back.

Instead of looking forward, look down at the bottom of the pool or body of water you’re in. (Unless you are breathing or sighting) It’s not the only part of the posture and body position equation – but it’s certainly important! If you’re in a pool, then you have the “T” to tell you that you’re at the end! In open water, the likelihood is that you won’t be able to see very far in front anyway…

With breathing, we want to turn our heads to the side rather than lift – going back to the whole posture and body position part. And with that body roll hopefully going on too, it makes life so much easier to get air in smoothly.

Finding the rhythm of your stroke can take time and practice. For many athletes a good starting point is to take your time – the water can support your mass a lot better if you are not rushing and thrashing about. That’s not to say things have to be glacially slow(!), just that you can follow the idea of less haste to gain more speed.

Get comfortable in the water

How To Get Comfortable

When learning to swim – or improving your swim – one of the biggest keys is getting in the water more often. That’s not to say that you should be spending hours in the water each week ploughing up and down; but if you aren’t spending time in the water, how are you going to enjoy it, gain confidence or get comfortable? Just spending short regular intervals in the water can make a big difference in how comfortable you are.

In your swims, pick a focus and stick with it. I like to get people building their stroke from a solid foundation – the higher and more horizontal your body is in the water, the quicker and smoother you will move forward and the easier other parts of the stroke will become. Start your session practising a skill that you know you need to work on. For some, it might be doing a couple of floats just to remind yourself that the water supports you. For others, it may be sink downs under the water to remember how to breath out. And for others, it may be a case of doing a handful of streamlines to remember that a good push off the wall can help your swim.

You don’t have to make each and every swim a massive skills effort – remember we’re not aiming for textbook swimming. Instead, we want something that helps us feel more comfortable, that feels like an improvement. We also want something that we can repeat length after length.

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!

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9 Top Tips For Swim Set Success #SwimTechTues

9 Top Tips For Swim Set Success #SwimTechTues

I am always thinking of ways that change can help with triathlon, swimming, and fitness in general. I regularly get asked what people can do to get faster as they feel like they are banging their head against a brick wall training hard. Equally, I love the responses I get from athletes who have followed my swim sets when they say the swims are completely unlike what they have done before!

The biggest issue is that regardless of how hard they are working, many athletes are just doing the same things every time they get in the water.

Are you currently doing the same routine each day? Each week? Is your schedule flexible or fixed?

With swimming, do you do the same workouts all the time?

 

Create Variety For Swim Set Success

 

 

One of the things I found challenging when I moved into competing and coaching in triathlon was that all the sets were the same, and it was predominantly freestyle based – if not wholly freestyle! Nothing wrong with these sets and sessions but they get boring and stale after a while! Many triathletes and fitness swimmers also get hung up on the number of meters they did.

“I did 2200 meters yesterday so I’m going to do 2300 today!”

I prefer to think quality over quantity. Changing things up on a regular basis is healthy and great for your swim and triathlon success.

Do you always swim in the same pool? Maybe it’s time to try a different pool.

Do you always do the same format for sessions? Like, Warm-up, drills, main set, cool down?

Maybe time to mix in some different types of workouts. Here are some ideas on changing it up to maximize motivation & performance:

1. Use fins. Put on your fins when practicing drills. They make things so much easier! It’s not cheating! If you feel that is a little easy, alternate drills with and without the fins to perform the skill better.

2. Use a snorkel. This allows you to focus on your stroke without breathing.

3. Do different strokes. You don’t HAVE to do butterfly, and you don’t need to be perfect at backstroke or breaststroke – but just the act of doing them will make you a stronger swimmer; you’ll break up all that freestyle tedium too!

4. Wear different swimsuits. Are you wearing the same suit every time you practice? Why not mix it up? I love the suits from our friends at Blueseventy You can get 20% suits off today with our discount code TRIJOHN at their website: https://www.blueseventy.co.uk/

5. Practice “deck push-ups” in between your sets next time. Good strength training, and dryland workout to help your freestyle pull.

Swim set success

Poolside push ups

6. Swim with a friend. Who cares if you’re not the same speed? It gives you more accountability and makes things fun.

7. Bike or run to the pool. 2 birds, 1 stone.

8. Mix in sprints. You can decrease the distance and increase the intensity once a week or so for a different type of workout.

9. Challenge yourself with different skills – see how far you can swim without breathing, or stay under water. See how straight you can swim with your eyes closed, or even how slowly you can travel with good form…

There are a few ideas to change things up while you improve.

Any more ideas on how change can help with your training? Let’s hear them!

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!

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Time Crunched Running #RunFormFriday

Time Crunched Running #RunFormFriday

No Time to Run? 5 Creative Ways to Find Time

Our lives are busier than ever. We are all frantically juggling family life and long working hours; some statistics showing the average working week to be close to 36 hours, with some professions working 40 or more. That’s before we even include sleep, cooking, housework, social engagements, study and additional commitments.

With so many demands placed on us, it’s no wonder that training slips down the list of priorities. But are we really that busy? Or are we just poor at time management or just making excuses?

Scheduling a run can be tough. But with these tips, we’ve got you covered!

 

Make running a priority using creative runner friendly hacks

The busier we get, the more creative we have to be about how we spend our time. It’s easy to waste many hours on the internet, watching TV, on your mobile phone or just frittering time away. You have to get tough with yourself and become incredibly efficient – don’t get distracted by things are less important. In our frantic, busy lives, if you really want to find time to run, you have to find a way to make it work and get organized.

The main thing that stops us finding time to exercise is not giving it a high enough priority in our lives.

When we have enough time, we usually manage to fit exercise in, but when we get busy, exercise is the thing that gets pushed aside, because it’s not deemed as important. But running is one of the best ways to help us deal with stress and overwhelm. Yet the time when we need it most, is the time we tend to short-change ourselves.

We all know intrinsically that exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our health and we need to make it a top priority, but it’s easier said than done. People who make exercise high in their list of priorities are generally the ones who manage to fit it in. They understand the connection between physical fitness, health and mental wellbeing.

That is certainly true for me. I’ve learned over the years that training is a vital part of my life. It’s like medication, and without it I feel physically sick, grumpy and can’t function well. That doesn’t mean I’m always joyful about going for a run or getting in the pool, it just means that I need it in my life and on the days I train I ALWAYS feel better.

So I’ve learned to prioritize. It might mean I go to bed early, or it might mean I miss out on a social event or a TV show, so I can get up early the next day to train. It’s not an obsession; it’s just a choice. And in our busy lives, we can’t have it all. We have to make choices. Life is about balance, sometimes you need to make the social choices. Sometimes you need to make the training ones.

Schedule your run into your day for a guaranteed win

There are two other behaviors that set successful runners apart from the ‘excuse makers’. ‘The other thing they do is schedule it into the day. They know it’s high priority, and they don’t immediately move it when something else comes up. They also recognize that a short session is better than none at all. Even just 15 minutes some days is easier to fit into gaps in your schedule, and keeps you in the routine of regular exercise. Little and often is the key. It’s better to be consistent, but do regular short runs, rather than overwhelm yourself with big mileage goals.

On that note, I find standard training plans for busy people often don’t work. You need to devise your own flexible plan to fit in around your own lifestyle or work with a coach who understands you and can tailor your training to your life conflicts. This is where our coaching plans comes in! Learn HOW to train, what you need to do to meet your goals and work with your schedule to make it happen. A strict training plan (which isn’t personalized to you) can add more stress and the sense of failure when you don’t manage to follow it.

Don’t ‘go hard’ all the time

Pushing hard every single time you go out could be making it difficult for you to stay on track with your training. I often encourage people to back off in a large percentage of their sessions as it helps get the best out of them consistently.

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]If your brain always associates running with pain, eventually it’ll persuade you to stop.[/clickandtweet]

If on the other hand, your brain associates running with pleasure and enjoyment (perhaps a slower pace and gradual increase of miles, rather than forcing things) then it’s far more likely you’ll continue and WANT to go training, rather than dread it. Try it and see what happens.

5 Ways to Fit Your Training into a Busy Schedule

  1. Get your training done as early in the day as you can. If you’re waking up for an early morning, you could go to bed early. It sets you up for the day and makes your more productive. We can ALWAYS find something else to do, so get your run done first.
  1. Make it a habit. Habits are easy to form when you do them every day. Even if you don’t run every day, try to make it the same TIME each day you run. It helps to have a trigger. For example, you run immediately after getting up, or always at lunchtime at work. The idea is that you embed it as something you do automatically. On days where you don’t run, you could do some stretching, strengthening work, or even just work on your balance.
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of a training partner. Training with someone else at least once a week is a great way to make sure you get out there and run. Book in with a friend or group session. The commitment of meeting someone else will mean you’ll be less likely to let them down. If you do not have anyone else in your area to run with, you could set up a virtual running partner with friends on social media, or even using Strava.
  2. Make sure your training schedule works for everyone else in the household. If you’re finding it tough to get out, and the people around you are complaining or encouraging you stay at home, it makes it doubly difficult. Perhaps get them to join you? Or at least make sure they know your plans and how important it is to you. Don’t allow anyone else to derail you or your enthusiasm. Kids could come out on the bike with you, partners could run with you (or do one of your supplementary exercises), or running could mean that once you’re done training, you spend time with them.
  3. And finally, leave some gaps in your schedule. Life has a habit of disrupting plans and things always take longer than you think. All time management systems work best when you build some spaces in for contingency. It reduces stress and gives you another window to run when things go off schedule.

You have 168 hours each and every week. If you work a 40-hour week and sleep 8 hours every night, that leaves 72 hours or just over 10 hours per day. Of the remaining time how much of it do you spend doing things that benefit you less than training; watching television, wasting time on your computer, playing video games or on your mobile phone? I know that it’s something I’m guilty of!

[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]168 hours per week. 40 hours working, 8 hours sleep(!), you have 70 hours left, some of which could be used for training. How are you going to organise your life to do the runs that make you feel better?[/clickandtweet]

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!

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Swimming in the Off Season #SwimTechTues

Swimming in the Off Season #SwimTechTues

As the racing season comes to an end for most, there is always the question on how to go forward with training into the winter months and what some call the off season. With no races on the horizon, it’s a great time to have a mental break as well as a physical break. This means a lighter training load that is more focused on form, always working on consistency. During this time athletes should shift the emphasis to more technique based training, as well as tweaking the structure of our sessions.

Get Some Technique Coaching

Look for private coaching from a knowledgeable and experienced swim coach (hint hint!). All jokes aside, use word-of-mouth recommendations as well as Internet searches. Working with a local coach is advantageous because you can see them multiple times or easily schedule a follow-up session a few weeks later. Things like video swim analysis can be really helpful in making breakthroughs with your stroke – especially if you feel like you have been banging your head against a brick wall trying to improve something during the year.

Improve Your Kick

Use the winter months to become a stronger swimmer from all round. The benefits of having a strong kick include a well-balanced stroke, increased core strength, quicker starting speed and strong and stretched hip flexors (used in cycling and running). Mix up kicking sets with different body positions in the water: Streamlined, kick on your back, side kick or try vertical kicking. Remember, kicking might not give you the most propulsion in your stroke, but a good kick can make life much easier in the water. Plus it can help you get a good workout if you are crunched for time!

Enter Masters Competitions

Competition is the key to staying motivated during training. Search for a local Masters meet online (www.swimming.org/masters/) and register as an individual or as part of a team. Pick the longer events and work on endurance and pacing and enter the sprints to improve speed and power in the water. If a swim meet holds no appeal for you, schedule a monthly time trials into regular training – of varying distances; try 800 one month, 3k the next. Record the times to track improvement and use 100 splits to judge pacing ability (and make sure that there is a difference between the shorter distance pacing and the long distance speeds!).

Learn New Skills

With no pressure on racing, you could use your time to learn some new skills to help spice up your swim sessions – but these skills won’t just help you enjoy sessions more. They will help your all round swim ability. Work on tumble turns for better rhythm and speed throughout a swim, or learn butterfly and breaststroke to give your body variety from standard freestyle and backstroke.

Improve Your Strength

Increase power in the water by building strength in swimming-specific upper-body muscles like the lats, triceps and pectorals. Prevent shoulder overuse injuries with shoulder rotations and elevation exercises using resistance bands and light weights. Improve core strength with balance poses like planks, or power exercises like squats and deadlifts to aid in endurance and maintain technique during long swims.

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!

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Are Swim Drills Good For You #SwimTechTues

Are Swim Drills Good For You #SwimTechTues

Many swimmers ask how often they should be doing drill sessions or swims; how many swim drills they should be doing. Swim drills can be a pretty controversial topic depending on who you speak to.

 

Why Would You Use Swim Drills?

Drills are a useful part of working on form and technique in your swim. In stepping away from JUST swimming up and down the pool, you give your stroke focus and control; You give your speed the chance to improve without having to work physically harder for it.

From my experience, a large number of novice swimmers/triathletes who are just getting started can swim only a few lengths without taking a break. They need drills like side kick or sculling to get their form right initially so that they can swim further or easier.

What is holding these swimmers back is not necessarily fitness but form. #FormBeforeFitness

To improve the former, you have to get the latter correct. If we just give these swimmers sprints or 500 metre repeats not only would they not be able to complete sessions; They would most likely quit because of how miserable it feels. They may get a little faster over time, but will always be limited by inefficient form. The compounding effect too is that swimming without the technique instruction first ingrains bad form habits that will prevent them from getting faster later on in their swim development.

These errors not only will be in the pool but also in the open water. In this instance, drills and building awareness in the water allows swimmers to be more confident in the water. Drills build awareness of what your body is doing, which is a critical skill for those uncomfortable in the water.

You aren’t going to float better in the water if you don’t know what it feels like to be balanced in the water. Nor are you going to be able to develop a high elbow catch if you don’t focus on it and work to improve it. Breathing, the trickiest part of learning to swim, is hard to develop without knowing the timing of your stroke. It’s hard to develop timing without breaking down your stroke into individual parts.

Drills build awareness of what your body is doing, a critical skill for those new in the pool

 

Why Would You NOT Do Swim Drills?

Some incredibly successful coaches see swim drills as unimportant for becoming a better swimmer. Rather, in fact, it is better to spend your time with intensity. Matt Dixon goes as far as to call drills making you faster a “myth” and that they “rarely translate into improved swimming for triathletes”.

His reasoning is that as triathletes, we are training for open water swimming. As a result swim drills that focus on technique are great for competitive pool swimmers but not for the open water. It’s like learning to run a marathon by looking at the form of Usain Bolt.

At the same time, Sutton states that “90% of non-swimmers would be far better served by using aids and instead of drilling, performing swim sessions that specifically address the needs of the physical exertion of swimming non-stop for an hour”. He goes on to say that “developing a feel” for the water prevents you from becoming a better triathlete.

Both Dixon and Sutton have some very valid points here. Since many cannot get to the pool more than twice a week, we have to make every lap count. Spending an hour of our time and majority of the practice doing fingertip drag for length after length does little to building swim fitness or speed. And drills will not make you faster- at least not directly.

 

So What Should You Do?

For me, swim drills are important. A key, even, to making you a better swimmer. But they are only a tool to help you along your way; they are not the be all and end all. Perfection is not necessary, either in your stroke or in your drills. But EVERYONE has parts of their stroke that they need to work on. That’s where these swim drills can be used to make a difference. They exaggerate a particular element of your technique, allowing you to feel a positive change when you swim full stroke.

Rather than doing whole sessions of mindless drills all the time, incorporate specific drills into your warm up. Swim with purpose, and use the improved form to help improve your speed and fitness. Make sure that you know why you are doing a drill, what it is aiming to improve. Then you can get the maximum out of the exercise, and the sessions you are undertaking.

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!

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Swim Like A Cyclist – But You Can’t Buy Speed! #SwimTechTues

Swim Like A Cyclist – But You Can’t Buy Speed! #SwimTechTues

  Some athletes spend so much money on shiny kit, trying to get us as aero as possible on the bike. You might know a few who are always upgrading their bike(s)! How much did you pay for your bike (frame, aerobars, wheels, accessories, fittings, etc…)? There are plenty of articles and an abundance of research out there that can detail out for you the cost per second you save on each upgrade to your cycling kit. For example, upgrading from a regular road frame to a TT frame saves about 2-2.5 min on a 40km time trial (www.aerosportsresearch.com). Based on what the average triathlete purchases, seconds on the bike are valuable! When it comes to swimming there is very little time that you can “buy.” On the other hand, just like in cycling, there is a lot of time to be saved without necessarily increasing effort (power output). Alternatively, you could swim the same speed but much easier, a reduction in power required.

Things To Consider:

  • Water is 784 times denser than air. Fun fact, dirt is only 2.5 times denser than water!
  • Your drag coefficient while swimming is always changing; you need to be aware of your body position at every point in your stroke and the water around you.
  • How often do you watch yourself swim? You’ve probably seen yourself on the bike, maybe on the turbo.
  • A good swim saves you energy for the rest of your race. Becoming a more proficient swimmer does not just save you a few seconds on the swim but it will improve your bike and run performance.
  • Doing something over and over again without feedback creates habits. Are you creating good or bad habits?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein.

Thinking Of Swimming Like A Cyclist:

  • Good body tension = A nice stiff frame
    • You would never use full suspension shocks on your TT-bike because you don’t want those precious watts being absorbed by the shocks. Keeping good tension throughout your body creates a stiffness to transfer the power generated by your arms and legs into forward motion.
  • Body position or alignment = Aero (Frame, Wheels, Helmet, etc..)
    • Your body position at each point in the in the stoke is your TT frame, aero-helmet, race wheels etc.., If you have a soft inactive core, over bending knees, over lifting of the head, then you are not riding an aero frame you are riding a mountain bike with a parachute dragging behind you.
  • Catch/engagement with the water = Gears or chainring
    • Are you pushing a “38 tooth chain ring” next to someone who is pushing a “53”? Keeping your hand and wrist in vertical alignment with your forearm as long as possible throughout the pull will maximize your leverage on the water.
  • Continuous hand and arm movement = continuous pedal stroke
    • Are you stomping on the pedals and trying to force yourself along by stretching and gliding – and slowing down – or are you maintaining a smooth continuous flow?
Unfortunately, you can’t walk into your local swim shop, swipe your credit card, and come out a faster swimmer. However, with proper feedback and a systematic approach you can greatly improve your swim this season! If you want to work on your “hydro” check out our swim coaching or video swim analysis packages. 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!  
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Slow Down To Speed Up, Take Your Time #SwimTechTues

Slow Down To Speed Up, Take Your Time #SwimTechTues

Do you find that if you try to swim faster, you end up moving the same speed or slower – for more effort?

If this is you, you may find that you need to slow things down a touch.

Have you noticed that the best athletes in their respective sports look like they have all the time in the world?

The two examples above show this perfectly.

With Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, most of the race they are rowing at around 40 strokes per minute; not that it looks like it! To stroke at that rate, it takes timing and control.

When you watch Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal, he has time to catch the ball, look at the posts and score the drop goal – even with players running at him to charge him down. But he keeps his eye on the ball and doesn’t snatch at the action; if he had, he may well have dropped the pass altogether.

Less Haste, More Speed

Taking your time does not mean that you have to move slowly. Especially when it comes to racing, cadence makes a difference to how quickly you move through the water. That said, just throwing your arms round and round is not going to be any assistance to you at all!

When trying to take faster strokes, think about what effect that is having on the rest of your body. A more unstable body means the water is less stable too.

Rowing is a perfect example: when the blade is out of the water the rowers are smooth, relaxed and controlled. The speed of the oars cannot physically increase the speed of the boat. In fact, if Helen and Heather were to throw the blade in faster, it would destabilise and slow them down. Once the blade goes into the water, however, both rowers are forcing the oar against the water with as much force as they can. This accelerates the boat forward with every stroke.

In this regard, swimming is exactly like rowing. When your arm is out of the water, it is not positively influencing your body’s speed or momentum. Rushing and throwing it forward will destabilise you, and make it more difficult to connect with the water at the front end of your stroke. With a calmer, smoother entry, you will create fewer bubbles, you will be more in control of your arm AND the water. Once your hand is in the water you can look to accelerate the water backwards, and your body forwards.

If your hand/arm is accelerated back quickly enough, it will come out and recover over the water fast enough without needing to be forced or thrown forwards. This is where the example of Jonny Wilkinson is appropriate; not needing to force your action, or rush. If you are putting the work and effort in the right places (i.e. once you have engaged with the water), then being calm and controlled and trusting in your skills is key.

Put It Into Practise

Try it out in training – remember, if your body position is good then you don’t require too much action to generate forward momentum. You should focus on generating force underwater and being relaxed in your recovery.

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!

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Stroke Length – How Long Is Too Long #SwimTechTues

Stroke Length – How Long Is Too Long #SwimTechTues

For many years people have strived for a longer stroke length through the water. In many endurance sports, a key focus is a longer distance for each stroke or stride. But at what point does stroke length become TOO long?

The answer really is “IT DEPENDS“.

This comes down to reach/arm span, shoulder control/flexibility, strength, and your kinaesthetic or body awareness.

We're all on a continuum of how long your stroke should be, or how fast your cadence is. You don't have to be at one extreme or the other

 

What Is Stroke Length

Stroke length is the distance that you travel for each arm “pull” on the water. Because of water’s density, your upper limit of stroke length is your arm span.

Stroke Length

The Vitruvian Swimmer

In reality, though, most people don’t have the control of the water or the strength to get near this.

What most end up doing is reaching as far forward as they can – to maximise the length that the arm can pull through. This can have more of a negative effect than a positive, as it results in less efficient or less useful body positions.

Stroke length over reach

This swimmer is overreaching and as a result, his elbow is below both wrist and shoulder

As you can see in the image above, at the point where the swimmer is at his longest – ie with the arm stretched forward – his elbow is below his hand. This is going to make it very difficult to do anything more with his pull than drag his elbow backwards, not making the use of his forearms as a paddle, or being able to use so much of the larger muscles in his back. It will also likely cause him to stall at the front and make life harder to keep that constant motion of his stroke – so slowing him down.

What To Do

When you overreach, you have less control over your arm, and that point will come at different stages depending on how flexible you are through your shoulders.

Try this: stand up straight and lift your arm above your head. It should feel reasonably comfortable (hopefully!). Now if you reach up as high as you can, see where the rest of your body ends up. For most people shoulders end up around ears and the body starts to arch to one side. From this, when you are swimming focus on reaching forward (without stretching) from your hips rather than your shoulder – it should help maintain that core control, keep your stroke straighter and prevent your elbow from dropping down. It may help also to aim for a point 3-4 inches below the surface to make sure that your hand is always slightly below your elbow.

If you’re swimming drills, try catch up. With both arms out in front, you can make sure that they are level and below the surface. You could do 6 kicks to 1 pull (6-1-6) to practise maintaining a straight line from hip to hand. Or you could do an entry point scull – again with a focus on relaxed shoulders. Whatever drill you do, make sure that it feels comfortable; it’s about finding the position that works for you.

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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!