Monday, March 23, 2015

Thinking technical swim thoughts

Last August I wrote up some technical thoughts about swimming. Feel free to check it out. I'll try not to repeat myself here.

The 50 m pool has been set up for the last bunch of swims, and I'm loving it! I've always been a little slower swimming long course, but it's coming together. Today I had a lane to myself. 50 m gives you time to get into the groove and really work on your rhythm.

Part of the time I was visualizing swimming in a shallow, narrow trough. Shallow to keep my elbows high, and narrow to keep me from swinging my arms wide to recover. I was experimenting with subtle timing on exactly when I started my catch.

Something I've noticed lately is that I've been tending to glide a little more. That means when I start my catch I'm trying to get more water and pull harder. This means my muscles are working harder and I have to supply more air. I was thinking this is almost like pedaling in a big gear on a bike.

When I start my catch just a hair sooner I'm going a little quicker, so I don't have to work quite as hard on the pull. It's more like I'm maintaining my speed, rather than trying to regain it, almost like spinning in an easier gear on a bike. No one stroke has a big effort in it, it's all a steady smooth motion. Catching sooner makes it easier to get your hand vertical in the water and pulling yourself forward. This makes it easier to get a faster stroke rate going.

If you wait too long to catch you'll mess up the return, and you're likely to be pushing your lead hand down on the water, trying keep your head near the surface. This drops your hips and legs, creating  more drag, and making it harder to move forward on two fronts. One is the increased drag, and the other is the decreased stroke efficiency by starting so low in the water.

Drag is what kills swim speed for most swimmers. I was dragging my legs a lot, and probably still am a bit. Kicking a little harder helped improve my body position. For many people the problem is that they are looking forward. That head position itself creates drag, and it drops the hips and legs.

The first time I tried kicking harder, I could feel the lessened demand on my arms for the same swim speed. My body felt totally different in the water. Consider that water has about a zillion times as much drag as air. Every pause in your stroke, every imperfection in your kick, and most importantly, your head position are going to affect how much drag you produce. Clean up your body position, improve your kick, and you'll find the same arm stroke will take you further with less effort.

A huge part of this is mental. I was concentrating on swimming smoothly, gliding through the water. There's a Jedi mind trick with the catch. You want your catch to grab the water and give you a solid anchor point to move your body past your hand. You want the other water molecules to slide past your body with the minimum of fuss.

One of the suggestions that I haven't mastered is breathing out the whole time. Generally I start breathing out as my third stroke starts the catch, and use the last bit to blow the water off my 'stache. I'm working on it.

So the first K was 18:55, and ended the 1500 m in 28:30. Very pleased with that. 2x100 hard, 1:40 and 1:42 with 20 seconds rest. Then 200 m, gradual build every 50 m. 50 m cool down.

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