Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good Swimming Is Easy

Bad news is that I'm sick as a dog! I feel terrible; achy, stuffed head and sore throat and I'm exhausted above all. I had to take yesterday morning's Elite practice off to sleep and this morning's Platinum and Regional Development practices off to get a little extra rest. I have to shake this thing before Monday, when my wife goes back to work from maternity leave and I become the primary "responsible" parent at home with my kids.

The good news is that our swimmers in Platinum, Elite and Regional Development are swimming very well this week. From early on in the week, I have been pushing these groups to focus on FR, FLY and BR pullouts: purpose, pull pattern. A lot of our swimmers have gotten into the habit of allowing their hands to sweep away from their bodies rather than staying on top of their hands and keeping their elbows high.

As you can see with the Phelps video above, Michael enters the water with the smallest surface area available, his hand (rather than his whole arm). By minimizing his contact surface area, Michael can reduce the resistance against him and start an effective pull. When he pulls, his hand pulls water straight down. his fingers are always facing the inside of his body: they never point away from his body. By pointing his fingers away from his body, he would be driving water sideways, away from him; rather than grabbing it and pulling it towards him... in other words... wasted energy.

I started noticing that our swimmers were losing ground in races this way back in January. The reason to swim this way is pretty simple: its allowing your body to do something immediately easier. However, you are sacrificing speed, power in the process and putting unnecessary strain on muscles that don't need it... and the kicker is, the incorrect motion doesn't save any energy, in many cases, its just more comfortable. Because it is not a good angle of attack at the front of the stroke, it is less powerful. Some swimmers get comfortable with the motion for that reason an lose their sense of impact and power.

The goal for the next few weeks is to practice proper technique over an over an over with FR, FLY and BR Pullouts (all are fundamentally the same motion). We'll try it in different ways, trying to create the brain myelin and muscle memory to do it effortlessly. We'll try it at different difficulties and intensities to force technique through fatigue. We'll try to race with it. My plan was that once the 21 day period was done, everyone should have this well under control. We've been doing this since Monday and at last night's Platinum and Elite practice, I saw some of the best swimming that I have seen all season.

Good swimming is easy, but only after you create the right environment and mindset for it... which was proven by these groups this week.