Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Training Week 10 - Tuesday - Swimming drills and tips

Wow, can't believe it's already week 10. This week I'm going to try to do the training in the morning before coming into work. I'm also trying to mix the activities up, so my body gets used to transitioning from one to another.

Today in the morning, I went to 24 Hour Fitness for a brief swim and then a bike ride (on a stationary bike). I thought I should catalogue the different swimming drills I've learned in the past weeks:

  1. Side 6 kick (illustration below): My favorite, excellent for getting comfortable with rolling from side to side. You push off, extend one arm, let's say the left arm, keep it straight, keep your head right next to it and have your body be vertical on that axis, i.e. your stomach is pointing right, your right shoulder is above the water, your hips are vertical. Your right arm is at your side and you are just kicking and breathing. Breath by just moving your head from side to side, i.e. head pointing to the left shoulder in this case would be underwater and head pointing to the right shoulder would be above water. After 6 kicks or 3 breaths, stroke 3 times, in this case it would be right arm, left, right, and then keep the right arm straight and your left shoulder out of the water and your stomach pointing left. Repeat kick. Repeat strokes and turn.
  2. Close-fist drill: Just like normal freestyle swimming but with your arms closed in a fist rather than open palm. This forces you to use your forearms and the rest of the arms for paddling rather than relying exclusively on the open palms. Excellent for building stroke strength.
  3. Reach: In each stroke, try and reach your arm as far as possible and go as far as you can per stroke. Initially requires some strength and a lot of stretching. This is used to make your swimming more efficient, with each stroke you go farther.
  4. Fingertip drag: When you are extending an arm or bringing it forward for the stroke, drag the fingertips on the top of the water until the arm is fully extended in front. This helps with your stroke form, i.e. how your arm comes forward. Your elbow should be up, and this helps with it.
  5. Wine barrel: In each stroke, when you extend your arm fully in front and are about to bring it down and back, imagine that you are swimming in a pool full of wine barrels and need to reach over a barrel with your arm and push it back. This will make your arm arch a bit. Improves your stroke.
  6. One-arm strokes: Start out like the Side 6 Kick, let's say left arm in front. Then stroke with your right arm only. So the right goes up, comes in front to meet the left arm, and then comes down and back. Do not move the left arm while you stroke. Do this for 3 strokes and then do 3 normal strokes and repeat with the other arm.
  7. Pyramid: This is basically an endurance building drill. You increase the yards between each break. For example, you can start with 50 yards, rest 20 seconds, 100 yards, rest 20 seconds, 150 yards, rest 20 seconds, 100 yards, rest, 50 yards. Build up from there. Recently, the low end of the training group was doing 100, 200, 300, 200, 100 or something like that.
  8. Kick: Just simple kick. Extend your arms forward, grab a floating board if you have one, and then kick kick kick. Move from your hips, not from your knees.

 I'll follow the above drills with general swimming tips:

  1. Breathing and endurance come with practice.
  2. Breath out constantly while your head is underwater. If you are hyperventilating initially, i.e. taking small short quick breaths, this is a good way to cure that.
  3. You should be looking down, with the top of your head pointing forward. See the difference that makes in the following illustration:

    By keeping your head down, your body becomes horizontal, greatly reducing the drag and improving overall efficiency. If your head is up, the body follows, becoming more vertical and getting a lot of resistance from the water. You can feel the difference by doing the Kick drill with your head up and then your head down.
  4. Focus on having your elbow point up and be above your hand as you bring your stroking arm forward out of the water.
  5. When an arm is coming forward, the shoulder for that arm should be above the water. Sorta obvious I guess, but helps in rolling your body side to side with each stroke.
  6. To aid with rolling your body, focus on moving your hips. If your hips become vertical, your body will follow.

Wow, a long post.

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