Mar 312012

This week we are focusing on pacing. All five main sets of the workouts here are a collection I’ve found on GoSwim. If you haven’t checked out the site, you should! Run by Glenn Mills and Barbara Hummel, they have all kinds of tips related to swimming – stroke technique (videos galore), drills (more videos), workouts, training tips, etc. You can also check out their subscription based service at At $99 a year, it sounds steep, but with that subscription, you get access to all DVDs that they put out. You access their videos via streaming.

With these workouts, be sure and read through the text and don’t just jump into the set. And, as always, if the times are too fast for your swimming ability, adjust accordingly.

Workouts for April 1-7, 2012:

#337 – Pacing #1 – IM & Free

#338 – Pacing #2 – Free

#339 – Pacing #3 – Free

#340 – Pacing #4 – Stroke

#341 – Pacing #5 – 200s, Stroke or Free

Mar 302012

The drill of the week for this week, April 1-7, 2012, continues our work on sculling. As written in the drill for the prior week (March 25-31), drills are an outstanding way to develop a better feel for the water. The goal is to feel water pressure on the palm of your hand, as well as your forearm, in these drills and then in your four strokes. Remember, don’t race these drills. Master the drill first, then you can work on speeding up on the drill.

Scull 2: Windshield Wipers Head Down

This drill helps you get around from the outsweep to the insweep in breaststroke and the insweep of the butterfly pull.

  • Think of this drill as your arms acting like windshield wipers. Lie face down in the water wearing a pull buoy between your legs. A snorkel helps! Eyes are pointed down at the bottom of the pool and your arms (from shoulders to elbows) are out front by your head. Your fingers are pointed toward the bottom of the pool. You will scull in and out using your hands and forearms and keeping the rest of your arm motionless. Your elbows should be fairly still as you scull. Drive yourself forward using your forearms and hands, always keeping the fingers pointing down.

Key points to success:

  1. From the elbows down, keep those arms straight throughout the drill.
  2. Fingertips are always pointed down to the pool bottom.
  3. Think of your hands, wrist and forearms as one unit.
  4. When sweeping in, thumbs are pointed to the pool wall ahead of you.
  5. When sweeping out, thumbs are pointed to the pool wall behind you (toward your feet).
  6. Keep those elbows high, and always keep the fingers pointing down.

Here is a short video demonstrating the drill.

Mar 262012

I love sculling. Love it, love it, love it!  For developing knowledge and understanding of the importance of hands in the stroke, I have always loved sculling as a method to teach “feel for the water”.  In swimming, your hands and forearms are a critical element in all four strokes. We want you to feel pressure on the palms of your hand (and often your forearm as well). Sculling provides the perfect vehicle to feel that pressure and how the pitch of your hand dictates how long you can carry that pressure through your stroke.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post different sculling drills for you to try. It is so important, when doing drills, to really slow yourself down and think about what you are doing. All drills have a purpose and will translate to something in your stroke. You want to know what that purpose is and you want to work to master a drill (and that doesn’t usually happen your first time out).

One important instruction on this drill. We want you to relax every part of your body that you can, except for your hands and forearms. You will need to regularly remind yourself to relax your head, neck, shoulders, back and legs, and to put all your concentration in your hands and forearms.

In this drill, it is best not to kick at all, otherwise there is a tendency to kick through the lap more than scull through the lap. A snorkel is a great tool, and a pull buoy or light, buoyant fins (like the AquaSphere brand) work well.

Scull 1: Wide Y Sculling

In addition to providing a feel for the water, this drill helps develop the muscles used in the outsweep of breaststroke and butterfly. It also promotes thumbs down position for the beginning of the outsweep on those short axis strokes.

  • Fins are okay for this drill but only for balance. Go face down in the water and scull with your hands out in front of you. You scull to a “wide y” which is where you would “turn the corner” (to the insweep) if we were following through on the stroke. Here we just want you to scull in and out from your hands (starting in a superman pose), out to the wide y and immediately back to center. There should no bend in the elbow. All of the power comes from your hands and your forearms. If you kick, use only the slightest flutter kick to keep you level and on top of the water. Your head and eyes are pointed down. Breathe when you can and then immediately return to the face down position. Or, wear a snorkel to emphasize the head down position so you can concentrate on the outsweep/insweep.

Key points to success:

  1. Keep those arms straight throughout the drill, elbows locked.
  2. When sweeping out, start with thumbs down, pinkies up all the way to the widest part of the “Y”.
  3. When sweeping in, thumbs are up, pinkies are down.
  4. Think of your hands, wrist and forearms as one unit.

To view a short You Tube video on this drill, see the bottom of this post.

Wide Y Scull


Mar 262012

For our open water swimmers, it is just about time to jump in to some open water. Depending on where you live, that might be easier said than done. After all, water in San Francisco Bay is still pretty cold for the seasonal open water swimmer. For you hard core year-rounders, it is never a problem, right? Out here in AZ where I live, it is definitely time to find the open waters!

2010 FINA Worlds Masters 3K OWS Sweden

Found this link today that I thought might benefit those of you who love to swim outside the confines of lane lines and chlorine. Many of the big vendors, Finis, Speedo, TYR, Swim Outlet, Kiefer, etc., have all kinds of tips and tricks. This one is courtesy of Finis. The article was written by Mallory Mead, a TERRIFIC open water swimmer and coach from Indiana. She also posts workouts specific to open water swimmers on US Masters Swimming website. You can find them here. You’ll need a sign on with USMS (it is free) which I highly recommend as one of your go-to sites for swimming information. Look for Open Water Workouts – by Mallory Mead.

Meanwhile, your tip of the week: Training for Cold Water Swims, 9 Tips You Need to Know

Mar 262012

For our registered Swymnuts (registered with US Masters Swimming as a Swymnut), you have access to hundreds of swim workouts. If you have not yet been linked to Dropbox, where we store our workouts, contact me using the Contact Our Coach (for Cokie) in the right sidebar.

We offer a variety of options in our workouts. Coach Susie Powell presents workouts that are for the beginner or beginner-intermediate level and those workouts are generally 1800-2000 yards with some stroke work, but primarily freestyle in the base. They are also great for people coming back from some type of injury or time away from the water. All of Susie’s workouts on Dropbox start with #500 or greater. With Susie’s workout, just poke around on Dropbox and find what you need. Her workouts are simply numbered, 500, 501, 502, etc.

My workouts are geared for the intermediate and advanced swimmer. Actually, each workout I write has three levels to it: “lighter option”, intermediate, and advanced. You’ll see coverage for all four strokes, but you are always welcome to substitute as needed.

  • Lighter Option yardage is roughly 1800-2500 yards.
    • When you are in the mood for a quick swim that is a little lower in intensity.
  • Intermediate yardage is roughly 2500-3600 yards.
    • Your normal swims, unless you are a yardage hound! 🙂
  • Advanced yardage is roughly 3600-4500 yards.
    • For those loving yards and more yards – geared for our distance event swimmers.

I design workouts that are sprint (anaerobic), aerobic, or even a mix of the two. A further breakdown will show that you will see workouts that target stroke work, freestyle, IM or legs. You’ll see distance free and middle distance free in the mix as well. I firmly believe in changing your energy zones in workouts throughout the week. If you do this, you will train your body better and faster than if you remain in the same energy zone all the time. Distance swimmers need to sprint and work their anaerobic zone. Sprint swimmers need to swim longer sets and work their aerobic zone.

With my workouts, you will find them numbered and a brief descriptor. For example: 5 Middle Distance Free; 6 Leg Workout; 10 Freestyle 200s. Those descriptors often contain the focus of the workout in the main set. In the main set area of the workouts, it is recommended that you work straight through the main set (which can consist of several small sets). So don’t take 5 minutes between these small sets. Crank one set out, rest maybe 20-30 seconds, and move into the next set unless the workout instructions say to rest longer. The goal of my main sets is to work you for 20 minutes keeping your heart rate elevated. You can find sprint specific workouts by looking for the word sprint in the file name. If it doesn’t have sprint in the file name, your workout will be aerobic (with some workouts having a possibility of an anaerobic, or sprint set in the mix).

Each week I will post 4-5 recommended workouts here under Swim Workouts. There is no requirement to stay within those four to five, to swim all five, or to even swim only 4-5 workouts that week. With hundreds eventually available on Dropbox, you’ll have all you want or need! Each week I also provide a recommended mix that includes some distance (or middle distance), at least one sprint workout, and some stroke or IM work. In my own swimming, I like a lot of variety and quickly get bored. You won’t see 20 x 100 free, at least not as a straight set. You might see 5 x 100 free, a different set, then more 5 x 100 frees, etc. If you work these workouts as intended, you will absolutely improve your swimming stamina and speed.

I also am an advocate for a lot of drills, which I often put in the PreSet (just after warm up and before the Main Set). Many of my drills are from an eBook I’ve written, There’s A Drill For That. When you do swim drills, go slowly through them. Work to understand the drill and the purpose behind the drill. Focus on what you are doing and how it feels, and work to master the drill. In other words, swim drills with purpose!

Mar 262012

Ok Symnuts, here are your workouts for March 18th-24th. They are available on Dropbox. If you are a registered Swymnut (registered with US Masters Swimming as a Swymnut) you will have access to a HUGE number of workouts. If you have not received access to the Dropbox account where we store our workouts, contact me using the Contact our Coach  form(Cokie) in the right sidebar.

#1 – Free & Stroke

#7 – Sprints & Kicking

#2 – IM & Free

#5 – Middle Distance Free

#11 – Freestyle 100s

Mar 162012

I’ve been concentrating on backstroke a lot this past year. At one point in my swimming, I absolutely hated backstroke. It was so frustrating to me! I was crooked in the lane, struggled to ever feel smooth in the stroke, and it just felt awful. Let’s face it, I sucked at backstroke.

A few years ago, I decided to spend time with the stroke, the weak link in an otherwise solid IM. This past year, when my knee injury wouldn’t allow me to do breaststroke kick, I thought, “what the heck, I’ll declare myself a backstroker”, and my focus on backstroke really blossomed. Gotta tell ya, it has really been a lot of fun. Backstroke has become my go to stroke in practice, and at meets. How far I’ve come from those days of hating the stroke.

In my journey along the way, I’ve picked up some key pointers from videos, websites, swim clinics, and other swim coaches. One of the most helpful for me personally, deals with rotation. Like freestyle, backstroke is a long-axis stroke, which means we need to rotate hip-to-hip when swimming those two strokes.

As a coach, I’ve observed that many masters swimmers struggle with understanding hip rotation or executing that rotation properly. The amazing Olympic Champion, Aaron Peirsol, said something that really resonated with me. Instead of thinking “rotation” (which can seem rigid when executed), Peirsol talks about feeling “as if I’m sliding my hips back and forth in a bowl”. When I hit the pool and tried that, it felt smoother and more natural.

You see, when you say “rotation” there is a tendency to 1) over rotate and 2) execute that rotation from other body parts, not the hips. We are often guilty of trying to execute from our head, out shoulders, or even our feet, and we end up snaking all over the water.

To make sure you are executing from the hips, here are a couple of pointers.

  1. When you think about rotating, first concentrate on tightening your core.
  2. Next, rotate from the core, but try to keep your ankles, hips, and shoulders all on the same rotational line. To do this successfully, you must maintain a very steady flutter kick. Never stop your flutter kick in backstroke. You don’t have to kick “hard”, but you do have to kick steady.
  3. When you recover the stroking arm, use your hips to place that hand in the water. Do not reach back with your hand.
  4. Your hand should slice through the water, straight off your shoulder or even slightly outside. It is the side of your hand (pinkie finger side) that slices through the water. Don’t let the back of your hand slap the water on entry.
  5. Note that your head is not mentioned in the rotation. That is because your head stays PERFECTLY STILL. Don’t let the head travel with the shoulders, don’t bob your chin up and down. Keep it still, with eyes up. The bowl of your face should be dry with water hitting 0n your chin, just under your bottom lip, and water hitting on your forehead above your goggles.
  6. Now, when you put it all together, think about sliding those hips back and forth in a bowl – just remember to tighten your core!

Ready? Get out to that pool and give this a try. Let me know how you do. And as always, please feel free to comment or question this post!