Jun 302012

How’s summer going? Hope you have some extra time to spend in the pool. After watching the Olympic trials this past week, I am super motivated in the water right now!

Here are the workouts for the week:

#362 – IM & Free

#363 – Your Stroke Specialty

#364 – Short Sprints

#365 – Distance Free

#366 – Long Axis – Back & Free

Jun 242012

There are three ways to do a back to breast turn. I’ve mastered two of them. But the third, The Crossover Turn, has always confounded me. I could not do this turn. Because I could not do it, I could not teach it. Aargh! However, while doing some research on breaststroke (which I am teaching at the upcoming USMS High Performance Camp, August 25-29 in Greensboro, NC),  I found this incredible clip. I love this!!! Finally, I think I just might be able to learn this turn. Thanks to the folks at SwimAffect.com for their expertise in guiding us through this turn.

To view the video, click:

Back to Breast Crossover Turn Swimaffect.com

In future posts, I’ll go over the other two options for a back to breast turn. Meanwhile, go try this, especially you IM swimmers.

Jun 102012

For our Bay Area swimmers in CA who like open water, do you know about SwimArt? I tried them out a few years ago, joining some members from my team at that time, Marin Pirates Masters. We attended the “Introduction” course that SwimArt offers. They do a terrific job of working with all levels of participants. Even though I consider myself an experienced short distance open water swimmer (1-3 miles), I picked up additional tips from the great instructors they had with us that day. If you are interested in swimming in SF Bay, the Alcatraz escape, and other ventures, consider looking into Swim Art. They offer many open water swimming programs in San Francisco Bay and beyond. Not just instruction, but regular guided swims as well. Check ’em out!

SwimArt Facebook page

SwimArt website

Jun 032012

Are you experiencing headaches when you swim?  I followed a blog on the USMS forums the last few days that was quite interesting.  If you get the chance,  check out the blogs at USMS. You will need to create a user name and sign on, but it is a free service to USMS members and there are so many great forums to peruse.

Ok, back to headaches. I was interested in this particular posting because I suffer intense headaches after some swim races. Rarely in practice and I am thankful for that! My headaches come on within 5 to 15 minutes of finishing only a few of the races that I compete in – 200 Breast, 400 IM and occasionally, 100 Breast.  I’m a first hand witness that those headaches can be excruciating and debilitating.  I’ve thought it was asthma, hydration, too much sun, bright glare from sun or sun on the water, nutrition, etc. Never found the answer. I do know that I must have my normal cup of coffee on a swim day or the headache is a guarantee.

On this USMS forum, this particular swimmer was experiencing headaches routinely in practice. A pool temp of 85 degrees (ugh) and 90 minute plus practices were some of her baselines. All kinds of ideas were bandied about, including hydration, proper nutritional aspects, water temp, etc. The post that caught my attention was a fellow swimmer noting a Mayo Clinic web post on “exertional headaches”.

Here’s some excerpts from the Mayo Clinic post.

Exercise headaches occur during or after sustained, strenuous exercise. Activities associated with exercise headaches include running, rowing, tennis, swimming and weightlifting.

Doctors divide exercise headaches into two categories. Primary exercise headaches are usually harmless, aren’t connected to any underlying problems and can often be prevented with medication. Secondary exercise headaches, on the other hand, are caused by an underlying, often serious, problem within the brain — such as bleeding or a tumor — or outside the brain — such as coronary artery disease. Secondary exercise headaches may require emergency medical attention.

I’ll forego analyzing the “secondary exercise headaches”. If you think you may fall into this category, be sure and read the full write up by Mayo and go call your primary care physician. For now, more from Mayo:

The exact cause of primary exercise headaches is unknown. One theory is that strenuous exercise dilates blood vessels inside the skull.

Those who suffer primary exercise headaches describe them as throbbing, say they take place during or after strenuous exercise, and, in most cases,  affect both sides of their head. That fits my own headaches to a “T”.  It is so bad that I’ve occasionaly had to bag the rest of the meet and I struggle to make it home. The headaches I get usually subside after 12 to 24 hours. It makes swimming those events intimidating knowing that kind of pain awaits me after a breaststroke race that is only 1:11 (short course) to maybe 3:15 in length (long course). Many would tell me just give those races up. Geez, really? They are my best events and I just hate the thought of caving in to the possibility of pain. Well, let’s be honest, 400 IM is kind of easy to give up. 🙂

Ok then, we’ve got this theory that strenuous exercise dilates blood vessels. Jim Thornton, a sufferer of excercise heaches, posting on the USMS blog writes,

…have you ever tried drinking some coffee before (and maybe during) practice? A known effect of caffeine is to constrict blood vessels in the brain, and this might help you–no joke!

You could take some Jolt gum to practice and pop a chiclet every half hour, chew vigorously, then pop beneath your tongue for maximum buccal absorption!

I would also consider taking some pain pills before practice–Alleve or even Tylenol.

I don’t know Jolt gum, but I have experimented with caffeine intake during the swim meets, trying just small doses before an event. Have not done this enough to judge its efficacy. It is worthy of more attempts, and in the future,  I’ll keep a log. Perhaps I will find the right amount of caffeine to stave off these exertional headaches.

Risk factors, as noted by the Mayo post are:

You may be at greater risk of exercise headaches if you:

  • Exercise in hot weather
  • Exercise at high altitude
  • Have a personal or family history of migraine

Primary exercise headaches occur most often in people in early adulthood or adolescence.

Hmm, that last point doesn’t quite match as I am now in my 5th decade. Seriously though, if you are a sufferer of exercise headaches, there may be hope for you! I’d encourage you to see your doctor, even if the bouts are infrequent. By being able to describe in detail when they hit, what they feel like, how long they last, what gives you relief from them, etc., your doctor may have answers for how to address this problem. If you are like me, you probably don’t want to give up what you love. Maybe, just maybe you won’t have to.

Jun 032012

Yeah, yeah, you’ve seen my write ups on “early vertical forearm” or “high elbow”. But have you heard of Coach Emmett Hines? This guy is a legend in the coaching world. See what he has to say about dropped elbows – the cause and effect. He has a wonderful writing style – you’ll laugh as you learn! When you click the link below, if it doesn’t take you directly to this article, you’ll land on a page with all of his articles in alphabetical order. Just look for this title.

In Search of the Dreaded Dropped Elbow, Coach Emmett Hines




Jun 032012

You ever feel like the top half of your body is disconnected from the lower half? Well, perhaps not. But as a swim coach, I can tell you that a whole bunch of you seem to suffer that fate. 🙂

It’s true. One of the biggest flaws easiest to spot from deck is the swimmer who seems to have an odd ability to separate their torso from their legs. The two body areas seemingly work against each other instead of in sync. We try not to snicker too loudly. Truth is, we all remember feeling like that at one time in the water. Well, if you’ve been told you might suffer this  fate, then this drill is for you. For those of you who think you are oh-so-fine-and mighty…give this drill a whirl. Just may surprise yourself.

Ok, the drill is called the Sailboat Drill. Actually, I’ve seen this in all kinds of postings, but this particular posting refers to it as the Sailboat Drill. Pretty simple to explain. Maybe not so simple to do.

Hold a kickboard between your thighs. Make sure half the kickboard is sticking below your body when you swim freestyle. Use your core muscles to control your hip rotation. Beware, the board works against your efforts! Ah yes, one more tip. Have the board oriented vertically, not horizontally.

Now if you are a freestyler and can handle this drill with ease, flip over and do the same thing with backstroke. Aha! Gotcha.

Now go back and master the Sailboat Drill. Share it with your gutter buddies. Have fun laughing at each other as you work to hold those boards in place.