Apr 092014
 

taper-timeYahoo! Swimmers are practically doing back flips because we have reached Taper Time. Beginning Sunday, April 13th, we start the 3-week taper for the Nationals held May 1-4 in Santa Clara.

A taper can be anywhere from 2-3 weeks long. I start our taper 3 weeks out in concept more than in design. For those on the team, you will have received our Swymnut Taper Guide by email (if not, drop me an email). The Taper workouts are constructed to work for both those actually tapering and the rest of the team not heading to the meet. As we progress through the taper weeks, you’ll notice those on taper exiting the pool earlier than the rest of you. Dang, don’t you wish you were going to the meet now? Either way, our non meet goers will not be forgotten. We’ll take good care of all ya all!

The first week of taper keeps our yardage totals pretty close to our normal 1-hour practices where we usually see total yardage (including warm up and warm down) in the 2800-3200 range. In fact, the whole idea of a taper is to cut volume incrementally to about 60% of pre-taper values just before the big meet. The first week of taper is about sharpening our focus on race strategy and stroke technique. We have some longer rest periods in that week, but need to maintain our aerobic base. We begin to bring down yardage week two and reach that 60% mark in the third and final week.

We need to maintain intensity of training, which is why you see a lot of sprint work or speed work indicated. The good news is that we allow much more rest in our sprint sets. Intensity also comes in the form of focus, so there is a lot of emphasis on good push offs, quality stroke technique, race finishes, and lots of time to work starts and turns.

It is important to swim frequently the weeks before and during taper. While we do want you to listen to your body and rest it as needed, we also need you to maintain your feel for the water. Come to practice and we will work together to analyze what you need that day. Just stay in the water to maintain your connection to it!

Distance swimmers (doing 500 or more) can add a little more yardage to the taper workouts. Remember, the key is “what is your 60%” yardage value?

And don’t forget, this whole Masters Swimming is all about having fun and staying fit. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Don’t analyze things to death. Don’t worry. Go, enjoy, and swim the very best you can that day, that event. Relish in what you are able to do not in what you didn’t do. Your well being and happiness are not dependent on the outcome of your race, so don’t beat the crap out of yourself when you stumble in an event or even at an entire meet. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your experience, and know that there will be many more swim meets down the road. It took me years to realize this and it is one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn. Meets are now much more enjoyable than ever before and I hope they are for you as well!

Soreness often comes into play during taper. To understand why, check out this article from the Swim Sci folks:

Why am I Sore During Taper?

Nov 022013
 

Erica Sutherland has made the centerfold of the November-December 2013 issue of SWIMMER Magazine! The center of the magazine has the technique article, and this issue was on Backstroke Starts. When I was asked to write an article on this topic for USMS, it didn’t take but a second to realize who I wanted to do the modeling. Erica has one of the most amazing starts that we all want to emulate. Incredibly graceful and flexible, Erica launches like someone half her age.

Along with the article, we were privileged to have USMS film a segment on Backstroke Starts. That video is embedded here. Enjoy!

This was our second Swymnut taking centerfold status this year, with Jimmy Nam appearing in the July-August issue. That article was on 5 Missteps in Breaststroke Arms and the accompanying video to that article appears here.

Thank you to both our swimmers for doing such a great job and representing Swymnut Masters in THE magazine for U.S. Masters Swimming.

Mar 312013
 

I focused on a previous post last week about the importance of Turns. Here is a pretty cool clip from Swim Technique covering turns for a 100 IM.

In the video, you will see that the swimmer shows two different back to breast turns. The first such turn is a Back-to-Breast Bucket Turn where you go straight over. The second turn is a traditional Back-to-Breast – touch the wall, spin the knees up, and get off the wall on your stomach. Which, I might add, he does very well. If you watch this movie in QuickTime, use your arrow keys to proceed through the video frame by frame. That is a great way to slow it down so you can see every nuance.

The Bucket Turn is an older version that can be fast. I have a variation of that style turn where I make my flip go over one shoulder instead of straight over. For some reason this is definitely faster for me. The Bucket Turn and the Crossover Turn below are ways to significantly speed up your Back-to-Breast turn once you master the technique. However, you need to make sure you set up with a good breath going into the wall as it takes some explosive energy to execute. I’ve got this mastered for a 100 IM, but for a 200 IM, I feel a bit more winded and therefore do a standard Back-to-Breast open turn.

Here is a clip of Ryan Lochte doing the Back-to-Breast Crossover Turn – also known as the Suicide Turn. Click Turn Back To Breast Crossover Locthe. A GREAT turn and now THE common turn among elite swimmers. But it is also known as the Suicide Turn. Why? Because there is a high risk of getting disqualified. When swimming backstroke, you must finish the lap and your touch on your back. The touch on this turn is driving the lead arm up and over across your body on that final touch. The danger is that it is incredibly easy to wind up touching on your side. As you can see on Ryan’s clip, Ryan dives his left arm over across his body lifting his left hip to air. He then tucks his chin, folds at his waist, spins his knees to his chest, drives his head to his knees (getting incredibly compact),  and leaves the wall at a slight angle on his right hip.

Here is Eric Shanteau with the same turn.

For a step-by-step guide to the Crossover Turn, this is one of my favorites.

For a more detailed look at a Fly to Back turn check out this clip.

For a Breast to Free turn, check out this clip.

And finally, this clip from GoSwim has some very sage advice about how to work turns into your practice. Some solid technique is shown in this one.

That should keep you all busy and out of trouble. Now go practice those turns!

Mar 232013
 

Having had a chance to watch and compete in a masters swim meet today, I was again struck by the importance of turns. This meet was a sprint meet – the USF March Madness Meet that consisted of 50s and 100s. Starts and turns are a HUGE part of races that short and you want to make sure you are absolutely solid on your turns.

In practice – attack those walls and do so at race pace. Set aside a couple of 25s at the end of practice that you do from mid pool. Build yourself up to an all out sprint into and out of the turn. You’ve got to practice them at speed so that you are on auto-pilot on race day. Be aggressive! You’ve got to take momentum into the wall to get momentum off the wall.

On open turns (fly, breast, fly to back, back to breast) the first bit of speed comes from staying low and compact going into the wall. The second bit of speed comes from spinning your knees up hard and fast to get those feet planted on the wall. The third bit of speed comes from getting into (and quickly) the most efficient streamline you can establish. The fastest you will ever be is off the dive. The second fastest you will ever be is coming off the wall on your turns. It is worth every bit of time you have to “sweat the small stuff” and practice, practice, practice.

For specifics on turns, see my post on Open Turns from February 3, 2013. You can find that article here. There is also a freestyle flip turn drill from August 2012 here.

From http://forever-athlete.tumblr.com/post/4196915868

From http://forever-athlete.tumblr.com/post/4196915868

 

Feb 032013
 

dog_flipturnTime to brush up on those open turns we do so many of in practice.  ”Why coach, why?!?”  Hmm, well because “I told you so” just isn’t going to fly with you masters swimmers, let’s give you a few “whys” behind how open turns can be your best friend, just like Fido here.

It is really easy to get sloppy in doing your turns. Sometimes it is fatigue, sometimes it is laziness, sometimes it is inattention or sometimes it is even because you just don’t know how. Whatever the reason, it is the simplest thing to stick with once you nail down the mechanics. Here are some benefits of fine tuning those open turns.

  1. Save energy
  2. Save time
  3. Be faster than the lane next to you! :-)
  4. Feel and look like a pro! We know what that means to you…
  5. Prep yourself for competition – you know you want to :-)
  6. Spare an injured body party – say your back – from the load it takes from flip turns and do so without sacrificing too much efficiency!

This post at Swimming World has a pictorial step-by-step guide for freestyle open turns.

http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/premium/tips_on_technique/fly-2004-03-02.asp

This post, also at Swimming World, has a pictorial approach to breast and fly open turns. Now you can see the similarities once you have touched the wall.

http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/premium/tips_on_technique/fly-2003-10-27.asp

And for a video on this, check out GoSwim’s Freestyle Open Turn Sequence which is done in a 4-part series.

Freestyle Open Turns Step #1

Freestyle Open Turns Step #2

Freestyle Open Turns Step #3

Freestyle Open Turns Step #4

Go out there and make us coaches proud of those super efficient and speedy turns!

Oct 282012
 

Kaity and Susie with her sleek kayak

The idea for today’s post comes from a presentation on freestyle that I attended at the 2012 USMS High Performance Camp in Greensboro, NC. It was given by Coach Stu Kahn, Davis Aquatic Masters and 2012 USMS Coach of the Year. Not only is Stu one heck of a coach, he is also one great friend! 

Did you know that water is roughly 800 times more dense than air? Yup! What does that mean to us swimmers? Our speed in the water is dependent on two forces that act simultaneously. Those forces are resistance and propulsion. According to Coach Stu, up to 91% of a person’s energy is lost through drag. Whoa! Ok then, drag equals resistance. That means to be efficient in the water we need to really work on minimizing our drag, because resistance is the force that holds us back. Propulsion is the force that pushes us forward.

Think of propulsion as a bigger engine. Think of resistance as the hull on a boat. A long sleek hull moves faster through the water. I know this well because one day I went kayaking with fellow coach Susie Powell. She has an incredibly sleek kayak (in the photo for this article), and I had a rental kayak. My body is bigger than Susie’s and stronger. Yet, for every stroke she took, I took 3-4 strokes. Hmmm, I quickly had kayak envy! I had propulsion, but she had minimal resistance and that made her faster in the water.

As Coach Stu says, “Increasing propulsion is building bigger motors. It is time consuming.” Decreasing resistance is your best and fastest way to gain speed in the water. It is about reshaping your vessel. Susie’s kayak was long, narrow and very light. My kayak was short, wide and heavy. We need to learn how to make our bodies long, sleek and narrow in the water. This can be done, no matter what shape you have. So no excuses!

The way to do this is to work technique over training yards. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you keep your focus on your technique, and work to minimize resistance in all phases of your stroke. You can still get some decent and even extreme yardage in, but at every practice you should “sweat the small stuff” and find ways to combat resistance.

One way to reshape ‘your vessel’ is to minimize the surface area of your body as it travels through water. Take a look at this drag coefficient chart of different shapes.

You definitely don’t want to be the cube! Maybe that’s why we all liked those high tech suits. They, uh, reshaped our vessel! Seriously though, if I work to smooth out my torso by drawing in my ribs (or pulling in my belly button), I flatten the back and trim resistance in that one spot – and it works for any stroke, start or turn. If I reach long in my stroke and enter straight out from my shoulders (free, back and fly), I help the water draft around my body with less drag. If I keep my legs kicking inside my hip line (flutter or dolphin) instead of splaying that can happen on freestyle and backstroke, or bending my knees too much on butterfly, I’ve found another way of lengthening and reshaping my hull.

Head to the pool and become hyper aware of how you line up and move your body through the water. Think about the concept of the cylinder that I brought up in a previous post. Work to minimize resistance first, then build a bigger engine and find that propulsion.

Aug 182012
 

Here’s a great drill for mastering flip turns. It comes from our friends over at GoSwim. This drill uses the concept of a waterfall to teach the move where you drive your head to your knees. Pretty cool, and definitely something you can do on your own.

Step by step instructions that go with the video are:

Why do it:

Making sure the set up for your turn is direct, helps improve the speed into and out of the wall. Using the water as a substance, and your momentum to help you through the turn also saves energy and eliminates extraneous movements.

How to do it:

1) Push off the wall underrwater with your hands held down to your sides.

2) Very soon after your push, tuck your chin so the water hits you on the back of the head (like standing under a waterfall and leaning forward).

3) Allow the water to push you around without using your legs or arms. If you donapos;t make it all the way around, thatapos;s fine, this is just to teach you the initial sensation.

4) Move to directly on the surface, pushing off the same way, and tucking your chin to allow the body to flip around.

5) Finally, swim into the wall to gain some momentum, stop swimming a bit sooner than normal to allow both arms to be behind you, tuck your chin and roll into a flip turn.

How to do it really well (the fine points):

Make sure you never pop up prior to the turn, but submerge into the wall on each turn. Make sure you are not lifting your head as you approach the wall, but practice looking at the bottom to start building an awareness of turning without seeing the end. Most of all, when learning this, donapos;t muscle the first couple of steps, stay soft and slow, and feel the water pushing you around.

Coach Cokie’s note:

I would add one more “fine point”. When you flip, be sure and flip straight over, not off to one hip. On  the video, most of the swimmers do flip straight over onto the wall. However, a few flip slightly to one side and come out on one hip. When really trying to master flip turns, get yourself to flip straight over. You’ll use your dolphin kicks (or flutter kicks) to corkscrew you onto one hip and your first breakout stroke finishes straightening out your body. That comes in a future lesson!

Aug 042012
 

Wow, have those Olympics been exhilirating! I have caught every swim race, often sitting on the edge of my seat and jumping for joy when they come to the final wall. What an amazing collection of swimmers from all over the world. Any of us who swim for fitness or competition, can understand and appreciate the huge amount of work these athletes put in to get on that big stage.   Thousands and thousands of hours in the pool and in the gym in the hopes of shaving seconds, tenths  or even hundredths off their time.

I can guarantee you that these Olympic swimmers are infinitely familiar with their pace clocks back at their training centers. That pace clock is a terrific tool for both fitness swimmers and competitive swimmers. Swimming mindless sets with no time reference is okay once in awhile, but to improve, you must work with the clock. Note that I say “with” not “against”. :-)

There are lots and lots of ways to work with a pace clock. For today’s post, I’m going to talk about using the clock to establish your base or baseline in freestyle for the purpose of interval training, which can be key to finding speed, increasing endurance, and building your confidence in pushing yourself. There is a new coach posting to the USMS workouts (open water training) and I got the idea for this write up this week from her introductory post. Thank you Coach Anne Cleveland! You can follow Coach Cleveland’s workouts here.

What you’ll see with many online workouts is a reference of B+5, B-5, B+10, etc. The “B” stands for your Base. Right. So…what exactly is that? Base is your 100 time plus about :07 seconds of rest. Again, right….

To establish your base/baseline you swim a 100 free (no fins) at a comfortable pace from the wall (no dive start). Comfortably means about a 75% effort. Since that figure can be hard to quantify, think of it this way. Swim a 100 free with just a slight push, but enough where, when you come to the wall, you aren’t breathing all that hard.

Let’s say you come in at 1:23. Adding :07 seconds makes that 1:30. (I like easy math.) Wah lah! You have just discovered your base.  Your base is 1:30, not 1:23 – remember, build in those :07 or :08 seconds.  If you see a set that says 5 x 100 on B+:05 that would mean you would swim your 100s on 1:35 (your 1:30 base plus 5 seconds). If that set reads 5 x 100 on B-:05, your 100s would be on 1:25 (your 1:30 base minus 5 seconds).

What’s cool about this, is that you can use that base for any set of freestyle. If the workout reads B+:10 on something like 8 x 50 free, then you do some quick, easy math. Using the 1:30 base figure from our calculations in the previouus paragraph, the 50 base time would be 45 seconds. Your set would then be on :55 (your :45 base plus :10).

Let’s say coach says you are going to do 4 x 200 with a changing rate like this:

  • First 200 B + :20
  • Second 200 B + :15
  • Third 200 B + :10
  • Fourth 200 B + :05

Using the 1:30 base we’ve set hypothetically, your 200 base is 3:00 and your set would proceed like this:

  • 200 on 3:20
  • 200 on 3:15
  • 200 on 3:10
  • 200 on 3:05

To improve your speed and/or stamina, find your base and go to work! Changing the intensity of your swims and your intervals is one ticket to do so. Our bodies adapt to routines. If you always swim your 10 x 100 set on 1:30, or always swim 3 x 500 at the same pace, chances are you aren’t going to improve much. If you challenge yourself to change it up, your body will respond. Push your comfort zone once in awhile.

Final note – baseline training can work for any stroke, even IM’s. Just find your 100 time – remember it needs to be at an aerobic pace of about 75% (breathing comfortably). Then, go from there.

Happy Swimming ‘Nuts!

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 172012
 

Ok, so we’ve been posting some drills to improve your timing on breaststroke. I’m doing some research for the USMS High Performance Camp that I’ll be coaching at in August (Greensboro, NC). I’m always on the hunt for new thoughts and ideas. While researching, I stumbled on this very challenging breaststroke drill for advanced level breaststrokers. I found this on SwimmingWorld. While it is dated 2004, it is still worthy of attempting!

Here’s a photo of Ed Moses doing the drill.

Here’s the write up from SwimmingWorld:

This is an advanced breaststroke drill, performed with only one arm and one leg. The drill will force you to use the proper timing of “Pull-Breathe-Kick-Stretch”. If you are not using the correct stroke timing – for example, you are not stretching long enough — you will receive immediate feedback from the stroke and go nowhere.

Begin the drill by holding your left foot with your right hand (or vice versa). Always begin a new stroke cycle in a streamline position, with your left arm extended out in front of you and your right leg straight. Pull as close to your normal pull pattern as possible. As you begin the insweep phase of the stroke, lift your head to breathe. During the breath, bend your kicking leg, bringing the heel of your foot toward your hip. During the power phase of the kick, place your head back down into the water, and straighten your leg into your “streamline”.

The timing of the stroke is a fundamental skill common of all successful breaststrokers. You will find this drill to be almost impossible to perform without proper timing.

Let me know how you fare. I’ve given it a go and can’t begin to master this – yet. My knee surgery has my right knee a bit challenged by that much bending back.

By the way, I had the pleasure of watching Ed Moses swim (and win) the 200 yard breaststroke at the USMS Nationals in Arizona May of 2011. He went out in a 24 on his first 50. Ahem, a 24?!?!?