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?

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!

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.


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.


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!

Jan 232013
Photo from http://www.paulsadlerswimland.com/SSC/Glossary.aspx

Photo from http://www.paulsadlerswimland.com/SSC/Glossary.aspx

Today, I’ve got a follow up to the Sunday post this week on Get Rid of That Drag. In this follow up, we’ll see a video from SwimTherapy, a group out of the UK.  One very  common error in freestyle is the head position. This video covers that and different styles of breathing – unilateral, bilateral, exhaling throughout the time your face is in the water, or exploding the exhale immediately before turning for air. Video is very clear, numerous angles above and below, and terrific commentary. Check it out!

Jan 202013
Photo from azcentral.com

Photo from azcentral.com

You have got to watch these YouTube videos Faster Freestyle By Decreasing Drag and How To Swim Faster Freestyle with High Legs & Low DragPosted by J Shaules from SynergySwimming. His approach to teaching on this video is hysterical. While most definitely irreverent, he does make some excellent points. I especially like the first drill in the first video which is done in the deep end. Richard Quick used this drill in his Championship Swimming DVDs. Give it a go!


Jan 132013

Lake TahoeEven though it is only January, it isn’t too early to start thinking about the open water season. Triathletes and open water swimmers need to establish good technique and build their endurance in these winter months.

If you’ve got a wetsuit, and a strong constitution, you can even head to SF Bay and start the year with some Bay swims. Water temps are generally 50 or so in January and warm up to 61 or so in September. Brrr!

There are two terrific training groups that work out of SF Bay. One is SwimArt led by Leslie Thomas. Check them out at Swim-Art.com. I’m sharing with you today a video she has posted on You Tube that has a few very useful tips on open water swim. You’ll find that at the end of this post. As of this date, Swim-Art has not yet published their 2013 calendars. They do have a note that due to America’s Cup, they will have some limits to their normal activities from July to September. I have to tell ya, I’ve been on one of their bay training clinics and it was outstanding!

Another is Water World Swim led by Pedro. They currently have open water swims with Pedro, 10am on Sundays at Aquatic Park. And from March-September, they have “Swim with Pedro” on Thursday nights at 6pm. Fee is $15. Check out their calendar here for more swims. Lake Almanor

And of course, there are the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club to consider as well. These two alternate days using a shared facility located at 500 Jefferson St which is on the edge of Aquatic Park. For $6.50 you can swim and have access to their facility (lockers and showers).

Be sure and check out Pacific Masters competition schedule. Last year they had a large amount of open water swims in our region and this year even more. We usually launch the open water season with a nice 1-mile open water swim in Santa Rosa at Spring Lake Park sometime in May. To warm you up, they do have two meets coming up that have events targeting distance swimmers. They would serve as a great way to launch your training for tri swims or open water competitions.

The first is The Olympic Club 1500m swim in an indoor 25-meter pool. They run just that event! It takes place on Saturday, January 17th. You can check it out and register for it here.

The second event is The City Mile 1650 swim in an indoor 25-yard pool. Again, this is the only event of the meet and it takes place on Sunday, February 24th. You can check it out here.

Both are terrific options to test yourself out and set the foundation for 2013. Go for it!

Ok, on to tips. Check out Leslie’s tips on her YouTube video.

Jan 062013

Photo by © Cokie Lepinski

Breaststrokers know the finicky nature of timing in that stroke. When it is on, your stroke feels incredibly smooth, powerful and almost effortless. When it is off, it feels absolutely horrible! Take time away from the stroke (say from a knee injury), and your timing definitely suffers upon your return.

From on deck, what I notice is that many masters swimmers struggle to find proper timing. One of the biggest questions I get about breaststroke is when to time the kick in relation to the pull. This is a bit tricky. Many a coach has been heard calling out from deck, “kick your hands forward”. While they mean well, the instruction is somewhat flawed. In fact, many of us initiate our kick too early in the stroke because of this misconception. Watch the best breaststrokers in the world of late, and you’ll notice that their kick takes place behind their arm action.

Two great posts are available for further information on how the best of the best time their kick. Check out this post by a Santa Clara swimmer, Russell Payne. He describes his struggle changing from an “accordion breaststroke” (where the kick starts with the catch and pull of the arms) to this more recent evolution. Then, check out this one by who he references in his post, Russell Mark, USA National Team Staff Member.

What Payne describes as accordion breaststroke, is what many masters swimmers do. They draw their hands in on the outsweep and feet up at the same time, exposing their entire frame as one unit of massive resistance. But, if you separate your kick just slightly from your pull, you lessen that resistance by getting the front half of your body into a streamline, allowing the kick to really propel you forward.

In a nutshell, you want to be very patient with your legs. Wait to draw your heels up until your arms “turn the corner” to your insweep from your outsweep. Two key elements to success here are 1) you need to have a very quick draw of your heels to your hips; and 2) on the shoot through recovery of the arms, you need to drive your body forward, pressing your chest down, fully extending those arms out front, and squeezing your ears with your biceps. Take a look at these two pictures that definitely illustrate this point.

Photo from SwimmingandMore.blogspot.com

Photo from SwimmingandMore.blogspot.com

In this first photo, Michael Phelps has drawn his heels up and by the time he gets the arms extended out front, he will be on the down kick with his legs.

Daniel Gyurta. Photo from http://coachjoshwilkinson.edublogs.org

Daniel Gyurta. Photo by Francois Xavier Marit, Getty Images. Obtained from http://coachjoshwilkinson.edublogs.org

This photo is of Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta. Here you can see that he is one step farther along in his stroke than the Phelps photo above. He has completed his recovery and his legs are on the down sweep. This allows him to minimize resistance and maximize his streamline.

How do you do it? Practice, practice, practice. Kicking without a board in a streamline position (as if you just ended a breaststroke pull) is one way to establish your feel for this. Then, give a try to the Pull Stop Kick Stop drill highlighted in this previous post on Breaststroke Timing – Part 2. By learning to separate the pull from the kick, and then gradually putting it back together, you’ll reset your timing and get back to feeling smooth and powerful with your breaststroke.

Give it a try and let me know how things are progressing.