what happens when I get tired swimming?
For a while now I have been trying to understand in more detail what happens to me when I get tired while swimming. The short answer is that my technique deteriorates, I start to develop tension in my legs and shoulders, and all of this spirals downward. I am trying to understand all of this in some more detail in the hopes that it will help me to avoid or delay the problem. So I will lay out some of my thoughts and conjectures here and I would be interested in anyone elseís thoughts on this subject as well.
Iíll start out with a dry-land exercise as an illustration. When I stand on the floor and reach as high as I can toward the ceiling with my right hand, my left foot comes off the floor. At first I thought this is because I am lifting my left hip, but I think the opposite is really true. When I extend the right side of my body as much as possible, my right shoulder girdle extends my arm upward and my right hip extends my leg downward. The result is that my left foot comes off the floor. I think the same thing occurs when I am swimming with good technique and not tired. In particular, there is a hip extension which does not directly have to do with rotation but just with extending the low side of my body (the side with the extended arm). This extension is important because it aligns my body closer to a straight line, which makes the ensuing body rotation easier. One of the first things that happens when I get tired is that this body extension becomes more difficult. Not sure why this is, and there are a couple of possibilities. It might be that the muscles needed to do this become tired, but it might also be that, as my lats and back muscles fatigue, they lose flexibility so that it becomes more work to stretch them out. I would welcome insights on this from anyone else who knows more about it than I do. When my body loses its ability to extend, I either start bending more at the hips (legs drop) or not extending as much from the shoulder girdle or both. The result is that body rotation becomes more difficult, and I need more energy, both in my kick and in my pull, in order to accomplish the rotation. This is the downwards spiral I was referring to. In addition, the poorer rotation may cause me to start lifting my head to breath which also causes my legs to sink and Ö. Well you probably get the idea by now.
So my thought is to concentrate on keeping my extension going when I notice fatigue. This means a focus on my hips as well as my shoulders. In addition, a focus on keeping my forward balance is very important because it helps keep my legs up. The mental image I work with when trying to do this is to make sure I have the same sense of balance I have when doing the skating drill, and this seems to work well for me. The hard part here is combining all of this with a good body rotation, and I think what happens as I fatigue is that I have to slow my stroke rate somewhat in order to be able to hold all of these focusses and avoid the traps I mention above. But the slower stroke rate is worth the price, if it keeps my technique together.
As I said above, I would be interested in anyone elseís experience in this regard and how they deal with their fatigue.