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Old 01-16-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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Default a way to make breathing more comfortable and efficient

Here is a dry land exercise that can help you to determine a neutral head position. It seems that the range of motion you have in turning your head to the side while not moving your shoulders is largest when you keep a straight spine with your head neither too far forward nor too far back. Try slouching and see how far you can turn your head to the side. Now sit (or stand) up straight, keep your head on top of your spine, and see how far you can turn your head. I find that I have a larger range of motion when I sit or stand up straight.

This has relevance to breathing in freestyle. By keeping a straight spine it becomes easier to rotate your head to breath without breaking the straight line that your body should maintain to reduce water resistance. By experimenting with head position to see where your head allows you the largest range of motion while looking to the side, you can help imprint this position in your mind and come back to it while swimming.

This does not mean that you don't rotate your shoulders while breathing. A combination of shoulder and head rotation is necessary, but by extending the range of rotation of your head, you don't need as much body rotation to breath comfortably.

Last edited by Danny : 01-16-2015 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 01-16-2015
tomoy tomoy is offline
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This resonates with me. A lot of my focus lately has been on posture (not just in swimming), and correcting the lack of proper posture for my body. If you have the classic sitting-at-computer posture, the normal and relaxed in-water position will put the head too deep.

When I'm having a hard time breathing, I have to ask myself how is my posture and just asking that question seems to give me more clearance next time I go to breathe.
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Old 01-16-2015
sclim sclim is offline
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I find it really hard to practice a dryland neck and head position, then reproduce it exactly in the water, what with the 90 degree difference and the fact of the water support of the head.
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Old 01-19-2015
sclim sclim is offline
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Originally Posted by sclim View Post
I find it really hard to practice a dryland neck and head position, then reproduce it exactly in the water, what with the 90 degree difference and the fact of the water support of the head.
OK, I take it back, at least partially. I have noticed that I have developed an "old man" neck slouch in the standing position as I age, which is as yet, still correctable by muscular repositioning. On reflection, this proprioception should be transferrable and reproducible to tomorrow morning's flotation and swim session in the pool.

Will it take less effort or more effort to maintain the optimum longitudinal axis alignment of head neck and spine horizontally that requires some effort in the vertical position? This is interesting. The head won't be as buoyant as the torso, so flotation alone will not just lift up the head to alignment. But it won't be total dead weight, as most of the head support will be taken up by the water. When I'm lying supine in bed without a pillow, gravity handily takes care of everything; but I don't expect it to be that easy tomorrow. In the supine position in bed (immersed only in air) the weight of my head is considerable, exerting about 10 lb weight of force to overcome bad postural alignment of muscles and ligaments. I still will have to put out some force tomorrow, I think, to achieve alignment, but hopefully not much. The challenge will be more in searching and finding the appropriate proprioceptive memory to overcome years of bad postural habit.

(The corollary of this whole rethinking of my neck posture in the water is the realisation that I have no idea at all how my head is achieving its rotation during breathing. I had sort of assumed that I was more or less rotating with the neck on axis, but I really have no basis for knowing this. In fact, seeing as how I have an unconscious forward neck slouch standing on land, I think it's highly likely I have a forward = downward slouch in the water, and the exact nature of my rotation is anybody's guess).

Last edited by sclim : 01-19-2015 at 05:43 AM.
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  #5  
Old 01-19-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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I find that the best way to work on these issues is while skating. For me this is a whole body challenge to keep my spine straight and my head aligned. When I think I have it, I rotate up into a breathing position, doing as much of the rotation as possible with my head, not my body. Then I can compare my range of motion to what I can acheive on land. Once your mouth comes out of the water, don't go back in. Hold it there for a couple of breaths. See if you can keep your body and forward arm as close as possible to the position they all were in when your mouth was submerged. This is a challenge, but it tells you all sorts of interesting things about your alignment when you rotate to breath.
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Old 01-19-2015
sclim sclim is offline
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OK, I tried it. The proprioceptive thing was easier than I thought it would be. I could easily tell when I got it right. Rotation to air was way more precise when my head started off being properly aligned! My main problem was concentration. At first I was able to stay on top of it most of the time. But as the session wore on, the burden of trying to remember all the elements of high elbow catch, which I'm still working on (using 50m fist swimming, 50 meters regular hand swimming), plus all the list of routine technical points got overwhelmed by the old postural habits, and my head started to crane again more often than not. But it was an excellent start, I think.

Due to the novelty of the new posture in the water, I had absolutely no idea what it was doing to my balance, which is pretty fragile, at best. Likely not good. But I had the idea when my head was not pressing down as much in the water that my chest should take over the burden of pressing down. I'll have to concentrate more on this when the head and neck alignment become more easy to do automatically.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny View Post
I find that the best way to work on these issues is while skating. For me this is a whole body challenge to keep my spine straight and my head aligned. When I think I have it, I rotate up into a breathing position, doing as much of the rotation as possible with my head, not my body. Then I can compare my range of motion to what I can acheive on land. Once your mouth comes out of the water, don't go back in. Hold it there for a couple of breaths. See if you can keep your body and forward arm as close as possible to the position they all were in when your mouth was submerged. This is a challenge, but it tells you all sorts of interesting things about your alignment when you rotate to breath.
Danny, this would be a real challenge for me because I don't float well at the water surface. To hold the breathing position in skate would seem to me very difficult, especially in the absence of an arm stroke, with only the very gentle leg flutter to provide velocity; I would think there would not be enough of a bow wave to mimic the breathing position of whole stroke breathing. But still, it would be worth a try, once I get a firmer handle on the new head and neck posture.
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