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Old 01-22-2009
terry terry is offline
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Default Chapter 6 How to Kick in Open Water (part 1 of 2)

The highest profile open water races in history were the men’s and women’s 10K at the Beijing Olympics. Video from those races is still available on-line and would be worthwhile viewing for anyone who plans to race in open water, and of interest even to those whose open water ambitions are simply for greater enjoyment of vacations near tropic bays or mountain lakes.

If you watch with a practiced eye, you’ll see two “races within the race” in each of those events. As much as 9500, out of 10,000, meters was devoted to “strategic” racing and as little as 500 to “all out” racing. The strategic racing – drafting, conservative pacing and jockeying for position in the pack – was largely devoted to saving energy for a final sprint of 200 to 400 meters, during which the Olympic championship and medals (podium positions in triathlon parlance) were won or lost. One of the key strategic decisions for many top swimmers was to use an energy-saving 2-Beat Kick (2BK) for most of the race, in order to have fresh legs for a speed-maximizing 6-Beat Kick (6BK) at the end. But the 2BK isn’t necessarily a “slow” kick either. Indeed it’s the best option for the vast majority of adult OW swimmers, including those who race.

Most swimmers are already aware it’s best to minimize the kick when swimming for distance. I’ve even heard a few insist they “drag their legs” to save energy. But when I checked, the “leg draggers” were actually using a 2BK, albeit seldom gaining as much from it as they could. Even so, a “leg dragging” approach is a good place to start – if that choice is even available to you.

Less kicking can usually help minimize energy waste, because, while kicking contributes relatively little to propulsion (true for most swimmers, but not for those who make best use of the 2BK), the leg muscles, because they’re so large, consume oxygen and energy at a high rate. But “not kicking” isn’t a realistic or desirable option. When you swim with any degree of hip rotation – as should happen if you practice the technique commitments in Chapter 5 – the legs will move naturally to counterbalance your weight shifts, just as a counterbalancing arm swing is most natural when running. Trying not to kick would inhibit that natural motion, and burn more energy than letting your legs respond naturally to body movement. I could easily – and ultimately will – write an entire mini-book on kicking, but here I’ll outline the essentials.

The 2BK provides the greatest contribution to stroking power, with the least energy cost (Less Work, More Speed) because it takes advantage of the natural, nearly effortless, power produced by hip drive or weight shifts in the “perpetual motion” stroke. The combination of steadier, faster 6BK kick – like high-power and high-rate armstrokes -- may allow greater speed in the short term, but has a far higher energy cost.

But the 2BK can be challenging to learn for many “adult-onset” swimmers
because they have “busy” legs – a legacy of the survival strokes they started out with. But even those who’ve been relatively comfortable in the water often get less than they could from the 2BK, which was my story. As a college distance swimmer, though I felt as if I wasn’t kicking, my legs still tired badly near the end of races, hurting my ability to win a finishing sprint.

A quarter-century later, as a Masters swimmer in my mid-40s, it was still happening. And kicking sets, intended to condition my legs, did nothing to improve matters. What was especially frustrating was that, though my legs betrayed me at the end of the race, prior to that they seemed to contribute nothing, making my legs feel like useless appendages.
However, in my mid-50s, though I’d not done a kicking set for over 10 years, my kick had become essential – perhaps the largest factor – in my late-blooming emergence as an “elite” OW swimmer, with national titles, records and rankings in Masters swimming. This was the result of a multi-year “project” I embarked upon at about age 50 to get my 2BK under control and connect it to my stroke (and at which I’m still making progress as I turn 58.) My project has had three distinct stages:

Stage One: Get my legs to Cooperate. From my mid-teens to mid-40s, my legs seemed to have a mind of their own. They were active while I swam, and that activity seemed to make me tired, but they never seemed to help. And when I tried to swim faster, they simply became discombobulated, disrupting rhythm and burning far too much energy while adding far too little speed. Finally, I realized that my legs were so preoccupied with compensating for imbalance and instability in my upper body that they were unable to perform their most valuable role – assisting with hip rotation. As I improved my balance and midline stability (MS) my legs ceased to be an impediment and began to cooperate with the rest of my body.

Stage Two: Get my legs to Coordinate. As my MS improved and my legs’ “involuntary activity” diminished, I could identify exactly the kind of movement that hurt my efficiency – a combination of mistimed (at the wrong moment in my stroke) and misdirected (sliding sideways rather than driving down) beats. One summer morning, while swimming in a 50-meter pool, I experienced a coordination I’d never felt before, driving my left foot down at the same moment I speared my right hand forward and vice versa. When I made that a focal point I felt an electric surge of unprecedented power surge through my body like a whip crack. I could feel virtually every muscle between one hand and the opposite foot – nearly every muscle fiber in my body – firing at the same moment. I immediately did a series of 10 x 50 with the “diagonal power” focal point – using the downbeat of each leg to drive my opposite hand forward. At the end of 500 meters, I felt as if I’d done a weight-lifting set and knew I was on to something.

Stage Three: Increase Economy. In the year following my discovery of “diagonal power” I swam faster than I had in 12 years, but still felt some leg fatigue late in races. At least I was getting considerable speed in return for the work, but as someone who obsesses about saving energy, I felt I could make my kick work better. So in the last two years my focus has shifted to: (1) Less drag – I’m more attentive to streamlining my legs, as they kick, keeping my feet closer to the line of my lower legs, and closer to each other; (2) More core-driven – My thighs were fatiguing because my newly-powerful kick (and stroke) placed an increased load on them. So I focused on originating the kick in my gut, and using thigh muscles only to link that power source to the “lever” of my lower leg. (3) Brace, don’t beat. Finally I worked to change the sensation of my leg drive. Instead of feeling as if the foot beat down, I tried to feel as if I was using the lower leg as a brace, from which I could drive my opposite hand forward. That shift in intention also helped shift the work from fatigue-prone thigh muscle to fatigue-resistant core muscle.

While my “2BK development project’ has lasted for nearly a decade and required patience and concentration, it has also been engrossing and deeply satisfying. A good thing, since I don’t anticipate ever “finishing” this project or feeling I’ve achieved full mastery. And yet what I’ve achieved so far is literally thrilling in terms of how much faster it allows me to swim, yet is actually easier than the way I swam before.
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Old 01-22-2009
terry terry is offline
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Default Chapter 6 How to Kick in Open Water (part 2 of 2)

BOX Kicking Lessons: Teach your legs the 2BK in 5 Steps

1. Push off the bottom or wall into a Superman Glide (Easy Freestyle, Lesson 1). Focus on feeling “weightless” as you glide. Begin stroking as your glide slows, aiming mainly to feel that the moments of weightlessness have reduced the “need” to kick. Continue for only three to five strokes – or stop as soon as you feel your kick “taking over.” Stand for a breather, then push off again. Each time try to reduce your need to kick and replace it with allowing your legs to respond to body motion. Continue stroking so long as you feel that. Stop as soon as you don’t.

2. Try to keep leg movements mostly vertical and as small as possible, while remaining focused on the feeling of a long, sleek leg. Continue practicing while you heighten awareness of what is the natural pattern of how your legs move in a non-overt kick – i.e. one that just responds naturally to how the upper torso moves.

3. As you tune into the leg’s natural movement tendencies – what they do when you’re not trying to kick, examine whether your right leg downbeat is synchronized with the entry of your left hand – and vice versa. When/if you feel that, slightly accentuate the downbeat, in such a way that it adds energy to the opposite hand as it spears forward. You’re feeling Diagonal Power. This is the most powerful movement available in freestyle because every muscle fiber between one hand and the opposite foot fires at the same moment.

4. Next focus on synchronizing the downbeat of your right leg with the second half of your right hand stroke. When you get this right, it will feel as if your downbeat helps accelerate the hand to its finish…which is exactly what it does. Repeat with focus on the other side.

5. You can reinforce 2BK timing on your switch drills as well. While doing UnderSwitches, pin the legs together and hold them streamlined for a moment as you spear each time. With practice – and improvement in your balance and stability – you may find yourself able to hold that leg-streamline a moment longer, before resuming your easy flutter. While doing ZipperSwitches, pause your legs as you pause your arm alongside your goggle, just before your Mail Slot entry. Synchronize leg drive with your switch. End Box


BOX Fast Five: Focal Points for Kicking in Whole Stroke
1. Keep ankles as parallel as possible. Minimizing the kick forces you to use core muscle to further stabilize your body position, which also provides an occasion to feel the forces that - in less examined moments - may cause your 2BK to become mis-timed or misdirected. Try to be very sensitive to small impulses that might cause your kick to go awry. Experiment with how your wide tracks and the stability of your catch contribute to greater control of your legs.
2. Allow the depth of your leg drive to increase ever so slightly.. Using the same core stabilizing actions, can you keep the leg drive feeling perfectly vertical - no diagonal movements at all. Even though there will be some diagonal action when you allow full leg drive, this emphasis helps control "body wobbles" that are the most likely cause of unsynchronized kicks.
3. Concentrate on synchronizing those tight, vertical kicks with opposite hand spear. Gradually increase the depth of leg drive.
4. When you feel increased control over timing and direction, focus on kicking/spearing to maximize the distance between fingers and toes.
5. Maximize integration and relaxation by trying to "kick from your core" rather than from your thighs. End Box
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Old 01-22-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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Default Links?

Do you have a link to a good video of the open water races?
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Old 01-22-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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Default Arch and Whip -- useful?

That second sentence of the first point of your "fast 5" sounds like an interesting exercise. A similar example I have always found interesting is how when I push off the wall, I am able to rotate my body 180 or even 360 degrees with no apparent effort. Doing your exercise is kind of the opposite -- how to counteract the small movements of the kick to be stable rotationally.

One thing I have tried to develop with my kick is to try to somewhat push the water "back" with my leg: by arching my leg somewhat on the upkick, as I bring the leg down having a little bit of snap in the knee gives a feeling of the water peeling back. Arching the leg uses the core muscles of the lower back, so that is probably helpful. I am not sure the "whip" part of it does anything propulsively though.
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Old 02-02-2009
ny1301 ny1301 is offline
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This Chapter is very 'new' from other books and very helpful. I can understand (may be somewhat shallow though) most parts but the following:

Quote:
4. Next focus on synchronizing the downbeat of your right leg with the second half of your right hand stroke. When you get this right, it will feel as if your downbeat helps accelerate the hand to its finish…which is exactly what it does. Repeat with focus on the other side.
As the kick is compact, how could it synchronizes with both left hand entry and right hand pull which happen at different times?

thanks

Xinji
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Old 02-02-2009
don h don h is offline
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Default ny1301's question

this is a very good question. how does terry synchronize the kick with the 2d half of the stroke on the same side, and with entry of the hand on the other side? when i enter on one side, i am just beginning the stroke on the other side, and am nowhere near the 2d half of the stroke.

i would certainly like to learn to do what terry is doing, and he has written in other places that the kick is timed with the second half of the stroke. i wonder if a possible interpretation would be that the kick is timed with the second half of the stroke on the same side, and the extension of the spearing arm on the other side after it has entered the water.

i have been using this interpretation for some time, but i still don't feel like the kick is happening during the second half of the stroke. i feel like i'm using the kick to initiate the roll (driving the opposite hip down), but this is quite a bit early to coordinate with the second half of the stroke.

would appreciate any insights into the question posed by ny1301.
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Old 02-02-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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Default The zen in zen switch

As I understand things, this question is how the "zen" got into the "zen switch". That is, you could try to break it down to exactly what happens when in the fast action of the switching, but when it comes right down to it what is the point? You are better off relying on your body's "wisdom" to put things together correctly. So, practicing the switches, in a careful, controlled way, will put things together in the right order -- when you feel increased power and smoothness you are on the right track.

And you are right -- things originate from the hip drive, which supports the hand spearing forward. The "catch" also supports the hand spearing forward.
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Last edited by madvet : 02-02-2009 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 02-04-2009
don h don h is offline
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Default more about ny 1301's question

after looking at shinji's videos, and thinking about this a little more, i think i may have a little better interpretation than the one i mentioned a couple of posts ago.

i notice that during the entire recovery, including the moment when his hand "enters," shinji is still "on his side." his high side does not roll down until his entering arm is in the process of extending under the water. he appears to fire the kick at about the time the hand enters, and the high side begins to roll down.

therefore, i offer the humble interpretation that the EFFECTS of the kick (both the rolling of the body, as well as propulsion) occur a split second later than "entry" (and largely during the second half of the stroke). in other words, this may be what terry is referring to when he says the kick should be synchronized with the second half of the stroke.

the "point" of thinking about swimming in this way is that i may have discovered a flaw in my own swimming, namely, firing the kick too early (well before "entry"), and not staying on my side long enough during recovery.

i look forward to exploring this at the pool in the morning.

don h
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Old 02-05-2009
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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I'm inclined to think that the kick will synchronize with both the catch and the spearing of the opposite hand if a person is swimming with an extreme catch-up. I find that my kick is a split second behind my catch as well.
Lately I've been doing a lot of one-side swimming to get the timing.
  1. Start in skate position, kicking very slowly, maybe wearing fins
  2. As the bottom leg reaches the end of kicking back and starts to go forward again, start sculling the hand on that side outwards, with thumb rotating slightly downward to bring elbow up. The hand wraps around and "catches" the water in the elbow-up hand-over-the-volkswagon way.
  3. As the body rotates to face-down position, the kick finishes up. Sort of like half of a dolphin kick, in the hand recovery part of a butterfly stroke.
  4. Pause in "fish" position on the other side. Then bring the recovering arm forward and spear into the water as the bottom leg on the other side kicks forward/down, aiming for a smooth seamless motion. (This is harder than the catch part.
It always takes a few lengths of this to get the hang of it, but l can feel my stroke and kick working together afterwards, and get more forward momentum from each catch.
It's occurred to me that the reason six-beat kick is used more for sprinting might not be so much for the momentum from the kick as because there is much less of a front-quadrant "catch-up" in sprinting, and using more kicks gives the spearing hand another chance to coordinate with a kick from the opposite-side leg.
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Old 02-10-2009
terry terry is offline
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The questions on exact timing are all worthy. Most likely my sense of the timing is inexact, but I'm just reporting how I perceive it. One of you commented that I may feel the effect of the kick, rather than its initiation. This could well be so. Also, the term "second half of the stroke" is itself inexact. There's a moment where I transition from a "patient" catch to a far more rapid hand movement. That acceleration doesn't result from me trying to move my hand faster. It results from the weight shift -- which synchronizes with leg drive. I've labeled it as the "second half" of the stroke but in actuality that moment of acceleration happens about the time the stroking hand passes under the shoulder, which is still fairly "early" in the stroke if you're measuring it by the distance traveled by the hand, but "late" if you measure it in terms of elapsed time from catch to exit.
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