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  #1  
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 01:34 PM.
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  #2  
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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  #3  
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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Quote:
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 06:43 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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  #6  
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.
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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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  #7  
Old 01-19-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sclim View Post
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.


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.
sclm, I don't have your sinking problems, so maybe what works for me won't work for you. I will say that I found that I float much closer to the surface when I keep my spine straight and lean on my chest as you mention above. If my case is typical, and old man neck slouch usually comes with a slouched upper spine which makes it difficult to really lean on your chest. People sometimes refer to "swimming proud" which means sticking your chest out, but this may simply be because we are so used to letting the spine in our upper back slouch. Anyway, all of this will bring you closer to the surface.

If you look at the underwater pictures of Shinji doing freestyle,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJpFVvho0o4
it always seemed amazing to me how much he was able to rotate his head on his shoulders when he breaths. I don't think I can come anywhere close to the range of motion he has with his head, but the closer to this you can come, the easier breathing while not breaking your balance line is. The secret is to keep your head aligned, because that allows you to turn your head further. That is something you can test and verify out of the pool.
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Old 01-19-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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One more thing about the Shinji film. If you can freeze frame him in an underwater shot as he turns his head to breath, look at his spinal alignment. I would almost suggest making a hard copy of that picture and posting it on a full length mirror. Try and stand in front of the mirror in exactly the pose that Shinji has and you've got it.

Here is my version attached
Attached Images
File Type: jpg shinji.jpg (34.4 KB, 47 views)

Last edited by Danny : 01-19-2015 at 09:36 PM.
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  #9  
Old 01-20-2015
sclim sclim is offline
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@Danny: You know I must have watched this video hundreds of times, but I watched it again with your emphasis, and I realise I never noticed the head and neck details before. As you say, he is in perfect head and neck alignment. It seems to me that he is not a particularly high floater. Not a sinker like me, by any means, but his aligned head is more than half underwater, so he has to turn to more than just the sideways position, i.e. 90 degrees to get his mouth to enough air when finessed exactly at the trough of the bow wave. As you say ,this is achieved by good neck rotation with respect to the rotated shoulder girdle, but this is particularly facilitated by very good axial alignment of the head and neck.
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  #10  
Old 01-20-2015
sclim sclim is offline
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One further day of specific Head and Neck Axis alignment focus added to prior other focus. (Also simultaneously continuing to drill 100m sets of 50 fist and 50 full-normal hand swim). The head and neck alignment thing is coming more naturally, though still far from automatic -- there is still a lot of loss of attention and then head dropping.

How is it affecting the rest of the stroke? Hard to say. It felt as though I was more clumsy and my SPL seemed harder to maintain, then when I fatigued actually failed to meet my prior target of 24, which I was pleased recently to meet during the full stroke portion of my 50fist/50 full swim sets with TT set at 1.25 seconds. A few months ago I was barely hitting 24 spl consistently with TT set at 1.30 seconds, and only swimming 25 metres at a time! So the failure to sustain the 24 spl was disappointing until at the end of the session just before I turned my TT off, I noticed that it was actually set at 1.20 seconds -- I reduced the interval at the end of yesterday's swim for a 100m SPL trial which didn't go too well because I was fatigued, but forgot to return the time to 1.25 seconds. So I was barely able to sustain the prior SPL but did it for most of the session at a slightly faster tempo, while carrying out a novel (for me) head and neck position. So that's encouraging after all.

Last edited by sclim : 01-20-2015 at 10:52 PM.
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