The gliding style in very rough O/W
Do readers believe it's possible to maintain a smooth gliding style in very rough open water? I love watching Shinji swim and read an interesting quote Swimust found of Shinji ; "I think those who say gliding is bad cannot feel what I feel when I glide. I am Really sorry for that. I glide because I feel good"
Do you think Shinji would have to adapt his style?
I swim more as an energy exercise than anything else. I love the feeling of glide and the challenge to me is whether I can maintain it in rough conditions, although I do love the rare smooth day we get here as I can really feel the glide then . I swim exclusively in the ocean due to my extreme fear of chlorine and the fact that the nearest public pool is 80 k away.
I hadn't swum for many years except by default when I would break a legrope while surfing so I didn't have any bad habits to break and I always remembered a quote by American Olympic medallist John Nabors from 25 years ago when asked how some one so slim could swim so fast; he said being powerful had nothing to do with it . It was all about how little you span your wheels. Then I found the Shinji video by luck 18 months ago and bought some TI videos.
In Charles "trivia" post a while back he seemed quite shocked that top triathletes were swimming 85 SPM in rough water. Shelly Taylor Smith swims about this rate and late in her career changed to a high , straighter arm action to avoid her hand getting hit by waves. Underwater she does a very well timed 2BK and beautiful catch /stroke.
Sometimes very rough water is very deceptive to look at .I do a lot of open ocean paddleboarding both standup and prone on 14' long sleek boards built to glide. Even up wind and up current I usually find a way to get in rhythm with the ocean and paddle at least reasonably efficiently. I have a big advantage over a swimmer in that I can clearly see where I'm going and I can delay or advance my stroke at will to suit what the board and ocean are doing without having to hold my arm up by muscular strength. But even with these advantages there are certain ocean conditions , particularly in left over slop after a strong wind suddenly stops where I try everything I know to find an efficient way but the only thing that works is a high stroke rate and hard effort.
It depends on which clip of Shinji you refer too.
Of course there are those multi million hits 9 strokes or so clips. He would almost go backward in rough conditions swimming in this manner.
But there are other clips, which are a bit more rare as they didn't receive that many hits where he swims closer to 1.0 (60rpm), and at that rate, though it's dangerously low for rough conditions, you can move forward.
Conditions don't need to be *that* rough to slow you down, sometimes small waves, when they hit you from the front are difficult to deal with. This video is a good example:
whose that poor guy swimming in the white t shirt? ouch
Probably a name among the 20 DNF that day.
Unfortunately, images do not render the actual conditions very well, crazy winds gusting up to 80kmh.
In fact, that day, based on the conditions, I instructed my team to ride their bike in a upward position, using their back as a sail in tail wind. The cycling path was a 4k loop on a Formula One race track, and there was a 1.1k stretch where they would get tail wind.
It's one of ours that won the race overall, using this strategy. He was descending the stretch at 50kmh, no effort, in an *anti-aero* position, using his back as if he was sailing LOL
The only OW video I have seen of Shinji he is swimming in quite user friendly water with a slightly ruffled surface. It would be really interesting to see him in various adverse conditions.
I think that smooth efficient movement is programmed so deeply into his nervous system he would still look smooth and he has enough body intelligence to find an efficient way in any conditions.
It's also very different trying to win a race vs enjoying the challenge of moving your body through different water conditions.
I wonder if any top swimmers time their movements to the swells, such as cruise up power down. It would bring new meaning to the phrase "swimming downhill". The ocean here is often what could be described as "washing machine " conditions with bare minimal visibility.
It's wonderful to have a forum like this and get a reply to questions from a professional coach on the other side of the world.
Streamline and Power are the two sides of the perfect swimming equation. One without the other is useless.
In any conditions, its the combination of the two along with open water specific strategies (sighting,side to side stability, coperating with rather than fighting against the water) that will help you.
your overall speed i far more improtant than if there is "glide" or not. Someone with an extended glide in the pool is changing speed more often than if that same person begain their stroke a little earlier. in the open water/rough conditions that same stroke would ahve the same speed realtive to the water itself.
Rough water is deceptive as swells and waves have as much movement in one direction as the other. Energy moves through teh water, but the water for the post part returns to where it started in a circular way.
wind and chop is a slightly different matter, but since the majority of people overwork the swim in rough conditions and spend too much energy, the swimmer who remains relaxed and calm will fare better.
In PR last month we had a day weher the swell was not too big but really rough chop and strong surface winds. Most of the time I could not see anything in front of me except a wave, and I had to breath behind my right armpit to find clean water. The cool part was that I barely had to turn my head to the right and the waves and wind would rush over my right ear straming off my face, creating a beautiful pocket of air that was easier breathing than in the pool. Sighting forward or breathing left however was like getting hit int he face with a sledgehammer.
Bottom line...I kept my same stroke i practice in the pool and enjoyed the rought conditions...swim through the waves and chop adn not over them. Marionette arms will give when a wave hits them ike a tree blowing int he wind but once they are in the water its exactly the same as the pool.
yoru forward progress depends entirely on your interaction with what's going on UNDER the surface of the water. waves are merely a decoration on top of the water.
So the bottom line is taht "glide" as far as success or failure in open water is far less important than your maintainable speed, as well as your attitude emotionally about the conditions. I thrive in rough conditions because I get small and sleek and focus on how the water feels under the surface. I swim and peek up at the surface from underneath watching white foam and raintdrops hitting the surface knowing they really have no effect on how I swim unless I get emitionally anxious about it.
Behing a kayaker really helps in this regard. White water kayaking in the pouring rain is so much fun...the water doesn't change at all, only the external environment. Training your brain not to respond to the environment but stay focused on the medium that's important is a big step in mastering open water conditions.
the water is so much more powerful than we are and the water will always win if we choose to fight. Have you tried swimming in the "washing machine" conditions? I don't doubt that they are rough, but what I consider a wahsing machine would occur nearer the shore where water returnign from the shore meeting waves oming in would just create changes in many directions at once.
On the other hand, swimmign in nearly any conditions less than "small craft warning" away from shore a bit should result in a predictably pattern of wind and wave direction that allows you to find your groove just fine.
Waves/current in wone direction adn wind in the opposite creates surface chop only...not a big deal in realty but it LOOKS scary on the surface.
I would much prefer to be swimming than in a kayak or boat when waves get > 2 feet and it's windy.
Terry addresses this issue in his most recent blog post, though he seems pitifully unaware of all the successful shoulder-driven open water specialists.
I know many have energy problems. I believe that many, working so hard for such long periods of time ,simply have the will and the ability to book up on their intracellular credit card at a rate they can't repay by rest and nutrition. I'd imagine that heart health wise , many would be like some ultra runners whose hearts are super efficient in a narrow range but can be in danger when they go below or above that.
I think once you get to a certain speed it takes a huge increase in effort for every little extra gain. As in most sports there are those who will take the risks for the rewards (though in distance swimming, I would imagine that except for the top 2 or 3 the financial reward would be earning enough to do the world circuit)
Personally I'll take a bit slower pace and the TI philosophy anytime , though I certainly take my hat off to the elites.
"pitifully unaware" is a bit harsh, and if that were true that same can be said for Skinner studying 20 years of videos. Terry was citing Skinners study to support and share his own experiences between shoulder driven verse hip driven ,in pool and in open water - excellent piece and insight.
As for tempo and rough open water conditions, I will share my experiences that work for me with my 5'8" Scottish frame. My favorite place to swim open water is the SF Bay, largely due to the challenge of changing conditions and currents - conditions can change from flat to 3-4' chop in a matter of minutes, and you are swimming either in ebb (bay is emptying) or flood (bay is filling). When it gets bumpy, you may be swimming directly into it, hitting you at 45 degs, on side at 90 degs and/or any other combination. Adapting quickly to changing conditions is critical. In short, when swimming in big chop I slow the tempo down (sometimes 1.3 or slower depending on frequency of chop), drive from hip, hold long profile (or glide) to easily carve through it, timing my breath in the trough. When flatter conditions, I swim at faster tempo 1.1 or faster depending on distance.
I have seen many swimmers, high tempo shoulder driven stroke having to stop frequently, breast stroke due choppy conditions that throw off timing, and even in some cases, the chop turns them over due to arms being out water more frequently catching chop. Normally these swimmers go distressed and have to be picked up.
I'm sure the elite swimmer, swimming in similar choppy conditions, can swim tempos of .8 and below, almost doubling the strokes that I normally take in these conditions. The elites can sustain this high tempo, where I cannot. Maybe they can sustain the high tempo in choppy conditions for 10k, but suspect at some point they will need to slow down tempo and recover for a period.
Happy Open Water Swimming!
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