The Difference that Flat Makes - Experimenting with the DeSoto Speed Tube
While my balance is much improved from when I began, I still swim with some fore aft cant, and feet 6-18 inches lower than chest - about a 20-25 degree cant, and requiring an effective downbeat 2bk to maintain that. The usual heavy muscular legs thing. (And yeah, I hang the head, the hand, work with gravity - the vessel just is what it is. I can swim an hour straight easily, I'm just too damn slow - and I know a lot of it is due to the drag of that mediocre position.)
I wanted to see what a difference it would make if I were simply able to position myself flat and on the surface from stem to stern - the way my wife and virtually all great swimmers are positioned in water, with their goldarned heels bubbling and breaking the surface. You can get something of that effect with a pull buoy, but it pretty much eliminates your kick, so using it is not really swimming with the identical stroke (your normal kick) but flat and high in the water, which is precisely what I was interested in.
The trick was swimming with a DeSoto Speed Tube wetsuit bottom - just the "pants", which are buoyant 5mm neoprene and go to mid calf. You can swim exactly as you normally do, kick and all the rest.
The difference, immediately, was that I floated as flat as a canoe and body parts that never see the air - butt, calves, heels - were at or above the surface.
So what difference did simply being flat and high in the water make? Gigantic.
For the same general effort, times for the following scy distances, with fast open turns, with and without the speed tube floating the legs up were as follows:
25 (100% effort): Old best: 21s. Flat: 17s. (~4 secs faster)
50 (95% effort): Old best: 46s. Flat: 38s. (~8 secs faster)
100 (90% effort): Old best: 1:48. Flat: 1:32 (~16 secs faster)
300 (85% effort): Old best: 6:50. Flat: 6:09 (~ 41 secs faster)
That's all swimming exactly the same stroke and rhythm as I'd normally use, other than whatever minor adjustments attach to the fact you're simply moving so much faster (and there are some, like the sudden appearance of a bow wave the size of a mixing bowl, and more distance per stroke - they dropped about 2 per length from normal, as measured by the Garmin 910).
Equally remarkable: my normally nonpropulsive kick turned into a motorboat propeller (relatively speaking) when I got flat and on the surface. I flutter kicked a 25 in under 35 secs (with a snorkel) - I think that means its not so much that my kick is "bad," but that its just not propulsive enough to overcome the drag of a canted 6' 215 lb body. Did a few Superman glides and went more than half a length - heels in the breeze the whole way. Just an entirely different exercise than trying to get horizontal and swimming mostly underwater.
If you ever doubted that balance - in the sense of getting the entire vessel parallel to the surface - is Thing One . . . .