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Old 01-03-2018
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 647

Congratulations on your progress!

You've given some good insights, but I'll add some comments of my own:

Originally Posted by View Post
My Key Insights
* Sweet spot is my friend. When ever I lose any aspect of my balance, (body position, breathing, timing, head space) I will flip into sweet spot and do deep breaths.
When I began swimming regularly for exercise, I was very limited in how far I could go without resting. The pool walls quickly became my friend, because I knew I could always stop at the wall an rest as long as I needed to.

In open water, your sweet spot is the equivalent of the pool wall.

* It's a WHOLE BODY thing! The drills are great, but it takes a while to get all the pieces together. My focus is always on coordinating everything before perfecting anything. It takes me a minimum of 15 min and often as much as 40 to get really comfortable when I am swimming. It takes that long to work off nervous energy and get my breathing in sync with my body. I have a hierarchy of what I focus on when I get into the water.
1) Full body rotation and timing. This is the really big stuff; literally. The bulk of my 215 lbs live here and its got to get into the swing before I can dance.
I'll expand on this a bit:

Your core body is central to swimming (and that's true regardless of what stroke you're doing). If your core body isn't doing the right thing, everything else will be wrong. In my experience, swimming injuries are most likely to occur when a swimmer focuses on their arms and legs without first dealing with what their core body is doing. The two most important things to focus on in freestyle are:

A) being balanced in a horizontal position
When your body is horizontal, it presents the smallest cross-sectional area to the water as you are moving through it. Balance allows you to do this without constant effort.

B) drawing on the power of your core body
Your core body should be your engine. You should think of your arms as your propeller blades.

2) Breathing (comes in second only because I have to get through to the initial breathlessness of my initial heart rate spike 5-10 min after start... same thing happens when I run)
Breathing is freestyle is really a separate skill from everything else. There are many people who do reasonably well in freestyle most of the time, but who fall apart when the time comes to breathe. The most important thing is to learn to roll to the air instead of lifting your head. If you do this, breathing can fit into your stroke seamlessly.

3) Kick force and timing. This brings the rest of my body fully on line and makes every stroke a full body explosion.
For distance swimming, the only thing your kick should do is to counterbalance the rotation of your core body about the axis of your spine (a 2-beat kick). It's possible to add a little speed with a 6-beat kick, but at the expense of a lot of energy, which makes it impractical for distance swimming (except, perhaps, near the end).

* SLOW DOWN. When I first transitioned from drills to swimming I got predictably frustrated until I really slowed down... only then did my whole body come into sync with my stroke. In the future I will work on smoother transitions between strokes and my try to increase my cadence... but right now I prefer to drive speed by putting more power in each stroke. I am passed by many people in the pools, but I see all of them taking breaks... and they are typically out of the water long after me.
This is actually something that people who play musical instruments are very familiar with: If you want to learn to execute a highly skilled activity quickly, you achieve this by first slowing it down to a speed at which you can execute it correctly, and then gradually speeding it up (while still doing it correctly) until you reach the speed at which you want it to go.

Swimming is a highly skilled activity, so the same principle applies. In order to swim at the fastest speeds of which you are capable, and to do it for the longest distances you are capable of achieving, you need to be executing your stroke properly. So, ironically, the way you learn to swim fastest is by first slowing it down. And you need to speed things up gradually, so that your mind has time to adjust to it. A Tempo Trainer can be a big help in doing this.

Secondary Insights and Visualizations that have helped
* Stretch out. So many other things fall into place when I focus on stretching out far.
_It keeps me lean(ish) and stretched on the surface with much less drag.
_It keeps my timing correct because stretching out prevents any 'cheats' where you start flailing in a rush to move
_It keeps my kick coming from the hip/glutes because you can't coil up for a knee kick if your spread like butter across bread
_Flaws in balance are quickly revealed (and often corrected) because you can't wiggle some other body part to stay afloat when you are in a full body stretch
* Savor the Glide: The sensation of slicing through water is delicious, sensual, powerful. Don't f* it up by flailing around. Drink deeply of the glide.
I'd lump both of these together under focusing on being streamlined. One of the ways I practice it is by eliminating strokes: I count my strokes for a length of the pool, and then on each subsequent length, I try to reduce my stroke count by one. One of the amazing things I discovered by timing my lengths with my SportCount lap timer is that my time frequent drops when I reduce my stroke count by one, because reducing my stroke count forces me to become more streamlined, and that saves more time than I lost from eliminating the stroke!

* Leap over the Catch. I can't always pull this one off, but it is cool when I get it. (My catch is the current area of focus of me.) At times it feels like my catch hand is stationary in the water and my my body is flying over it like a hurdler going over a gate. I can't quite figure out how to nail this one consistently but it is cool when it clicks. (I may not have enough strength yet to do this consistently.)
I'd reword this one as: Push past the catch. To me, "leap over" suggests up and down movement, which would unbalance you. But the important thing is that you want to be primarily pushing your body forward - not pushing the water back. Fistgloves can be a useful tool for helping you to learn to grip the water with your forearms, so that when you take them off you will be gripping it with both your forearm and your hand (instead of just your hand).

* Exhale completely. I always pass through a period in the early part of my swim (not the very beginning though) where I feel breathless and out of sync. I think tend to hold my breath too much in the beginning until I start to get a little tired and relax into it. I prefer to exhale through my nose, but I will also blow out through my mouth at these moments too to make sure I take a good full breath, I will also slow down for the breath.
I've also had the experience of trying to breathe in, only to realize that I forgot to exhale, and my lungs are still full! :-)

* Patience with breathing. I accept this struggle when I run (in the first 15 min my heart rate spikes and I feel breathless. It typically takes a 1-2 miles before I settle into a run) but it is harder when swimming. The timing is constrained in ways it is not on a run or ride. It is easy to get really frustrated. Because my goal is confidence in open water I won't take a break on the side of the pool. I need to know I can work through cramps and breathing issues without hanging on to something or standing up. I will spend a little more time in each breath, and also switch to sweet spot for a bit before digging back in. Everyone once in a while I have a day where it all clicks, and some days it feels like it will never some together. I don't yet have enough awareness to know what I am doing differently on those days.
One of the things I've found is that I tend to need to breathe more frequently when I am swimming longer distances. I can go for 100m breathing every 3rd stroke, but for longer distances I may need to do it more often than that.

Thanks for your observations, and happy laps!


Last edited by CoachBobM : 01-09-2018 at 04:48 PM.
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