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  #1  
Old 04-24-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Default Focus on Recovery--Good Results

I've been offline a few weeks, but some of you may recall that after posting a couple of videos and getting some feedback here, I went ahead for a few weeks with a very intense focus on my recovery, swimming very short, slow repeats and trying to be as perfect as I could about elbow lead and relaxed arm. Mostly my quest for an improved recovery was inspired by Coach Stuart's oft-repeated advice to think about the recovery, and the catch and pull will take care of itself.

I've been VERY pleased with the results. I haven't had a chance to shoot more video yet, but I am definitely swimming differently than I was before. Not sure how much of that is visible to others, but it's a whole new (and improved) feel. Here are a few observations:

1) I'm 100% convinced that Coach Stuart is right. Directing attention to a proper elbow-lead, wide-track recovery with relaxed forearm has been much more productive for me than paying attention to the catch and pull phase.

2) Also from Coach Stuart: a good focus for relaxed elbow lead feel is to make sure the palm of the hand is facing UP at the end of the stroke. (I had been really attentive to my stroke to feel when I had it right. When I noticed it was the "palm up" focus, I realized I should have just listened to Coach Stuart in the first place! Although there is also value in discovering it for myself, and remembering his advice for confirmation). Then (my own observation), focus on simply pulling the ELBOW forward while letting the forearm stay limp (the elbow rises on its own without me needing to think about it).

When I do this "pulling the elbow forward," I feel like I'm ending my pull phase a bit earlier than I had been (some of you may remember the little rooster tail at the end of my stroke), which has given me an increased SR with less perceived effort than my old slower SR. The entire stroke feels more continuous, as if I am now moving each arm in a CIRCULAR pattern, with no pause or glide in between stroke and recovery. It feels very good, like my arms are lightly spinning wheels (like riding a road bike in a very easy gear).

3) Another important focus for me has been to keep my elbow bend as near 90 degrees as I can. This eliminates any tendency to over-rotate with recovering arm stacked over shoulder and breaking the plane of my back (which had been a bit of a problem for me). The 90 degree elbow keeps my hands on a wide track during recovery--very important. This may also be helping with the zig-zagging some of you noticed in my video, where my hand entry started wide, but moved diagonally inward during my pull.

4) Also related to the 90 degree elbow: when I do this right, I am activating the much bigger muscles (lats, I suppose) AROUND my shoulders and arms. The shoulders and arms themselves are much more relaxed (though I had to really work on intentionally "turning them off" during swims and dryland rehearsals--LOTS of dryland repetitions of recovery motion).

5) With the new recovery, my arms now seem to FALL FORWARD effortlessly into the spearing position. Several swimmers have noticed the change, especially the fact that my elbow now leads during much of the recovery. This "falling forward" of the arm is my favorite part of my new recovery. I think my elbow is a bit higher than it was, which adds energy to the spear while DECREASING muscular effort. It also seems to improve my balance, with more of my weight feeling like its forward during the recovery.

6) I have noticed a slight increase in my SPL. I used to do the SPL pyramid (4 x 25, 3 x 50, 2 x 75, 1 x 100) at 12 SPL with a 5m push-off; now I'm at 13 SPL. I have been swimming most repeats at 14-15 SPL (I hope to race my 10-miler at 15-16 SPL).

7) With the new recovery, and the LOTS of slow swimming I did to get it, my hand entry is smoother, with very little splash and almost no bubbles at all. In fact, that focal point alone has proven effective for me to keep a good relaxed form throughout longer repeats.

8) My whole body feels more relaxed, as if it's a cooked noodle or a whip waiting to be cracked. Very good, smooth, relaxed feel--a big priority for me in my 10-miler this summer.

9) Haven't noticed a big improvement in times or paces, but there has been a reduction in perceived effort, and reducing rest or adding distance at the same pace. And, it's a lot more fun to swim this way! (And I was having lots of fun before).

So, try it out--an improved recovery is an improved stroke, I think. It's been a very good chain reaction for me. Thanks, Coach Stuart!

Tom
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  #2  
Old 04-24-2015
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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Sounds good!
I started to focus more on the relaxation and the elbow path during recovery myself too and I agree it can lead to good things.
Especially from the part where the arm passes the head untill arm entry.
LIke you said, the arm slips in under a light angle without much thought if you just focus on bringing the shoulder and elbow forward.
Its satisfiing when the arm is dropped in and seems to go automatically to catch postion by itself without much steering effort and the movement canjust be continued after that phase.
For me,, it is needed to concentrate a bit on keeping it wide at the front, otherwise the arms moves too much to the centerline.
It all leads to some more front quadrant feeling where over the complete strokecycle more weight is hanging at the front which brings the legs up a bit too.
Curious if any changes can be seen if your new stroke has sunk in.

I still think much of your zigzagging was caused by your c path uderwater movement which was initiated with an outward hand movement under water after hand entry.
Its very well possible, you have eliminated this steering action and now pull back more in a straight line from a wider entry point.

Last edited by Zenturtle : 04-24-2015 at 06:24 AM.
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  #3  
Old 04-25-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zenturtle View Post
Curious if any changes can be seen if your new stroke has sunk in.

I still think much of your zigzagging was caused by your c path uderwater movement which was initiated with an outward hand movement under water after hand entry.
Its very well possible, you have eliminated this steering action and now pull back more in a straight line from a wider entry point.
Yes, I'll have to shoot some video eventually to see it. I suspect it FEELS like a much bigger change than it will look like in reality--but that's ok, because it's the feel I'm after.

It sounds like you've made the same kind of discoveries with your focus on recovery--fun, isn't it?
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Old 04-25-2015
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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I think I know what you mean whart you are talking about.
My finish has always been rather weak compared to yours so I dont have the same sensations on the back as you are describing.
Yep there is a good difference between keeping the arm more or less relaxed during all the movements in front of the head compared to being too tense there.
It requires some relaxation and buoyance I think, because the focus is more shifted to the body and how its is suspended in the water at the frontend.
You have to more or less trust the water and let the body sink a bit until it floats on its own.
Now you can relax the arms.
At higher tempos its often difficult to retain this feeling. Focus shifts more to the arms then.
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  #5  
Old 04-25-2015
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CoachStuartMcDougal CoachStuartMcDougal is offline
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Hi Tom,

That's great to hear (and read!) of your focus on recovery arm and very detailed process of discovery! Thank you for all the acknowledgements and you are very welcome - but it was *you* that put in dedicated focus and developing awareness, all of which takes a lot of time, patience and confidence. EXCELLENT!

Your last point, 9), summarizes your process of discovery perfectly:
"Haven't noticed a big improvement in times or paces, but there has been a reduction in perceived effort, and reducing rest or adding distance at the same pace. And, it's a lot more fun to swim this way!"

Swimming is FUN and so mentally engaging. Developing a love of swimming through this process, curiosity and awareness is #1. Discovering swimming easier through balance, core stability and economy of movement is the top priority. Far too often swimmers expect speed first which comes from being a slave to the pace clock as if it's the most important metric. Speed will find you as you train your neural system, improving skills while maintaining the new (recovery) positions at quicker tempos.

Re: "Falling Forward" That is a terrific analogy and feeling you are experiencing. It's three fold; 1. you are experiencing the rhythmic weight shifts generating forward momentum, 2. keeping more (most) arm weight in front of lungs, tips the body forward, hips crown surface and is where body is in lowest drag profile, and 3. engaging the power muscles of the core as you lead (and reach forward) with recovery elbow. Swimming with whole body connected, driving momentum forward (not independent pull & kick), or hip driven power stroke now happens as a consequence.

RE: SPL. Like speed, having the lowest SPL is not the goal - movement economy is. Although I don't know your height, 13SPL in 25m pool (after 5m push) is very low. If you were 6' tall (or 185cm) that would put you in the 85% effective stroke length. In other words, you are moving forward 85% of your height on every stroke (WOW!), well outside of the "Green Zone", but certainly on the good or more balanced side. Green Zone is 50-70% of height or wingspan. If you are 185cm tall, 16-18 SPL will put you at 68% and 61% range respectively. I like to have my masters, triathletes and long distance swimmers in the mid/upper 60's. Increase your tempo with the new recovery positions until you fall into your "Green Zone" SPL and see how this affects your ease/economy of movement and perceived effort.

Keep up the good work! You are on the right path to having a FUN and very successful 10 mile marathon swim!! GOOO Tom!!!!

Stuart
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Old 04-25-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
RE: SPL. Like speed, having the lowest SPL is not the goal - movement economy is. Although I don't know your height, 13SPL in 25m pool (after 5m push) is very low. If you were 6' tall (or 185cm) that would put you in the 85% effective stroke length. In other words, you are moving forward 85% of your height on every stroke (WOW!), well outside of the "Green Zone", but certainly on the good or more balanced side. Green Zone is 50-70% of height or wingspan. If you are 185cm tall, 16-18 SPL will put you at 68% and 61% range respectively. I like to have my masters, triathletes and long distance swimmers in the mid/upper 60's. Increase your tempo with the new recovery positions until you fall into your "Green Zone" SPL and see how this affects your ease/economy of movement and perceived effort.
Stuart,

thanks for the detailed reply. I'm really enjoying it--swam 4800m yesterday more or less continuous and kept form during the recovery fairly well (with room for improvement).

As for the SPL, I keep reminding myself it's a tool, not a goal. I'm 188cm tall (6'2"+), so I figure 13 SPL puts me at about 80%. That's more or less drilling and streamline work.

Swimming at 15 SPL puts my stroke length about 70% of my height--16 SPL would be about 66%. So it sounds like 16 SPL would be (theoretically) my best stroke count for my 10 miler. That's encouraging, as I swam most of my long session yesterday at 16 SPL naturally (I didn't aim for a particular SPL, just wanted to see what happened).

That said, I intend to do much of my training at 14-15 SPL on the theory that 16-17 SPL will feel so much easier during the race if I can hold those same tempos at lower SPL. Does that strike you as an effective strategy?

Maybe 40% of my training volume at lower SPL, and 60% at my projected race SPL?

Thanks!
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Old 04-25-2015
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HI Tom,

I think that's a good strategy, but I wouldn't leave off tempo. It's good to hold lower SPL and slow tempos which improve balance as well as magnify errors that often are masked at faster tempos. 80% is really high, I think too high - but if it's working for you in the longer distances - then by all means, hit that range. In your marathon swim you will be using a range of tempo and stroke lengths. Practicing your strategy in open water, both lumpy and clean conditions will be crucial. And given your range in stroke length, this will prove very successful swimming in most any condition.

Given you are 6'2", 190cm - your wingspan is probably close to 6'4" or 195cm. 14-16SPL puts you are 73%-65% range which lines up to where you are now. Add a range of tempos that puts you in this range for both short and long distances. Use the tempo trainer in open water too, preset #3 (interval). For example set tempo to 16 secs (it will beep 3x beep-beep-beep every 16 secs), count strokes between the beeps. 14 strokes between beeps (equivalent to 14SPL), that's 73% and translates to 1.15 secs per stroke and 1:20/100m (without walls) pace; 16 strokes between beeps, that's 65% and translates to 1.0 secs/stroke and 1:20/100m pace. Evaluate perceived effort in this type of range, i.e is it easier (more sustainable) to swim 14SPL at 1.15 tempo or 16SPL at 1.0 tempo?

Swim a 1500m pool test, first 500 at 16 SPL avg, 2nd 500 15 SPL, last 500 at 14 SPL at an avg tempo of 1.1. IF you can hold the neg split SPL at the average tempo, pe 6-7 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being all out), you can probably hold this SPL/tempo range for several miles.

In any case add a broad range of tempos with the SPL ranges too. This will give you the ability to changes gears at will depending on conditions and sustainable effort.

Stuart

Edit: Math error, 190cm is 6.23 ft, not 6'2"; 6'4" wingspan is 193cm , 14-16 SPL (74%-65%) is still a very good range for you.

Last edited by CoachStuartMcDougal : 04-25-2015 at 07:21 PM.
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  #8  
Old 04-25-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
HI Tom,

I think that's a good strategy, but I wouldn't leave off tempo. It's good to hold lower SPL and slow tempos which improve balance as well as magnify errors that often are masked at faster tempos. 80% is really high, I think too high - but if it's working for you in the longer distances - then by all means, hit that range.
Yes, I consider my 13 SPL to be more of a balance drill--I don't really swim any repeats below 14 SPL. But I like to keep in touch with those low SPL lengths every week for a few short sets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
Given you are 6'2", 190cm - your wingspan is probably close to 6'4" or 195cm.
Exactly right--76" wingspan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal View Post
Use the tempo trainer in open water too, preset #3 (interval). For example set tempo to 16 secs (it will beep 3x beep-beep-beep every 16 secs), count strokes between the beeps. 14 strokes between beeps (equivalent to 14SPL), that's 73% and translates to 1.15 secs per stroke and 1:20/100m (without walls) pace; 16 strokes between beeps, that's 65% and translates to 1.0 secs/stroke and 1:20/100m pace. Evaluate perceived effort in this type of range, i.e is it easier (more sustainable) to swim 14SPL at 1.15 tempo or 16SPL at 1.0 tempo?

Swim a 1500m pool test, first 500 at 16 SPL avg, 2nd 500 15 SPL, last 500 at 14 SPL at an avg tempo of 1.1. IF you can hold the neg split SPL at the average tempo, pe 6-7 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being all out), you can probably hold this SPL/tempo range for several miles.

In any case add a broad range of tempos with the SPL ranges too. This will give you the ability to changes gears at will depending on conditions and sustainable effort.
Stuart, thanks for all this--I definitely need to start working on tempos now. I've been more or less ignoring it to re-build my recovery, but I think that's solid enough now that I'm ready to really start strategizing tempos. This will really help me as I get into open water sessions next month.
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Old 04-26-2015
tomoy tomoy is offline
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Just felt like jumping in. Coach Stuart often moves our class back and forth between SPL work and Tempo work.

SPL to Tempo: I find I often start out trying very hard to remain my stroke length long while speeding up tempo. Inevitably this is a challenge and I get pooped out. So just to get in front of this, I recommend shifting the focus to just the technique - as long as you're not slipping the elbow, yanking the head around etc. it will be fruitful. Yes, you can expect your SPL to climb 1-2. Let it happen and don't beat yourself up over it. The tempo work is designed to get the wasted motion out of your technique and build coordination at speed. As you get more accustomed to faster tempo, you may find you get some of that SPL back.

going the other way...

Tempo to SPL: Hey, how did my SPL climb so high? Once you get used to trimming the fat from your stroke-motion, get used to the fast tempo, and try to transition back to optimizing stroke length, it's natural to find that you've put on a stroke or two. Don't fret, you can get it back. The exaggerated pyramids work very well for SPL. Set that TT slower and slower and watch your SPL come back. We often go down to 2s. Then coming back up, I often find that I can keep that lower SPL better than when I started.

You might not hit exact numeric goals in this kind of work, but do it often enough and you'll find your envelope of comfortable tempo, or attainable SPL becomes bigger. Building this ability to shift gears helps a lot and I actually find it kind of the fun part of swimming - especially in crowded lanes or in open water race environs. It feels a little bit like you're on the freeway with a bigger engine. If you've never pushed yourself towards a low SPL or pushed the limits of your tempo, you're abilities on the road feel like driving an underpowered economy car. That's all I got for tonight! Keep up the great work - analysis - implementation - sharing.
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Old 04-27-2015
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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tomoy,

thanks for your thoughts. I need to dig out my TT this week (or maybe buy a new one if I can't find it)--I know from past years that working with it is very rewarding.

I do think I've gotten past my habit of thinking of low SPL as a goal for its own sake, so I won't mind adding some strokes at this point. It seems almost inevitable, as my natural tempo has speeded up even without working tempos, thanks to my arms "falling forward" during the recovery. Seems like 16-17 will be perfectly acceptable via wingspan calculations, so I have some room to add strokes, as you say.

Really, for the next three months I'll be searching mainly for the SPL and tempo combination that will give me the lowest perceived effort--AND that might change as I get tired, so I'm really looking for a variety of combinations for the variety of tirednesses I'll experience during my 10 miler.

Strategizing pacing! I'm excited to have variables to control to stay engaged with the process--I find that fear/fatigue can be countered very effectively by having something positive to give my attention to during long events (same reason I love Chi Running for long runs).
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