Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Freestyle Critique

Lately I've felt like my swimming has been stagnating. I sort of thought that it was just fitness, that I just needed to train harder and put in more time and yardage... which is true, to a point. But I've also come to the conclusion that a few other things are going on, like...

1.) I AM getting faster and stronger, but my lane mates are too and they seem to be doing it at a slightly faster rate than I am. So comparatively, I feel stagnant.
2.) None of my lane mates do much besides swim - two of them are thinking about triathlon...but they arrive to the pool fresh and ready to swim hard.
3.) I'm ususally pretty fresh and well rested...but I've also ususally run or bike for 1 hr.+ the day before...and I've been really increasing my volume lately so this could explain some of the more sluggish swims I've had lately...

When we were at the New England Masters Short Course Yards Championships at Harvard in March, Weasel Boy took this quick video of me swimming freestyle to point out some things to me that he thought I could do to be faster. It's always alarming to watch yourself swim on video - you have this picture in your mind's eye of what you THINK you look like and it's a whole lot different than what you actually look like. In an effort to address my stagnancy, I took another look at myself swimming and I noticed a LOT of things that I can work on that will make me faster. This gives me great hope and motivation as EASY speed is so much more fun to find than speed gained thru hard work and yardage!!!

Here's the video (please let me know if you can't see it - I'm having issues with YouTube today and have embedded it in HTML with a LOOP for your viewing works ok in Firefox and Safari - you just have to wait a bit to let it load, so sorry...)

Take a mintue to think about what you see in my stroke...where do my hands enter, what's my catch like, where is my arm when I pull, how is my body rotation, is my breathing upsetting my balance... there's a lot to think about when we swim, huh? Yikes.

The most obvious problem I see is with my pull on the left side - Coach was helping me with this just yesterday and now that I see it again from the deck, it's VERY clear. It's WAY wide and the first third of it is with a straight arm...I'm not bending my elbows. The ideal catch should happen just as my hand enters the water... I should grab water and hold it...and my elbow should bend almost as soon as I start to if I'm pulling myself out of the pool - or over a barrel. Check out where my left arm is in this frame:

I do eventually bend my elbow but not until very late in the pull. You can see it bent here but look how far back my arm is - almost time for the recovery...

Now look at Karlyn Pipes-Neilson's catch - check out how much water she's holding just before she starts the pull. She's not missing ANY water...

And look at her bent elbow here... this is the image that I try to swim with when I'm focused on this part of my stroke. Pure beauty...

I'm doing it a little bit on the right side too but not NEARLY as horribly... take a look here...

And what makes me feel all kinds of better is that my catch on the right side is really early and my elbow bends almost immediately - look how much earlier in my pull I've initiated the bent elbow. It's SO much more powerful...

I'm not sure if the left side issue has anything to do with my breathing - I always breathe on the right side (although I've been working hard at breathing on both sides, once every third stroke) and I think when I rotate to breathe, my left shoulder doesn't want to engage the same way as when I'm flat in the water. But now that I see what's happening, I feel like I have a much better idea how to fix it.

The next thing I see is that I could work harder on front quadrant know why we do all those catch up drills? If you're not familiar with front quad swimming - it's a total immersion thing where you work to begin one stroke before the already stroking hand has left the "front quadrant" of your body... this makes you more streamlined and allows for the longest glide... I'm doing it pretty well here:

Overall though, my front quadrant swimming could use some focus... note to self for tomorrow...

Things that I see I'm doing pretty well are body rotation, relaxation in the water and correct hand entry...I'm not crossing my midline as my hand enters the water. We've spent a lot of time this winter focusing on wide arm entry (if you've ever seen "Tarzan drill" on our practices, that's the wide entry drill) and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this affects my open water swimming...I HOPE it helps me track in a straighter line!!! Here's my left side hand entry:

And the right side entry:

SO, all that said here's what I'm going to focus on for the next few weeks, in order of importance:

1.) Left side pull, early catch, EARLY bent elbow, pull more underneath me rather than out to the side.
2.) Front Quadrant swimming
3.) Bilateral Breathing, especially to see if it helps correct my left side pull
4.) Keep the good right side pull and wide arm entry working for me...
5.) DON'T GET FRUSTRATED if I feel's not really happening, it's just relative to the others in the lane...

I would LOVE to hear if anyone sees anything else that you think could use improvement. Or if you just have comments about the video or pics in away!!! We're all in this together, right?

Now, GO SWIM!!!


Blogger nancytoby said...

I love this swimming image and studied it for a long time:

Couldn't get the video to work. :-(

2:53 PM GMT-5

Blogger Bolder said...

video worked for me, but it took a while to load.

i got A LOT out of this post, as usual.

somehow, i think you and i are at the exact same point now in our swimming. i've been thinking a lot about NOT the pull, but the finishing push. but, i'm not sure what my opportunity is to improve, all i know is that LESS fit people than me are outswimming me regularly, so i know i still have technique improvements.

BUT, what i got the most out of your post is that i need to have my swim video taped, because i can see how valuable it was for you.

i'll wait till after Florida, don't want to ruin my confidence though!!

3:01 PM GMT-5

Blogger Cliff said...

How do you get it to have so much resolution on you tube?

This is my video I took a while back

Oh man i swim slow :). I swim much faster now. I am swimmming about 1 km in 22-23 min. Not fish speed.
But compare to that video, there was some improvement.

I ain't an expert but if u swim bilateral, it will help out your rythmy better. This also translate in easier to balance in the water.

My coach does use TI style to teach me to swim. His focus is my hand entering the water. You should be able to feel a glide when your hand lays in the water.

I also try not to kick as much. I really need to get a new video to see how much i have improve. But i find the more i swim, the easier for me to kick less (which is good, save the legs for bike and run).

3:46 PM GMT-5

Blogger TriSaraTops said...

Bummer...couldn't get the vid to load. :( Pics are cool though!!

I haven't been formally coached since I was I got nuthin'. :) But it looks like you have a good plan in place! I have a hard time not kicking lots, too. The sprinter in me thinks that when it's time to go hard, you kick hard. That's great for a 50, but not for more than that! :) ha ha

5:44 PM GMT-5

Blogger nancytoby said...

Aha! The video worked! Just a couple thoughts from a novice swimmer, FWIW:

It's a little hard to tell from the angle, but it looks to me like your lower legs are still pretty low in the water - I didn't see your heels break the surface at all. So you might try to get some more balance, perhaps by bringing your face/head down deeper into the water.

I'm also working on a smaller kick, for longer distances and less wasted motion.

Looks strong and steady, though!

5:55 PM GMT-5

Blogger Barb said...

The video and pics are awesome! What a great training tool! It is amazing how much there is to think about. I have a really hard time doing the "catch up"/ front quadrant thing. I've read TI and it really makes sense.

Does your coach advocate having high, bent elbows as your arm leaves the water? I try to keep high elbows. My arms are so tight next to my body, on exit, my hands often brush against my stomach.

I think I also need to work on wide arms and not crossing the center line on hand entry.

I really learned a lot from your post. Keep up the good work!

8:06 PM GMT-5

Blogger Scott said...

Re: Yesterday's post about the Tic..

If he is no longer in a postion of authority (i.e. your employer) why not tell him what you think of him?

It is nothing but destructive for you to let him live in your head, and frankly, he doesn't deserve that kind of power.

In the meantime, just freakin rant. You have to get it out somehow and I for one certainly don't mind. Not that I ever do mind you.... lol.....

8:42 PM GMT-5

Blogger Jessi said...

I love the pics and videos. That's so cool. It makes me want to go get a coach. Or a Weasel Boy (who is that, btw?). Or something.

1:14 PM GMT-5

Blogger Joe said...

> I'm not sure if the left side issue has anything
> to do with my breathing - I always breathe
> on the right side

Your breathing probably has A LOT to do with the left side issue. Keep working on your bilateral breathing. If you are too tired to breath every 3rd stroke, try breathing on left side on the way down and right side on the way back.

2:06 PM GMT-5

Blogger Jessi said...

OK, now I know who Weasel Boy is! And I like the way he works it!

2:38 PM GMT-5

Blogger Chris said...

There's always so much to think about while swimming, huh? :) You've made good progress so far. And I think your points of things to work on are valid. Try and be conscious of your left arm and elbow bend. If it helps, try and always have it so your fingertips are pointed towards the bottom of the pool. Keep rotating from the hips. That should help you not to pull so wide and to also make you more streamline while moving through the water.

Keep up the great work! Love those videos and pics. :)

11:19 AM GMT-5

Blogger Iron Pol said...

I think the most significant point is that you have video of your swimming. That shows a huge desire to improve. I've always thought about getting my run and swim videotaped, and never did it.

Perhaps if I do that, I'll be able to figure out why breathing is so uncomfortable for me. The TI method fixed the swim part, now it's just the breathing.

Great post.

11:00 AM GMT-5


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