Where did my stroke go?

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown in practice or a race?

Over the years I’ve experienced my stroke breakdown (or fall apart) countless times. Most often in practice, but I have had it happen during a few races and even a couple marathon swims. Not pretty!

What is stroke breakdown? It simply means you lose your form and the ability to maintain your desired pace. 

In practice it is ok to breakdown and you should strive to push yourself to your limit, like super star Olympian Katie Ledecky. She often pushes herself into breakdown territory in practice and in doing so has learned her threshold and how to pace her longer swims. 

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown? 

1.) Breathe. When things start to fall apart in my stroke I revert back to the first lesson I teach to nearly every swimmer, breathing. Check in on your breath work. Are you holding on to your breath? Or panting like a dog? Do you have a panicky feeling that you can’t keep up and need to stop? 

When things start to get tough in practice and I have only 5-10 seconds to recover on the wall before I am off doing another 100 or 200 I get control of my breathing. My aim is to get out of the panting, woe-is-me mode, and try to get a solid inhalation and exhalation going. Two or three focused inhalations really rejuvenates my fatigued lungs and body.  

2.) Once I regain my breath I can switch my focus to swimming with purpose. If my stroke has broken down from overall fatigue I recall what I’ve been recently working on such as my catch or head placement. The key is to redirect my focus from my overall fatigue by calming my breath and staying present in my stroke. 

Give these tactics a try the next time you feel like you’ve lost your stroke and feel like giving up. You will be able to finish stronger than you thought you could! 

Happy Swimming

Sabotage / swim camp registration open

Have you ever sabotaged your workout during warm up? Maybe you started a workout and immediately thought:

    ⁃    I don't have it today

    ⁃    I feel like I’m swimming in molasses  

    ⁃    My stroke feels like crud 

    ⁃    This is going to be a long practice

    ⁃    I should have stayed in bed

 

We’ve all been there. Yet, it’s how we respond to the above negative chatter that will decide the outcome. 

When I’m feeling like this the first thing I try to do is lighten up and stop overthinking. It’s just warm up. I remind myself that when warm up is over I'll feel differently than I did when I started, so I try to stay out of my head.

When I was training for the triple crown of open water swimming I sometimes would not warm up until I was 2,500 yards into the practice. Other times I didn’t feel good for the entire practice. 

 

Sometimes you are the hammer and sometimes you are the nail.

 

On days when I just don't have it, I give myself two options: get out or get technical. I almost always opt for get technical. I grab a toy i.e. fins, paddles, or a pull buoy and focus on one specific aspect of my stroke. Donning fins will make nearly any swimmer faster, but knowing I made my workout physically easier with fins let's me challenge my mind. 

For example, if I’m doing 100’s I challenge myself to sneak in a length of kick on side drill and focus on great posture to prevent crossover for the remaining lengths. 

 

Can I perform a length of 616 drill then focus on great rotation through the core?

 

Can I grab a pull buoy and simply focus on one of the following, exhalationhead position, one goggle in/one goggle out, or try to remove a thumb first entry?

 

I encourage all my swimmers to listen to their bodies. When you don’t have it, don’t sweat it. Shift the focus to technique and don’t sabotage the opportunity to improve your swimming.

Swim Camp San Diego
I am happy to announce a 2-day Swim Smooth Swim Camp Oct. 21/22 in San Diego, Ca. This will be an incredible weekend and I'm excited to work alongside fellow Swim Smooth Certified Coach John Chipponeri. Register here, SS CAMP SD!

What are you looking at?

In my last blog, I wrote about excessive head movement and how it can negatively affect your swimming. Since then I received quite a few inquiries about what is ideal head position and where a swimmers eyes should be focused. Should they be looking completely forward to the other end of the pool? Or straight down at the black line? Or somewhere in between? 

In 1988, while swimming for St. John’s University we were taught to look straight ahead, eyes forward with the water line at our forehead.  This position is not the best for most swimmers and should not be adopted unless you have been analyzed and your body line can afford this head position. 

Here are a couple of pictures from my Charleston, SC Clinic last month. Notice the difference between the eye/head position and body line with regards to the surface of the water. You can clearly see how looking forward negatively impacts her body position, sinking her hips and legs in image 1.

image 1

image 1

In image 2 the swimmers eyes are looking diagonally downward toward the bottom of the pool. Notice her body position instantly improves. (also observe the great exhalation coming out of her nose/mouth also helping to improve her body line.) 

image 2

image 2

A low head position with eyes looking straight down toward the bottom of the pool is often advised by swim coaches as a way to help lift the legs. At Swim Smooth we treat this as a last resort to improve body position.

Looking straight down (image 3) or down and back (image 4) lessens the swimmers' peripheral vision and proprioception of the lead arm, making it difficult to learn proper hand entry. It also hinders good spinal alignment. Furthermore, swimmers who normally have good body position may feel unbalanced when looking straight down, as it could lift their legs too high in the water. 

image 3

image 3

image 4 

image 4 

Bottom Line: You have a variety of head positions to choose from and unfortunately it’s not one size fits all. Head position is truly individual, but the one that works for most swimmers is in image 2 (eyes diagonally downward).
And by all means, keep your eyes open when you swim!

Head Strong

Where the head goes the body will follow. 

Excessive head movement can disrupt your freestyle alignment. I often see swimmers look up, look down, and from side to side while their face is in the water. The most harmful culprit is rolling the head to the non breathing side.  

image 1 

image 1 

Try this: upon returning your face to the water after a breath, aim to stop your head movement once it is in line with your spine (image 2).

image 2

image 2

When I see the artwork or logo on the side of a swimmers cap on their non-breathing side it clearly indicates excessive head movement (image 3).

image 3

image 3

Next time you are in the pool, focus on your head position and repeat a simple mantra of “breathe, center” or“breathe, straight”, returning your head to be in line with your spine after you take a breath. For now simply focus on keeping the head as straight as possible when swimming. You can also try swimming with a snorkel. A snorkel can offer great feedback if you roll your head excessively because it will be difficult to keep it in your mouth. 

Lastly, I have seen swimmers who normally demonstrate little head movement resort to excessive head movement when sprinting, thinking it will provide extra OOMPH. It doesn’t work.

Minimize your head movement and swim fast!

5 Open Water Skills To Work On – Part 2

Swim Straight! When you think about it, everyone swims relatively straight in the pool. Why would it be any different in the open water, you say? Well, the pool has a thick black line on the bottom, lane lines, and angry lane mates working synergistically to keep us on the straight and narrow.

 

To see how straight you really swim give this a try. 
At your next open water workout (within the confines of safety and your swim companions alert to what you are doing) try taking 25 strokes with your eyes closed. Swim straight? If you did not, have no fear most of us don’t. Here are a few tips and drills to getting you back on course, swimming straight. 

 

Typically, the most common cause of swimming off course is having a crossover in your stroke. If one arm is crossing over your centerline you will gradually be pulled in the direction of that arm. Work on your posture and focus on placing your hand in front of your shoulder upon entry and you will begin to swim straighter. Use the Kick on Your Side drill to help keep you swimming in a straight line.

 

Sighting is a great skill to begin working on in the pool. When sighting, aim to lift just your eyes out of the water to see where you are going. Take a breath of air to the right or left as you would normally do when swimming instead of breathing forward. By lifting just your eyes out of the water you will maintain good body position which will reduce drag and keep you swimming fast.

 

Practice drafting. It has been shown that swimmers who draft can save anywhere from 11%-38% of their energy expenditure. There are two types of drafting; in-line which is one swimmer stacked behind the other and arrowhead which looks like geese flying south for the winter. 

 

Drafting is easily practiced in the pool. Try this handy in-line drafting set: If you are swimming with two other people, swim directly behind each other and aim to stay in their bubbles. Try to swim as close as you can to the person in front of you without touching their toes. After each 100 switch positions so you can all experience the draft. 

 

Happy open water swimming!

 

5 Open Water Skills to Work On – Part I

WARNING: Please don’t wait for the week before your race to practice your open water skills! Start now, my friends. If you are an open water swimmer or triathlete it is imperative to practice open water skills and make them a regular part of your training. Training in the open water is great practice for open water racing, but if you are limited to just pool training, try these five drills to improve your open water skills. 

Bilateral breathing is a skill that needs to be developed for your open water swimming. The benefits of Bilateral Breathing in the open water include swimming straighter, better visibility of competitors and drafting opportunities, and the option of breathing away from sun glare or chop.

Even if you feel you can swim faster breathing unilaterally chances are you will swim straighter in the open water breathing bilaterally, thus saving you time due to less distance traveled. 

Take the Swim Smooth 2-week bilateral challenge to get over the bilateral hump. For two weeks swim as much of your workouts breathing bilaterally as you can. We have found that after two weeks things begin to get easier and bilateral breathing becomes much more manageable.   

If you struggle with bilateral breathing have a look at The Most Important Swim Blog of 2017.

Tarzan swimming aka water polo drill is simply swimming with your head out of the water. This drill is helpful because it is an exaggerated sighting technique. In this drill your whole head comes out of the water (compared with just the eyes when sighting). If on race day you are confronted with choppy conditions you might need to raise more than your eyes out of the water to sight. By placing similar demands on yourself in the pool you will build your stamina for those tougher days in the open water. 

If you struggle with this drill try alternating 10 yards drill/10 yards freestyle or, try using fins or a pull buoy. 

In next week’s blog I will talk about sighting, drafting and crossover. 

 

Bigger is Sometimes Better

A bigger fin has been stigmatized as a crutch or cheat at many swim practices across the globe, yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

 

Fins are an excellent training aid when used for drills. When I prescribe drills such as Kick On Side for stroke correction the primary focus is on the upper body (posture, alignment, or hand/arm/elbow positioning). If the swimmer attempts to do Kick On Side drill wearing no fins or short fins like Zoomers the effort level increases to the point where it’s almost impossible to focus on doing the drill properly. Wearing a bigger fin decreases the energy expenditure and allows the swimmer to concentrate on the fine points of stroke correction.  

 

A bigger fin is also good for ankle flexibility. The large surface area will help plantar flex and dorsiflex the ankle. Chances are if you are not working on your ankle flexibility you have stiff ankles. Stiff ankles stuck in the dorsiflexed position will drag your legs down compromising your overall body position in the water. Wearing fins of this size will help stretch them out, so strap them on and enjoy the ride!

 

I recommend using the Finis Floating Fin. If you are a shared size go up a size. For example, if you are a size 7 and the fin options are 5-7 or 7-9, choose size 7-9.

fin.jpg

As a sponsor of Ogren Swim Coaching, Finis offers all readers 25% off their online purchases with the promo code ogrenswim


Registration open for Stroke Correction Clinics in Sterling Va. and Charleston S.C. Register here.

Happy Swimming!

The Power of Mindset

In my seven years as a professional swim coach I have seen a lot of success and a lot of frustration from my swimmers. 

While observing the differences between swimmers who succeed and those who fall short, I have noticed patterns. The patterns that dictate whether swimmers succeed or fall short are demonstrated in their mindset everyday at practice. 

Try to answer the following questions and see where you fit in:  

- Were you able to make it to practice on time today? 

- Do you stand on the deck catatonic from the neck down waiting for the coach to give warm-up? 

- Are you allowing external factors dictate your mood (i.e water temperature, air temperature, lane space, not my favorite coach)? 

- Are you a little tired, possibly regretting getting out of bed?

- Are you lamenting that you can no longer swim as fast as you use to (whether it was last season or 15 years ago)?

- Did you forget your water bottle in the locker room?

Now, try these out:

- Are you on time, ready to go? 

- Are you performing some dynamic stretches on the deck before warm-up?

- You remembered your water bottle!

- Did you the leave the outside world at the gate?

- Are you ready to work on a specific technical flaw pointed out in your last swim lesson?

- Are you focused on the things you have control over, such as your breathing, your mind, and your positive attitude?

- Are you fueling properly throughout the day so you can recover better for tomorrow’s workout?

- After the workout did you congratulate yourself for the effort? (High fives!) 

Attitude and preparedness will change your workout. Your mindset will determine your success.

How's your Kick?

I can hear the collective groan from here, lol! 

Fear not. Follow these helpful tips to improve your kicking technique.

First, let’s see if we can determine where your kick originates from. Are you bending your knee or kicking with a straight leg? Which is correct? Neither!

The correct answer is the knee should remain relaxed, not locked straight or with an excessive bend.

Many swimmers struggle with kicking because they simply have too much bend in their knee. This type of kicking creates significant drag and huge amounts of oxygen to feed your overworked quadriceps. This alone may be the reason your swim training has you gasping for air and reaching for your trusty pull buoy. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 11.15.08 AM.png

To correct on overly bent knee, try this simple yet effective drill: kick half a length and then swim half a length. Perform a stellar streamline off the wall and kick with your glutes engaged by imagining you’re trying to hold a quarter between them (yes, it’s crude but effective). This will activate your hips to be the prime movers in the kicking motion. Keep your knees relaxed and imagine your legs are long as you kick. 

At the half length mark begin swimming freestyle. As you swim, focus on a gentle kick, feet slightly turned in, and your big toes gently tapping each other. 

It is important to resist the urge to over-kick. Some of the best swimmers in the world only generate 10-15% of their propulsion from their kick. With this in mind imagine swimming with just enough kick to maintain good overall body position in the water. 

Happy kicking! 

PS: Many of you sent emails last week congratulating me on my Level 4 USMS coaching certification. I really appreciate your support and encouragement, thank you.

Swim Smooth’s Blog, Feel for the water - Because Swim Coaching Can Be So Much Better. 

Today’s blog will feature Swim Smooth’s Blog, Feel for the water - Because Swim Coaching Can Be So Much Better

This post resonated with me as it highlights the many reasons I decided to become a Swim Smooth Coach and what I can do for your swimming!

I have two announcements.

First, registration has opened for the Swim Smooth one day clinic in Sterling, VA. on June 24th. Register here

Second, I am happy to announce I received my US Masters Swimming Level 4 certification, joining a small group of 22 coaches nationwide.

Have a great weekend and Happy Swimming!

5 Tips for Getting Into Cold Water

It's that time of year again! Race season has begun and all around the country swimmers are getting ready to take the plunge into the open water, which may mean cold water. Here are my tips for cold water entry. 

 

#1. Don't talk about it! 

This tip sounds silly, but it's so important. I did much of my English Channel training at Coney Island, NY. I was often asked by other swimmers, “What is the water temp today?” I’d answer, “65 and beautiful!” Tongue in cheek, this was not an accurate response. Typically in May the water temperature is in the low 50's but I wanted to create ideal conditions in my mind no matter how cold it was. The point is what good would come from discussing the cold water. If you think it's going to be cold you have already lowered your body temperature before stepping foot into the water. Know that you will warm up after some swimming and place your focus on your internal furnace keeping you warm.  

 

#2. Get your hands wet. 

Wade out into the water and immediately dip your hands exposing your radial artery. This sends a message to your brainand heart that your not just putting your feet into the cold water.

 

#3. Splash some water on your face. On some of my coldest training days with water temps in the 40’s, I found it difficult to put my face in the water for the first five minutes. Splashing water on my face made it much more manageable. 

 

#4. Splash some water on your chest or down your wetsuit. 

Entering water that is cold can take your breath away and leave you gasping for air. This gradual splashing will help prevent that loss of breath. 

 

#5. Take the plunge and swim happy!

This is not a step I take lightly and is in conjunction with step one. Mental attitude is critical. Keep your focus on being warm. On my 2008 Ederle swim I forced myself to sing songs that helped take my mind off the cold. Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet popped into my mind and played over and over. The water was between 53°-57° and I swam 5 hours 20 minutes without a wetsuit. I had been training in cold water for months before I accomplished the 2008 Ederle Swim. 

 

Please use common sense and gradually increase your exposure to cold water. The more you practice, the easier it will become. 

 

The S Shaped Pull 

Should you perform the S Shaped pull through?

I was taught, and I’m sure many of you were as well, to perform an S shape pull underwater. The S shape motion has the swimmers hand entering thumb first, followed by the hand shifting out, back in, and then back out again forming what appears to be an S underwater.

Since my age group swimming days, we have learned that this is not the most efficient, economical, or safest pull motion. 

Upon inspection, one thing we know for sure is that if a swimmer leads with a thumb first entry (i.e. palm facing the side of the pool) her shoulder is internally rotated. If the swimmer presses the water laterally to perform the S motion with the thumb down a good deal of stress is placed on the shoulder, which could lead to injury.

Aim to have all fingertips enter the water at the same time. 

A good paddle to train the hand to properly enter the water can be found here, My Favorite Paddles

It is my opinion that the biggest drawback to teaching the S shape pull is that swimmers often exaggerate the motion attempting to create a big S. Pressing the water out to the side does not produce propulsion, it just moves you laterally. Pressing the water back is what moves you forward. 

Although it may appear that some elite swimmers have this motion in their stroke I would argue that their intention is to move forward as fast as possible.

Bottom line: Focus on a clean entry, with your fingertips entering the water at the same time and press the water back.

Kick on side Part II

Last week I introduced the fundamentals of kick on side drill and how it can be useful for correcting crossover. This week’s blog will focus on how this drill can help correct other freestyle deficiencies. 

Two common mistakes often made while swimming freestyle and rotating for a breath of air are 1.) the lead arm slips under the body and 2.) there is a break in the wrist or elbow. 

Picture 1 - shows a swimmers arm slipping under her body, creating a loss of balance and causing the legs to scissor open.

Proper stroke technique has the lead arm in front of the head, initiating the catch as the swimmer turns for a breath of air. 

Picture 2.

Kick on side drill can help swimmers become comfortable with breathing while keeping the lead arm held out in front of their head. 

Another issue many swimmers have is a tendency to over lengthen at the beginning of their stroke in an effort to glide more. This often leads to a break in the elbow or wrist. At Swim Smooth we refer to this as ‘applying the brakes’.  In this position you are essentially pushing water forward and creating unnecessary drag.

To correct this, focus on keeping the palm facing the bottom of the pool, with the fingers below the wrist and wrist below elbow. Below is a picture of the great Michael Phelps. This is the hand/arm position you should be aiming for when performing kick on side drill.

As you can see there are many reasons why a coach may prescribe kick on side drill. Happy drilling! 

Kick on side

Kick on side drill is a fantastic drill I use to help swimmers hone proper stroke technique. Please note, kick on side drill is not used for the development of kick technique. 

There are many reasons to prescribe kick on side drill, but swimmers who suffer from crossover will benefit the most. Crossover is when your hand enters the water in front of your head (crossing your centerline) instead of in front of your shoulder. This nasty affliction can wreak havoc on your shoulders and lead to a myriad of poor technical problems. 

To perform the kick on side drill, grab a set of fins; the longer the better. 

  • Draw your shoulder blades back in an exaggerated posture sticking your chest out.
  • Place one arm out directly in front of your shoulder. The other arm should be relaxed at your side.
  • Rotate on to your side (90°).
  • Your eyes should be focused straight down to the bottom of the pool.
  • Roll your head to get a breath, then return your eyes looking straight down. 
  • Lengthen from finger tips to toes and kick gently. 

After performing the drill for 25 yards, swim 25 yards freestyle, exhibiting good posture.* With each stroke, focus on the hand entering the water right in front of the shoulder. *(Good swim posture is the same as good posture on land.)

In next week’s blog I will continue with the fine points of the kick on side drill.  Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!

Sponsor Welcome: FINIS®

For the past few years I have used FINIS® gear exclusively with clients and in my own personal training. Today I am thrilled to announce FINIS® as a new sponsor of Ogren Swim Coaching. I have written about my favorite FINIS® paddles and will highlight many of my other favorite products in the near future. FINIS® is offering all Modern Swimming readers a 25% discount so get shopping! Use code ogrenswim at checkout.  Finisinc.com

Finis logo

Deliberate Warmup

Quiz: How often should you drill? 

  1. Once a week
  2. When my coach makes me
  3. When I feel like it
  4. Every day

If you answered D, you’re correct! Some days you might drill more and some days less, but each time you swim I encourage you to work on some aspect of your stroke.

If you swim with a team and have coached workouts, take it upon yourself to create a deliberate warm up. Warm up tends to be relaxed and is the perfect time to practice drills learned in a lesson or from this blog.

Let’s take a typical Masters warm up:

400 swim 

300 pull 

200 kick 

100 swim 

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate drills into this warm up without drastically changing what you are being asked to do (please be mindful of your lane mates if you choose to drill during warm up).

For the 400 swim, focus on exhalation and bilateral breathing.

Examples for the 400 swim (choose one):

  • Repeat the mantra bubble, bubble, breathe on the first length of each one hundred then focus on a constant exhalation for the remaining 75.
  • Every 4th length breathe to your non-favorite side.
  • 25 breathe left, 25 breathe right, 50 breathe every 3rd stroke. 

For the 300 pull maintain the same focus as the 400 or focus on your catch. 

Examples for the 300 pull:

  • Start each 100 with a 1/2 length scull followed by 3 1/2 lengths of pull.
  • 1/2 length scull, 1/2 length doggie paddle, 75 pull. 

The 200 kick will be dependent on the use of fins. 

Examples for the 200 kick:

  • With fins, do 50 kick on your left side, then 50 kick on the right OR try working on your rotation by utilizing the 6/1/6 drill (6 kicks, 1 stroke, 6 kicks).
  • No fins? No problem. Ditch the kick board and work on a stellar streamline off each wall with a smooth kick for the remainder of the length.

Take the last 100 swim to tie what you worked on together. 

 

2 beat, 6 beat, red beet, backbeat

Should you swim with a 2 beat or a 6 beat kick? Swimmers ask me regularly if they should swim with a 2 beat kick to conserve energy. To review, the kick beat is based on how many kicks you complete per stroke cycle. A stroke cycle is simply one right arm stroke followed by one left arm stroke. A 2 beat kick has 2 kicks per stroke cycle while the 6 beat has 6 kicks.

Although it may seem to be economical, it may not be right for you. It has been my experience that swimmers who naturally have a 6 beat kick are best advised to continue to kick this way and work on improving their kicking technique. 

Good kicking technique is driven from the hip, not the knee (image.1). The knee and ankles remain flexible and toes should point inward. At Swim Smooth we suggest lightly brushing the big toes against one another.

Image 2 - illustrates an excessive knee bend. This type of kicking not only creates more drag it requires a large amount of oxygen to fuel your quadriceps. This could be a contributing factor as to why you may feel so out of breath.

Good candidates for a 2 beat kick are swimmers who have a high stroke rate, a great catch, and very good rhythm. 

If you are unsure whether to use a 2 beat or 6 beat kick, ask me. Send me an email and I’ll be happy to respond!  

(red beet and backbeat are inspired by Dr. Seuss, backbeat is also a nod to Beatle fans everywhere!)

 

Stretch Much?

If you do, great. If you don’t, this post is for you. 

Today I am not going to bore you with why you should stretch, but rather give you one stretch to incorporate into your busy life that will dramatically improve your swimming, posture, and overall happiness. You’re welcome. 

I’m a big believer in specific cross training for swimmers. Running and biking, as related to this post are not considered cross training for over-used swim muscles. If you had any difficulty getting into a tight streamline as discussed in last weeks blog, you should consider adding some form of consistent stretching to your training program or workout schedule. 

When forming a new habit, it is important to not over do it in the beginning. Keep it simple. An approach I adhere to is making my new endeavor so easy I can’t say no to doing it. 

Here’s the challenge: 1 stretch for 1 minute for 2 weeks. You in? 

If I had to pick ONLY one stretch for swimmers I would pick this chest stretch. Daily life has us in a constant state of rounded shoulders and poor posture. Whether you are sitting at a computer, texting, or driving, rarely are you demonstrating good posture. Swimming freestyle will also add to this rounding of the shoulders. Let’s get started. 

Bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle and keep your head up in a neutral position. Slowly turn your body away from your arm to get a nice safe stretch in the chest. No need to over do it.  Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. (60 seconds and you’re done!)

IMG_0450 copy.jpg

A stretch you should NEVER do is this straight arm version often seen in swim practices worldwide. This places your shoulder in a precarious position and should be avoided. 

IMG_0133 3 copy.jpg

Of course there are many stretches that are wonderful for swimmers, but today I am concerned with developing the habit of just one. And this one will make a major impact on your posture and shoulder flexibility.

3 Steps to a Stellar Streamline

Practicing a proper streamline will benefit all aspects of your swimming, including open water. The obvious goal of a good streamline is to reduce drag, but an added benefit is the opportunity to engage your core every time you push off the wall.  

Here are 3 steps to take your streamline from meh to marvelous:

1. Lengthen from finger tips to toes = core engagement

2. Place one hand on top of the other and apply the “Thumb Safety”

3. Place biceps behind ears

A good streamline starts with lengthening your body, finger tips to toes. Focus on feeling the lengthening and engagement of your core or midsection. While swimming, attempt to maintain this core engagement as it helps move your body in unison (image 1) as opposed to moving your upper and lower body separately (image 2).

What is the Thumb Safety? The Thumb Safety is a reminder to curl your thumb around your other hand while in the streamline position. This so important because as you fatigue, your hands will want to separate. Always applying the thumb safety will keep your hands together and your streamline strong!

Lastly, be sure to squeeze your biceps in to your head. If you have difficulty getting into his position it is an indication of shoulder tightness and stretching will help. In my next blog post I will discuss one of my favorite stretches for swimmers.  

 

Where I see many adult swimmers go wrong with streamline drills is trying to stay underwater too long. As you push off the wall, immediately get into a proper streamline, kick to the surface of the water and start swimming. Long underwater pullouts are great if they can be maintained yet this is typically not the case with master swimmers. Whether you do a flip turn or not, get into a proper streamline position every time you push off the wall. Your core will thank you!

Bilateral Breathing

Last week I discussed the importance of exhaling when your face is in the water. This week I will examine inhalation and bilateral breathing. 

Bilateral breathing is simply breathing to your left and right as you swim. Most people will have a favorite side and swim all their laps to one side. My preferred side is to the right. After swimming unilaterally for decades I decided to commit to bilateral breathing. Why? I wanted to develop my body and stroke symmetry. I noticed I could easily rotate my torso to my right but I was stiff to the left. And that my left shoulder would hurt more than my right after long bouts of training undoubtedly due to the stress of constantly breathing to the right. If you are experiencing shoulder pain bilateral breathing could help until you can get your stroke analyzed. 

Other benefits of bilateral breathing include swimming straighter, better view of competitors and drafting opportunities, and an option of breathing away from sun glare or chop.

Swimming to your non-dominant side at first will feel as awkward as brushing your teeth with your other hand, something I have been doing since the new year. But if you stick with it it will get easier and you will have a new weapon in your swim arsenal. 

Try this drill set the next time you’re at the pool.  

4x100 - 25 yrds breathe to right/ 25 yrds breathe to the left/ 50 breathe every 3 strokes focusing on exhalation (bubble, bubble, breathe from last weeks blog). 

If breathing every 3 strokes turns into a struggle, try swimming breathing 3/2/3/2. 

Drills are meant to be swum at a speed that is comfortable to perform the drill properly, so slow down if need be and get it right!