In Bad Form

Thursday one of my mentors, the lifeguard/coach/multiple Ironman finisher who works at the natatorium, sat perched high up in his stand watching me swim.

He was kind enough to analyze my stroke and break it down.

I feel like I fight the water constantly. I’m exhausted when I finish 1- 1 1/2 miles. I’ve been swimming almost as long as I’ve been walking so this really should not be such a struggle.

I’m currently doing a  1:47/100 yd split which is close to a full minute off what I could do in school. However, I’m much stronger and have way more endurance than I ever had then.

Swimming is one of the few sports where the playing field is truly leveled. Age, sex, and race are almost all equal in the water because proper form is the key to efficiency. This translates into speed and winning times. If your form is off, you fight, you battle, and you wear yourself out.

These are not new concepts and for the past month or so, I’ve really been working on my form/stroke…at least that’s what I THOUGHT I was doing.

Aquadoc watched me swim while we were working out one day and told me to focus on my follow through.  So that’s what I’ve been doing. But it’s very hard, if not impossible, for another swimmer to help you improve your stroke while they are in the midst of training themselves.

I really needed someone above the water watching my every move… scrutinizing it… giving it to me straight every time I completed a drill.

You know what they say, be careful what you ask for…..

It’s always a good idea to take a deep breath, swallow any pride you may have, and really prepare yourself, when someone asks, “Are you ready for this?”

It would appear that I waste an ENORMOUS amount of time and energy. Go figure. ‘Tis the story of my multisport life.  I seem to remember PT/coach saying the exact same thing about my running form. But this is swimming. I’m a swimmer! I’ve done this my whole life. Have I always done it wrong? Should I sue my previous coaches?? How could this be???

Well time’s change. And what was once considered good form is now bad form. So, I have to unlearn the old ways and RELEARN the new and more modern swim techniques. It’s back to teaching the old dog, new tricks and that, my friends is no easy task. I started to panic a bit and then I got some good news.

When he actually broke it down, it wasn’t all that bad. My body positioning, elbow entry, reach, and kick were actually fine. My biggest problem is that I pull, on average, close to 24-26 times to get from wall to wall. WOW! Is that all?

Now, in all honesty and fairness, I was REALLY REALLY tired yesterday. It took all my mental fortitude to stay in the pool and finish my workout. I think my stroke count is normally closer to 23 which, I guess, is still pretty crappy.

He wants me to get my stroke count to 17. WOW! Is that all?

Good thing I embrace goals and a target number because he sure gave me one!

Just like my PT/coach told me over a year ago there was no good reason I shouldn’t run 7-8 min miles (gettin’closer 🙂 ), my mentor informed me that I should be able to swim a mile in 20-22 minutes and NOT be dead ass tired. Ok, if he says so I’ll buy whatever he’s selling.

How might I drop 15 minutes off my mile lickity split?

By getting my stroke count down of course. And how would I do that?

By improving my catch in the water and thus increasing my recovery time.

You can view catch drills online via You Tube. We worked on them both in and out of the water yesterday. I have a non-existent follow through and I’m still swimming with this wacky underwater “s” movement that is sooooo 80’s. I also slice the water throughout my stroke. Instead of pulling through and down by my hip and really propelling myself trough the water, my shoulder/arm/hand is turned pinky down and so its slices the water instead of “pulling” and doesn’t move me really at all. He gave me several boat/propeller analogies and when it was quite evident that it wasn’t sinking in, he gave me one of rotating my hand back down towards the bottom of the pool and pulling more with my forearm (elbow still high), brushing my hip as I follow through, then flicking my wrist like I was shooting a free throw in basketball to get that final “push” of water.

OWWWW, my aching lats. So that’s how you engage them! Eureka! While all this is going on, the opposite arm is in full extension and in the “recovery” or “glide” phase…or the “I don’t know if I can keep this up because my back muscles are very underdeveloped phase!”

Ahhh-haa…as the light bulb went off!

Like everything else,  it’s easier said than done.

And old habits die-hard.

And old folks don’t like it when you cuss at the side of the pool…oops, my bad.

It was a day filled with learning all around.

But I now have some very specific catch drills to practice and numbers to try and hit. At least I won’t be spinning my wheels, or arms in this case, getting in the pool simply attempting to swim faster splits becoming more and more frustrated.

If you have the opportunity to have your stroke analyzed I really encourage you to do so. It may not be feasible to swim with a team or group, but every few months having someone knowledgeable watch you swim and give you some drills may be just the edge you need. For me, if I can gain 4-6 minutes in the water and leave feeling T1 feeling refreshed it give will give me that much more cushion to start the bike and that much more energy to build my lead. Lord knows, I need all I can get before you kamikaze runners come hunting me down!

I’ll keep you posted on my numbers and let ya’ know how it’s going.

Swim Happy, My Friends!

One thought on “In Bad Form

  1. You have the best attitude!! I love that you didn’t get discouraged, you just decided you want to train harder. If your coach didn’t already mention it, I would definitely look up some Total Immersion youtube videos too. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but those videos really helped me come along.
    Happy swimming!

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