Get streamlined

Body position. It’s the fundamental, baseline starting point for swimming. Why? Because if your trunk and head are in the wrong place, you’re creating drag, you’re wasting energy, and the foundations for your legs and arms will, quite literally sink.

But it’s pretty much the least complicated thing to correct. You need to imagine yourself as streamlined as possible; head, neck and spine in a straight line. When I teach children, they’re torpedoes, and you’re never too big to be a torpedo.

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Your head leads the way, so it’s important to keep it still, part from when you take a breath. You also need to keep your legs up; don’t let the drop. That’s what your kick is for, but when you’re doing drills for body position use a pull buoy.

Start off by practicing your push and glide. Push from the side on your front keeping your arms in front of you, your head in line with the waterline, head down and eyes looking forwards slightly. Your bum, thighs and calves/ankles should also be at the waterline as pictured (picture from swimteach.com).

You can then practice kicking lengths using a kick board, bringing your head up facing forwards to breathe. Keep your kicks small and tight, legs pushed together so you don’t create drag. Picture that torpedo! Try it without the kick board – your head mustn’t come up or your legs drop. Try it with fins to help your hip position and buoyancy.

Once you’re happy with your base position, introduce rotation. Again, keep yourself tight; now you don’t just have a line down your spine, but across your shoulders and hips too.

Kick down the pool on your back, you left arm pinned to your side and your right raised above your head. Raise your left shoulder so your chest slopes down to the right at almost a 45 degree angle. Keeping your ear clamped your upper arm, roll your face into the water and back out to breathe as you kick down the pool.

Try kicking a length on your right side and then on your left, the six strokes on your left, six on your right, and then three to each side. The idea is that when you reintroduce your arms, when you breathe, you will barely need to lift your face out of the water because your rotation is so effective.

Although one side will feel tighter, you should be able to breathe bilaterally (on both sides) like this.

This video by Speedo shows a good body position. Here’s an alternating side drill.

Dry land exercises that help strengthen, or even just make you more aware of your posture and using your core, like yoga and Pilates, will support what you do in the pool.

 

 

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Intervals #trainingTuesday

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The Swimmer by Chris Sollars

So Tuesdays are all about training! Getting the most from training, strengthening, increasing stamina, and also how to improve certain aspects of your stroke.

Ploughing through a distance in the pool the way you would if you were training for a run or cycle, is a) not beneficial, and b) boring. Swimming in intervals, or interval training, gives you time between sets to rest and recover. And this helps build endurance, maintain proper stroke technique and push yourself a little bit harder.

So what’s involved in interval training? It involves periods of working your body at high intensity and low intensity, or recovery. The recovery period is important: over time, your body will recover better and more quickly from the high intensity workout, which builds stamina and endurance, meaning you will be able to swim faster for longer.

During the high-intensity phase, your body mainly burns carbs for energy. During recovery, you burn more fat to give you the energy to help your body recover. What makes this even better, is that this process can continue for hours after training, helping you lose weight – unless, of course, you stop at the chippy on the way home!

Research into interval training has shown that it’s more effective, than longer, moderate-intensity aerobic workouts. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that three 20-minute sessions of interval training a week had the same benefits as 10 hours of steady exercise over a two-week period.

There are various resources to help with interval training in the pool. The Speedo Fit app is a good way of monitoring your sessions, and gives you tips to help you train. I also recommend Greg Whyte’s book Swim for Life as a great intro to swimming for health and fitness. The back few pages contain a good training schedule to follow.

For more advanced swimmers, or for the commitment of swimming at specific times a week and camaraderie, I really recommend finding your local tri club. There’s nothing more motivating than swimming with others.

It’s fairly easy to plan your own interval training session. It should include a warm-up, main set and cool down. You can base your set on how long you want to spend in the pool or how far you want to swim. This is the session I did last night in a 20m pool:

A 45 minute / 2.1km interval session

Warm up (600m)

  • 120m easy swim
  • 20 pull 20 kick x 6 (120m)
  • 120m moderate swim
  • 60m zip up, 60m kick with fins
  • 120m hard swim.

Main set (1300m)

  • 200m build – increasing speed each length from easy to hard sprint
  • 200m moderate swim
  • 20m breathing every 3, 20m breathing every 5, 20m breathing every 7, 20m breathing once in the length, 20m breathing every 7, 20m breathing every 5, 20m breathing every 3.
  • 60m hard sprint
  • 400m moderate swim
  • 100m hard sprint
  • 100m moderate swim
  • 100m hard sprint

Cool down (200m)

  • 180m easy swim
  • 20m length underwater.