Friday, May 1, 2009

Swim: endless pool

I don't talk much about swimming. (Last blog entry on the topic here.)

But I believe I've mentioned before that I'm an extremely poor swimmer.

Despite fit enough to ride a bike at a fitness level, e.g. be RAAM qualified (twice) or place in an unsanctioned race. And despite possessing enough endurance and stamina to complete a marathon any day of the week, I've never attempted a triathlon.

It's not because I don't want to. It's because I've never been good enough to complete the swim leg of a triathlon (never mind ironnman distance).

Basically, the puzzle is I get out of breath quickly, and I'm so slow, they'll be taking down the bike course before I get to transition 1, i.e. before I'm done with the swim leg. Obviously, I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

Recently, I got the unique opportunity to record my swim stroke.

I was fortunate enough recently to stay at a hotel that had two endless pools: these are short pools with an adjustable current. Since an endless pool permits swimming without actually moving, I set up my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 (discussed here earlier) next to the pool to record my stroke.

Comments? And suggestions for improvement greatly appreciated.


  1. You have graceful form. Perhaps some more work on coordination between arms, legs and belly. Learning other swimming styles could help to improve this one.

  2. Sandiway - I've been swimming with the Masters group at the U. My swimming has come a long way as a result. One thing I've discovered is how important technique is and a real feel for the water. Try using paddles and a pull buoy. After a few 10's of thousands of meters you'll discover a new way of interacting with the water. Don't worry about speed. Concentrate on technique, eg. body position/roll, full stroke length and how you posiiton your hands and arms (high elbows). Alan in tucson

  3. If you're serious about wanting to do a tri, check out the Total Immersion method -- I spent a winter following the training carefully and went from barely able to swim 10 laps to swimming much faster and with much less energy. I'm still not particularly fast, but it left me with the confidence to compete in tri's and enjoy swimming.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I will work harder on technique and hopefully go a little slower.

  5. Remember what you are trying to do in the water: Go faster with less effort.

    Have someone look for stroke imbalances (are you gaining more distance with the breathing side pull vs. the non-breathing pull) and think about what could be causing them.

    You are constantly working to increase your pull/stroke length, shoulder flexibility, and swim upper body muscles—these things take time.

    You are ending your non-breathing pull stroke early, missing a huge amount of power to the water on that side. You want to feel very powerful and fast on the back half of the power stroke. The shoulder goes way back to extend the stroke. The hand and arm feel as though they are thrown from the water and into the recovery. Big muscles and body turn are employed in the second half of the power stroke.

    Make sure you extend the shoulder well forward at the end of the recovery around the water entry time. You do not ever have to have the arm locked forward, but the shoulder should extend—long stroke and streamline body.

    Do not kick; I am not exaggerating much. Your legs should flutter for balance, your toes should point back, but no energy should be extended. Worried about your butt sinking, pull harder and keep your head down. Put on a set of fins and do not kick with them, be amazed at how fast you go.

    Do not waste energy pushing hard off the wall of a pool. I know you think your legs are strong and efficient, but do not use them swimming. When you get some speed and distance, then you can play with your legs/feet.

    As with cycling, in time you will develop your muscles such that a slight difference in stroke will allow one part of a muscle to recover while loading a muscle part that had been recovering. You will develop the ability to sprint, then back-off while still moving well through the water.

    Be careful with that non-horizontal hand entry; it can cause shoulder problems. I could rant about the front half of your power stroke, but you will see immediate gains employing the above info.

    Stay loose; swimming is like dancing.

    I could go on and on; I already have.

    Best, Rick