Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On becoming a swimmer

Did I tell you I'm signed up to swim 3,8km (2,4 miles) on september 30th as part of an Ironman relay team? Well, I am. Oops, not supposed to say Ironman if it doesn't have the trademark! Me and IronMauro and another friend will be doing Elbaman. I do have a secret desire to one day race an Ironman and since one of the components that intimidates me the most is the swim, I thought that completing the distance in a relay might help me get over that "I'll never make it" feeling. I've been swimming three times a week in the last month, that in itself constitutes serious training for me since I just hate the chlorine and have never, ever gone to the pool more than twice a week. But while I swim I know that I could improve because sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Is my arm entry okay? Am I pulling as much as I could? Questions that only a swimming coach could answer for me, but in the middle of august in Italy that's impossible. Then I remembered that I had an old VHS videotape by Steve Tarpinian and that maybe I could look at that to get some ideas.

I think the tape was made in the '80's or something. Steve has on a pair of Dolphin shorts and white socks that come halfway up his shins. Plus he has a few really really corny "skits" in the tape and talks r-e-a-l-l-y slow, just to make sure you get in every word. So as soon as I stopped laughing over the age warp I was able to focus on a few of my mistakes right away:

  • I put my head down to far. Steve says the water should hit between my goggles and my hairline. See, I was putting my head further down since I remember some random person telling me that I should be looking at the bottom of the pool. Lesson learned: stop listening to random people that give out advice.
  • I rarely bend my elbow enough underwater to get a good pull. Tried this and found some new arm muscles.
  • Steve said the water with your kick should look like water boiling in a pot. No foam, no feet. Even though I have a good kick, the visual of this helped me a lot.
  • Steve said that if you work out in a pool you should give yourself the advantage of doing flip turns so you get a good rhythm. I had stopped doing them a long time ago because they made me dizzy. In the tape he says that when you flip you should land on your back and then as you push off the wall start turning over. This really really helped me. Again, some random person told me that I should already be turned over when I push off the wall.
  • Incorporate drills into every-single-workout you do. I'm totally guilty of just going to the pool and swimming laps.

So, equipped with this newfound knowledge I went back to the pool for a Steve T workout.

500mt warmup
6 x 50mt one arm pulls
3 x 100mt side kicks
6 x 50mt , rec. 30" freestyle
3 x 100mt , rec. 1', freestyle
500mt whatever

The results were that on my first three 6 x 50mts I came in on 45 seconds! That's a 10 second improvement for me! Now I'm all excited to workout in the pool again (as opposed to dreading it) though I'm pretty sure that I'll be almost last in the swim relay in Elbaman. The important thing is to complete the distance, right?


anji said...

Darn! I wish I could have helped you with that! I may be fat but I still know how to teach swimming! Really glad you made those improvements and made so much improvement in time. I find when you know how to do something properly, it really does become more enjoyable!! :)

Good luck with the distance, I know you can do it!

P.S. What strokes are you doing? How often are you breathing? Lemme know... might be able to offer some additional advice (not from some random person!! :))

Nancy Toby said...

Sounds like some effective time spent!! Well done!!

Shauna said...

they just don't make socks like that anymore, do they? hehehehe.

your plan sounds great... i love how you just see a problem and you find a way to solve it. always so inspiring to read your stuff :)

IronJenny said...

yes - drill will help you solidify your technique.
Good luck!

anji said...

They DO make socks like that still, my hubby has them! Except, he got the gray ones but they have white too, hehe...

J, your breathing technique you sent me actually sounds perfect, you're doing it the right way... that way your neck gets even-usage so one side doesn't get kinked, etc...

One suggestion - have you ever heard of the "Head up front crawl"?
Essentially it is the same as the crawl you are doing but - with your head facing forward out of the water. It's a technique used by lifeguards to keep their eyes on victims. Your nose should be out of the water, the water line being under your mouth (though I wouldn't open your mouth!) This way, you can still breath through your nose, mouth closed and swim forward. This actually gives you excellent propulsion because you aren't wasting your time moving your neck back and forth. I'm suggesting this to you for the start of the race. Train to use it for about 100-200 metres non-stop (obviously doing a turn of some kind) but - start with 25 or 50 (your pool is 50, right?)

This way, you can keep your eyes out of the water eyeing the good spots to swim without knocking into anyone or being knocked by anyone. Also, it let's you get into a good, fast start. And -- it allows you to get some good air to help fuel that start. Before you turn from head up to regular crawl, you can begin breathing in little spurts to get your body ready for the switch so you don't hyperventilate or get caught off guard by the change in style. You use less air by the regular front crawl I find... but -that's because in lifeguarding you are doing it to reach a victim ASAP.

Let me know if you do this and what you think!

anji said...

P.S. I forgot to say, you can still breath in using your mouth but - find what works best for you. Experiment a bit. Just make sure your nose is up enough so that water doesn't go up it. Also, your stroke will NOT be as long as a regular front crawl. As soon as you get to your breast-area, start a new stroke instead of going all the way down to your waist area. This will increase your strokage and speed and you'll not be able to sustain it for a long time but - the object of this is to get into a safe area, and do it fast and hopefully ahead of some people. It's not meant to be for long periods of time. Also if you can, do this the last couple hundred of metres if you need to pass someone. You'll see a huge difference and your adrenaline will be pumpin'! Man, this is the kind of stuff I love to do.... gotta get back to that pool, eh? They closed our pool until mid-February or March 'cause it had a massive leak....

Bye for now! I'll turn on skype, maybe we can chat sometime...