February 27, 2013 by IowaTriBob
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve kept a pretty busy schedule at work, home, and on the training calendar. One of the focuses I continue to have at the top of my list is becoming a better swimmer. Not as much for the triathlon time improvements (I realize cutting my 100 time by 10 seconds doesn’t cut that much time overall in a sprint distance race) but more as a personal goal.
So I’ve done 5 things with some solid success in a short period of time. These 5 things include:
1. Committing to a regular schedule with the local Masters Swim group
2. Purchasing the Total Immersion book and DVD’s
3. Learning a new swim drill – sculling
4. Purchasing a Finis Swim Snorkel
5. Focusing on my glide and counting strokes per lap
Masters Swim Group
If you have an opportunity to join a Masters group in your area, this should be at the top of your list. I’m fortunate enough to have one here in Cedar Rapids, IA, (Milky Way Masters) and even more fortunate that the group is large enough to hold practices both in the morning and evening to accommodate almost any schedule. There are swimmers of all levels from beginner to seasoned competitors so you feel at home regardless of your current swim level.
Total Immersion (TI) Swimming
After reading tons about this book and technique as well as hearing numerous recommendations, I broke down and purchased the book/DVD combo and added a TI swim drill DVD on top. The purchase was less than $100 and after first read and watching the DVD’s I have to say I was less than impressed. The DVD’s aren’t professionally made and just really didn’t excite me to continue with the TI experience much further.
However, after thinking through the concepts outlined and hearing them reinforced by the local Masters coach’s, I found myself continuing to go back time and again to review sections of the book and DVD’s. Overall I think they have a place as a training tool, but I would find it hard to use these as my only source of swim instruction.
Sculling was a completely new drill introduced to me during one of the Masters swim workouts. Its purpose is to create a better feel for the water during the pull. The following link does a good job of explaining sculling as well as providing a short video on a mid scull technique.
In our drills we did sculling with our hands stretched out in front of us, then again with our hands straight out (as shown in the video) and finally with our hands behind us at our finish. Each position gives you a great feel and in my case, a much improved pull from start to finish.
Finis Swim Snorkel
One of the things I quickly realized with sculling is that I tired quickly and had to continue to breathe which made it that much harder to ingrain the feeling into memory. Enter the Finis Swim Snorkel. This is a center mount snorkel that came highly recommended on Amazon.com.
A couple of quick lessons learned – breathing with a snorkel is much harder than you would think it should be, invest in a nose plug so water doesn’t come rushing in when you breath in, and don’t panic if a little water gets down the snorkel as that only invites a lot more to come.
With those quick lessons and getting over the fear of looking like a complete dork in the pool, the Finis Swim Snorkel is another great training tool that I’ve now used in my sculling drills, my kick drills, and even in some practice of the Total Immersion drills.
Focusing on my glide and counting strokes per lap
I never really paid much attention to counting strokes per lap until my coach recommended that I try a swim golf game.
The concept is to experiment with stroke count and pace to help you maximize your efficiency and increase your overall pace in the water. I instantly realized that my current stroke count per 25 meters (19-20) was too high and inefficient, creating more drag, and making improvements in speed that much harder. When I focused on the learning’s from sculling, the form from Total Immersion, and the lessons from the Masters group, I’ve been able to reduce my stroke count per 25 meters to 15-16 (14 if I really get a good streamline off the walls) and my 100 time has dropped from an average 2:00 min/100 pace to 1:45 min/100 pace.
The biggest improvements with these 5 focuses have been a solid feel for the water during my pull, being able to complete my pull all the way through and rotating my hips to match my shoulders during each stroke creating a smoother glide in the water. All helping me become a much more efficient and faster swimmer. And if those didn’t help, maybe it was just the mere fact of swimming, swimming, and more swimming.