Posts by Claire Owen

What a drag! Understanding one of the biggest hurdles in your swimming

 

Swimming drag

Start of the session 1 video analysis shows typical drag force affecting the swimmers progress

Freestyle body position

Swimming analysis video 2 shows the swimmer with improved balance and reduced drag after only 30 minutes

 

Do you want to swim more efficiently, faster or further, but find your stroke too exhausting, unsustainable or deteriorates over time?

Probably the biggest issue for adult learner, improver and even advanced swimmers, in some cases, is the 'drag' effect, created by sinking hips and legs.

  1. Reduce your 'drag' and you will:
  • improve your times
  • improve your swimming efficiency/ decrease the amount of energy needed to complete a swim
  • swim longer distance's without stopping
  • be more likely to stay in your aerobic energy zone
  • increase your stroke length (decrease my strokes per length)

 

2. What causes 'drag'?

The position of your centre of gravity when horizontal - is in your sternum!!!! Think about it! No wonder our back ends sink, with the weight distributed mostly in the torso and legs. But we add to this dilemma with

  • Head position - too high
  • Arm entry position - too high, flat and reaching
  • Rigidity and tension throughout the body, inhibiting fluid relaxed movement patterns
  • Lack of engagement through core stabiliser muscles causing a sagging torso, and hyper extended spine
  • Kick mechanics that include too much flexion at the knee
  • Less that optimal forwards propulsion, relative to the needs of our body mass and weight distribution. If we're not moving our bodies forwards, (only moving our arms through the water),  there is lack of an upthrust force, that gives some lift to the legs. This is often over looked by many coaches.

Optimal propulsion is indicated by your stroke length. If a swimmer has a good stroke length ( optimal SPL )  and is converting a around 60-70% of their wingspan into forward propulsion - I bet you, their legs won't be sinking (assuming correct head and arm entry position). However, a swimmer who is converting under 50% of their wingspan, and exhibiting 'windmilling' arms (high SPL) is more likely to have the challenge of drag. Improve your efficiency and you will reduce your drag!!

 

Get coached this season and learn how to problem solve these fundamental swimming problems. Simple, effective skills and drills that improve your swimming

Universal Swimming Challenges

Swimming with Drag

Why does swimming present as such a challenging activity? What are the Universal Swimming Challenges faced by all human bodies in water?

Well, lets think about a few things that happen to our bodies (and brains) when we hit the water.

  1. We are no longer on/over our centre of gravity, but hanging from it
  2. Humans tend to move around in water, and move the water around (very uneconomical)
  3. We have reduced visual cues
  4. Our faces are submerged in a medium with no accessible oxygen

The result of these factors, leaves us marginally in, or close to triggering our flight / fright response ( even in confident and regular swimmers).

 

In addition to these fundamentals,  there are  4 key challenges that are universal to the human swimming problem. Each of these affects any individual in differing amounts, depending on multiple factors….. skill, confidence, body mass, mass distribution, breath control to name but a few.

Sinking

  • The human body is heavier that water
  • 5% of our bodies ‘rest’ above the water
  • Gravity pulls you down

Instability

  • We are trying to move in an unstable medium
  • Instability itself, creates an unstable body position
  • We use energy to stabilise the body – for many in the form of movement, which is hugely energy wasting and costs us precious heartbeats

Drag

  • Water is 880x denser that air
  • As we increase our swimming pace, drag increases exponentially
  • Form drag – through body position (see below)
  • Wave drag – through noisy turbulent strokes

 

Form Drag

Swimming with Drag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All too often, and until we know otherwise, the direct result of drag and instability which tend to cause sinking is to….

Limb Churn (windmilling arms)

  • Disconnects us from our true power source
  • We move water around, instead of moving through the water
  • We emulate ‘wheel spinning’ like a car wheel spinning in ice or mud, with no traction
  • Generally causes a low level of efficiency, less that optimal forward propulsion for the effort’ used

 

 

Shinji – Before and After

Some of you may be familiar with Shinji Takeuchi, TI Master Coach, and self taught TI swimmer.  Check out his before and after video.

 

 

Before – by no means a poor stroke, he is able to move, at pace, and on observation – swims like many swimmers you and I know;  however observe all of those stroke issues listed above, the instability, limb churning and turbulence (bubbles indicate wasted distribution of energy), low efficiency for lots of effort

After – what do we now observe?  A more balanced, streamlined, stable stroke with higher efficiency, we observe less movement for more propulsion (relative to the lane rope markers). Of course this is a low effort, cruisey demo swim, but the mechanics allow for a platform on which to improve further, and he will gain the benefits of conditioning programs that include increased distance and pace.

Swim-inspiration for budding Triathletes

I had the pleasure coaching John Hallis, through our Total Immersion Effortless Endurance program earlier this year. He was deep in training for some of the season's top races, in the latter part of the season. John was already doing a great job with is swimming leg, but came to SWIMLAB,  to learn more about improving his technique for the biggest gains in his race.  I asked John to tell us a little more about his triathlon journey:
"I started my triathlon journey back in 2009 when a mate’s wife was diagnosed with cancer and I started swimming the Cole Classic to raise money for Breast Cancer research.  Also, back then I was not very fit and very overweight (120kgs), but since that first ocean swim I was hooked on open water swims and set my goal on longer swims. I did my first sprint and olympic triathlon in 2012 with average results. I am not sure how, or why, I signed up to my first half Ironman and full Ironman in 2013, however I fractured my leg snowboarding setting me back in my training!
Busselton 70.3 IM in 2015 was my first half ironman and wanting to finish under 6 hours, I went on to complete it in 5:52:20. Since then I went on to do Port Macquarie 70.3 (5:48),  Western Sydney 70.3 (5:46) and Geelong 70.3 (5:55).
I knew if I wanted to improve and complete a full Ironman I needed expertise.
I was very very pleased with my result at the Busso 70.3 IM completing it in 4:53:27 knocking 59 minutes off of my time from last year!
And Cairns Iron man in 11 hours and 38 minutes.
Thank you for all you have done to support and coach me in my endeavours!
Onwards and upwards to Noosa Olympic in October, and WA Ironman in December
SWIMLAB  looks forward to taking your swimming to the next level with one of our advanced programs!

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Water Confidence and beginner swim programs

Basic Water Skills program

Basic Water Skills program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic water confidence is a pre-requisite, if your end goal is to learn to swim with ease and enjoyment!  Many ‘beginner’ swimmers harbour a water phobia of sorts, where our confidence in the water has been challenged at some point. This can happen through past trauma in and around water, near drowning experience’s, even the over zealous parent who ‘threw the kids in at the deep end’; or for many, never really receiving any formal swimming lessons, hence there is a gap in knowledge around how the human body behaves in water is limited.

Being water confident means:

  • You ‘feel’ comfortable in and around water
  • You can put your face in the water, both with your feet on the ground, and suspended in the water
  • You float, comfortably on  your back and front
  • You can exhale air slowly and with control when your face is in the water
  • You can ‘right’ your body to a safe standing position, from a floating position

All of these skills and many more, are covered in our Water Confidence program and will help you prepare for your first full swim program.

From basics to beginner…… read Noah’s swim journey so far:

“Over one year ago I decided to take swimming lessons for freestyle swim stroke. I started out lacking confidence, with only a very poor breast stroke swimming ability.

I attended lessons for about 1 year, and by the end, was able to swim around 50m without stopping, but still felt my stroke was disconnected and lacking in some way; I still felt some underlying nerves and lacked trust in my stroke. I would get tired very quickly, the breathlessness making me extremely nervous, I also felt that my movement was un-coordinated, and even though I had progressed, I knew I could achieve more.

For that reason, I searched out some new programs at Waverley College pool. The foundation of the program included a lot of water confidence skills that I would not have ordinarily seen as necessary to help my swimming. I began to understand some very different aspects of how to move and control my body in the water.  The material and techniques were very different from what I’ve learned so far in my first swimming classes.

Claire coaches the Total Immersion methodology which for me seemed a more holistic approach;  it’s not so much about ‘pull hard’,  ‘kick more’ and ‘R-E-A-C-H as far a you can with your hand’.  The approach is a calmer, more relaxed approach and a real education;   my movement in the water started to become ‘less’ rather than ‘more’, yet a could swim further and with less effort. I feel I can relate to the water differently and have a sense of co-operation with i,  rather than fighting against it!  It’s still a work in progress but already feel a vast improvement, largely down to the difference in content, delivery and over all approach between SWIMLAB and the previous swimming classes I have tried.”

Are you able to hold your stroke mechanics while turning up the power?

Swimming improvement means many things to many swimmers.

From the ability to swim relaxed confident laps for health and wellness, to breaking personal records in your next open water event or Masters race.

Yet for most, the words 'I want to swim faster' are a popular desired outcome.
When I hear this though, I clarify the response with the following question.

Do you mean flat out, short distance, sprinting (<100m), or the ability to hold your pace, and be able to inject spurts of increased pace but maintain consistency, over longer distance's.

Nearly 100% of answers fall in the latter case.

Both have some underlying principles of

  • Increasing stroke rate, partly dependent on your  metabolic conditioning at any given time
  • Increasing power output
  • Minimising the loss of stroke length

1510-speed-curve-matrix-B

Read  this great post by Mat Hudson, as it highlights the issues faced by so many regular 'squad' swimmers, who churn out  the hard yards and the big sets yet, fighting to get back to the wall before the next interval starts.

 

If I had a dollar for every time a regular squad swimmer came to me and said - "well I am swimming 3 x times per week but getting no faster."

READ ON -

http://mediterraswim.com/2015/10/10/swimmer-speed-curve-2/

Mat highlights so many important point here.

"If all other things are equal between the two, Swimmer B’s faster curve is a result of having a better ‘hull shape’. In other words, the two swimmers are applying the same amount of power but have different technique for how that power is applied during the stroke. Shape is the most obvious reason why."

The need for power training, for most translating into 'hard work sets', is not denied but it must not come at the expense of technique.

As we say in the TI world efficiency first, speed second! This boils down to being able to hold your stroke mechanics and minimise excess loss of stroke length as you increase power.

Matt hones in on the underlying principle of 'vessel shape' being crucial to progress through the hard yards.

And in his final paragraph explains that good old 'plateau' that so many swimmers reach in their swimming journey

If you liked that read - here's the next one in the series:

http://mediterraswim.com/2015/10/17/swimmer-speed-curve-3/

Freestyle Arm Recovery

 
Freestyle arm recovery

Freestyle arm recovery

 
 
Practicing freestyle arm recovery whilst in a stable standing position can help raise your awareness of
 
  • The overall movement pattern
  • Muscle group engagement
  • Joint range of motion
 
The aim of the Recovery Sequence
 
  • To get the brain operating a controlled elbow led recovery - not a hand swing
  • To feel the full trajectory of the elbow recovery - towards a 'tipping  or weight shift point’, passed the horizontal centre of gravity
  • To recover with a short compact lever - quicker, and less compromises to the stroke, and stability,  than long arm swing
  • To allow your lead arm to 'wait' for the co-ordinated switch - allowing a good catch and optimal propulsion

 

Manoevre tip of elbow wide

Feel the tip of the elbow travel wide on its initial movement. Avoid any high, vertical elbow movements to avoid impingement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow led movment, finger follow striaght path

Lead with the elbow, imagine your fingertips following a straight line path wide to the side of your body. This require's core stabilisers to be switched on.

Gravity takes the entry

As the arm moves forwards, shifting the body's centre of gravity, feel the inertia of the arm assist forwards momentum.  Let gravity 'take' the arm and you will hit an optimal entry > catch position, rather than extending out over the water.

 

Next time you're at the pool:

https://youtu.be/2N-4o3OOiuE

Take time to practice the sequence, noting the free flowing movements of the arm, the weight of the arm, and suggested entry point.

Push off and complete just 4-6 strokes applying the focal points: