Tag Archives: core strength

Lifeboat Swim Wk 18: Donkey Rides and Water Slides

16 Feb

The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.

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I scream for ice cream! (by Weelakeo)

(Ah, dear blog – I thought I’d lost you down the back of the sofa.)

Here we are then in the ‘big year’ – the inspiration for my challenge target. And it seems we have a lot of news to catch up on…

Xmas in our household was most pleasant indeed and didn’t have too much of an impact on the swimming, even if I did spend the first 2 weeks of 2012 catching up on those missed 4 days of laps. I ended up catching a stinking cold later in January and was back in the same boat playing catch-up – that was worse though as I had to really allow my body to continue it’s recovery on those first few swims back.

My sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew bought me an excellent book for Xmas: Complete Conditioning for Swimming by Dave Salo (available on Amazon). It contains many exercises for general body strengthening, injury prevention, core strength, stretching and stroke specific conditioning, as well as information on diet, and structured routines. Since getting the book I’ve acquired a Swiss Ball, Medicine Ball and stretch cords that are required for a lot of the exercises. For the past few weeks I’ve been following some of the set routines, twice a week for about an hour each time, and I’m really starting to notice the difference. Some exercises, that to begin with I couldn’t do many reps on, are now much easier and some moves I’ve moved to higher resistance cords.

Champion is obviously a biter (by Pondspider)

In the last quarter of 2011 I’d been focussing a lot on building endurance through critical swim speed (CSS) sets, but decided to shift some focus back on technique. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of times before I swim I watch a short video of Jono Van Hazel from the SwimSmooth Catch Masterclass dvd, but realised that his is not the only technique out there – since not everyone swims the, same perhaps I should be looking at other swimmers too! So yes, it was back to good ol’ Youtube. It was when watching some videos of Grant Hackett and a few other Olympic freestylers I noticed that they all show a particular way of completing the catch/pull – it’s called Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). I’d avoided this before as it’s considered a bit of an advanced technique due to a higher risk of injury if done wrong. Thankfully there are a lot of videos on the net with clear demonstrations and drills for building the stroke up. I should point out that some swimmers use a very extreme version of EVF where the elbows remain almost at the water’s surface – I think this is only possible if you have incredible flexibility, hence why I use a much shallower version. The supposed (I say supposed because once upon a time the ‘S Pull’ was considered to be correct and has since been debunked) benefits are that there is less surface area to create drag (the upper arm is much higher in the water) and also that it allows more force to be exerted. I’ve certainly found that it’s allowed me to make one of those ‘quantum leaps’ in technique level. My sprint times have dropped, quite dramatically in some instances. At the end of last year my 100m PB was 1:26 – now it’s 1:21. My 200m was around 2:58 – that’s down to 2:53. Not only that, but I’m quite consistently swimming 3:04 for my steady 200m. I’m sure that all the core and general body exercises I’ve been doing have contributed greatly too -I really feel like I’m gliding through the water now.

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The management at my local pool were kind enough to allow David and I to take a bit of film footage for something charity related I’m putting together for work. You know how you can close your eyes and picture yourself doing an action, then when you see yourself on video you realise you look nothing like that? Well yeah, I watched the footage and I didn’t like what I saw. In my mind’s eye I was Van Hazel, Hackett, Thorpe, etc. In reality I was like Moussambani. Ok, maybe not that bad. My main beef was with that stupid little whip-kick that I thought I’d stopped doing months ago. Cue daily kick drills with the Finis float. I made a lot of progress, but just couldn’t get the timing of a 4/6 beat kick right – I’d always felt that a 2 beat kick felt more natural for me, but never really gave it much attention. For the last week I’ve actually been doing it pretty consistently (making sure to point those toes!) and much like the EVF, it seems to have made quite a difference – I’m now gliding along even more. Obviously there’s still pleeenty of room for improvement, but I’m hopeful that with a bit more CSS training I can break the 6 min barrier for 400m within a week or two. I haven’t swum a mile in a while, but I’m confident that I can beat my previous 25:46 time – my aim is to get into the 24s by the Great London Swim at the end of May.

As you can see from the route map and progress board from last Friday, I’m still well on track for my challenge – I may have to pop into Great Yarmouth for a 99 with a flake very soon. I’ve only got 8 more swims to do to reach 100 miles – I might have to have a mini-celebration when I do (or perhaps another 99).

I’ve got plenty more to write, so stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Yesterday I hit 6000 lengths!  That’s 150,000m.  Nearly half way…

Break on through to the other side!

7 Oct
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Photo by B5160-R

I could have been king. But in my own way, I *am* king.” Ash

Ok, so I may be exaggerating the enormity of my latest achievement a *teensie* bit, but to me it’s a pretty big one.

My long standing 100m PB of 1.31 has fallen. So long sucka. Hellooo 1.26 🙂

Truth be told, I haven’t really been working on my sprints much since that 1.31 back in March. Still, given all the endurance and technique training I’ve been doing you’d have expected that to drop a bit. Once again, it seems like my recent improvements are to thank. And I think I’ve figured out what they are…

I believe there are 3 aspects that have contributed to my recent PBs:

  • Eliminating any glide before the catch and not applying pressure during it
  • Timing my strokes so that my recovering arm has entered the water and is spearing forward as my stroking arm is starting the pull (almost like a flying Superman pose?)
  • Keeping my core strong and stretching tall

What do all these have in common? That’s right, it’s all about reducing drag! I’ve also found that my stroke rate has increased quite naturally too. It’s all still a bit rough, but I think the basic principles are there.

(200m times are also down from around 3.26 to 3.04 over the last 3 weeks – which I still don’t quite believe yet)

So to sum up, I wanted to highlight once again the importance of swimming smarter. What’s the point of putting all that effort in if you’re gonna be a draaaag?!

Swim.. like an avocado!?

21 Sep

Pilates Reformer - Photo by FitnessOrlando

Why an avocado?  Well, because they have a hard centre with a smooth exterior.

In freestyle swimming we should be aiming to have a strong core (ie, torso) but relaxed arms and legs. The main reasons are that it helps you be more streamlined in the water, helps with body roll and also better connects your arms to the rest of your body, so you can use your whole body to power you.

Pilates is a great way to strengthen your core, and in fact a lot of other muscles involved in swimming. It’s a body conditioning routine that helps to not only build flexibility, but also strength, endurance, and coordination in the legs, abdominals, arms and back.  My wife and I have recently started lessons under the expert tuition of Claire Wray at Equilibrium Health in Leeds. We’re only a couple of lessons in, but already I can see how it will benefit my swimming, for performance, but also injury prevention (shoulders in particular). There’s a lot more to learn, and I’m looking forward to seeing more improvements!