Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Isn’t It Wonderful When the Light Goes On?
Monday’s practice was dominated by distance work but did include a short drill right after the main set. The set emphasis was on crawl technique comparing stroke counts obtained swimming with fists to swimming with normal open hands. At the time I was just glad to get through the main set and really didn’t care about the drill, mainly because in spite of the fact Coach Brad has explained the purpose of the fist drill a couple of times I’ve never really understood how it’s supposed to improve my technique. I took 53 strokes to cover the fifty meters with fists, and 39 strokes without. A couple of teammates either lost count or simply forgot about the stroke count, but for the rest it seemed counts averaged around mid-fifties for fists and mid-forties for open handed. I was perhaps mentally preening a bit for having a better stroke count when Brad turned to Doug and asked him what his counts were. For those readers who aren’t conversant with the Hyack Masters Swim Club hierarchy Doug is one of our few legitimate ‘elite’ swimmers, even if he only trains with us occasionally, so I was very interested in his answer. “40 for fists and 28 or so for the swim”, he replied to Brad, who nodded apparently finding those numbers in agreement with his expectations. Holy cow! While I expected Doug would have better numbers I wasn’t expecting him to be as efficient swimming with closed fists as I was open handed! Quickly running through Brad’s explanations of the drill in my head for clues and not finding the now greatly desired answers I turned to Doug and asked him what he concentrated on when doing the fisting lap. “Shoulder roll”, was Doug’s eventual answer, but while he was saying this he was also going through the motions and I noticed he was holding his arm at a much more obtuse angle than I do mine, as I tend to sweep it under my body. And the light went on (i.e. deeper water is more stable). So for my warm down I repeated the drill set with a deeper, more vertical stroke and saw my stroke count drop to 44 for fists and to 35 open handed, a 10% improvement in stroke efficiency in a matter of minutes, a mind boggling qualitative improvement in my stroke for such a simple change. It’s particularly encouraging because it shows just how poorly I’m swimming right now – once all these flaws are corrected my times surely will improve by leaps and bounds! At least that’s the hypothesis I’m working on. Now all I have to do is incorporate this change into my current new stroke without forgetting all the other changes I’m trying to make in my freestyle. It will take some time ... and likely a lot of kilometers. But it’s something I can look forward to eh?