So it seems not only was I physically tired from Lake Geneva affecting Nationals in Sheffield the efforts had actually affected my stroke. The decline in swim technique is often sneaky, it slowly goes and you might not notice it. Counting strokes helps and an increase is reason to be concerned but it can be attributed to other factors. Slow times can be due to fatigue and water will punish you dramatically if you sit low in the water even with good technque. Something else was amiss for me….
I had felt heavy and disconnected in the water and this reached a peak at the Aquatic Centre last Friday. I was really concerned for World Masters in Hungary this coming Friday. I had swum at Hyde Park on Wednesday night helping at the Silverfit Aquathlon and again put it down to a cold night and lack of warm up before trying a fast 500m to lead the swimmers out and resume my position helping swimmers out at the swim exit point. Friday I swam an easy 3000m mixing swim/pull/drill and kick. Emphasis was on drills, no efforts just trying to feel the water again.
For the first time in years it felt like my kick was out of synch with my arms, usually it flows, works together and creates forwards propulsion from assisting my rotation. My arms had been heavy and I was not feeling the hold on the water I usually have. With strong arms to keep pulling my body forwards and over ‘anchored’ hand from a good hold of the water I know this is the winning formula to my long distance swims. I knew my legs were not physically doing the wrong thing I just had to go back to some basics and have them start to drive my rotation again. For the past few weeks they had been along for the ride and not contributing. Extension <Superman> and Torpedo are my go to drills for waking up the legs, letting them learn their role again. Let them know they are important for helping drive the hips and assisting the upper body onto its side. But not propulsion. Torpedo is basically the FC body position stroke with no arms involved. Head still, body rotating from the kick movements, not from the arms. The arms should be allowed to pull you through and over the anchored hands. Coach Gui had picked up I was pushing down with a straight left arm, helping my OW breath to the right. I always train breathing every 3rd but race every 2nd to the right (unless conditions dictate otherwise.) He was on deck at Hyde Park during the Aquathlon and picked up on this. A major flaw since you are basically swimming single arm each time you breathe if you push it down straight form the shoulder rather than set your pivot point from the elbow and engage the forearm to assist the pulling forwards. Pivot at the shoulder and you bounce up not forwards. I worked diligently on my bilateral breathing, added some snorkel work so I could emphasise my left arm catch and check symmetry with the right. Advanced Single Arm is another great drill I use to check my kick and arms are connected. This ‘king of the drills’ is highly effective since it needs a good kick and catch position to work well. If any key component is missing then the drill will leave you flat and struggling for air. No rotation through the drill and it will leave your shoulders parallel to the surface shutting down the opportunity get air as there is no rotation back onto your side. This drill is easier with a snorkel but must be done without to get the feedback that you are doing it right. You might prefer this version if you are not sure, it is one of my favourite Hybrid Drills. Adding the Sharkfin arm movement in-between each single arm ensures you finish the drill correctly.
I swam an easy loop of our lake on Saturday AM to hopefully feel a bit better technically and then rested to allow the improvements to bed in. By the end of yesterdays Aquatic Centre session which comprised the following I was hoping to back to normal-
500FC, 400 Pull <Towfloat> 300 single arm with fins, 200Kick <Torpedo & fins, face down & up>
8x50Fc, 5m fast/45 easy, add 5m of fast each time, lose 5m of easy. Rest 10.
300 Negative Split, for time. Recorded each 2 weeks
400m SFT swim down, our own creation to ensure the stroke is at its best before exiting.
I was starting to feel like my stroke was back, timing was better, easy speed was coming back and I was sitting higher in the water. Each fortnight I often ‘test’ myself with a 300m straight FC swim. Usually at the end of the week but I figured this could be helpful for confidence heading into Friday. 3:52 was 3 secs quicker than usual.
Don’t forget to regularly come back to some drills regardless of your ability, they are not just there to help newcomers learn to swim, they can help polish discrepancies that creep in. They will also help rebuild your technique if fatigued from a hard mainset. If Olympians can do drills for this very same reason then so can we all. I think it is always a great idea to polish the technique before exiting hence the SFT swim down concept.