Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avoid the Slosh Zone

Something occurred to me while swimming with the Masters this Saturday. For one thing, I got thrown to the wolves... er.... swam in the fast lane. So I got an opportunity to watch the fastest of the fast guys up close. Even when swimming a workout, I'm always observing what the other swimmers are doing, both good and bad. Sometimes my underwater perspective helps me coach them differently than I do when I'm just coaching from the deck. Anyways, we did a really fun workout (fun as defined by "really hard work that was kinda cool") called "Rush Hour". We did 4 sets of 250 yards with 4 swimmers in a lane. The first swimmer takes off, followed closely by the 2nd and 3rd swimmers, all swimming at a moderate-to-easy pace. The 4th swimmer has to sprint by all of them and reach the wall, execute a good strong turn and glide out in front of them to lead the next lap. Repeat with the new 4th swimmer sprinting so that each 4 lengths you are sprinting and the other three recovering. It really gives you some motivation to put on a good strong sprint when you have to get by all of your lane mates.

So what I noticed was that the fastest swimmers were able to move past me without my feeling anything until their feet were ahead of my shoulders. In other words, they had no sideways slosh from their stroke, none of their energy was being used to move water in directions that did not propel them forwards. From swimmers in other lanes to my sides who are not as efficient, I was feeling moderate to severe sloshing, meaning that some of the energy in their stroke was being used to push water sideways. In some cases, this was due to inefficiencies in the pull phase of their stroke, in others it was due to that sideways frog-kick that some swimmers give every few kicks, especially when breathing (the body naturally seeks to stabilize itself by turning your legs into water-skipper legs and reaching out to the sides).

In order to swim our fastest and most efficiently, we have to work diligently to reduce the slosh effect, to direct all of our energy to moving water behind us only. So if you go and swim, visualize yourself moving past an object. How is the water that you're moving affecting that object? Does it reach the object before you do? Some people's hand entry actually pushes some water forward, if the hands are not slicing neatly into the water. Are you splashing the lane beside you as your elbow drops on entry, creating a big sploosh with each stroke? Are you pushing water sideways underwater with your pull? Is your kick inadvertantly moving water down or sideways?

Sometimes in the summer, if I'm lucky enough to get an outdoor lane all to myself and the sun overhead, I can see the shadow created by the water ripples that I am moving. Ideally, this shadow looks like the triangular wake of a boat stretching out behind me, but I'm alert to any ripples or eddies that are extending from my sides. This is a great feedback mechanism if/when you have access to observe yourself like this. You can also ask a friend to watch from above if you have a calm moment when the pool opens and the lanes are empty.

Here's the whole workout from this Saturday:

Skill: Forearm Catch
Drill: Closed Fist

250 Swim
4 x 75: 50 Closed Fist, 25 Open
200 Swim
4 x 75 Kick, Build Each
150 Swim


1 x 250 Pull, work Distance per Stroke

2 x 50 Swim Golf (score is time in seconds plus total strokes)

3 x 200 Desc. @ 3:15

4 x 250 m M. Rush Hour (last in line sprints to start each lap) @ :30 rest

5 x 25-50-75 5 sec. rest @ 1:20 pace (2:15 for each total set, with rest)

6 x 50 Cooling Down

4200 y


B Sue Fly said...

Oh, how I dream of being able to write a swimming post like that, perhaps someday! Love your blog!

janasmama said...

I can visualize all that you've written here. As a beginning swimmer I have fewer times that I feel efficient but I can most certainly feel the slosh that you speak of. When I do feel efficient it's because I am feeling more aero-dynamic. What would the equivalent to water be for that??? aqua-dynamic.

This gives me another thing to 'think' about while swimming. I am glad that I am finally capable of taking it slow and actually thinking while swimming.