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Tip of the Month - 2002

The following "Tip of the Month" columns were written by Dr. Paul Hutinger and published in the Maverick Lane Lines newsletter. Our first edition of "Tip of the Month" was in 1997.

1. Fins: The Stroke Enhancer

There are positive and negative aspects about using fins in your training. Sprinters and stroke swimmers would profit more than the distance people. Fins reduce the pressure on the shoulder following an injury or surgery.
The type of fin is important. I recommend the Dacor Corda (Kiefer catalog, ave $33), which is an excellent quality. It is more expensive, but won't split easily. The red (competition) zoomers are excellent small fins. The Hydro Training fin ($40), inbetween the two, is also excellent quality, gives good speed and is easy on the feet (1-800-353-7946). I do not recommend the scuba fin (too large and heavy) nor the Force Fin (force in one direction only).
Swim training with fins is best with short swims (50-100 or 200's) and speed or power kicking. Use short fast kicks, not deep, oversized ones. It is important to swim fast in training, to understand the feeling of swimming fast in a meet. Breast stroke with the dolphin kick, will enhance your timing on this finesse stroke. Try flutter kicking underwater for 25 yards--front and back, as well as dolphin kick, front and back.
My first extensive use of fins in my training was in the 55-60 age group. With injuries to my shoulders from bike crashes, I used fins for speed assistance on my fly training. They enhanced my stroke and rhythm and enabled me to get through difficult workouts. I had a 28.01 yds fly
National record and a 1:05.8 100 IM record that lasted for 10 years. In 1999, fins enabled me to compete at the national and world level in backstroke after surgery to reattach the upraspinatus tendon. It was completely torn from the insertion in another bicycle crash. I have had to
train with fins for 85% of my workout.
A Masters swimmer from Illinois had shoulder and neck problems and was ready to quit for the year. She reconsidered and used fins for backstroke training for the rest of the seaon. She used repeat swims the last two weeks before Nationals to give her the transition needed to swim without them. She won the three back events.
A recent article by Amanda Beard in the March/April SWIM Magazine, demonstrates the dolphin kick drill in breaststroke. This drill is enhanced by the use of fins.
Fins can increase flexibility, allow you to swim at race speed and enhance strokes, especially fly. Streamlining is important in all strokes, and the speed generated with fins gives you immediate feedback. When using fins, be sure to allow a two week transition before a meet, with zoomers or regular swimming. Besides all these positives, it also adds FUN to your training.


Swimmers need to be creative at times, to maintain a training program, when your regular pool is not available. Walking, running, cycling and weight training (light weights/high reps) are good cross training techniques, however, you still need the water.
When traveling, check out city, YMCA, high school, and motel pools. Rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans are also possibilities. Specificity is the principle to keep in mind. Swimming is a sport requiring arm strength and I have listed some options friends or myself have used.

TETHER--Commercial tethers come in various lengths. 18' will stretch to 25' for the average swimmer and can be tied to a dock at a lake. The 4' length can be used in a motel or back yard pool. You can make your own from three old bicycle tubes (check out bike shops). Use one tube, tied around your waist, for your belt. The two other tubes tied together would stretch from
a ladder or dock. You can do intervals by counting your strokes and keeping track of your time with a waterproof triathlon watch. In 1975, I used this method to train for a 2-mile cable swim around a 200 meter cable. In my pool, I timed my 200 m with a tether, to get my pace and the number of strokes. It approximated the specificity of training for the cable swim. It took me 160 strokes and approximately 3 min, with 15-30 sec rest. My cable swim was 49 min and 30 sec, which was the new record. Tether training can work; it did for me. Set your goals and work towards them.

OPEN WATER COURSE--Measure a pond or lake for 25 or 50 meter courses. Use a rock, post driven in water or shore or a gallon jug anchored in the water for your turn around. Bill Smith, national and world record holder in the 1940's, did part of his training in an irrigation canal in Hawaii. When I was stationed on Palmyra Island during the war, I trained in a boat slip (25
yds), with rope and cork lane lines, for my meet in Hawaii.

FLUME--If you have the financial means and desire, this is an excellent option. Bonnie Pronk, world record holder, lives on an isolated island in British Columbia, Canada, well over 90 min from the nearest pool, via ferry. She used money from an inheritance from her mom to turn half of their garage into a memorial swim flume room. I suggested she mount a long mirror on the
ceiling so she could correct her back stroke. At the worlds in New Zealand, she set 7 world records, including her improved 200 back.

DRIVE TO A POOL--Bill Volckening is visiting his parents at their lakeside home in Maine. He drives one hour, each way, to the nearest pool.

SWIM BENCH--When water still is not available, use a swim bench to condition the arms. Designate the resistance needed, as light, medium or strong. By counting the number of reps,.it is similar to tether training,



What events are you swimming in your next meet? You undoubtedly know what events you will be swimming and have included training for them, including sets of broken swims (4 x 50 for the 200 IM) that simulate each event. Specific training will enhance your physical performance.
Don't forget to work on your mental training. Spend some time each day mentally going over each of your events. Think them through by visualizing each part of your event, including starts and turns. When you are at a meet, focus before each event, by using self hypnosis.
At Nationals, after the 200 back, Charlie Weatherbee told me, "I just swam a perfect 200." Earlier, I had discussed strategy with him. He said his legs always went out on him, so I told him, "Float you legs early so you'll have something left at the end. Concentrate on your turns. Build
the last 50 with your fresh legs." Five to 10 minuts before he swam, he sat quietly by himself, thought about my suggestions and visualized his race. When he was hanging on the block and the gun sounded, he arched his back and streamlined smoothly into the water on automatic, and was apply to apply all my suggestions. The result? A perfect 200.
Know the other swimmers in your events, especially those who turn in bogus seed times that are either too fast or too slow. Train at your race pace so you will be able to swim your own race. Knowing your pace will help you to avoid going out too fast and hitting the brick wall before the end of the race. During warmups, do some pace 50's. Do starts and sprints in the
sprint lane. Practice turns at race pace (includes training).
The same principle applies to relay starts. Focus on the swimmer approaching and make adjustments for a slower swimmer. Always hold your take off, as many disqualifications are called by some officials if you are leaning when the swimmer approaches the wall. Although legal (toes must remain on block until fingers touch the wall), there are still cases of Masters teams being DQ'd for this reason. Most of our relays are going for points. It's better to be safe and score the points, than risk it all and score zero. Last year, our men's team moved up from 4th to 3rd place at Nationals in Federal Way, because one of the teams ahead of us jumped on the
final relay.
If I appear to be ignoring you before I swim, it's not you. I'm going through my mental preparation. Right before an event, is NOT the time for chit chat. I'll talk to you, afterwards. Think about not talking to other swimmers before their events. Many will appreciate your courteousness.


The Mavericks have held World and National relay records. In the past six years, we have entered relays that not only have placed in the USMS Top Ten, but earned All American status (first place). One of my goals is to include everyone (who desires) on a relay that has the capability of receiving this top recognition. Relays are a mini-team within a team and it takes more than a good swim to have a successful relay. These suggestions may seem obvious to those of us who have swum on many relays, but our team had a negative example of each of these at the Orlando meet. Check the relay list. Know what relays you will be on for each day. The
list will be posted, close to where I'm sitting. Know your heat and lane number, after cards have been handed out. Carry the relay card to the block. One reliable person is responsible for giving it to the timer. Have your relay organized and at your block, EARLY. Three other swimmers are depending on you. The relay order is on the card. Make sure your relay is aware of this, especially in the medley relay. Be safe on your relay takeoffs. Wait till the previous swimmers touches before you dive in. Most of our relays are going for points. It's better to be safe and score the points, than risk it all and score zero. Don¹t hang onto the pad! Go to the lane line, if you're the first, second or third swimmer. We almost lost a National record because a swimmer did this, resulting in inaccurate splits and an inaccurate final time. It took two months to get the paper work cleared up. When you finish your portion, WAIT. Don't cross any lane until the referee says it's OK. Don't touch the pad in another lane if a swimmer hasn't finished. This
results in an inaccurate final time. Lend a helping hand. Some swimmers need help to maintain their balance on the blocks before they dive in. On the 400 and 800 relays, remind each other how far each swimmer has to swim and to be ready on the last 50.
Talk about all these tips before the first swimmer gets on the block, so they become automatic when you finish your portion and are breathless. Let's be considerate of the newer swimmers who are less savvy and helpful to the older swimmers. We all hope to be still swimming when we're in our 70's, 80's and even older, and we will be delighted to have one of the youngsters lend us a helping hand. I know I will.

Workouts getting boring? Looking for new ideas? Needing suggestions on training for meets, tapering, open water swimming or stroke improvement? Tell me how many yards you swim, how often, your 50 yd. times on each stroke and daily workout yardage per week. -Coach Paul Hutinger

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