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.
Head Down, Float Legs for Distance
What one simple change in your freestyle mechanics could make you more efficient in the water? Let’s go back 25 years in Masters swimming when the one hour postal was first introduced. I was primarily a sprinter, even though I did swim the 1650, and wanted to swim for an hour. This swim called for a change in both mechanics and a special training program. For my shorter events, I used a power kick. For this longer distance, I needed to make a change to float my legs up, which gave me less resistance. I also changed my head position by dropping my head and breathing to the side and toward my shoulder. This helped me streamline and keep my body more level. Look under water at your teammates and observe how deep their legs and feet are, especially for the slower swimmers. Using a pull buoy to float your legs and body in pull sets will give you an example of how much easier it is to swim this way, especially for men.
The head will feel low when you begin to change, but you will need to over correct to obtain a good horizontal position. Margie says, “I thought my head was down when I dropped my chin. That didn’t do it. I wasn’t horizontal in the water until I learned to keep my head in line with my spine,.” She was typing out this tip the night before she did her hour swim. During her swim, she concentrated on four words, “head down; float legs.” She did work on these tips during her training and with the reinforcement from this article, was able to swim 115 yards farther than she did last year.
The next change is special training. Work on a pace in practice that you think you can maintain for a 1650. Work on that pace with 10-20 x 100 free. Gradually reduce your rest to 10-15 sec. This is also good strategy for any of your distance swims, like the 500 and 1000. Increase the number of 100’s if you plan do swim the 3000-6000 Yards or 5K/10/ Postals. Usually, I don’t see swimmers with their heads too low in the water. At a recent meet, I saw a swimmer who was swimming down hill. Her head was too low in the water, which also caused a resistance. She had to raise her head to maintain a horizontal position and streamline.
Streamline for Sprints
If you are a sprinter, what is one part of your technique that you can improve? The answer is, streamline. The arms must be stretched out straight with elbows locked. Bury your head and squeeze it between your arms. Lap one hand over the other. This position is important in the dive in as well as on each pushoff.
The other strokes each have something special you can do to improve your streamline.
2. SWIM WITH A PURPOSE
Don’t Just Swim Laps; Swim with a Purpose!
STROKE TECHNIQUES: Start each training session with stroke techniques.
Improve some part of your stroke with drills. Use distance per stroke
(Nov, 2003) and make each stroke count. By working with paddles, you
can correct stroke problems and make each stroke more powerful. When
you are doing dps, try to work into a rhythm. On one length, concentrate
on dps and on the
INTERVAL TRAINING: Plan ahead for your next meet. Do some special work for the events you will swim. This should include drills, broken swims (5 x 100’s for your 500, 4 x 50’s for your 200’s, etc) and technique swims. Use 10 x 100 free’s as a base for your aerobic training with rest intervals of 15 to 60 seconds. Refer to training hints for the hour swim (registration folder) to find a pace that is realistic for you in your long swims. In order to optimize your training, time ALL of your swims, except for recovery days or following an illness.
EACH MEET: Concentrate on one or two events for your optimum swims.
These can vary, depending on the order of events. Use your other events
as swim throughs to earn team points, a high point award or if you’re
proficient in all your strokes, the new LMSC Leather Lungs Award.
RECORDS: I aged up to 80, this year, and have been using the USMS records as my goal times for my three back stroke events. Regan Kenner, also 80, recently called and asked for the breast and back records in her new age group. “These times will make the meets more interesting and give me a purpose.” For some of you, the FL LMSC records are within your grasp. Everyone can work towards a personal record. It might be a new stroke or new event, including one of the five postals. Your best time in a new age group or after surgery or illness is worthy of being called a personal best. Whatever level you’re at, find new goals to pursue.
DON’T JUST SWIM LAPS--SWIM WITH A PURPOSE!
3. HELP YOUR TEAMMATES
I think of that comment, frequently. Sometimes we
don’t realize how much our seemingly small gestures of helpfulness
and friendship are appreciated by the receiver. Many times we are
unable to reciprocate in kind directly to the giver, and instead,
we pass along our appreciation to
Many times at meets, we have shared our room when
someone needed a bed. The most recent was in Tempe, AZ, last May
for SCY Nationals. James Christie had a room, except for the first
night. When he asked if he could move in for the evening, I responded,
“Sure. Come on down,” When Margie and I needed a ride
to the pool and the shuttle bus wasn’t available, James
At the recent team awards dinner in Clearwater, June Reynolds didn’t have a ride from Tampa. Several options didn’t pan out, but June was resourceful and asked friends. They not only graciously volunteered, but decided to join us for the festivities.
At Nationals, it’s quite common for swimmers
with cars to offer rides to those waiting for the shuttle. At this
point, team affiliation doesn’t matter. The fraternity of
Masters swimming reaches far beyond that. At one Nationals, I was
behind the block for my 100 back. When I took off my
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” may be an old, trite saying. However, in all my years of experience, I have been willing to assist others, and am thankful when helping hands have reached out to me, when I needed it.
4. ADVANTAGES OF WERING A FULL SUIT
Research in the past has not demonstrated a big improvement in swim times by wearing a full high tech suit. In the July/August 1998 issue of SWIM Magazine, Julie Walsh gives the following information. The suits have been tested in the lab to give 10% reduction in skin friction drag which is one to two percent reduction in overall drag. Claims are tenths of seconds in sprints and seconds in longer events. Keep in mind, the research and data was compiled on the younger college and elite swimmers. I have not seen a study on older Masters swimmers.
In the spring of 2004, I decided to buy a full suit and see what it could do for my 80 year old body. I consulted Bonnie Pronk, a 60 year old Canadian and World Record holder, and her personal choice was an Arena suit, $230.
Here are samples of some of my comparisons. In a March
practice, wearing my regular Speedo suit, I swam a set of 10 x 100
yds back @ 2:30, with fins, with times of 1:20. At a meet in March,
my best 50 yd and 100 yd back times were 37.1 and 1:27.5, swimming
against my top competitor in the 75-79 age group. In April, wearing
the full suit, my times for the same set of 100’s, dropped to
1:12. At Y Nationals, in April, I again competed against top competitors,
and my times were 36.1 and 1:22.8, a drop of 5 seconds on the 100
back. In a 50 m pool, my practice repeats of 10 x 100 m back @ 2:30,
with fins, were 1:25 wearing my Speedo and 1:20, wearing my long suit.
During my first practice at the 2004 World Championships in Italy,
I wore my long suit and did 8 x 50 m back @ 2:00, with a :48 pace,
to prepare for my 200 back. The next day, I wore my Speedo and my
times for 4 x 50 @ 2:00, increased to 52 sec. I initially thought
that I was really tired from the previous day. I put on my long suit
and did 4 more 50’s, same interval. Again, my times were :48.
The placebo effect may have been working, but not for four seconds
for each 50.
Can a cheap close out sale of $50 for a full suit, Nike, give you better performances? I discovered that it can, as I have worn it for several practices, and have had similar results. Loose skin causes resistance. With a full torso suit, you can enhance your streamline, and as a result, your times could be faster. It worked for me. It could work for you. More on this topic will appear in the August FL LMSC newsletter, including a picture of my loose skin.
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