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Ask the Swim Doctor: 2000

"Ask the Swim Doctor" is a popular column written by Dr. Paul Hutinger. This column appears regularly in the Florida LMSC quarterly newsletter, which is the recipient of the 1998 USMS Newsletter of the Year Award.

February 2000: Backstroke Turn

Question: On the backstroke turn, can my legs kick when I roll over? Can I roll over and touch the wall while on my stomach? I'm fairly new to Maters swimming and am confused by the differences in officiating.

Answer: Yes. The rule states: "...a continuous single or a continuous doublearm pull may be used to execute the turn. Once the body has left the position on the back, there shall be no kick or arm pull independent of a continuous turning action."

You may use either the dolphin kick (used by world record holder Bill Specht) or the flutter kick. Perfect your turns in practice by knowing your stroke count under the flags before you begin to roll over. Once you have turned, adjust your out-of-water arm so you will maintain the continuity in your turn. You cannot roll over, hold your arm straight ahead or at your side, and kick in. That would not be continuous.

The answer is yes for your second question. From the rule book: "...turns past vertical, and in a continuous motion, bragx the wall before pushing off with the feet while on the back...." Not all swimmers feel comfortable doing the rollover turn, and this rollover open turn is an alternative comtinuous turning action, available in Masters swimming and not USA age group.

When this rule first appeared ten years ago, videos were available to train swimmers, coaches, and officials on proper technique, which was useful for uniformity in judging turns. I share your confusion about officiating calls, as some officials apparently have not kept pace with the rollover back turn. In the St. Petersburg area, I've seen elite swimmers DQ'd doing back rollover and open back rollover turns, for "kicking in" and "not continuous." These same swimmers and turns are legal in other meets. There is no advantage to not being continuous.

May 2000: Improving Splits

Question: I swam a 200 free in 2:34 and my 50 splits were 34, 39, 40, 41. What would be an ideal splitting for my 200, and how can I improve my splits?

Answer: You have taken the first steps in improving your splits by knowing what they are and realizing you are going out too fast. With your present level of training, your realistic goal time could be 2:30 with these splits: 36, 38, 38, 38.

With this goal in mind, put your slits together in "broken swims." For the first 50, dive in and keep the time close to 36. Time the other 3 X 50's from push offs, leaving every two minutes and holding 38 seconds. Concentrate on swimming relaxed, with smooth and efficient strokes. Work towards doing four sets of these broken swims in one workout, with a shorter rest between each 50 swim. The ideal is to take a 10 second rest between each 50 and keep your pace times. (For faster or slower swimmers, use this same formula -- adjust your swim time; keep the same rest time -- to establish your splits.)

Four sets of broken 200 swims could be as follows: four (4 X 50) @ 2:00, 1:30, 1:00, :45. I used this technique when I trained for the 200m backstroke in 1994 and set a world record, 2:59.0, in the 70-74 age group-- 43, 45.5, 46, 44.5. More recently as a 75-year old and after shoulder surgery (bike crash), I set the US 100m back record in 1:26.2 with splits of 42.3 and 43.9.

Another type of pace practice would be a set of 10 X 50 push offs on 1:00, keeping a 36 pace for the total set. These types of training can be used for all strokes.

At the meet, warm-up with the same pace 50's for your race. Concentrate on pacing before you get on the block and during your race.

November 2000: Swimming Faster Sprints

Question: How can I sprint faster?

Answer: I was asked this question at a recent Masters meet. She and other Masters need to follow the principle, "Train fast to swim fast."

The average Masters swimmer cannot do sets performed by the Australian Olympians Thorpe and Klim. They do sets of 30 X 100 @1:30 with a pace of 1:00 and heart rates of 150. However, you can use the concept of race pace in your training, whatever your speed, and learn to train to improve your 50 and 100 sprints.

Sets to include in your workouts would be 16 X 25 (race pace @ 45-60 sec). A good work/rest ratio would be 4:1 (15 sec. swim ! 1:15). Include fast all-out kicking, too. Every practice do 4 X 25, your stroke. Once a week, swim a test set -- 5 X 50 all out @ 2:00. Take more rest if you need, in order to hold your time. Your anaerobic energy system will be enhanced with this type of training and give you better performances at meets.

Use swim fins for part of your swimming, not just kicking. These will give you the sensation of speed and how your stroke feels when you swim fast, plus improve your streamlining.

Tethered swimming, 25 yards with surgical tubing, will help you increase strength specific to each stroke, with resistance. Swimming on the return phase will again give you the feeling of swimming fast. These two stroke enhancers will provide variety and excellent training in your search for speed.

Specificity is principle to maximize your potential. Race pace should be done for events you are planning to swim in your next important meet.

The Masters swimmer will do better, overall, by training for three or four meets a year. The elite swimmers train for one big meet a year and swim through their other meets.

Set realistic goals for times you'd like to achieve -- national or world records, Top Ten times, Florida records, Florida Top 5 times, team records, or your personal bests. Design your own training program or have your coach help you in order to achieve your specific goals.

Refer to "Improving Splits" (May, 2000) for training for the 200's and longer, using broken swims. I use all these training methods, which enabled me to win four gold medals at the Worlds in Munich.

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