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Training

Tip of the Month | Ask the Swim Doctor

Tip of the Month

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. The column topics are categorized by in the following sections: Training, Health & Nutrition, Competition, Stroke Techniques, Mental Strategies, Sports Medicine, Fun & Fitness. Each article title is followed by the year the article was written (in parentheses).

Training

Broken Swims (1997)
Swimming Your Pace (1997)
Kick, kick, kick! (1998)
Training With Heart Rate (1998)
Flexibility (1999)
Broken Swims (1999)
Swim Step Test (2000)
Train for Y Nats (2001)
I Don’t Have a Pool (2002)
Swim With a Purpose! (2004)
Challenges for the one hour swim (2004)
Training for Championship Meets (2006)
Self-Coaching Tips (2006)
Broken Swims (2007)
Breathing More Effectively (2007)
How Hard am I Training? (2007)
Legal Blood Doping (2008)
Finish Your Race (2008)
How Champions Train (2008)

Health & Nutrition

Osteoporosis (2000)
Side Effects of Drugs (2003)
Hydration Revisited (2005)
High Blood Pressure & Performance (2007)
Importance of Rest (2008)

Competition

Turns--The Winning Edge (1997)
Warm Up For Meets (1998)
Finishing Your Race (1999)
Plan Ahead for the Competitive Season (1999)
Relays (2002)
Advantages of Wearing a Full Suit (2004)
Fine Tune Your Technique (2005)

Stroke Technique

Distance Per Stroke (1997)
Finning (1998)
Video your strokes (2001)
Fins: The Stroke Enhancer (2002)
Distance Per Stroke (DPS) (2003)
Efficiency in Freestyle (2004)

Mental Strategies

Set Personal Goals (1997)
Goal Setting (1998)
Plan Ahead for the Competitive Season (1999)
Goal Setting (2000)
Check Off List (2000)
Goals (2001)
Challenge Yourself (2001)
Focus on Your Event (2002)
Read the Newsletter! (2003)
Help Your Teammates! (2004)
Be the Best of Whatever You Are (2006)
Know Your Goals and Objectives (2007)

Sports Medicine


Training With Heart Rate (1998)
Flexibility (1999)
Develop Your Core Strength (2005)
What is your Pulse Rate? (2005)

Fun & Fitness

Training for the Non-Competitive Swimmer (2000)
Fun and Fitness (2003)
Make A Friend (2007)

 

Ask the Swim Doctor

2007 ~ 2006 ~ 2005 ~ 2004

Ask the Swim Doctor: 2007

"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, 2007:

Question: Is the power of positive thinking really all that it is cracked up to be? How does this relate to Masters swimming?

Answer: Absolutely! I have always believed in the power of positive thinking and owe my high level of success throughout my 35 years of Masters swimming to following this principle. The goals and objectives of my club, the Florida Maverick Masters, is to provide a positive environment for individual levels of achievement and the freedom to express ideas. This is my philosophy and I feel that it is important for each of you to think positive thoughts, whether they be for your next pool meet, postal event, triathlon, virtual swim, to increase your personal level of fitness or day to day survival.
Since Masters swimming is a lifelong fitness for you, what makes for longevity in one area, also applies to other areas. Several famous names come to mind, and you may also recognize them.
Art Linkletter, 94, uses swimming as his prime exercise. "Longevity is as much an act of will as a dedication to exercise and a healthy diet." He has been a dedicated swimmer most of his life. In his younger years, he worked as a life guard in California and was a Pacific Coast backstroke champion. "Swimming," according to Linkletter, "is the best exercise for seniors, as it is not an impact sport and does not harm your joints." While in his 90's, he has given 75 lectures a year and traveled 150,000 miles.
Phil Dodson, 53, from Chicago, is another well-known personality, as well as a Masters swimmer and survivor. In the past, he has had four bouts with cancer, starting as a 39 year old with testicular cancer. He has always used a positive approach in his life, which helps him in his training. This year, in the 50-54 age group, he had exceptional times in the 200 m Free, 2:08 and the 400 m free, 4:37. In this month's SWIMMING WORLD Magazine, he was featured in their article, "Survive and Thrive."
The oldest swimmers in the FL LMSC, are Carl Lindstrand and Art Holden, both 95 year olds. This year, we'll have at least four other nonagenarians.
In 2006, there were ten other swimmers 85 and older. Holden swam the Hour Swim when he was 93, to show others, "That just because you're old, doesn't mean you have to be a couch potato."
When you think positive thoughts, alienation gives way to involvement; enjoyment replaces boredom; helplessness turns into a feeling of control and psychic energy works to reinforce the sense of self, instead of being lost in the service of external goals. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems.
Positive thinking, as an act of will, can be improved by everyone. This subtle benefit is the key to longevity and better performance in your Masters swimming, no matter what your age. Take time to program your brain with psycho-cybernetics. Your self-image is the key to positive thinking, by not allowing negative thoughts. Program yourself for success and use mental pictures of success. Take some time every day to mentally prepare yourself for success. Set goals for yourself and take the steps towards achieving those goals. Clear out the cobwebs which lead to negative thoughts. Be positive!

May, 2007

QUESTION: I like to swim 200's and 500's at meets. My friends tell me I should "swim the event" in practice. What are your suggestions to optimize my training for these events?

ANSWER: Prepare for meets and your events with broken swims. I know I sound like a broken record, but I firmly believe that these swims will enhance your training and lead to faster meet times. I have followed these examples for 37 years, and I owe my many successes to this type of training.
The following is an example for the 200 Free: Estimate your goal time for the next meet--3:00, or :45 per 50. Swim 4 x 50 @ 1:00, and pace your 50¹s for :45. This will give you :15 sec rest after each 50. To be more specific for your race, do a dive in (if it¹s permitted at your pool) on your first 50, giving you :40.
A more involved set would be:
1. 4 x 50 with 10 sec rest - rest 1 min
2. 4 x 50 with 20 sec rest - rest 1 min
3. 4 x 50 with 30 sec rest - rest 1 min

Try to hold your pace on all sets, taking several minutes between sets.
You will have more rest as you do each set, to enable you to keep your pace.
This will work for ALL strokes, distances and the IM's. If your times are faster, keep the same intervals, but decrease your pace; if you are slower, increase your pace, with the same intervals.
I¹ve included some principles for you to follow, so you can design your own training program.
1. Train close to race speed. Use 1/4 to 1/2 your race distance. Ex: For your 200's, use 4 x 50s.
2. Specificity of training develops the energy system needed for your event. This important performance system is NOT developed in long, slow distance swimming.
3. Stroke timing and efficiency is enhanced and developed by quality work. Stroke timing and coordination change at different velocities.
4. The percent effort for each 50 of a 200 is about 80%, so training showed approximate this level of effort.
5. Distance per stroke can be maintained in a race if the training is similar to the racing speed.
Follow these principles and you will have a highly designed and productive training program.
You need to train at RACE SPEED in practice. You can best accomplish this with broken swims. Using a variety of rest intervals will help you train the different energy systems, which will enable you to have good meet performances.
This is an example of pace from the recent Clearwater meet. World Record holder, Jean Troy swam her 200 Free in 3:04. This was six seconds faster than the National Record in the 80-84 age group, which she will age up to, this year. Her splits were 42-45 (1:27 for the 100) then 48-49 for her final 3:04 time. Her broken swim training would enable her to drop a few seconds on her 3rd and 4th 50's. When you can do this in a race, each 50 will feel faster.

August 2007: Surviving Shoulder Pain


QUESTION: I’ve had several rotator cuff injuries. What can I do to keep training when I have
persistent pain in my shoulder?
ANSWER: You can verify rotator cuff injury with this simple test: stand, arm against your side;
bend forearm at 90 degrees; resist a force on your hand, inward and outward. A weakness in movement will indicate rotator cuff injury.
The most important muscles for the swimmer, and the most overused, involve the rotator
cuff. These are a group of muscles and tendons that help hold the head of the humerus (upper arm
bone) in the shallow socket in the scapula (shoulder blade). There are no strong ligaments to do the job. The tendons of the rotator cuff pass under the bony arch of the acromion (outer tip of the
shoulder). The muscles and tendons can get pinched under the acromion arch, especially with poor
stroke mechanics. Other swimming injuries can occur from overwork and old injuries to the shoulder and arm. The rotator cuff is primarily four muscles (subscapularis, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and teres minor) and their tendons. It stabilizes the upper arm in the shoulder socket and allows a great range of motion. Rotator cuff pain is caused by an "impingement syndrome." This is because exertion or overuse causes a compression of tendons by the shoulder bone, resulting in tears and/or inflamation. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs that protect muscles and tendons from irritation by the bone. A shoulder problem of tendinitis or bursitis may be a result.
• 1. Use ice before and after practice. Invest in a commercial fabric bag or cold compress that
is reusable, and keep in the freezer (Check your local drug store.) Use 10 min on and 10 min
off, several times a day. Also, freeze water in small paper cups, or use ice cubes. Apply ice
directly to the site, by continuously moving it. Do this no longer than 5 minutes at a time.
• 2. Change the strokes you use in training or competition. At LC Nationals one year, I had to
change from my usual fly and IM events to the three breast strokes.
• 3. Use swim fins for all your training, and do more kicking. A national record holder used this
approach over ten years ago. Unable to do any training because of neck and shoulder problems,
she implemented fin training for the entire season. She made the switch to regular
swimming several weeks before Nationals and swam some of her best times. Use more
kicking-- do sets of repeats and TIME them. Heart rates of 150-160 or at the anaerobic
threshold and VO2 race speed, for your age, should be part of your kick training.
• 4. Use stretching and flexibility exercises to keep your range of motion.
• 5. Strengthen the rotator cuff with special exercises for the muscles involved. Since the rotator
cuff muscles are small, you only need to use 2# to 5# weights. The emphasis should be
on a high number of repeats, such as three sets of 25 repeats.
• 6. Use aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen as an anti-inflammatory.
• 7. If the pain persists, see your physician. He may refer you to an RPT. Extreme problems
may need surgery, as a last resort.
Anyone wanting more information or having personal questions, send a large SASE to:
Dr. Paul Hutinger;
1755 Georgia Ave. NE;
St. Petersburg, FL 33703 or e-mail phut@usms.org

Ask the Swim Doctor: 2006

"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, 2006:

Question: What can I do to keep training when I have persistent pain in my shoulder?

Answer: You can verify rotator cuff injury by testing as follows: stand, arm against your side; bend forearm at 90; resist a force on your hand, inward and outward. A weakness in movement will indicate rotator cuff injury.

The most important muscles for the swimmer and the most overused, involve the rotator cuff. These are a group of muscles and tendons that help hold the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) in the shallow socket in the scapula (shoulder blade). There are no strong ligaments to do the job.

The tendons of the rotator cuff pass under the bony arch of the acromion (outer tip of the shoulder). The muscles and tendons can get pinched under the acromion arch, especially with poor stroke mechanics. Other swimming injuries can occur from overwork and old injuries to the shoulder and arm.

The rotator cuff is primarily four muscles (subscapularis, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and teres minor) and their tendons. It stabilizes the upper arm in the shoulder socket and allows a great range of motion. Rotator cuff pain is caused by an "impingement syndrome". This is because exertion or overuse causes a compression of tendons by the shoulder bone, resulting in tears and/or inflammation. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs that protect muscles and tendons from irritation by the bone. A shoulder problem of tendinitis or bursitis may be a result.

1. Use ice before and after practice. Invest in a commercial fabric bag, cold compress, that is reusable, to keep in the freezer. Check your local drug store.
2. Change the strokes you use in training or competition. At LCM Nationals one year, I had to change from my usual fly and IM events, to the three breast strokes.
3. Use fins or zoomers for all your swim training and do more kicking. A national record holder used this approach over ten years ago. Unable to do any training because of neck and shoulder problems, she implemented fin training for the entire season. She made the switch to regular swimming several weeks before Nationals and swam some of her best times. Use more kicking--do sets of repeats and time them. Heart rates of 150-160 (depends upon your age) or at the anaerobic threshold and VO2 race speed, for your age, should be part of your kick training.
4. Use stretching and flexibility exercises to keep your range of motion.
5. Strengthen the rotator cuff with special exercises for the muscles involved. Since the rotator cuff muscles are small, you only need to use 2# to 5# weights. The emphasis should be on a high number of repeats, such as 3 sets of 25 repeats.
6. Use aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen as an anti-inflamatory.
7. IF THE PAIN PERSISTS, SEE YOUR PHYSICIAN. HE MAY REFER YOU TO AN RPT. EXTREME PROBLEMS MAY NEED SURGERY, AS A LAST RESORT.

May, 2006:

Question: I saw you swim at the St Pete meet. How are you able to swim backstroke with both arms, yet use only your right arm for your fly and free events?

Answer: That's a very good question, which I have been asked, many times.
What would you do in swimming if your left arm dislocated when you extend it forward? This is what happened to me, one year ago, as I did a standard two arm pushoff. To avoid this excruciating pain, I swim fly, free and breast with my right arm, left arm at side. I also keep my damaged left arm at my side on forward and back starts and pushoffs. I have to time my turns perfectly, so I always turn with my right arm.

In my August, 2005 column, I mentioned that I would have to swim all strokes with one arm. Getting a shoulder replacement isn¹t in the near future, as it wouldn¹t give my the mobility and strength I would need to be competitive. Since then, I have been able to modify my backstroke, so I am able to use both arms. It puts me in a different position, and I can only use my left arm for a one-half stroke.

With my doctorate in Exercise Physiology from Indiana U, including swim and stroke analysis from Doc Counsilman, I wanted to convert my previous World record technique into at the least, competitive swims in the 80-84 age group.

One factor was my older brother, who had polio, which affected his left arm. I remembered how he would swing his arm when he wanted to raise it above his head. Could I do that in the pool while swimming backstroke?

I thought about the mechanics of trunk rotation while throwing and converted that to swimming, specifically, to the recovery phase of backstroke. The critical timing of the hip rotation before the hand reaches the end of the stroke, increases force in the backstroke pull.

I combined these principles to help recover my left arm on backstroke without causing a painful dislocation.

Through the years, I had developed good body rotation. Now, I needed to time it correctly and control the recovery with my rotation. I worked on this with fins, so I could more easily rotate my hips and body to the opposite side and put my left arm through the stroke pattern when it hits the water the the top of the recovery. The catch and push part of the stroke was then below the critical level (shoulder). The rotation of the upper torso and then the pelvis, compete my modified backstroke pattern.

The experts recommend a 45 degree rotation with a thumb-out recovery.

My rotation is closer to 75 degrees and a little finger-out recovery. This allows me to "throw my arm" for a more efficient arm swing.

My two-arm backstroke is a challenge, and for now, my innovative mechanics are working. The one-arm IM and fly are a lot slower than the National record times I did with both arms.

As swimmers age, they will be faced with more injuries and must find a way to adapt to remain in Masters swimming. It could happen to you. Do the best you can with what you have.

 

August, 2006

QUESTION: I recently read that if you swim 25's, and longer, in practice without breathing, you can increase your endurance. Is this dangerous in any way?

ANSWER: In St Louis, MO, in the early 1940's, we had a competition that included swimming ten different events during a four-week period. This was similar to the current decathlon, with logarithm tables to determine points scored. One of the events was an underwater swim for time. It was limited to 50 yards, due to the risks of prolonged breath holding underwater. Even then, coaches and most swimmers knew of the danger of underwater breath holding for long underwater swims.
Hypoxic (low oxygen) training, developed by legendary coach Doc Counsilman, chair of my Doctorate dissertation, does have significant value for your workouts. It can help swimmers learn to keep their stroke smooth and strong in the face of apprehension and mental adversity.
The theory is that hypoxic training can increase the ability of the muscles to work better when oxygen levels are low, such as at the end of a 200 meter race. It is also believed that reducing the number of breaths per lap will increase the swimmer's speed, because changing the body position to take a breath tends to increase drag.
The problem is, you can pass out underwater. Your breathing is on automatic, and as your carbon dioxide reaches a certain level, you take a breath. You can override this mechanism in holding your breath, but a very high carbon dioxide level causes you to pass out and automatically start breathing. If you are underwater, death can occur. The unconscious swimmer has no symptoms or warning. Even competitive swimmers working on underwater techniques (hypoxic breathing) for back, breast or free may suffer a blackout. During hypoxic sets (5, 7 or 9 stroke breathing, no breathers, lung busters, etc), the coach must be aware of the dangers and alert the swimmers. If you are a self-coached swimmer, inform the life guard, and tell him to watch in case you pass out under water.
There was an incident in a Florida pool, about ten years ago, that ended in death. The life guard knew the swimmer was working on breath holding, but wasn't aware that he could pass out underwater.
I have a further warning if you use hyperventilation (many rapid breaths) before holding your breath (on starts or hypoxic swims). This also reduces carbon-dioxide levels and you may be more prone to blacking out underwater.
Hypoxic training can be an important part of training; however, it must be done under very close supervision by coaches or life guards. Lung capacity diminishes with age, so Masters swimmers should be watched even more carefully, especially those over 70.

November 06

The Florida Mavericks will be hosting the One Hour Postal in January 2007. I have written this article to help you set realistic goals for your total time and suggestions for your training. One Hour Postal Training Hints

 

Ask the Swim Doctor: 2005

"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, 2005:

Question: What are the benefits that can be derived from Masters swimming, other than cardiovascular?

Answer: Yes, there are benefits from a regular Masters program, many of which we tend to overlook. Scott Rabalais, 1996 Masters Coach of the Year and present Savannah, GA Masters Coach, lists an all inclusive combination of nine benefits: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, technique, flexibility, kinesthetic ability, nutrition, rest, knowledge of swimming and psychology and motivation.

A Masters swimmer who had never trained before, discovered that his enhanced performance capability from swimming workouts, carried over to his business. At his business meetings, he would look around at the group of out of shape and overweight partners and he felt more confident about his self-esteem.

A former average college swimmer, discovered that his Masters training program gave him more power and strength and he had greater successes at meets. As he reflected later on in life, he realized how much his Masters training and successful performances in swimming increased his self-confidence in his ability which benefitted his career as an investing consultant.

Many Masters do not have the time or motivation to follow Rabalas' guidelines. However, many items can be part of a healthy lifestyle, like training (at whatever level satisfies you), nutrition and rest. There are many benefits from these basic principles, which are known by most who have been in the program.

One area unknown to many, is the benefit to the brain. Many of you know about endorphins and the runner or swimmer's high. Many sufferers of depression take drugs, like prozac to normalize the serotonin in the brain.

Research has demonstrated that aerobic exercise, like swim training, increases serotonin levels which combat depression. The potential dangers of mood altering drugs neurotoxicity can also be avoided.

Social opportunities are available after workouts and meets.
Many former age group swimmers have complained about their unpleasant early swimming experiences and didn't ever want to compete again. In Masters, they've discovered that they are responsible for their own program, at their own level and can fit in their workouts around their jobs and family. Masters is different than age group swimming, for both the coach and the swimmers, and should be a refreshing change of pace.

Talking during your intervals is also important for an overall positive therapy and improvement in neurogenesis. While it was not allowed during age group practices, Masters see it as a positive force to talk at times, and should be encouraged for interaction and stress relief. .


May, 2005

Question: I've watched you at meets and you always seem so relaxed and have a positive attitude about your events. I train hard, but I¹m always tense and nervous before my events. What mental strategies would you suggest I use to improve my swimming performances?

Answer: Psychocybernetics, mental preparation, for Master swimmers will give you some basic principles to improve performance beyond training and stroke mechanics. Since the person needs to be considered totally, confidence must be built into a positive self image for a well-rounded program. Establish the groundwork for a good self image and confidence during the year with regular training sessions. Program yourself for success with mental practice training, stroke mechanic skills, and race strategies. Your success program should include the following:
*Establish goals or targets.
*Develop self-confidence; correct any errors.
*Forget failures; remember successes.
*Have faith; don't wait for proof--let your creative mechanism work; don't make it work.

These basic principles should give you a new mental picture of yourself after a period of time. Use mental practice and imagery to improve your training techniques and stroke skills. Spend time thinking of correct stroke mechanics and how it feels to do the stroke correctly. Use this same technique to prepare for your events before a meet. Many Master swimmers never plan ahead and train for their specific events, they just dive in and swim as fast as they can. Top swimmers mentally go through each event stroke by stroke from the dive in to the finish. To use imagery for your events, see yourself performing or feel yourself actually going through each detail when you swim the event. You can avoid many mistakes in races with this technique. Starts and turns can be enhanced with mental practice used as a supplement to the actual skill practice. During warmups, get to know the physical characteristics of the pools where you are competing, flags, blocks, etc.

This imagery, used frequently helps to keep your goals within sight and creates motivation to practice and train to make it a reality. Many people feed in failures instead of successes which interferes with achieving their goals. You should dehypnotize yourself from these ideas. Avoid negative statements like, "I can't....." or "I never do well......." as an ending in all aspects of your life. How many times have you put yourself down by saying you do not have the capabilities to do certain things? Measure yourself by your own standards. Have good thoughts about yourself and remember the successes that you have had. This servo-mechanism will help guide you toward goals and a higher achievement level. Use your failures as a guide to motivate you toward success.

August, 2005: In this column, I will deviate from my usual questions, and answer questions that many of you have asked about my shoulder.

Question: Which arm would you swim with?

Answer: The arm in #1 "Looks OK to me." What about the CT scan? Everyone that sees the CT scan, #2, says, "That looks bad! How can you swim with that arm?" Pictures are of my left arm.
As a regular cylist, I have experienced many bike crashes over the years. In early 1998, my bike crash at 20 MPH, (over the handlebars and onto the street) was the final trauma to my left shoulder. In Oct, 1998, I had a reattachment of the superspinatus (rotary cuff muscle). Seven months of rehab, three days a week at a clinic; a home exercise program; training with fins, including lots of kicking and swimming with one arm, prepared me for aging up to 75. I achieved my goals of breaking nine backstroke National records in the three courses.

In 2004, I aged up to 80 and won the three LCM back events at the Worlds in Italy. I set two back National Records in LCM and two in SCM.

In late December, 2004, my left arm started to go out of place in all strokes, except back, therefore, I can¹t swim free, breast and fly. In January, 2005, my left arm would dislocate on back push offs, so I switched to one arm push offs and starts. To prevent my arm from dislocating on backstroke, I used a high position of the humerus. This position of the humerus, high against the acromion, brought the lateral side of the scapula against it during the backstroke pull thru. This caused the degradation in my humerus (shown in picture #2).

After seeing my CT scan, in May, 2005, my orthopedic surgeon recommended a total shoulder replacement. I wasn't a candidate for a regular replacement, due to previous injuries and considerable damage to the shoulder, from rheumatoid arthritis. My local doctor recommended a more experienced doctor in Dallas, and on June 16th, I had a consultation with him. In my case, a reverse prothesis would be used, and, I wouldn't have a ball and socket joint. With the extensive damage to my arm and shoulder joint, I have fewer options with surgery. Seeing this information from the CT scan, it is apparent that the scapula would continue to erode the humerus if I swam as I used to. My present option for training and competition is to only swim with one arm and incorporate lots of kicking. Without a regular shoulder joint, I do not know if I will be competitive as I have been in previous years. Shoulder replacements for 80 year old swimmers are rare.

At the St Pete July LCM meet, I swam back, free and fly with one arm.
My 200 back was 55 seconds slower that last year at the Worlds. I was DQ'd in my fly events. This disability is a permanent, physical impairment, that limits my major life activities. As such, I would like to be able to legally compete in fly and breast events. I am working on securing the necessary paperwork that will satisfy the USMS rules.

November, 2005

Question: I am a new Masters swimmer and have been wondering about my hand position in the water while swimming. It seems to me that I would be able to pull more water with my hand cupped and the fingers together. What is the best position for the fingers?

Answer: My coaching friend, Bob Bruce, OREG (2003 USMS Coach of the Year), puts on many Masters clinics every year. Some of these, focus on only freestyle, so I turned to him for his opinion. He said he is constantly asked this question. "The surface area of the hand is not changed whether or not the fingers are held together tightly, held together loosely, narrowly separated, or widely separated. If we believe that we should avoid excessive tension in the hands, we should avoid holding fingers tightly together. If we believe that there is significant (sculling) component during hand/arm propulsion, we should avoid holding our fingers widely separated (wide finger separation interferes with lateral water flow over the hands). This leaves held together loosely or narrowly separated, which underwater video indeed reveals to be the hand configuration of nearly all strong swimmers. [Doc Councilman's original published comments are in the "Science of Swimming", 1968, pp.9-12].
"I have developed another supporting theory (only a theory with a theoretical basis in nervous system anatomy but no experimental proof):
Slight separation of the fingers leaves more surface area of the hand exposed to water flow than if the fingers were held together. Since the surface areas of the hands are loaded with sensory nerve endings, slight separation of the fingers should allow more exposed surface area and thus more (potentially better) sensory input to the cerebral cortex, which in turn may allow better proprioceptive and exteroceptive control to the motor output (i.e. better kinesthetic sense leading to better stroke control)." Think of this as "feel for the water."
"The surface area of the hand is diminished when the hand is cupped--avoid this! The surface area of the propelling unit is greatly increased when the forearm is combined with the hand into one unit."
I agree with Bruce's assessments. Doc Counsilman was my Assistant Coach while I was at the University of Iowa, in the late 1940's. We had a hydro-plant and dam on the river flowing through campus. Doc worked with the hydro-engineers to research the water dynamics of the hand in swimming.
These early experiments identified what Bruce describes as the "classic high elbow position and slightly separated fingers," which is just as efficient today as it was over 60 years ago!
The picture shows Mark Spitz swimming fly with fingers loosely separated. He was one of Doc¹s swimmers when I was at the U of Indiana, doing my graduate studies.

 

Ask the Swim Doctor: 2004

"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.

January, 2004: Sprinters Who "Do" Distance

Question: How was your swimmer, Jean Troy, primarily a sprinter, who set
World Records in the short free events, 2002, able to also break the World Record in the 1500 m free in 2003?

Answer: Troy’s answer is, “I worked my butt off!” My answer is a change in attitude. When she set the World Records in the 400 m and shorter events at age 75, I suggested she had the potential to break the 1500 m record. She shrugged that off very quickly. Several months later, she had a change of heart, and set her own goal. I felt fortunate to have a swimmer with that mindset. Here is an e-mail I sent to Jean in June, 2003. In addition, phone calls and discussions at local meets helped prepare her. Although not ideal, she did all her training in a 25 yard pool. She did swim a preliminary 1500 m free in a local meet.

“Your goal of swimming the 1500 m Free at the Nationals in August is an excellent one. You will need some special training and I have confidence that you can get the record of 27:40. You have the speed that with some pace work several times a week can achieve a high performance for you. A pace of 1:40/100 yards will give you a 27:30 for a 1650.

Week 1--2 times a week--10 x 100 @ 2:00, ave 1:40
Week 2--2 times a week--15 x 100 @ 2:00, ave 1:40
Week 3--2 times a week--20 x 100 @ 2:00, ave 1:40

Give me a report after week 1 so we can make any adjustments necessary. Good luck. Paul”

At LCM Nationals at Rutgers, in August, she swam a 27:09.75, breaking the record of 27:33.
In summary, to achieve her maximum performance (these principles apply to all swimmers):

1. Set her goal and committed to it.
2. Confidence in her ability to achieve a realistic goal.
3. Training program to achieve her goal.
4. Followed her training program, “worked my butt off.”
5. During warmup, concentrated on her event with pace 50s.
6. Had a support group. Trained with teammate, Jim Browne (who also improved); husband, Ed, who also served as lap counter; post event cheers from teammates and critique from coach.
7. Handled the extra pressure at meets and stress of being a record holder and celebrity.
8. Pushed through the pain to keep the pace she needed for the record.

April, 2004: Improve Your Kick

Question: My kicks aren’t very effective. Can you give me some suggestions
on how I can improve my kicking?

Answer: You want to kick butt? Start with your own, and add more kicking to your workouts.
The average training program for Masters swimming includes some kicking. However, to maximize your swim potential, it is important that you get the most from each of your kicks. Slow kicking develops a bigger and wider kick that can actually make you go slower, because of the increased resistance. The propeller on a tug boat is set at a different pitch than on a speed
boat.

After the war, I competed at The University of Iowa. Doc Counsilman was the Assistant Coach. He questioned many established ideas in swimming and was creative and scientific in his approach. As the Assistant Coach, he had us swim 440 time trials one day. The swimmers on deck thought my hard kick was outstanding. Doc said, “I think he could swim faster if he narrowed his kick, giving him less resistance.” He had me repeat the swim. He was right, I was faster.

TIME ALL YOUR KICK SETS. The principle applied is to power kick for specificity to your events. Instead of kicking a 200 or 400 straight, do 4 or 8 x 50 with short rest of 10 or 15 seconds. On breast kicks, count the number of kicks per length and note your time. For back kicks, lock your arms behind your head to streamline. Stroke into your turns from the flags and kick off from the wall with as many underwater dolphin kicks as you can handle before your breakout.

DRILLS. It is important to do some kicking without a board. Kick back and free on your side with one arm extended. This will give you improved diagonal kicking to maintain horizontal and lateral alignment in your swimming. To do breast kicks without a board, extend your arms backward and have your feet touch them. This will enhance the heels to buttocks skill. Do dolphin kicks underwater for 25 yds and/or several kicks under for each push off.

FINS. Kicking with fins is good practice and will improve your flexibility and leg strength. Keep your kicks narrow and use them for power and speed. Kick sets of 10 x 50’s and 10 x 100’s with back, free and fly. I prefer to think of fins as a kick enhancer, and not as cheaters.

WHICH FINS? I recommend the Hydro Training Finz, approximately $35. They are short fins with a wide blade. If you already have a pair of swim fins (not force fins), use them.

PERSONAL LOG. Keep a log on all of your kicking. This is how you can tell if your kicks are becoming more effective and you are kicking butt.

KICK CHALLENGE. One idea to make kicking more challenging, as well as fun, is for your team to have records for kicking. Use 100 and 200 yds for each age group and all four kicks, as well as the IM. Either include these kicks in your group workout, or time yourself to keep it more informal. Post these times on your bulletin board or include in your team newsletter to encourage improvement in kicking. How about a most improved kicker award?

July, 2004: Do Body Suits Help?

Question: What are the advantages, if any, of Masters wearing a full suit?

Answer: 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, the author 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 an 80 year old. 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. 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.

When I raced my 200 m back, I won it with a time of 3:30.5, and broke the National record. My time was 13 seconds faster than my best time in 2003, 3:43. My 50 m back time of 41.4 was also a National record, and better than my 42.7 from last year. My 100 m back, 1:35.7, improved from a 1:36.9.

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. My comparison of goal time intervals wearing this cheaper suit also demonstrated that it streamlined my body, which resulted in better performances. An improved streamline is achieved by compressing the loose
skin that most people have as they get older. I am 80 years old, 5”5’ tall, weigh 135 pounds, with a 13% body fat, but with extremely loose skin. This picture of me demonstrates how loose skin can cause high resistance, hence a lack of streamline. A full torso suit can enhance your streamline, and as a result, your times could be faster. It worked for me. It could work for you.

 

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