OT: we haven't done a swimming post in a while so what the hell. Let's talk about freestyle technique.

When I swam in college the prevailing style  was to have one's head angled forward about 30 to 40 degrees to the surface of the water so that your forehead was breaking the water line. Don't know why this was the prevailing style but that's how we swam. Especially the sprinters. I was habituated to swimming with a high head position and many recent coaches have preached, lectured and screamed at me about my poor "head position." I didn't care as long as I could go fast but here's what I learned as I got older and couldn't rely exclusively on muscling through the water:

If your body is in a straight line, parallel to the bottom of the pool you will swim as fast but with much less effort because good body positioning means you are expending NO energy keeping your legs up or in trying to maintain that high head position which puts strain on your upper and lower back, and you will not struggle to stay up on the water.

A high head position will cause your legs to drop down as you get tired and create resistance. Much better to stay flat on top of the water and use all your energy for forward propulsion.

I've recently worked very hard to lower my head position which allows the rest of my body to maintain a flatter profile on top of the water. I find that I am much less fatigued swimming this way and can go longer distances without just crapping out and cheating. You know, pulling on the lane lines, walking on the bottom, etc.

The trick is to look straight down at the bottom of the pool. You gaze is perpendicular to the line of your body. This keeps your head down which keeps your butt and legs up. You present less surface areas to the water in front of you which lowers resistance which means you swim faster and better.

Working against 55 years of contra practice takes patience and the new practice still feels a bit...odd. On the other hand I seem to be making much progress in evolving more into a distance swimmer than just a sprinter. And for someone over 60 that can be important.

I can feel a positive difference so I'm willing to keep at it until I master the current body position techniques. Life is too short to swim slow.

We got in about 3500 yards today; a mix of sprints and middle distance. It felt great and the soreness in my middle back (which I routinely ignored because I refused to believe that I needed to change) has mostly gone away. If something hurts there's probably a better way to do it that doesn't hurt or hurts less. Consult a pro. Change your stroke. Get better. Swim fast.


Malcolm Myers said...

Not that I can teach you a thing about swimming (or photography for that matter) but I always find looking straight down in the pool to be a much more efficient way to swim. It keeps my legs more horizontal and I feel that I can swim faster when my kicking legs actually break the surface.

My only concern is not seeing where I am going and bumping into the end but I guess that is what the 5-yard black line on the bottom of the pool is for.

Anonymous said...

I've started swimming because I have to -- it seems like the best strength/cardiovascular exercise for older guys who don't want to risk getting hurt (I don't mind the pain, but the recovery time gets longer and longer as you age, to the point where injuries are really, really self-defeating.) But I feel like I'm seriously inefficient when I swim, though I was a good swimmer when I was younger. Any suggestions on self-learning resources for swimmers? I'm out in the desert, in a small city where there's no such thing as swim teams or coaches, so I'm doing it on my own. -- John Camp

Kirk Tuck said...

John, There is a great book called "Total Immersion Swimming", written by Terry Laughlin (https://amzn.to/2pVottz) that is great. Terry was a great distance swimmer and coach and what he teaches is how to get balanced in the water and get the most forward motion for the least amount of work. It's a great book and it's filled with drills that will help you adjust you stroke to maximize the fun you have swimming well. Or, send me a plane ticket and I'll come out and coach you for three or four days.... KT

Fred said...

Yes, head position is really important. It is taking me some time and effort to correct that and a few other things that were "correct" back in the dark ages.
For Mr. Camp (and anyone else) you could also look at the Total Immersion web site. There are a number of free videos and some video courses that they offer for sale. I find that these really help reinforce what I have read. They are also more current that the book (I think.)

Fred said...

P.S. It is good to see that this blog has returned to its proper subject matter.
Much more important than a new camera or lens is for me to get my arms to grow as long as Michael Phelps' arms. :-)