Monday, November 9, 2009


Walls: an essential component to swimming, an unavoidable reality of life.  I'm not going to get too existential with you on this topic, but it seems fitting right now to talk about dealing with the walls of life and swimming.  Lately it seems like nearly every time I turn around, I bump into another barrier.  The reality, of course, may not be quite so dramatic - but the feeling exists nonetheless.  Naturally, it feels like there's always a sort of domino effect when things go wrong.  One after another, issues arise and it begins to build what can feel like massive walls getting in the way of progress.  In swimming, you are constantly bouncing between walls.  The way you utilize the wall can give you an edge over a competitor or even propel you to victory.  Each wall has to be attacked precisely and with strength.  This can only be achieved through massive hours of practice.  Practicing perfect feet placement, a strong push off, a tight streamline, a powerful breakout.  I can't help but think that the same is true out of the water too.  Each wall makes me stronger and helps me with the next - as long as I use it to my advantage.  Sometimes people talk about 'breaking down' walls.  Rather, I think walls are placed in our lives for a reason and it's up to us to use them as a place to quickly plant our feet and push off to speed us along the lane of life.  Leave it there as a reminder of how to deal with the next one, but know that you have pushed away from it a stronger person.  Hanging onto a wall won't get us anywhere.

. . . and hanging onto the lane line will only get you yelled at.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Drill review - Freestyle

Another quick review of the drills that I did last night at the pool, this time for freestyle:

I have to say, last night's freestyle drills were pretty much a 180 from the previous night's backstroke drills.  I had a lot of problems and really struggled to get through some of these.  Part of the reason, I know, is breath control.  I somehow have to figure out how to build my lung capacity so that I can get through these drills - especially when I move to working on underwaters.

The first drill I worked on was a varied recovery drill.  I liked this drill and it was a nice warmup for the evening.  I don't know if I got a lot out of it and had a hard time figuring out when to breathe because it felt unnatural during the fingertip drag recovery and definitely couldn't breathe during straight arm.  Only breathing during the high elbow recovery didn't seem to give me enough air to get through the drill completely.  I'll get it eventually.  Here's the video and instructions for the drill:

Next up was a 6-kick switch drill.  Again, this was a difficult one to get through.  Eventually, I just starting kicking really fast so that I could get air again.  Unfortunately, I feel like my kick starts to break down and becomes less of a core/hip kick when it gets that fast.  I did a few laps of this drill to try and get it right, but I didn't want to keep at it for too long, since it seemed to be adversely affecting my kick at that point.  Here's the drill:

Finally, I worked on a slow exhale drill to help with breath control.  I had some difficulty with this one, but still did a few laps to try and get the hang of it.  This will probably be a staple of my warmups from now on so that it becomes more comfortable over time.  Check out the video here:

I did a pretty tough weight training class before I got in the pool, so my body may have already been a little taxed by the time I did some of these drills.  That may have affected my ability to really get at these drills.  No excuses though.  Working out harder than I think my body wants to will make me stronger and will continue to increase my endurance.  One major discovery through doing this particular set of drills is that I need to really work on breathing and lung capacity.  I'm not sure how to do this, but I'll figure it out - something tells me it will involve constant, repetitive practice.

Again, big thank you to for these drills!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Drill review

A quick recap of three drills that I practiced last night at the pool:

This first drill I did on Friday with my coach.  She had me doing the Shoulder Pop to concentrate on getting my shoulders out of the water and getting a better feel for a more effective body roll.  Nothing fancy here, pretty sure every swimmer has done this one - gets the job done though.

Next is another drill that is a tried-and-true component of most swimmers' practices.  The Double Arm drill is especially helpful for over-reachers like me - and it has really worked well for me so far in getting my arms in the correct position for starting my pull.

The last drill that I worked on last night was the 4 Back 3 Free Catch.  When I first saw this drill, I was a little hesitant to try it because I wasn't sure I would be able to do it properly and thus not get the benefit from the drill.  However, I gave it a try last night and I not only did it well, I liked it a lot!  This is a fun one (I think), and was super helpful in mentally connecting the pulls of the free and back.  If you haven't done this before, I highly recommend giving it a try in your next practice!

Thanks to for the videos and instructions of these drills.  Check them out for tons more drills and practice sets!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And so it begins

I had my first practice with my new coach Kristen on Friday.  It was awesome to finally have someone there to analyze everything and give me some drills and advice on how to fix things up.  There were some aspects of my swimming that I thought were decent, but in fact need a lot of work - and vice-versa.  I actually thought that my backstroke wasn't too bad, but turns out that it's pretty ugly.  Ok, really ugly.  I was over-reaching and my kick was way too big.  We worked a little on getting my arms in the correct position and fixing up my body roll, which I'm still having a lot of problems with.  I got into the pool today and spent just about the entire hour and a half on my backstroke.  When I concentrate on the body roll, it feels really out of control and my stroke begins to break down.  I'll work on it more this week and hopefully with practice it will feel a little more natural.  My freestyle kick is too bendy at the knees, so I'm working on keeping my legs straighter and kicking more from the core/hip.  My breaststroke kick is also in need of work - I'm leading too much with my knees, and that is going to take some serious time and lots of drills to get that looking better.  Much to my surprise, my butterfly and flip turns aren't too bad!  Happily surprised about that.  (So Mel, maybe I'm really a butterflyer...)  I will have practice with her again on Friday and I am planning on getting in the pool each day this week to practice.  I'm hoping to be able to hit up the pool during lap swim in the (early) morning, and then do some lifting/cardio/crosstraining in the afternoon or evening.  All-in-all, the practice was great (to quote Kristen, "...everything is fixable") and I'm so excited to work on making improvements!

If anyone has any drills that help with backstroke (pretty much any aspect of the stroke) or breaststroke kick, I would love to hear about them!