Newbie marathon swimmers often wonder how they should allocate their training time between the pool and open water. There’s no simple answer: It depends on a variety of factors unique to the individual. A few questions to ask yourself:
What’s the target swim? Distance, water temp, conditions, etc. The further outside neutral conditions your target swim is, the more open water you’ll want to incorporate into your training. (To train for cold water… swim in cold water.)
Are you training to finish (regardless of time), or are you training to race? The more speed matters in your target swim, the more high-quality interval training in the pool you’ll probably want to do.
What’s most convenient? If you live next to a safe body of open water, but far away from the nearest pool, this may tip the balance towards OWS.…
The swimming stroke is not unlike a golf swing: a complicated, interconnected series of fine and gross muscular movements. For the few who do it well, it appears fluid, natural, unified, and effortless. For most, the movements of swimming and golf can feel unnatural, difficult to integrate, and frustratingly unamenable to brute force.
Even those who have mastered the swimming stroke/golf swing can develop subtle technique flaws, of which they may not even be aware. One must maintain constant vigilance against these creeping flaws, ideally through a combination of mindful practice, well-selected drills, coaching, and video analysis.
One method I find useful in maintaining proper form and guarding against creeping flaws is: stroke thoughts. I didn’t invent this phrase or idea, but I define it as: simple, succinct technique pointers repeated subvocally (internally) while swimming.…
After his victory at MIMS, Paul Newsome and his Swim Smooth business partner Adam Young embarked on a cross-continental road trip to experience America via swimming.
Along the way, they stopped in Boulder, Colorado and met up with 6-time Ironman world champion Dave Scott. Paul did an interesting video interview with Dave on the topic of open-water swimming technique. It’s worth your time to watch all 7 minutes, 46 seconds of this video. Here’s the money quote from Dave:
“I’m not concerned about distance per stroke. I like an effective front-end of the stroke, on the catch.”
This post is part of a collaborative project with Donal at LoneSwimmer, delving into basic issues of training and technique in swimming. Donal also published a post today, check it out here.
Whenever possible, I prefer swimming with other people – either with a training partner or in a coached squad workout. But occasionally my schedule dictates finding water at a public lap swim session. It’s possible to get a good workout at open lap swim, but it takes a bit of planning and training know-how.
Based on my observations at hundreds of public lap swim sessions over the years, there are some folks who come to swim laps, desire to become better swimmers, but simply don’t know how to go about the task. …
Beginning with the catch, and continuing through the finish of your pull:
Keep your fingers pointed straight down toward the bottom of the pool,
palm facing directly behind you,
This is a distilled version of the “paddle stroke,” which has been taught in elite USA Swimming programs since the mid-1990s, but has only recently been widely taught in adult Masters programs.
I like this stroke tip for several reasons:
It’s simple and easy to understand, even for new swimmers.
It’s high-leverage, meaning it can produce large gains in speed.
It’s useful for swimmers of all abilities.
I use this “stroke thought” almost every time I swim these days. If I’m feeling fatigued or unfocused, it’s surprisingly easy to fall back on an “S” pull pattern (an unconscious but ineffective attempt to gain more purchase on the water), or to let my elbows slip.…
In “Stroke Count Games” and “A Better SWOLF Formula” I suggested a test set of 8×100, as fast as possible, holding a specific number of strokes per length (SPL), to hone in on your most efficient combination of stroke length and tempo.
I frequently do a modified version of this set as a quick tune-up before a competition or a challenging distance workout: 12×100 short-course, aiming for the following SPL on each rep: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Moderate, controlled pace on all – no more than 75%.
Obviously, the specific SPL goals will differ for each individual. For me, 15 SPL is my 400m/500yd race pace. 14 SPL is my 1-2 mile race pace.…
SWOLF (“swim golf”) is a drill that measures swimming efficiency. A SWOLF score is your time (in seconds) on one lap of the pool, added to the number of strokes you took. Lower scores = Higher efficiency. SWOLF is a fuzzy, indirect measure of efficiency, because stroke count doesn’t necessarily reflect effort. In my view, the most precise definition of SWOLF is that it identifies the most efficient stroke count for a given level of effort.
I originally wrote about SWOLF in April 2012, and the post has become – by a wide margin – the most widely-read in the history of this blog. In a subsequent post a month later – “Stroke Count Games” – I described how SWOLF doesn’t quite capture the most efficient stroke count.…
Swim paddles (in my opinion) are useful for developing swim-specific strength, especially in the shoulders and lats. I prefer Strokemakers:
Strokemaker paddle (size red #3). NOTE: The paddles come with a longer strap meant for the wrist, but don’t use it. That’s goofy. If you need the wrist strap to keep the paddle stable, you’re doing it wrong.
Strokemakers are the classic paddle for competitive swimmers. At various points in my swimming career I’ve used Green #1s, Yellow #2s, Red #3s, and Blue #4s. As a Masters swimmer, I use Reds. As an open-water and marathon swimmer, I feel that the strength I develop with these paddles (which some have derogatorily described as “dinner plates”) helps me power through waves and chop in rough-water conditions.…
The second in a series of posts on etiquette for organized pool swimming. These lessons are considered “advanced” because they focus on nuances of etiquette specific to organized or coached swim workouts, such as Masters. You should already be familiar with basic pool etiquette for lap swimming, which has been well covered by LoneSwimmer, Rob Aquatics, and Art Hutchinson.
Courtesy of Swimming Memes
Do you walk right behind people on an otherwise empty street? No? Then don’t do it in the pool, either.
In a short-course pool there are 50 yards (or meters) of physical space to swim in. In a long-course pool there are 100 meters of space. Use it.
In an organized workout, each swimmer is entitled to a certain amount of personal space behind their feet.…
The first in a series of posts on etiquette for organized pool swimming. These lessons are considered “advanced” because they focus on nuances of etiquette specific to organized or coached swim workouts, such as Masters. You should already be familiar with basic pool etiquette for lap swimming, which has been well covered by LoneSwimmer, Rob Aquatics, and Art Hutchinson.
As Donal has written, if there’s a “golden rule” of pool etiquette, it’s probably awareness. Be aware of what is going on around you. Who are you sharing a lane with? What are their relative swim speeds? Where are they? Are they swimming back and forth continuously, or are they doing intervals? What strokes are they doing? Is a faster swimmer approaching from behind?…
In a comment on my recent post on violations of pool etiquette (“Menaces to Swim Society“), reader Luke took issue with my tone and choice of words, saying they’re likely to turn people off from organized swimming. Nobody wants to be a “pool asshole” – or worry that others might think them one without realizing it.
It’s a fair criticism. I was aiming for humor with a tinge of snark; I may have over-done the latter. Reader Bob Needham correctly identified it as “unresolved rage” from recent, real-life experiences.
So allow me to offer some clarification: If you are a beginning swimmer, please don’t feel intimidated from taking the plunge and joining a Masters squad. My List was not aimed at you. It was aimed at those who should know better.…
Whirlpool Drill is one of my very favorite swimming drills – yet when I’ve shown or told people about it, I’ve been surprised how few have heard of it. It’s so much fun it almost seems like it shouldn’t be a drill. So here I am, sharing the wealth.
The other day I was doing a filming session off Santa Cruz Island (more on that later), and Whirlpool Drill was accidentally caught on tape! I was treading water, talking to one of the filmmakers, and a little whirlpool started to form near one of my hands. I got my interlocutor’s attention and made the whirlpool bigger for a few seconds while he kept the GoPro running. At one point, a stray piece of kelp was drawn into the vortex.…
Normally this would be a make-able (if challenging) set for me. Unfortunately, Friday was not a normal day. For whatever reason, my body was just not cooperating. I lifted weights on Thursday, but I don’t think that entirely accounts for it.…
What’s the fewest number of strokes you can take for a single length of the pool? (No streamlining past the flags; no more than three kicks per stroke.)
I can get down to 8 strokes per 25 SCY, but it’s tough to sustain for more than one length. 9 strokes per length (SPL) I can do pretty much indefinitely – but it’s incredibly inefficient. The inefficiency is readily apparent: a huge dead spot in my momentum as I glide (glide, glide…) after each stroke. The Swim Smooth guys have a term for this: Overgliding.
I swim most efficiently between 13 and 15 SPL, depending on pace. 13 for channel/marathon pace; 14 for “threshold” pace (from the mile up to about 5K); 15 for 200/500 pace.…
So, there was this local news item last week. While Santa Barbara isn’t typically a hotbed of shark activity, this was a reminder that indeed, sharks do live in the ocean.
That’s right, readers. Sharks live in the ocean.
It’s always interesting to observe how ocean swimmers deal with this fact.
Some take a spiritual, new-agey approach: If you just, you know, become one with the ocean and don’t give off the “fear signal,” the sharks will leave you alone. Fittingly and rather ironically, these people often are residents of San Francisco. (It’s OK, I used to be one.)
Others avoid the issue with euphemisms: “Man in the Grey Suit,” or “The Landlord,” or “Old Whitey”… or, most comically of all, “the S-word.” I guess the idea is, if you don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll go away.…
Swim golf – or SWOLF – is an interesting drill, intended to measure efficiency in swimming. It’s important to understand how to use it correctly. Here’s the drill:
Swim one length of the pool
Count the number of strokes you take
Get your time (in seconds)
Take the sum of (2) and (3). That is your SWOLF score.
Repeat steps 1-4, trying different combinations of stroke rate, stroke length, and effort. Which combinations produce the lowest score?
“Number of strokes” means total number of hand entries – left and right combined. It is not the number of stroke cycles – as the Swimsense uses in its SWOLF calculation. H2oustonSwims and TI get it right; About.com gets it wrong.
Chris Derks is a pretty OK swimmer — course-record holder and four-time winner of the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, 2004 MIMS champion, competitor in numerous pro races, and owner of an 8:32 English Channel crossing in 2001.
Yesterday Chris posted a video of his English Channel swim to the Marathon Swimmers Forum. It’s a quirky video – 30 minutes long, with random cuts to other races, and ending in the middle of a conversation (apparently Chris plans to upload the rest separately) – but I enjoyed it quite a lot. Chris is one of the best in the business, and it’s a rare treat to see him in action. Also, I dig his taste in music.
The last in a series of four posts about nutrition in marathon swimming. To recap:
Marathon swimming nutrition is both art and science. There are both “best practices” (generalizable to many) and “special sauce” (generalizable to few). In general, a nutrition plan that aims to drink some carbs — not too much is a good place to start.
Some carbohydrates are “better” than others, due to differences in osmolality. An endurance athlete can consume more carbohydrate in the form of maltodextrin, compared to simple sugars, without overwhelming the digestive system. Also, maltodextrin is neutral in taste, thus providing more control over your drink’s flavor.
Of the many designer endurance fuels on the market, few are ideal for marathon swimming. High electrolyte content makes sense for runners, cyclists, and triathletes – but less sense for swimmers (even less sense for ocean swimmers).
I hope you’ve enjoyed “Nutrition Week” here at Freshwater Swimmer. As you may have noticed, I’ve been vague about recommending specific products. There’s a reason for that: I don’t believe there’s any single best nutrition plan for all people, in all situations. However, I’ve personally tried a number of sports drink products, and will share my thoughts on them.
Beginning with the low-end market… These products include, but are not limited to: Gatorade, Powerade, and Vitamin Water. Some signs you might be buying one of these products:
You can buy it in supermarkets and gas stations
It is brightly colored
Produced by a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company, such as Coca-Cola or PepsiCo
Advertised on national television and/or billboards