In a kind of multitasking, I’ve been watching YouTube videos about triathlon while riding my bike on the trainer. Sometimes it’s a bootleg recording of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships from a couple decades ago. Other times it’s advice from seasoned pros about dealing with difficult times in races or how to have faster transitions, etc. Not only do these videos break up the monotony of going nowhere in my basement, they’re helping to make me a better triathlete.
There are a ton of swimming videos out there, which is great. I have a hard time translating what I read about swimming technique into practice without pictures. And even though there are static pictures in books, I find that I get so much more from actually seeing a video of a swimmer doing the drill I’m supposed to do or demonstrating proper technique. Of course, watching something isn’t the same as doing it, and it’s a difficult endeavor to retrain your brain and imprint new ways of doing something. But that’s why we go to the pool and practice, right?
On my Thursday bike interval session, I watched a video from GoSwim showing some drills to help me use more of my arm than just the hand to pull myself through the water. A good swimmer grabs the water with the hand, but a great swimmer does that and then uses their whole arm as both a lever and a contact surface for the pull. I can really feel it when I’m mostly using my hand for the pull. The drills in this video show how to focus on using more of the arm:
Yesterday (Friday) I gave it a whirl at the pool, using this as my workout:
300 swim (warmup) 150 kick with board 3 sets of 4x50 with 0:10-0:15 rest - first 4 with paddles - middle 4 regular swim - last 4 with fists 2x50 kick with board 2x200 pull with buoy 100 swim (cool-down)
Although I bought paddles about a year ago, I had never used them before. It took a few lengths of the pool to get used to them, but I could definitely tell when I was doing things inefficiently. After using paddles, the first few strokes of regular swimming felt like I had such bad purchase on the water with my forearms, and I guess that’s the point of the drill. A few minor changes, and I was feeling the water again. Just as I felt I was inefficient when I switched from paddles to regular swimming, the same thing happened when I balled up my hands into fists and swam the last set. Wow! That was an eye-opening experience. It took a bit longer to get used to this new way of swimming, but I finally started to feel my forearms doing their thing. Of course, it felt really awkward, and I’m sure compensating changed other parts of my stroke. Nevertheless, the lesson was pretty obvious, and I used the 400 yards of swimming with the pull buoy to focus on doing everything the right way.
I think I’m starting to see in my mind what I should look like when I swim. I see myself on an axis that extends from my hand and arm through my head and spine to my legs and foot. I see a hand and foot anchoring my body in the water while I put power efficiently into my stroke. I’m starting to see how my arm should move as I pull and what I need to do to keep my legs from dropping. Seeing it in my mind should make it a little easier to do correctly. Now I just have to keep practicing to make this happen outside of my mind.