(by Coach Chris)
This past Saturday, I had my swim stroke analyzed.
I have had at least a biannual swim video analysis since I started swimming, and even though my swim has progressed to times that I could not imagine 10 years ago, I still make sure that I maintain this tradition although the frequency of assessments has gone from every month to every 6 months.
To me, since swimming is so technique based (like golf), you need constant feedback so that you are aware of what you are doing and have some piece of your form to focus on and improve upon.
As Kevin and I always like to say, you have to accept where you are currently to be able to move forward; rejecting or resisting the present state will only lead to frustration, disappointment, and swim speed plateaus.
I came away with lots of information, optimism, and plenty of homework. I share this with you all because
- I encourage you to get your swim analyzed
- You too can benefit from this information because you yourself might have the same issues
- The homework and drills that I was assigned are good for everyone to try to target these weaknesses
So here are the takeaway points and with how you can benefit from them too:
- My s curve has finally been broken (at least for now): looking at the underwater shots I am pulling straight back and not sculling and curving like I once did.Beating this out of my muscle memory has had the additional benefit of getting rid of my swaying and splaying legs.If you struggle with swaying legs, then how you pull might be a good place to start.I still have to be cognizant of it though so that it does not come back when I am fatigued.My advice to you: ditch the S curve but be mindful of muscle memory and fatigue
- My two beat kick is efficient but could be more efficient with a few tweaks. The videos show that I have a fairly natural two beat kick at lower intensities and my stroke cycle is a good 1.5s per stroke.What this means is that from when one arm is fully extended in front of me, through the pull, recovery phase and back to that extended position it takes 1.5 seconds while at my cruise pace. This is good BUT can be improved with better rotation.My advice to you: find your ideal stroke cycle time and see if you can improve this with better rotation.
- I am only rotating at about a 70 degree angle instead of 80-85. Especially if I am taking fewer strokes while I am swimming in this lower zone, I need to rotate more to get better reach.My advice to you: analyze your rotation.
- I am faster with a 6 beat kick and taking my stroke cycle down to 1.3s. If I can train at this rate and get my race pace to 1.3s then my times will significantly improve. .2 seconds might not seem like a lot (because it’s not) but think about how much that .2s compounds over the course of 1500m or 1.2 miles.My advice to you: experiment with different stroke cycle times and kicks and monitor the results.
- I should start breathing earlier and with more of a snap. I am breathing too far along in my stroke which is causing a pause in my stroke so instead of breathing towards the end of my pull phase I am going to move it to the front and take a quicker breath.This means that I will need to focus more on exhaling to empty the lungs more.Talking with my instructor, this tendency to breath late in the pull is actually quite common and many swimmers would benefit from moving their breath to earlier in their stroke.My advice to you: avoid holding your breath and find your the best time to breath for your stroke. Breathing, rotation, and pull should all be in sync with each other.
- Bilateral breathing is not the most efficient for me: We took several videos of me breathing bilaterally and unilaterally at different paces and breathing to my right side was actually more efficient than to both.There is no way to know this though without video analysis and correlating that with times and splits.My advice to you: test what type of breathing style works for you but make sure it is backed up with times and video analysis. It is quite possible that breathing to one side will actually throw off your stroke and balance in the water.
- I need to bring my left arm in more and keep my head closer to my shoulder and elbow when I breath. The biggest problem with my stroke was that my left arm was entering the water wide and that when I would breath to my right with my left arm extended, my head would go away from the arm causing my left leg to come out of the water, which is an interesting detrimental side effect.To remedy this, I am going to be doing a lot of side kicking while keeping my cheek pressed up against my shoulder even when breathing and my hand right on the surface. These two points are ones that everyone should be focusing on when doing side kicking.My advice to you: keep your head on that axis especially when you breath. Don’t pull your head up or to the side when breathing.
Video analysis is a huge part of getting faster in the water. It is not a criticism of where you are currently; it is a tool for you to move forward.