Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
How fast can you swim?
Determing how fast you swim can be achieved by looking at two simple variables - stroke length and stroke rate. Increasing either whilst keeping the other constant will mean you will swim faster. Simple.
But, what Stroke Length / Rate "Combo" is Right for You?
Your Stroke-Length is how far you travel with every arm stroke. Because it's hard to use a tape measure while you're swimming, we count the number of strokes you take to cover a length of the pool. The lower this number, the longer your stroke.
Your Stroke-Rate is simply how many strokes you take in a minute, counting both arms. For example, 40 Strokes Per Minute (SPM) would be a slow stroke rate. A high stroke rate would be 70 SPM.
Think about this like the gears on a bicycle: http://www.swimsmooth.com/vid2.html
Swim Smooth has some unique ways to help swimmers find their best Stroke Rate - it's one of the exciting things that makes our Swim Program unique.
Here is our Stroke Rate Chart to help you. It is a diagram of how fast you are swimming on the bottom axis versus your Stroke Rate per minute on the vertical axis. To find your Stroke Rate, all you need to do is count how many strokes you take when swimming for a minute - if you find this tricky to do whilst swimming, ask a friend or coach to do this for you.
Where do you lie on the chart? You can look at it for any effort level - easy, steady or hard swimming - it works for all speeds.
Hopefully this is a real thought starter and gives you some very strong clues as to what you need to do to become a better swimmer. By the way, we have nick-named this the "BMI Chart" because it reminds us of the Body Mass Index charts you find in a doctors surgery.
To read the full article on how to improve your Stroke Rate to lead to a more rhytmical freestyle stroke, follow this link: http://www.swimsmooth.com/strokerate1.html
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Now, we're not going to get into a debate about the benefits of bilateral breathing over unilateral breathing or whether you should be breathing every 2, 3, 4, or 5+ strokes (but if you want to read-up more on this you can at http://www.swimsmooth.com/freearticles.htm#BREATHING ), but I do want to pose a simple question, the answer to which can be quite enlightening for the potential of your swimming:
Q: Are you AWARE that you are exhaling when your face is in the water?
There are 3 possible answers obviously (yes, no, not sure). What is your answer?
I would say that ~80% of the people that I have coached over the years (including many elite swimmers and triathletes) cannot give me a definitive answer to this question. Either this is because instinctively they DO exhale under the water, or that they simply aren't consciously aware either way. Under-water video analysis or asking a friend to watch you from under the water soon provides the answer.
Whatever your response, you stand to gain some benefits from listening up to this simple piece of advice and trying this little drill set (as silly as it seems) to help develop this aspect of your stroke. After all, if this part of your stroke is not great, nothing else will matter you'll simply be turning what should be a very aerobic activity (with oxygen) into an "anaerobic" one (without oxygen). Anyone who has done anaerobic sprint training knows there's only so long you can keep going with this!
I guarantee that if you're struggling to complete continuous laps of freestyle, THIS is your main problem.
On dry land, inhalation and exhalation are both subconscious exercises you do them automatically. When was the last time you went for a hard run and held your breath at any point? You didn't. You either breathe in, or you breathe out. This helps to keep the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in your lungs regular and prevent the feeling of hypoxia occurring. Your body needs the oxygen for your muscles to function properly, but if you hold onto the CO2 the brain picks up on this and starts to raise the alarm bells by quickening your heart rate and initializing a "gasp response". However, I guarantee that if you are not aware of whether you are freely exhaling under the water, that it's quite likely you ARE holding your breath. Some people hold onto it until they are just about to take the next breath in and let it go explosively. In doing so, they are probably still exhaling when they have the small window of opportunity to actually breathe in. Some don't breathe out at all. Both methods are very ineffective.
One swimmer told me last week that he purposefully holds his breath because he was instructed that doing so would increase his buoyancy. Think about it though where are your lungs? In your chest obviously. Why was this guy being told that he needed more buoyancy? Because his legs sank. What will increasing the buoyancy in your chest do to the rest of your body from stomach down? That's right exacerbate a low-leg condition! You simply must NOT hold onto your breath! It's bad for your relaxation in the water and it's also bad for your technique!
TASK # 1:
So, if we know that your lungs are like balloons in that the fuller they are, the better they'll float, a quick exercise in how well you can SINK will determine just how freely and comfortable you feel with exhaling in the water. We'll then transfer this skill into your swim stroke in Task # 2.
With a friend or a coach and under correct life-guard supervision, take yourself down to the deep-end of the pool. I'd recommend being in water of ~1.8 to 2.0m deep and within easy reach of the wall. Holding onto the wall take a big breath in and then start blowing out almost like you're humming a song as you pop your face under water. Initially, you'll be fighting to keep your head under as your buoyancy is so great, but as you start to run low on air, you'll start to sink. DON'T PANIC! Drop down and come straight back up. Do this a few times until you feel confident in your ability. You'll find that the easiest position to be in to sink is standing straight up and down like a pencil. A strong, forceful exhale will see you sink much quicker than a little trickle.
AT THIS POINT, DON'T GET FRUSTRATED AND SAY YOU CAN'T DO THIS, YOU CAN IT MIGHT TAKE A LITTLE TIME, BUT YOU CAN DO THIS!
Assuming you have familiarised yourself with that and you and your partner are ready to move on, now move 1 foot away from the wall (still within easy reach) so that you are treading water. Now take a big breath in and then start to exhale. If you are comfortable with this 'simple' task you'll sink straight down, if not you'll drop momentarily and then bob back up to the surface worrying that if you keep blowing out you will going to sink and won't be able to get back up! The trick here (and whole purpose of this exercise) is to get over this "hump" or "panic threshold" and keep exhaling if you do so, you WILL sink. DON'T PANIC! Touch the floor and come straight back up. Getting over this hurdle is such a key point for your swimming and learning to "play around" in the water and control your breathing in this manner will have some massive knock-on effects for your swimming.
TASK # 2:
Make sure you have repeated the second part of TASK # 1 several times and have experimented with exhaling through your mouth and/or through your nose (there is no right or wrong, do whatever works best for you!). Extend yourself each time by trying to sit on the bottom of the pool and then lie, or going from a mushroom float (i.e. knee tucked up) rather than a vertical "pencil". Listen to your humming as you exhale and take time to enjoy this underwater environment. The more you enjoy it, the better you will swim. Now simply push-off for a lap or two of steady freestyle focusing entirely on exhaling freely in the water just as you have been doing. It doesn't need to be a forced thing, just keep on HUMMING! Notice how you start to feel more relaxed, breathing in happens automatically rather than gasping for air, and your legs start to sit up higher too! Bonus!
Simple stuff, done well.
Most of you hold onto your breath for fear of running out, we're going to turn this around and say that unless you have exhaled in the water, you're never really going to get a full breath IN. If you continue holding, you will always panic in the water, will never be fully relaxed and will always be swimming "anaerobically". Think less about breathing IN and more about breathing OUT! It'll make a BIG difference to your relaxation and to your technique.
Lastly, what's the first thing you do when your face hits cold water or you are worried about 500 other triathletes swimming all over you? Yup, you hold your breath. That's why you panic and that's why you hate mass-start races. Work on these exhalation drills and you'll be better in the open water too!
So lets heare your thoughts - are you a sinker or are you a floater?
Saturday, May 24, 2008
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Sunday, May 4, 2008
- Mike Gee went on to improve on last year's awesome result with a 6th place finish on Saturday that saw him take the runner-up spot to Sean O'Neill in the State Championships. An amazing effort considering Mike's first ever event was only back in 2005 on this same course!
- Richard Kay (from Liverpool) took home a 4th spot in the 35-39 age-group with a blinding 26.03 swim and 4.16 overall time. He's now set to prepare for the Singapore HIM in September. Good luck Richard!
- Sandy Burt showed his dominance in the 45-49 age-group to win with a fabulous 4.17 finish time. Sandy posted a 29 min swim split then averaged just under 38km/h on the bike before tapping out sub-4min K's on the run leg. Nice work!
- Zane Randell had a solid performance in the tough 30-34 age-group category with a very noteworthy 2.25 bike split - top job that man!
- Andrew (Giantman) Menschelyi proved he had what it takes to knock out another good endurance performance just 4 weeks after the Australian Ironman Championships to finish in 4.57. Well done!
- Clint Doak just snuck under the 5hr mark with an almost identical bike split to the Giantman (no, they weren't drafting before you ask!). Clint also did well to back up after Port Macquarie. Good effort mate.
- One of the top performances of the day had to be Ian Murray's effort which saw him just missing the 5hr marker. Ian was solid all round which shows good potential for future events (this being his first HIM!).
- Sue-ann Anderson never fails to impress. After 3 weeks off with a nasty sinus infection and very little training in the lead-up, Sue managed a 3rd place in the competitive 45-49 age-group category and with a bike split nearly 10 minutes quicker than many of the younger girls in the Team. Well done!
- Carl Andrews cruised through the swim and bike disciplines and rounded off with a gutsy performance on the run leg to see him finish his first longer distance event in quite sometime - not bad at all considering the issues Carl had with his back several weeks ago which saw him stranded at the Dodgy Dunnies unable to move for several hours!
- If Ian's performance was one of the top fella's performances of the day, then first-timer Helen Cuthbert's awesome 5.22 has to be worthy of the same mantel for the ladies! What was so good about Helen's performance was her attitue and spirit out there - big smiles all day - it was a pleasure to witness that result! Love your work Hellraiser!
- Jane Day didn't have the blisteringly fast race that she was secretly hoping for, however, despite some pretty serious cramping on the run leg from the get-go, she showed true grit and determination to soldier on through the run and then look upon the result as a learning experience and the need to maybe go back to the drawing board on the nutrition front. We'll be working together on this for future events. Well done Jane - you did good!
- Caitlin Hunt also had her first HIM outing on Saturday and put in a solid all-round performance with saw her take out a Top-20 position in her 25-29 age-group. I think Caitlin will be back for some more and a solid winter's training for sure!
- According to legend, Lindy Brand exited the Busselton waters with a smile on her face having completed the swim discipline with no major worries what-so-ever. Once on land Lindy went about ripping up the field with as solid 2.47 bike ride and a 1.50 run split to finish 17th in the 30-34 age group. Well done Lindy - we knew you could get through that swim OK!!
- Janet Musker sliced another 10 minutes off her HIM P.B with 13th position in the 40-44 category - not bad for having just completed teh Port Macquarie Ironman just 4 weeks previously! Top notch Janet!
- Kathryn Granheim also emerged from the waters smiling and happy with her swim split, only to then realise halfway through the ride that her rear brake had been rubbing and slowing her progress. Despite being agonisingly close to her when this happened, we weren't allowed to assist for fear of Kathryn's disqualification. Despite this frustrating mechanical incident and the drain it obviously placed on her body for the run, Kathryn finished the task at hand to complete not only her first HIM, but her first triathlon! Well done - onwards and upwards!
- Matt Biddle was seen regularly out on the course with a big smile on his face; whether this was because of Paul' ridiculous supporting attire though, we'll never know! Again Matt's performance was solid all round, looking like he could have easily gone round again...Ironman in December, Matt????
- Just behind Matt was Michelle Newsome completing her first ever HIM event as well. After a 29 minute swim and a 2.48 bike split, things started to get a little tougher on the run when Michelle also started cramping severely. Headstrong to the end however, my little "champ" shone on through to make me a very proud coach / husband indeed! Well done Mish!
- Glen Blackwell deserves both a commendation for comedy and selfless-support having completed the run discipline dressed as a French waiter and then picking up Michelle in the final few K's of the run leg when she was really starting to hurt. Thanks Glen! Its the Busso IM for you my friend!!!
- Gabe Alves found out first-hand how frustrating a mechanical on the bike can be. After a really superb 38 minute swim split, Gabe actually punctured not once, but twice out on the course. Despite the obvious frustration, he didn't let this stop him and still managed a sub-2hr run split for the half marathon. Well done mate - you did great!
- Melissa Cundy cruised through the swim and absolutely nailed the bike in an awesome 2.49 bike split in the tough, windy conditions. Despite struggling a touch on the run and picking up a nice collection of blisters, Mel kept ticking along and finished the event in 5.49. Good effort Mel!
- Trevor Magee didn't have the greatest lead-up to the event with an achilles tendinitis issue but did knock out a really gutsy performance nonetheless to finish in well under 6 hours - well done Trev - you made us proud!
- Greg Doucas was rumoured to have commented just how much he enjoyed the swim discipline on race day before knocking out a really solid 2.41 bike split and a 2.21 run split - with that sort of swimming spirit, anything's possible mate! Well done.
- Chris Murphy also had a less than ideal lead-up to the event, being plagued as he was by an old calf injury. He reported before the event that it was 50/50 as to whether he would finish, but he did, and as such I'd say that this Chris's performance is one of those nice moments when you realise "what the mind can conceive the mind can achieve!" Nice job.
- Paul Williams came to me just 6 weeks ago and asked whether I thought he could make it through the swim leg given his current level of ability in the pool. It was a tough call but I knew that if Paul put his mind to it, it could be done. And done it was...a 45 minute swim split followed by solid performances on the bike and run should now assure Paul that he can do this swimming "thing". Well done mate, that is something to be proud of!
- Karen Wynne was back to Busselton once again after narrowly missing out on a finish at the full Ironman just 6 months ago. Nothing was stopping her on Saturday though and special thanks and commendation should go to Karen for finishing 9th in her age-group and 3rd in the State Titles, not to mention the support she gave Mary in the last kilometre.
- Mary Tennant knocked out a really awesome swim split of 39 minutes before shooting along on the bike and then suffering through ITB pain (which has held her back a touch in training in the last 2 months) on the run to complete her first ever Half Ironman in a fabulous time of 6.42 and to take out a top-10 position in her age-group. I know Mary was a little disappointed that she didn't go a little quicker and that the run was super tough, but that just makes the challenge of the next one all the more exciting...right Mary?!! Great effort - we're very proud of you and you should be too!