August BT Swim Training Chat with Coach Kevin Koskella

author : Tri Swim Coach
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Discussions on leg dragging, swimming with fins, body rotation, keeping the elbow up, kicking benefits and stroke length.

[Tri Swim Coach] It's 5:00, fire away!


[awol] Ok, let me begin. I've been swimming 3000y per session for about a year now and I've improved my 100yd time by about 10 sec. The thing that's holding me back the most is, I think, that I'm dragging my legs - since my 100yd time with a pull buoy is about 15 sec better.


[Tri Swim Coach] Your ankles are probably inflexible, no?

[awol] What exercise is there to teach me to not drop my legs?


[Tri Swim Coach] What happens is that your feet actually drag through the water and slow you down. You want to work on vertical kicking- kicking in place in a vertical position. Start with 20 seconds, and build from there.  Also stretch your ankles by sitting on your feet - also use Zoomers- I love the new Zoomers Z2's, they will help with flexibility and kicking in general.  But don't get too used to fins.

[Celeb_ithil] I have a trick...tuck your chin down towards the chest while swimming. This helps me to balance my body and keep my legs up.  Although, when I get tired, I'd naturally return to the no-so-good posture.

[Tri Swim Coach] Good point Celeb.  Look straight down and your hips will rise.


[awol] What are Zoomers? I'm tucking my chin, thanks!


[D.Z.] I see a guy using fins every time he is in the pool. What's the advantage, and how often should I use fins?

[Tri Swim Coach] Zoomers are fins- try going to www.swimyourbest.com.   Fins are EXCELLENT for getting drills.  Fins should be used by beginners that are learning technique and doing a lot of drills.  However, fins should NOT be used by people trying to "keep up" with other swimmers.  But always stick with the shorter kind of fins, like Zoomers, i.e. kicking on your side is a great drill, and perfect for fin use.

[awol] I was asking because the pull buoy seemed to make such a big difference...bigger even than a wet suit.


[Tri Swim Coach] Yes I would stay away from pull buoys also, they give the artificial sense of floatation, when it's better to build that naturally.  Let me throw a tip out there:  Head position: Keep looking straight down when swimming freestyle. It’s important to keep your head down with only a small part of the back of your head out of the water. Also, as you rotate through the water, try not to move your head with the rest of your body rotation. I see heads moving all the time when people are starting to rotate their hips.  Make sure to keep your head from moving, and you will have a much smoother, more even stroke.


[awol] Would the rotation of the body initially feel exaggerated?

[Tri Swim Coach] Yes, when practicing at first it may feel exaggerated. I teach my swimmers to start out by rotating hips to a 90 degree angle.


[D.Z.] That much?
 

[Tri Swim Coach] But when you are actually swimming, you will not be rotating nearly this far. 


[D.Z.] Why?


[Tri Swim Coach] DZ, no, you want to be closer to about 45 degrees, but everyone is a little different.  The purpose of rotation is that you will get through the water faster. We as humans are not natural swimmers. If we swim too flat, there is way too much drag!  So we have to 'slide' through the water.

[awol] Another one: about 'grabbing' the water. I was told to tilt my hand inwards upon entering the water and then go ahead and act like I was grabbing a medicine ball. So - I'm stretched out and hit the water with my hand tilted.

[Tri Swim Coach] That sounds like decent advice, although I don't get the medicine ball reference?


[awol] What then? The arm is stretched out. Any tip you can give me for keeping the elbow up?


[Tri Swim Coach] Awol: To keep the elbow up, start with practicing balance in the water. Do the kicking on your side drill, and the shark fin drill (a drill I love!)  You will then be more on top of the water and your elbow won't drop as much.

[chirunner134] When you stroke do you want your fingers together or apart?


[Tri Swim Coach] Chi: together, definitely.


[chirunner134] Ok. It almost seems faster if you spread your fingers like your grabbing it.  I'm trying to figure out this swimming thing. I am very slow during my first
triathlon so I am trying to learn now.


[Tri Swim Coach]
Chi: you're not grabbing as much water with spread fingers and are losing some traction.  Start out with the basics. Like I was telling Awol, start with balance drills. Use fins as needed. Work on vertical kicking.

[awol] I'm practicing alternative breathing. Am I right in doing this? I'm training for a 2.4m swim. Or should I breathe every stroke?

[Tri Swim Coach]  Awol: good job on the bilateral breathing! It will definitely help you down the road in any open water swims. However, don't get too worried about doing bilateral breathing every time. It's more important to GET the oxygen than to follow a specific breathing pattern!

[Ontherun] Coach, I have found what feels like a very comfortable and stable swim stroke. I do not kick, do you see this as a problem?

[Tri Swim Coach] Ontherun: if it's working for you, I wouldn't change it! Only 5-10% of your propulsion will come from kicking anyway, so you're not losing much.  Kicking however will keep you more balanced and even.


[chirunner134] Is there way you can practice the vertical kick if you do not have deep water to work with?

[Tri Swim Coach] Chi: it is tough without deep water. If no deep water just focus on the balance drills w/fins.

[chirunner134]  I assuming you are referring to TI drills.


[Tri Swim Coach] Chi, TI drills are good. Also you can sign up for my newsletter and get a series of free drills for beginners, www.triswimcoach.com.

[D.Z.] The thing that I have most benefited from is the whole stretching the body for longer strokes. However - when it comes to speeding up, and doing some speed work, I lose the gains and go back to old bad form. How do I gain speed without losing form?

 

[Tri Swim Coach] DZ: I would recommend simply slowing down when you feel your stroke start to slip. I swim with a masters group which I highly recommend, but occasionally get caught up in trying to "compete" and then my stroke starts to go to hell.  But slowing down and re-focusing will stop this!

 

[D.Z.] Yeah - but I'm going slow for certain parts of the training, and I'd like to increase my speed for racing.  Are you saying I should speed up but slower?


[Tri Swim Coach] DZ: technique will usually trump speed. You can only go so fast if your stroke is slipping, but with an excellent stroke, your limit is raised and you can go much faster.

 

[Celeb_ithil]  DZ and coach: going slow works. For a long while I focused on the form and increasing distance, and found that I can swim faster now, without pushing too much.

 

[Tri Swim Coach] DZ: that sounds right! Gradually work your way into a faster stroke.


[Ontherun] I really only have access to OWS. I do have an above ground pool, but can not afford an endless pool. In the winter my swim suffers, do you have any suggestions as to how I could utilize my pool, or an out of pool trainer that works well?  Timing is an issue, I can swim at 5:30 am or not at all.  I have seen a variety of bungie things that go on the side of pools for in place swimming. Do they work. Also the same idea on a "weight" bench?
 

[Tri Swim Coach] I don't have anything specific to practice other than some dryland exercises, but these will only take you so far without water! I like the bungie cords actually. I used to use them in college to get a faster stroke for sprinting. They are better than nothing, but it won't be as easy to practice technique.
 

[Shaved_Wookie]  Just like me, all of my swims are OWS. I'm new to swimming as well and don't do any drills. I did attend a few masters swim classes when I first started and it helped a great deal (took 10mins off my 500m). Now I only go for timed distance while trying to remember what I learned 18mo ago. The farthest I've gone is 2000m in about 48min (best time so far).  Is there anything you can recommend given my limitations in training? Anything I can work on alone in open water?   I can bilateral breath okay.. dunno about the vertical kicking stuff.  My comfort pace is breath every 3rd stroke usually once I get going.

[Tri Swim Coach] Shaved: keep working on maintaining a long stroke while in the open water.


[awol] Coach - I forgot one question: if you had one advice to give to make me preserve energy better through the 2.4m swim - what would that be?

[Tri Swim Coach] Awol: keep your strokes long.


[Tri Swim Coach]
Ok, thanks everyone! Good chatting. See you next time!

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date: September 4, 2006

Tri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

avatarTri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

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