Breakthrough Swim Workout

It's bound to happen at some point and all you really have to do is be patient. That's what I told myself over and over again about making progress. This morning's workout was one of those breakthrough workouts where something finally clicked and clicked in a BIG way.

I listened to countless podcasts of Endurance Planet and The Competitors Radio Show. I read Triathlete Magazine, Runner's World and several other online pubs and blogs each month absorbing countless factoids and info snippets. I'd probably heard everything I needed to bust through and make some great progress except it didn't happen that way. Either I didn't hear the right snippet at the right time or it wasn't presented in the right way. Even my gurus more than likely told me how to do it but it didn't feel right or I wasn't listening.

A couple of months ago I heard or read where a runner should engage their core by pulling the belly button towards the back and then scrunch/squeeze the glutes. This little piece of information radically changed my form and made running easy. A BIG WOW that day of running. A breakthrough workout.

Today, it happened again, but for the swim. I was reading 623's blog and saw the Japanese animation of Grant Hackett's swim stroke. Something pulled me into it. My animation background or the simplicity of the application, where you could really get in and analyze an Olympian's swim stroke from every angle possible. I studied it for a good hour and came away with a key difference between what I've been doing in the water and what Grant Hackett does. Actually, with him being a gold medal winner in the 1500, there's tons of difference between our strokes but here's the first one I noticed. At one point, both of Grant's arms are forward over the shoulder plane (see image above). AHA! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I could not wait until the next swim workout to try out my new found knowledge. This morning, I swam a few 25-yard lengths to warm up and start counting strokes per length (SPL). Most laps were in the 17-to-18 range with the old stroke. I then tried the new stroke with trying to reach a little further and keep the arm forward for just a tad longer. The first length produced 14 SPL. Ah, that was a fluke, I thought to myself. The second length produced a 15 SPL. Hmmm. 14, then 14, then 15, then 14, 14, 14, 15, 14. It was the first time I felt like a swimmer or at least a boat with a hull, compared to a barge.

That one change produced two other changes. First, for some reason I went from head up and feet down, basically non-horizontal, to a true horizontal position. It felt right and comfortable. Next thing was the feeling of wrapping your arms around a barrel. I'd heard of this, read of this, but I'd never felt it until today. For some reason that feeling clicked as well. All three things contributed to cutting the number of strokes from 18 to 14. A breakthrough workout. Now I have to get into the pool more in the next couple of weeks and really commit this to muscle memory.

Note 20090408! If the above animation link doesn't work, try this one.

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