Friday, April 26, 2013

Do You Only Have One Speed When You Swim?

News: A new Mr Smooth is born! A huge congratulations from us at Swim Smooth to Jono Van Hazel (the original Mr Smooth) and his wife Anna on the birth of their baby boy Max on Wednesday! May he sleep long and peacefully through the night guys!



Do you feel like you can hold a reasonable pace over longer distances but when the coach says "Sprint!" you just can't go much faster no matter how hard you try? Don't worry, you're not alone! This is quite a common problem and it is actually telling you something interesting about your swimming and how to improve it.

Drag And Propulsion

To be a truly efficient swimmer you need two things:

1) Low drag so you slip through the water easily

2) Good propulsive technique so the effort you are putting in is pushing you forwards effectively

Elite swimmers have both of these elements in place in their stroke which is why they are so fast and efficient. But what happens if you are strong in one area and weak in the other? What are your swim-symptoms?

High Drag But Good Propulsion

The swimmer who has a low body position but relatively good propulsion can normally sprint quite well over short distances of 50 or 100m because the extra propulsive power helps lift their legs higher in the water. However at a more sustainable level of effort, their legs sink lower which increases drag dramatically. The result is a large drop off in speed over longer distances.

Low Drag But Poor Propulsion

From our Swim Types system, the two swimmers who have quite low drag but suffer from poor propulsion are the Kicktastic and the Overglider. The Kicktastic is brought high in the water by their strong kick but has poor arm propulsion, normally pressing down on the water during the catch:


The Overglider has worked hard on lowering their drag but by trying to add a pause-and-glide into their stroke has got into the habit of pushing the water forwards. This adds the pause into their stroke timing they  believe is necessary to make their stroke more efficient but in doing so it has harmed their catch technique:


If you are an Overglider or Kicktastic and feel one-paced when you swim, this is because as you try to accelerate nearly all the extra effort is wasted as you work against the water by pushing it downwards or away from you. Conversely, a good catch technique presses the water backwards which propels you effectively forwards - then the harder you work the faster you go! :


A Balanced Approach To Developing Your Stroke Technique

If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you will know that we give equal importance to reducing your drag and increasing your propulsion. You need both in place in your stroke to be a truly fast and efficient swimmer and as we saw in the case of the Overglider above, focusing too much on one aspect can actually harm the other.

Work on both drag reduction and improving your propulsion all year round and you will be on the optimal pathway to improving your swimming.

Swim Smooth!

9 comments:

Paulo Neves said...

Hi!
Is the girl on the last picture Miss Smooth? I think you should come up with Miss/Mrs. Smooth console!
All the best!

Allan said...

Agreed Totally that: If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you will know that we give equal importance to reducing your drag and increasing your propulsion. You need both in place in your stroke to be a truly fast and efficient swimmer and as we saw in the case of the Overglider above, focusing too much on one aspect can actually harm the other.

Work on both drag reduction and improving your propulsion all year round and you will be on the optimal pathway to improving your swimming.

A thought that I wish to share is:


It can also be interesting and a valuable practice (and skill) to be able to move particularly slowly and still feel at ease, smooth and in balance. Being fit and going fast are positive and exciting. But being able to be one in and with the water at exceptionally leisurely movement rates can be enlightening too. When we first learn to balance on a 2 wheel bicycle, most of us wanted some momentum or else we thought we might tip over. With time we were able to come close to an absolute stop without fretting or needing to put a foot on the ground. We can develop that same sense of calm,comfort, patience and balance in the water and it will pay dividends in both the positive propulsion phase and the drag reduction area as well. As you play with this, visualize what your limbs and torso does, sense what you feel and reflect upon how and when you exchange air and how that impacts your need to rush or your ability to stay calm and move patiently with flow.TRUST.

Adam Young said...

Hi Paulo,

Sorry about the wait, she's not far away now!!

Cheers, Adam

Lukas said...

hi all!

I've a question that somehow relates to that post:

when I swim with paddles I'm consistently 10sec faster per 100m at same effort level. so a CSS set like 15*100 in 1:33 on 1:50 is a really tough workout for me without paddles; if I put them on, 15*100 in 1:23 on 1:40 is equal. maybe even easier.

I thought that's normal but all the others in the triclub told me it doesn't work that way for them...they're not faster.

so does that say that my regular catch&pull is poor and hence the big improvement with paddles? or what should I work on?

maybe you've any insights...
thanks

Anonymous said...

Please pass on my warmest wishes to Mr Jono Van Hazel and Mrs Anna Van Hazel. I wish that their newborn son Max glides through life as effortlessly as his father does through water!

GeorgeY

Clare said...

Allan: I thought it was just me who thought about swimming in terms of trust - nice to see it's not!

Adam Young said...

Hi Lukas,

Most swimmers are slightly faster with paddles but it depends on their stroke style. 10 seconds /100m is quite a bit faster but we do see this in some swimmers.

I think the most likely explanation with this for your swimming is that you're pretty swim-fit, so able to work hard, but perhaps your catch technique is not the greatest. Paddles always help you engage better with the water so you are better able to transfer some of your power into forward propulsion.

Not sure if that makes any sense for you?

Cheers, Adam

Amy said...

Thank you Allan! This is something I have struggled with and am starting to work on. I like the way you compared it to riding a bike. Very true.

Lukas said...

Thanks Adam. Yes that makes sense to me. So how can I improve best? Doing lots of drills to work on my catch?

one thing doesn't fit though: I struggle to sprint fast. So if I go 100 all out I'm barely faster than my CSS pace. Shouldn't that be different if was very swim fit?

on and a last specialty of mine: In open water swimming I tend to be a lot slower than my pool times would suggest... :-(

Cheers,
Lukas