Friday, February 16, 2018

Blinded By Aesthetics: The Definitive Guide To Why You Shouldn't Be Trying To Pause And Glide When You Swim

The Triathlon Show London Is Next Weekend

Don't forget the Triathlon Show takes place next week from Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th Feb! Paul Newsome and 15 other Swim Smooth coaches will be on hand to discuss your swimming, give you advice on how to improve and perform live coaching in the show pool.

SS Head Coach Paul Newsome leads a Group Masterclass Session at last year's show.

So why not come down and say hi to us on stand TR204. If you're not able to get in the water yourself then bring some footage of your stroke on a USB drive for us to take a look at.

Full details on our activities are here:

For show details and to book yourself a ticket see:

Blinded By Aesthetics: The Definitive Guide To Why You Shouldn't Be Trying To Pause And Glide When You Swim

Look, we get it. Youtube videos of swimmers doing demonstrations swimming down a 25m pool in 11 strokes look very visually appealing. Someone in a flume tank swimming at 1:03 per 100 yards with an incredibly low stroke rate of 43 strokes per minute looks mesmerising and we’d hasten to bet you’d love a bit of that yourself?

Such swimmers look visually smooth (and some of them are even fairly fast), they look graceful, they look like we want to feel and they seem effortless to us, but is this really the case? We might get sold on the idea of “ease” for our ageing non-elite bodies and shoulders with these strokes, but what has simple maths, physics, physiology and biomechanics got to say about this - you know, those really important logical, evidence-based parameters that get so easily overlooked when we are simply blinded by aesthetics?

Watching the awesome spectacle of the Winter Olympics this week I happened to converse with one of our squad swimmers, Dave, about the men’s moguls and how the Canadian Kingsbury had beaten the Australian Graham into the silver medal position. I relayed to Dave how speed down the run was a key component of where you placed, but so too were the skills demonstrated during the two aerial manoeuvres where you gained points to aid your score if you attempted something fancy. Dave doesn’t mix his words and didn’t like this, “I prefer the simplicity of who crosses the line first - he/she is the best in my book”. I had to agree, certainly for swimming of course as there are no prizes for who looks the best in our sport, just who crosses the line first. By virtue of where the truly elite swimmers in the world finish in their event, we have to simply acknowledge and respect that efficiency and effectiveness have many different facets than simply what the swimmer looks like or how many strokes they are taking down the length.

3-time Olympian (in three different sports) and Olympic gold medallist swimmer Sheila Taormina from the USA says it best:

"You may be able to take the same number of strokes to get across the pool as does Ian Thorpe [insert your favourite swimmer here], but are you taking twice the amount of time to do those strokes? It may appear that the top swimmers are gliding out front after the catch, but they are not. When the hand catches the water the work begins immediately. It's difficult to tell this observing from above the water, but the fact remains that if you have a hold on the water, then the hand is locked on the water out front and the body begins to glide forward over the hand. No top swimmer takes a break during the front part of the stroke by virtue of a "glide phase.” (source 2012)

Thanks Sheila.

So how does copying your favourite over-glider’s stroke really hold up for the “everyman” of any height / build / swimming background when tackling the variety of swimming environments in which you’re likely to be attracted to? At 5’5” tall are you ever going to be able to swim less than 40 strokes per 50m length like John your mate who’s 6’3” with the wingspan of an albatross? Sure John feels good about his “technique” - he’s impressed the masters coach who’s told him that the benchmark of efficiency of where the “wheat and chaff” are separated is this magical number 40, but you’re much faster than him, right? Especially in the open water. Even if you’re not faster than John yet, could something be amiss if all we ever base our assumptions on whether someone is efficient or not is on how few strokes they can swim a length in? Are we chasing here an impossible dream and one which in reality doesn’t even hold true for the truly elite swimmers in the world? Do top swimmers actually even swim without effort in the first place?

We all want to look nice and impress our friends of course when we swim, but surely true, tangible improvements to your swimming speed and efficiency is what you’re really chasing and that cannot be quantified by stroke count alone (or even SWOLF: SWim gOLF - adding your number of strokes to your time in seconds per length).

The promise and allure of a lesson or course that will have you “taking 25% fewer strokes by the end of the session” certainly sounds appealing but is this really that effective if you start swimming slower in the process? How long are you going to persist with this task…a week, a month, a year, more? Is the "holy grail" of the longest possible stroke really how the best swimmers in the world swim? Could this single notion of gliding more and trying to swim like this actually harm your efficiency rather than help you improve it? Moreover, are the authors of the articles and videos you’ve read and idolised over still encouraging you to do these things, or has there been a shake-up of the status quo in recent years that you might not even be aware of, especially if you’ve only just started following us? Why is that? What can you learn from this 180ΒΊ about-turn? We’ll answer that for you now.

But first, we’d encourage you to look at the true beauty of really effective swimmers, like Anna-Karin Lundin, Swedish Olympian and one of our top Swim Smooth coaches below. She’s been hard at work refining her stroke technique to optimise it for efficiency and flow in the open water:

See the full video here:

Notice how truly effective and rhythmical that stroke actually is. There’s no stochastic glide-pause-accelerate about it, it’s just truly smooth and oozes momentum.

And here’s Jono Van Hazel of course - with 2.5 million views he’s not only a spectacle to behold but also an Olympian as well just like Anna-Karin. These guys really know how to move in the water. They don’t just look good, they are good. And what’s more, despite their godlike status in our books, it’s important to recognise that you too can develop a truly efficient stroke so long as you can understand that they’re not achieving their brilliance by gliding endlessly down the pool - they could both glide a LOT more if they wanted to:

Watch Jono swim here:

Why You Shouldn't Be Trying To Actively Glide When You Swim

So here’s our top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t be blinded by aesthetics in the pursuit of a long, gliding stroke when you swim. That’s not Smooth, it’s often just plain slow:

1) Water is 800 times more dense than air, meaning that if you pause the cycle of your stroke and chant silently to yourself "Enter, e-x-t-e-n-d, pause and pull” in the hope of reducing your strokes per length to a lower number, you’re simply going to slow down. That’s not us saying that, them’s the laws of physics my friend! It takes significantly more effort and energy to reaccelerate yourself after each glide than it does to keep the momentum up and keep yourself moving forwards. The godfather of swimming biomechanics Doc Counsilman was warning about this some 50 years ago to the day in his seminary work, The Science of Swimming, it’s just a shame so many elected to ignore the Doc’s logic as he was perfectly correct:

2) 2010 “Remember to Glide” vs 2016 “Gliding is not the best concept to focus on in the water” - the following three sequential articles by the same author in the popular US Triathlete magazine show why it is important to a) know when an article was written (Google ranks on popularity, not necessarily chronologically); b) know what the current sentiment of that author is; and c) to recognise that whilst it is fine for us to all improve and evolve our methodology over time, sometimes 180ΒΊ U-turns just cause plain confusion for the reader, i.e. you.

Sara hits on a really good point here about the semantics of language and how the term “glide” is vastly misinterpreted, hence the reason we’ve stated that “Glide Is a Dirty Word” ever since we started way back in 2004.

3) The world’s best swimmers are the least efficient if you use the same SWOLF metric that your swim watch measures for you as your sole measure of efficiency. As we discussed in much greater detail in this article, Katie Ledecky, Gregorio Paltrineiri and Adam Peaty (multiple Olympic gold medallists, world record holders and world champions between them) actually score the lowest level of efficiency in their respective Olympic Games finals despite coming out on top overall (this pleases squad swimmer Dave no end). As the very best swimmers in the world at this point, surely we should be sitting up and taking more notice? The data below was collated by the expert team at - it’s hugely insightful as to how the best swimmers really do it from an objective standpoint:

4) Even our seemingly gliding heroes acknowledge that they don’t glide when they swim efficiently. Remember how Sheila Taormina elected to use Ian Thorpe as an example of what people perceive to be a long, gliding stroke worth copying? Well Sheila and Thorpie competed at the same Olympics in Sydney 2000, but notably after she’d made a transition from Olympic Gold medal swimmer in 1996 at 5’3” tall, to brilliant triathlete and 6th place finisher in the world’s inaugural Olympic triathlon event. Sheila was super dominant in the swim discipline as you might expect but she’d be the first to say that her height / build wasn’t to her advantage in the pool compared to the towering Thorpedo.

Still, she made her attributes work well for her and even went on to compete in Modern Pentathlon as her third Olympic discipline in 2008 - crazy cool hey? Back to the point though, there’s no one who loves and appreciates Thorpe’s dominance of the era and his truly smooth stroke more than us, but even we were relieved to read in Thorpie's 2012 memoirs that he was not more efficient than everyone else because he glided more and took fewer strokes, but that he would actively take 50% more strokes (yes 50%!) than he was capable of swimming at in order to be truly efficient and maintain the very same continuous momentum that Doc Counsilman told us about way back in 1968:

5) The best triathlete in the history of the sport gives scant regard to how he looks. When you’ve got two Olympic Gold Medals under your belt and multiple WTS wins to your name, it’s fair to say you know a thing or two about what it takes to be truly effective when you swim in the open water. When we met up with Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee a few years ago we spent a while chewing the fat with them about what makes a truly efficient stroke for triathlon. Alistair has this to say (excerpt from their brilliant book “Swim, Bike, Run”):

Interestingly enough though, when asked about their perception of the aesthetics of their strokes, Jonny had this to say (much like our mate Dave, he doesn’t mix his words):

So how do you know if you’ve been blinded by aesthetics and the lure of the longer-is-better cool aid? Simple really - as a really easy starting point, cross reference your number of strokes per minute (get a friend to count each stroke for 15 seconds during a 400m CSS / threshold pace swim and multiply by four) against the average pace of your 400m swim and plot yourself on this chart:

Where do you sit? Massively in the blue zone? You’ve been on the cool aid? Still in the red zone and fighting the water or just spinning like crazy? Or do you sit nicely within that white region? Good job if so!

If you’re in the blue, read this:
And then follow this:

If you’re in the read, read this:
And then follow this:

Bang in the white zone, keep drinking our cool aid people πŸ˜‰ since 2004 it’s proven to be a solid enough foundation for both British Triathlon and the International Triathlon Union to endorse as their swimming curriculum and that is something we’re very proud of unless you hadn’t noticed πŸ˜„

Heed Thorpie’s words, “the way I swim is largely about the way I feel” and of course Feel For The Water is the name of the game here. πŸ˜‰

Paul Newsome, Head Coach, Swim Smooth

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Anonymous said...


I don’t see any venues in Ireland. You would get a great response if you had a few workshops setup across the water.

Anonymous said...

A shame you have to knock others rather than just promote swimsmooth .
It’s the only flaw in a great company.
Would you buy a say a Mercedes from a salesman that spent a lot of time telling you how poor BMW are.?
I look forward to the day you see the light but to be fair I was once that type of sales guy !

Paul said...

Thanks Anonymous # 1 - we've had 6 new Irish coaches apply for our upcoming Mallorca 3-day Coaches Course, so I am sure you'll be seeing a bit more of SS over your way very soon! :-)

Paul said...

Hi Anonymous # 2 - I'm hearing you and understand your frustration. This blog was bound to polarise of course and it seems to have done just that in your case. I'm not sure I can really apologise for this "flaw" though as you perceive it and here's why...

When you were "that" sales guy I am sure you were passionate about what you were doing? Hopefully. I am not sure what happened for you to talk of that role in past tense, but we are certainly very lucky and privileged to be doing what we do on a day to day basis but we have to be cognisant of the fact that not everyone is going to agree with us and that each and every coach has a right to coach and advise the way they do based on their own prior experiences, learning and education etc.

In this specific instance, I would hope that you can see that we are not "knocking" another coach, simply highlighting what they have already come to acknowledge publicly was "incorrect" when stated back in 2010. In fact, ironically, they say (in 2016) "the only use of the word glide in triathlon should be a debate over which anti friction product is best" and that gliding is "extremely unsuccessful for making forward progress" despite just 6 years earlier stating that the stroke should be "disconnected instead of continuous" and that gliding was in the Top-7 most important aspects of an efficient freestyle stroke. Essentially we now agree on these points so much so that just 5 years after the original article the same coach is quoting us for highlighting the need to look at things differently.

If we are true to our values Anonymous of wanting to help everyone improve, then surely we are just doing our job properly by highlighting something which someone might not be aware of if they find the first article or read an old book with those same points? But google and print never forgets unfortunately, so we are damned if we do and damned if we don't: I'm in these trenches 24/7 and I still see these points permeating across in my everyday coaching - people still being taught this. Still underachieving because of it. So what are we supposed to do? Ignore it knowing that many will still fall foul and not improve as much as they should for the hard work and effort they invest in this great sport, or run the risk of upsetting a few people by calling out that which has already been called out by the coach or coaches that said completely the opposite just a few years ago?

Even the data from the Tritonwear guys discusses how Adam Peaty for example is "truly revolutionising breaststroke" with the way that he swims. Ironically, the point of contention for "knocking others" and for us to hopefully one day "see the light" is nothing revolutionary at all, as we say in the article, it's just logical physics that was highlighted exactly 50 years ago to the day by Doc Counsilman, some 10 years before I was even personally born. Nothing revolutionary there then and I'm not sure that this light then will be ever seen if our quest is to help people like yourself improve and to hopefully influence other coaches to improve their practices also.

Thanks for your input. Have a great weekend.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply Paul it’s obvious you are passionate about what you do and you deserve your success. I will try and find some of the you tube videos you mention maybe one or two of them are worth me considering spending my money with the time you quoted was impressive.

woody said...
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Paul said...

Thanks Anonymous, just be aware though that those speeds are certainly not sustained for any period of time nor transferable into a normal pool environment FYI, which would equate to a 17 minute 1500 swim. Good luck doing what you decide to do.

Paul said...

Hi Woody. Thanks for your feedback. I’m not sure the current Olympic and World Champion in the men’s 1500 freestyle Gregorio Paltrineiri is as “worlds apart” from Counsilmans recommendation of a continuous stroke - in fact Mark Foster even commented how he took a grand total of 390 strokes MORE than the silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships. Nor does he have much “hip drive” and is very much “shoulder driven”. So I’m not sure he’d really be investigating adding more glide to his stroke?

woody said...
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woody said...
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Paul said...

Woody, he’s not “reduced his kick to get energy in the front end” his kick is simply minimal because he doesn’t have a dead spot at the front end of his stroke that he needs to kickstart himself through. Given that this is a distance event, per the stats I included from Tritonwear, this makes for a supremely economical stroke and not too dissimilar to Ledeckys progressive shift from a 2-beat to 6-beat kick in the 800 which gives the impression her stroke gets longer the further into the swim she gets, whereas in reality she just travels further forwards on each stroke due to added propulsion from behind. Kick is always linked to what the arms are doing, good or bad.

Anonymous said...

Counsilman's book was published in 1968 and based on data taken in 1951 (yes 1951- I have the book). It's out of date because back the people swam flat and modern freestyle theory is based upon weight shifting. Swimming theory has moved on from then. Of course there are always extraordinary athletes who are an exception to the rule.

Paltrineieri won the Olympics but has been beaten many times by swimmers with more efficent strokes. Sun yang won the Olympic before him with a more effiecient streamlined stroke.

Here is a link to a great clip of a terrible overglider Park Tae-hwaan taking Paltrinieri to bits with a terrible "overglide" and dead spot.

How could he have won this race?

Park is shorter than Paltrinieri and taking less strokes at lower tempo and destroys him.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I have a lot of respect for you and the Swim Smooth brand. I am a fan! But I wish you would drop this glide vs non-glide debate.

The major assumption that you made is that "...surely true, tangible improvements to your swimming speed and efficiency is what you’re really chasing".

If a lot of people who are interested in Swim Smooth are over-gliders, then that's good, right? I mean it's what Swim Smooth is here for - to teach swimmers, who actively seek to improve their speed and efficiency, to swim like pros. In this, Swim Smooth provides a wonderful service. (I known, you also offer programs for non-swimmers, and that's awesome too!)

But I can tell you for certain that for a lot of recreational swimmers, or adults who just want to learn how to swim, all they want to do is to be able to tread water and/or swim the length of the pool without drowning. That's it! Most of them would never join masters swim teams. Most would love to be able to "glide" for 25 meters.

The way I see it, if teaching how to glide gets a non-swimmer interested in swimming and gets him/her into the pool, then it's a good thing, right? Swim with a glide is not a bad thing in and of itself. It all depends on the context and the goal(s) of the swimmer. If an over-glider is happy and content with his/her stroke, then I don't see why we should tell her that he/she needs to change. Some people swim for enjoyment instead of speed and efficiency. Some actually enjoy the feeling of gliding through water.

If this makes sense to you, then can you please drop it? Thanks!

Paul said...

Hi Anonymous 1,

All I know is that of the 3 swimmers you mention, one is the current Olympic and World Champion over 1500m and both the other two have failed drugs tests and also served suspensions for doing so. Whether or not this is a contributory factor, I can't say...

Hi Anonymous 2,

What is coaching if not to do absolutely everything you can to ensure that your athlete is getting the very best advice available? This is the code that I live by and it has served me well over the last 20 years of doing something I love so much. Should I "drop this"? Not at all. The average lifespan of a triathlete actively engaging in the sport is 2.5 years. This blog has been running without a single missed post every Friday since 2009 (well over 450 informative - and totally free - articles). We do this because we want everyone to be the best version of their swimming self that they can possibly be. If we simply "dropped this" without the occasional reminder of this and other important aspects of the stroke (like breathing, or timing, or the type of training you might undertake), then unfortunately not everyone will do as you may do and read every post dating back to XXXX. For you, you find this tiresome and boring. That's fine - don't read, unsubscribe, I really don't mind. If you love gliding whilst acknowledging as you do that it's less efficient, so be it; I take comfort in the fact that you are but one of 120,000 subscribers who frequently email, engage, seek additional help and advice from us to take them to the next level. This is why I write these posts. This is why I will continue to write these posts. This is why I will not "drop it" because one person thinks I should. We want to improve the world of swimming and coaching practices, you don't do that by simply dropping a point which can help so many people improve their swimming with such very little extra effort if only they can sidestep the cognitive dissonance that often got them there in the first place.

If a smoker is happy and content with his/her habit, should we not tell him/her that he/she needs to change? You could argue not and you could certainly say that most won't, but you can't be upset with the health department for genuinely wanting to help and try to help them improve their wellbeing. This is my coaching ethos. I can't please everyone, and I don't aim to, but I can try to educate with the best level of knowledge, experience that I have available. What you do with that is up to's a free blog after all πŸ˜‰

I'm sorry if this wasn't for you.


Anonymous said...

Paul, I don't see any inconsistencies in Sara McLarty's articles that you quoted. I think you mis-read them.

For example, she said:"each stroke should be separated from the next with a brief glide". Note the key word "brief". This is true if you define "brief glide" as a tiny fraction of a second. If I recall correctly, in Swim Smooth's system, this is about 0.2 seconds. She thought this kind of motion is disconnected when compared to windmilling, while it is thought as continuous in Swim Sommth's lingo. But basically, both of you agree that this kind of glide is normal.

Then she said:"When a swimmer pauses to glide...". Note the key word "pause". Here, she was talking about the motion of "pause to glide", not "brief glide". Based on my understanding of her article, "pause to glide" is the same as "over-glide" in Swim Smooth lingo. Again, I think both of you are in total agreement here.

So I don't think Sara changed her mind regarding glide. Her statements are consistent over the years. You just misinterpreted them.

In addition, swimming is such an individualized sport, one person's over-glider maybe is someone else's normal, or even ideal, stroke. Swimming for enjoyment, or happiness, may not be the same as swimming for speed and efficiency, right? I have seen many swimmers swimming laps after laps at 3 min per 100m with bad forms and super inefficient strokes, but are fit and happy in the pool. If the swimmer is fit and happy, then its all good in my book, glide or no-glide. (also, let's not compare over-gliding to cancer, please)

Also, I am a big fan of Swim Smooth, and I agree that over-glide is inefficient. There is no way I would voluntarily unsubscribe to your blog, I enjoy reading it too much! But the term glide is not only polarizing, but also very confusing. Further more, it is prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Why not talk about quick catch, or extend directly into catch, instead? That would be much better in my opinion. I hope you would reconsider.

Paul said...

Hi again Anonymous

Firstly, f you are such a fan of Swim Smooth, I would at least like to politely request I address you by your real name, especially if we are to engage back and forth as such.

Secondly, I did not compare gliding to cancer, I compared it to the HABIT of smoking, given the context of what you were suggesting that some people like their own HABIT of gliding because it makes them feel that they've got a nice stroke, even if you acknowledge yourself that over-gliding is inefficient. Habitually they like to do this even if they are aware that it might be wrong, in much the same way that people like to smoke even if they know it is wrong. I take your point that some people like to glide for "happiness" in the same way that I acknowledge that some people find smoking makes them happy. I wouldn't condone either personally, but there you go, each to their own I guess.

As I said before, my role is to educate and help people be the best version of their swimming selves possible. If I can help someone improve, if they can connect through our copious amount of free materials, then I will do whatever it takes to help them do so. That's not just a flippant comment...450+ articles on this very blog demonstrate the commitment and passion towards that goal and a lifetime of learned experience and investigation also.

Finally, onto your point about misinterpretation. McLarty clears states (in bold) "Remember to glide" in 2010 but then states that "gliding is not the best concept to focus on in the water" in 2016. That's not misinterpretation Anonymous, it's a clear 180ΒΊ about-turn. For that very reason, we've ALWAYS stated that "glide is a dirty word", so on that we can agree. We have mention the term though for the very reason we want you to improve - if you want to be the best version of your swimming self, gliding is not the way to do that - McLarty's 2016 article is SPOT ON in that regard, but it doesn't stop Google throwing out the 2010 article in a search either. I'm all for clarity over confusion Anonymous, hence why I wrote the article in the first place.

We've written countless articles on how to cure an over glide using all the terms you mention above. I suggest you do a little more reading around those, but I think I've said my piece here. If you absolutely must have the last word, then be my's only causing further ambiguity and I'd prefer to spend my valuable time helping those who truly want to Swim Smooth rather than arguing semantics of "did he / didn't he misinterpret" - those two articles are black and white, clear as day and night sending out contradictory messages.

nanoRat said...

The illusion of glide. As Paul has so aptly stated many times, water is 800 times more dense than air. This being the case, it stands to reason that the recovery portion of a stroke (through air ) is going to be about twice as fast as the pull portion of a stroke (through water). As a result, when the recovery hand enters the water it may look like there is a pause in the stroke. This is an illusion because the pull hand has not yet completed the stroke on the other side so there is constant propulsion; NO GLIDE. Some people call this a “catch up stroke”. I don’t like this term. I prefer the term “front quadrant” swimming because one hand never really catches up with the other but at one point during the stroke both hands are in front of the head.

woody said...
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Paul said...

...meanwhile the rest of the world is out there ACTUALLY swimming AND improving as opposed to debating the semantics of glide and whether we are now rallying for our favourite soccer team πŸ™„ somethings will never change Woody - you don’t improve your swimming by debating it, you improve it by doing it...just saying.

woody said...
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Paul said...

Not a put down Woody - just a sage point about the need to do rather than overthink which I know you’ve been prone to do in the past as we’ve discussed separately. 500k is good going. Well done. Here’s to a 1000!

Anonymous said...

Good job Paul think you upset Woody

Jennie Scrimshaw said...

Great article, really helpful. Thanks Paul.

Danny said...

It seems like you are suggesting people should enter and immediately get into their catch to eliminate dead spots but there are other forces propelling swimmers forwards other than just the pull. For distance swimming that is not what many great coaches and their swimmers think.
Even your clip of Jono Van Hazell .... he's gliding, there is more than a moment where his arm is sliding forwards before engaging the catch. Mack Horton, Sun Yang, Ferry Weertman, Park Tae Hwan and Ryan Cochcrane to name a few are all great distance swimmers. They would also all be categorised by you as overgliders no?

Guowei Li said...

Agree with Paul. "Wushu" (Chinese Martial Arts) looks smooth and efficient. But if you think it will teach you how to fight, you will be KO quickly. Swimsmooth is teaching us how to swim FAST. I am not here to play water

Paul said...

Hi Danny

I think you might like the clarity of this post from back in 2011, mentioning all the swimmers you mention:

This also is a must watch, especially with regards Horton vs Paltrinieri:

Hope this helps!


Paul said...

Guowei - no wiser words were ever spoken in this comment thread. Thank you :-)

Danny said...

So there is a bit of a glide!

Adam Young said...

Danny: 0.2 second (the gap between one stroke finishing at the rear and the next starting at the front for swimmers such as Thorpe/Phelps/Yang) is literally less than a blink of an eye. When you swim with a 0.2 second gap it feels completely continuous moving from one stroke to the next. The key point here is that if you try and actively introduce a glide then that gap immediately balloons out to 0.6, 0.8, 1 second. That's a long time and causes you to immediately slow down, sink in the water and become extremely inefficient.

Danny said...

Thanks Adam,

Not talking about actively introducing a glide. But "gliding is a dirty word in swimming" is the Swim Smooth mantra and now you say a short "glide" is okay (albeit 1/5 second for an olympic champion swimming at elite athlete cadence). Is gliding okay or not?

Clearly Jono Van Hazell appears to "glide" longer at slower tempos in your clip. But there is still a moment of "glide" as opposed to immediately engaging the pull.

Ferry Weertman is swimmng with what the commentators call "catch up" when he wins the mens 10K. Would call that overgliding?

See here from 8 mins Weertman smashingthe field

"its almost like watching someone swim cachup"

Weertman an overglider!!

I enjoy your posts and thanks for engaging in the dialogue



Adam Young said...

OK Danny - if you read the post above I think it answers all your comments fully.

But specifically:

To my knowledge we've only said "glide is a dirty word" in a couple of blog posts, that being said I can understand how it might stick in the mind if you find that a confrontational idea.

Actually our mantra is "truly effective coaching for every swimmer" and you'll see why that's important below to understand our approach.

The gap between Jono's strokes doesn't increase when he swims slower. You can clearly see that by watching the "gap between strokes" stat on the bottom right:

He appears to glide but in fact he doesn't - no wonder swimmers and coaches have been so confused all these years.

I've watched the Weertman clip right through and don't recognise catch-up timing. Did you post the right link? I can assure you from studying it that his gap between strokes is less that 0.2 second.

0.2 second is the gap between strokes if you swim so that you extend, catch and press the water back in one smooth continuous action without any pauses. If you tell a swimmer they should glide (even a bit) then they hold that position out front before catching. No only does this "pause-and-glide" cause the gap between strokes to balloon out hugely but it also harms the rest of the stroke mechanics (creating the swim type).

Another key consideration here is that all these guys (Jono/Weertman/Horton etc) can kick 100m with a kickboard in under 1:10 /100m. This huge propulsion from the legs helps them push through that slight gap between strokes. Most age-group swimmers and triathletes kick 100m in 2/3/4:00 /100m! Almost no propulsion and so for the them the gap between strokes becomes even more critical for their efficiency.

But above all else, the absolute key point is that if you tell a swimmer to glide (even a little bit) then they swim far less effectively and much less efficiently. Simple-as. Ask them to swim with a fluid continuous stroke and they take huge strides forwards. That's why glide is a dirty word in swimming.