Thursday, March 07, 2013

Joel Uses His Bad Side To Come Good

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Joel Jameson is a professional Ironman athlete with a fantastic bike and run pedigree, including running a 2:42 marathon off the bike at Challenge Henley last year. But until recently his swimming hasn't been where he'd like it to be.

Joel's been training with Swim Smooth in our elite squad in Perth under Paul Newsome's tutelage and has been making some large strides forward with his swimming. Over the last couple of months we've reduced his 3.8km open water time from 58 minutes down to 52:15 and he's rapidly closing in on his goal of a sub 50 minute Ironman swim.

L-R: Cat Jameson, Joel & Tom Lowe enjoying training with us in sunny Perth
What have we done with Joel to make the difference? One of the key things we've worked on is to change the side he breathes to:

Faster On His Bad Side

Joel has a big preference to breathe to his left when he swims and normally would perform all his training and racing breathing to the left. Generally his stroke was technically pretty good but unfortunately some bad stroke habits have developed whilst breathing to the left which are really holding him back with his swimming:

In the shot above taken from his first video analysis with us, we can see how Joel's right arm tends to push down on the water whilst locked out straight and it's also pushing wide. He should have a bent elbow at this point in the stroke with his hand under his shoulder. This action gives Joel a poor catch and causes him to bob up and down as he swam.

Here's double Olympic Gold Medalist Rebecca Adlington doing it right at the exact same point in the stroke:

Despite Paul's encouragement, Joel resisted getting used to breathing to his right side as it felt so awkward to do so and he was sure it would be slower for that reason. ##add quote#

It was only during a CSS session when Paul asked him to swim alternate repetitions breathing to his left and to his right that Joel discovered he was in fact two seconds quicker per 100m breathing to his right - even though it felt awkward to do so.

Once presented with the evidence, Joel persisted with the change and is making further gains breathing to the right, reaping the benefits of a 'blank canvas' in his stroke where he doesn't have any bad habits in place.

What Can We Learn From This?

In an ideal world everyone would be able to breathe equally well to both sides and to encourage this we recommend bilateral breathing to most swimmers. In some instances though the best route for a swimmer may be to switch sides completely, as we have seen with Joel here.

For tactical reasons Joel can now swap sides whenever he needs to. If there's waves, chop or bright sunlight to one side he can swap to the other. Or if he needs to keep an eye on another competitor and draft to the side of them, he can breathe to that side to judge his distance accurately.

If you have a strong preference to breathe to one side it's likely you will have flaws in your stroke that are related to doing so, these might include lifting your head to breathe, pressing down on the water during the catch (like Joel) or crossing over in front of the head. Even though breathing to your 'bad side' feels awkward, your stroke technique to that side is probably much better than you think and it's going to be well worth persisting until you're comfortable breathing to that side.

See our related post: If Something's Going To Go Wrong In Your Stroke, It'll Go Wrong When Breathing

Find out more about Joel and what he's up to on his website and on twitter @joeljameson1

Swim Smooth!

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