This week’s Drill of the Week is from Don Walsh, who gives private swim lessons at The Atlantic Club in Wall Township, NJ, and who is a an on-deck coach at Go Swim summer camps. Don has been competing in open-water swim races for nearly three decades, and has twice completed the Manhattan Island Marathon, a 28.5-mile swim race around the island of Manhattan. Don swims year round (and without a wetsuit) in the Atlantic Ocean. When he swims indoors, he sometimes likes to swim with foggy goggles. Here’s why….
When I was in the Air Force the flight crews had to practice landings each month with VRDs (Vision Restriction Devices) in the windows. The VRDs blocked their vision outside of the cockpit so they would have to fly solely on their instruments, which they did anyway. You donï¿½t fly a B-52 over a target by the ï¿½seat of your pants!ï¿½ Swimming with foggy goggles can serve the same purpose as flying with VRDs.
Why Do It:
Itï¿½s amazing what you can learn about your stroke when the visual feedback is switched off. Think about it. When your goggles are crystal clear, itï¿½s easy to become distracted by other swimmers splashing by, the color of the lane lines, the pool tiles, and your own bubbles. You end up paying more attention to whatï¿½s happening OUTSDIE your body than to whatï¿½s happening WITHIN your own sphere.
What happens when you tune out all those distractions? You can really focus on your technique and how it FEELS when you try different things in your stroke. Youï¿½ll also become more aware of sounds in your stroke. Youï¿½ll hear your feet kicking, and can tell if there kick rhythm is steady or irregular. Youï¿½ll hear your hands as they enter the water. Do they slap or do they slice in like a knife? Youï¿½ll be able to tune into how youï¿½re holding your body in the water. Are you rotating? Is your rotation symmetrical? Are you pushing off in a straight line? Do you have a sense of pace and of how many strokes it takes for you to get to the other end? Youï¿½ll be able to tell all these things and more if you swim for a while with foggy goggles.
This drill is especially useful for triathletes and open-water swimmers. It will help you gain confidence for swimming in murky water with no lane lines, and it will help you swim straighter for a longer period of time, which saves you from sighting as much. The straighter you swim an open-water course, the faster you swim it.
How To Do It:
1. Do this drill only when you have the lane to yourself, or when everyone in the lane is swimming with foggy goggles and doing one length at a time.
2. Itï¿½s best to do this drill when the pool is quiet so you can hear your own stroke and not the thrashing of other swimmers.
3. Get some foggy goggles. Old goggles are ideal for this because they are often scratched from use and the anti-fog coating has worn off. You could coat the lenses with some Vaseline to further reduce the vision. With new goggles, put them on without using saliva or your regular anti-fog coating, and swim a few lengths until they fog up. You could put some Vaseline on the OUTSIDE of the lenses if necessary.
4. Position yourself in the center of the lane and push off the wall, focusing on a perfect streamline. If you immediately crash into the lane line, youï¿½ve got some work to do. Try again, and go within yourself. Try to FEEL the pressure of the water on your back (too much means youï¿½re too deep; too little means youï¿½re too high). Try to feel the water flowing past your hands, arms, hips and legs. Does it flow the same on both sides? Keep working until you can stay straight for the entire pushoff and into your breakout.
5. Apply the same focus to your swimming. Tune in with all your senses to how youï¿½re moving down the lane.
Remember, you might not really SEE your stroke until you do it with foggy goggles.