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Problem-Solving Swimming

The new season is upon everyone.  How you approach how you’re going to reach your goals will be an important aspect of starting your season.

Swimmers will typically start each season either excited for the training, dreading the training, or with goals so lofty that they’ maybe a little bit tentative with what’s upon them.  Starting the season with a plan is probably the most important thing you can do, or setting training goals that are realistic when thinking of your season goals.  However, don’t focus only on "how much" you’re going to train, but start the season thinking of "how" you’re going to train.

When you think of swimming, are you constantly analyzing how you approach the water?  Do you think about how your hands initiate the catch, how the fingers slide against the water and the exact point in which you make that connection and start to move forward?  Or do you approach the sport with the notion that by just training harder, you’ll accomplish what you set out to do.

When you hink of swimming as a series of equations, or problems that have to be looked into, or solved, there are a never-ending number of problems, and solutions to help you continue to swim faster.

Identifying wasted motion is actually pretty easy.  Case in point, I went for a jog yesterday.  While not a runner, I understand there is technique in everything we do, so I started to think about why I am so slow.  Taking physiology, age, and being a breaststroker out of the equation, I started to think about littlle details in what I was doing.  How was my posture (leaning back)?   How high was I lifting my feet off the ground (barely, more like shuffling)?   How did my feet connect with the ground… heel-toe, or toe-heel (side first then rolling to flat)?  What were my hands doing (actually relaxed)?  What was the cadence of my breathing (started inhale for 3 strides, exhale for 3 strides… turned into inhale for 1 stride, exhale for 1 stride)?  What I learned from a simple 3-mile jog (other than the fact that I could listen to the entire Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album), is that there is SO much to think about when I’m trying to do something that we’re naturally supposed to do… how much is there really to think about during swimming?

It’s easy to get so caught up in making intervals, or hammering sets, that we forget this is a technical sport, and it’s the times that we’re hammering that give us the best opportunities to solve problems.

My favorite quote over the past year has been one by Albert Einstein – "Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, is the definition of insanty."

If you swim the same way every day, without a doubt, going from out of shape, to IN shape… you’re going to get faster, but are you really teaching yourself the skills necessary to reach the next level?  I’ve written on the site many times about being the hardest worker, and it’s great if you are (you strive to be).  However, the people we’ll be watching in London next year, are the ones who don’t just work hard.  We’ll be watching the swimmers who solve problems… problems that come with being human in the water.  Awkward bodies not meant to move through the water quickly, creating tremendous resistance, and lying horizontal in a substance that keeps us from getting what we need to survive… oxygen.

In looking at a very quick list, if you’re in the middle of a very difficult set, having a hard time keeping up, or in the zone where you simply can’t hurt enough (I remember those days… LONG ago!), then here are some ideas of ways to solve the problem of not going as fast as you want:

– Switch responsibility of the pull from your arms to your lats – all strokes.
– When are you going to air?  Early, or late in the stroke cycle? – freestyle.
– Rotate your shoulders completely out of the water on each recovery – backstroke.
– Use your hips more to help you clear the surface for your breath – butterfly.
– Where are looking? – all strokes.
– Are you pointing your toes off the push off? – all strokes.
– Where are you finishing the stroke? – all strokes.
– How fast are you recovering your hands? – breaststroke.

Rather than me just sitting and thinking of endless possibilities of things to think about, list yours below.  These are not things to think about during drill sets, but rather, when you’re in the thick of training, when it’s very difficult.

Most athletes, when in pain, focus on the pain.  Great athletes, when in pain, focus on how to keep shifting responsibilites of the body to keep going as fast as they have been.

Don’t fall in to the trap of being a regular athlete.  Use the mental capacity you’ve been given, and use your brain to solve the problems that come with pain, and being tired.

On that note… I’m going for a jog.  Hopefully be back before dinner.