Faster Than a Superhero

May 20, 2003
Faster Than a Superhero

If you’re a swimmer, you hear it over and over -- like a scratched CD skipping on a 1989 Magnavox compact disc player. If you’re a coach, you’ve said it so many times that your lips start to cramp when you pucker and curl them into position. If you’re a parent, and you sit in the balcony all the time, it’s SOOO EASY to see who does it and who doesn’t. It’s the simplest, easiest, laziest, way to go faster in every single race. And yet, even at the elite level, not every swimmer does it ALL the time. What is it?S-T-R-E-A-M-L-I-N-E.For some reason, we as swimmers feel it is absolutely necessary to move every part of our body as fast as possible during the entire duration of every race to achieve peak performance. These compulsive gyrations may make us feel like we’re doing something useful and fast, but they often lead to disappointment after disappointment. We work harder than ever before. We finish the race and our hearts are beating faster than the bass from an Outkast album. We can’t feel our arms. We know, without a doubt, that we’ve put in more effort than ever before. And still, we didn’t go faster.Our FAKE Superhero! This is NOT a streamline!It’s Superman’s fault. Just look at him. There he is…the strongest guy in the universe. He’s got the skin-tight, full-body suit with the coolest logo. He’s got the six-pack abs. He’s got the big, powerful arms. He’s got the cute girlfriend waiting for him to fly down and save her. Who wouldn’t want to be this guy?It’s only natural that, as swimmers, we want to imitate the most amazing guy in the universe. So we push off every wall like Superman flying to save Lois Lane. The thing is… Superman could have saved Lois Lane a lot faster and easier if he’d sharpened up his streamline.Rather than flying with his head straight up looking for birds and airplanes, Superman should have been looking straight down at earth to see where Lois actually was. His head should have been tucked between his shoulders, and those beefy biceps should have been squeezing his ears. And rather than flying around with his arms apart creating all kinds of unnecessary resistance, he should have placed one hand on top of the other and made himself as long as possible. But he didn’t, so Lois had to wait and wait…and almost died.Every single time you push off the wall, you should be in a position that makes you ten feet tall. To be ten feet tall, you have to be in the perfect streamline position. Well, Super Dave is here to show you what that position is. If you can get your body into this position, you’ll be a faster swimmer – without working any harder, without doing any more yardage, and without increasing your heart rate.Starting at the top, one hand should be on top of the other. Yes, touching intimately, becoming one and the same. Most swimmers push off the wall as if their hands were Roseanne and Tom Arnold – two units trying to get as far away from each other as possible. Well, get your paws to kiss and make up, and always have one hand on top of the other locked together like the prom queen and the high school quarterback.Now that your hands are super-glued together, you need to work on the arms. Stretch your arms out to maximum capacity every single time, as if you are reaching for the cookies that mom hid on top of the fridge. And because you don’t want to hear her screaming at you, “Hey, not till after dinner!” squeeze your ears with your shoulders to block out all that extra background noise.Working our way down the body, next we must examine the torso. Actually, this is where even elite swimmers can improve their streamlines, so I’ll try to be serious on this section. (Oh, this is too hard already.) Most swimmers arch their back when they try to streamline. They stretch out their whole body like a cat after a nap. While stretching out is important, arching the back with a rump sticking out will actually slow you down. What you need to do is make your back as flat as possible. This is a good skill to learn when you’re really young. If you want to practice, try streamlining while lying on your back on the floor – or while you’re standing with your heels against a wall. Try to get your back FLAT. Your legs should be stretched out, with your toes pointed. Keep your legs close together.Now, the hard part… applying it. Start thinking about these things in practice every day. Look over at your teammates when you push off, and continue to hold your streamline and momentum while they’re already swimming. You’ll be surprised to see that you are keeping up with them, and they are working twice as hard as you are! Get to where you can hold a streamline past the flags off every wall without kicking or swimming, and you’ll discover that practices, races, and daily life get easier just because of streamlining. The best part: Your coach won’t yell at you anymore.

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