Monday, September 22, 2008

Better Than a New Pair of Running Shoes

Last year, I attended a 4-day swim camp in Kona where I learned a new way to swim freestyle. My 100-yard swim times went from 2:30-2:45 to 2:00-2:15. More importantly, I actually began to enjoy swimming for the first time in my life!

And if you enjoy doing something, you want to do it more and get better at it, right?

Well, perhaps not if it's an unhealthy habit ...

But swimming, the thing I've really struggled with for the past couple years since getting into tris, ABSOLUTELY!!

So I went back for another swim lesson last week. For less than the cost of a new pair of running shoes, I can get one of the best swimmers/instructors in the world to help me, Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen. Or her swim guru husband, Eric Nielsen, since KPN was out of town. Either way, the benefits of the lesson would last MUCH longer than a pair of running shoes would for me.

I was videotaped while swimming in their Endless Pool, which is sort of like a treadmill for swimmers, making it easy for the instructor and camera to see what I'm doing wrong over and over and over. And I had to swim slowly. Darn, no cheating or hiding faults when swimming slow! If you promise not to laugh, you may click the play button below.




In case you missed it, these are some of the big things that were noticed, all of which would either slow me down and/or make swimming harder for me:

- My right arm was crossing the center line when I breathed left
- While extending my arms forward, my hands (esp. the right one) often did a "wheelie" upward in the water
- I have a pause in my stroke when breathing to right or left
- My legs were splitting open like a parachute when breathing
- Arms "windmilling" more than they should, getting stuck at the hip
- I had plenty of hip rotation if I remembered to do so when pulling

After an hour, I had fixed all these problems and was now swimming perfectly. NOT!

No, I was now just aware of these things and had made some small steps toward improving them, some of which may not be obvious in the next video because they are still mostly in my head!

- Wider entry with the right arm so no more crossing over the center when breathing left
- A slight angle downward with my hands when extending my arms forward to avoid the "wheelie"
- A little less pause in my stroke when breathing
- More continuous light kicking trying to reduce legs splitting when breathing (though definitely still noticeable)
- More power in my pull earlier in the stroke, focusing on a faster recovery (not really evident yet but less tiring for me than trying to put power at the end of my stroke using triceps)
- Hip rotation now a function of shifting the opposite shoulder forward to extend the arm (rather than when pulling, which is easier for me not to have to remember)

It's a work in progress! (TRT 1:52, with some other non-lesson fun thrown in at the end)




But there is no doubt that I'm enjoying swimming now. Two days after the lesson with just the changes that I'd been able to incorporate, I swam 3x300 yards on 6:00 intervals (5:30-5:35) and then 3x200 yards on 4:00 intervals (3:40-3:45), which are some of my fastest pool swim times to date. With continued practice, group swim workouts and that lesson, my 100-yard swim times are now 1:45-1:50 compared to 2:00-2:15 last year. And I know this is still just the beginning :-)

Thank you Karlyn and Eric!!!

33 comments:

cindy said...

Wow - that's awesome!! You've made great improvement.

I also cross over too much with my right arm and do the leg splitting thing. The super fast version of the end of your lesson made me chuckle ;-)

Jenny Davidson said...

Great stuff! It's amazing that you've gotten that much faster - gives me hope that I too might be able to shave some serious time off my 100s if I just keep on plugging away...

Katie said...

I need a new pair of running shoes. Twenty dollar Walmart shoes aren't very good. :)

RoadBunner said...

Wow! Swimming is such a complicated sport. Congrats on the great improvements. Enjoy the rest of your time in Hawaii! Your video made me jealous :)

ShirleyPerly said...

Yes, I am definitely not a natural when it comes to swimming and compared to running, which does come pretty easily for me, it does seem complicated. But it's getting easier and enjoying it really helps.

Runner Leana said...

Wow, that is really interesting video! Thanks for sharing Shirley!

Petraruns said...

That's amazing! What a lesson to experience as well. Well done!

KodaFit said...

Now, if I could get to Hawaii for the cost of a new pair of running shoes, rather than the cost of a new bike...

Nice improvements though. I'm thinking my stroke could use some similar critiquing!

Brittany M. said...

Wow that is absolutely awesome! It's great to get that type of feedback. Way to keep working at it too, very impressive!

mangotriathlete said...

I wish we had something like that! Seeing my form on the TM helped so much, I can't imagine the wonders for the swimming. Its so much more "technical" it seems than the other 2 sports. Very cool. And speedy you are now :-)

Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

I am sure if I had a lesson like you, I would be found to be making the same mistakes, as I found out about them a couple of months ago when our son filmed me. Still, I don't know if I can knock 15 seconds off my 100m. If I do, then you guys better beware! The main thing is to keep practicing. Changing one's arm position is one thing, swimming x yards a day is another. Let us know how your flip turns are coming along!

Susan said...

Wow! I could really see the improvement from the first to second video. And I especially loved your "fun" footage!

jeanne said...

amazing!!! i want a lesson from those people! my swim is sooooo slow!

you look GREAT!

Ellie Hamilton said...

Oh, wow! I need something like that! Y'mean I could actually swim better and like it more? Instead of just getting through it b/c it's part of the triathlon? Wow....

Jade Lady said...

wow, great before and after video - hmm.I'm sure I do that cross over technique too.

Thx for sharing!

PLANET3RRY said...

I've thought about taking my camera to the pool to check things out while I swim... very cool that you were able to address problems with your form, since that will make things oh so much easier and leave you stronger coming out of the swim!

CewTwo said...

I ran 22 miles this weekend. I did alright.

The boss did a sprint tri. He said he did OK, but was slow in the transitions. I thought it was fun, because I knew exactly what he meant. It makes for great interaction when that happens.

It is a marvelous age that we live in. Training techniques like video really can assist to improve stylt and efficiency!

lizzie lee said...

SHIRLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!! IMPRESSIVE... I read the swimming saga but had not read this one... I am so happy for you.... I saw the video several times... Swimming was always my favorite sport, until I decided not to do it anymore....I bet I am swimming poorly. I was called to be member of a Masters team for tri, and I just panicked thinking in the bike and long distance swimming (that I have never done). I stuck with running, and I don't think anyone can convince me to work for a triathlon... but I admire so much people that do..and you are one of them.. Your improvements along running and swimming are good examples of perseverance, dedication and discipline... Congrats!

sincere-lee
lizzie lee

mrjwhit~ said...

Don't know what else I can add to what's already been said. You're making great progress.

Stef said...

Amazing. Simply amazing. You are going to rock it at Miami Man!

Brent Buckner said...

Clearly great instructors... and a fine student too!

peter said...

Oh man, watching you swim all that way while going nowhere wore me out! Nice form!

mrjwhit~ said...

Thanks for the sweet comment. I seriously hope Army Rangers look better fit than I did. You're great. Thanks.

GroundedFitness said...

ugh, I suck at swimming. I can keep myself from drowning, but thats about it. I wish I was better cause its such a good workout, but as of now it only works my abs as I cough up my lung from inhaling water.

Kelly Turner
www.groundedfitness.com

Gotta Run said...

Now that is just great!!!! Makes me realize how much work can be done to get even better.

LOVE the videos and thanks a bunch for sharing them.

You are right... better than a pair of new shoes.

Cliff said...

Shirley,

COngrats on swimming faster. I am sure u must be feeling very good right now. And yes it is better than a pair of shoes b/c you don't have to replace it every 6 months :).

I need to work on my swimming as well..this season focus on running, my swimming technique has gone ...somewhere :)

Sunshine said...

Video .. and the endless pool ... amazing. What a great learning experience!
And with the added gift that you now love to swim.
Thanks for the fun part of the video too.

akshaye said...

Wow.. huge improvements. And far being funny it made me thing about how I would look in that position!

p.s. Sorry for being horrible about catching up with blogs!

RBR said...

Wow! I don't even know what to comment on first. Amazing swim improvement, staggering training totals, or your essentially back to back marathons.

Whoa!

Truly awesome! I am so jealous that you enjoy swimming. I wish I could get there. I won't get better until I do.

p.s. Yes, finish your marathons first, once you do an ultra you will never run on road again!

Wendy said...

Shirley, I just need to add that you're so right -- you've made incredible strides, and you will continue to. I'm so glad you've found the joy of swimming!

IrishBlue said...

Way to go Shirley! Looks like the lessons were well worth the money. I'm excited for you!!!

Kathy said...

That's so interesting! What a great way to see what needs to be fixed. I really need to take a lesson. But until then I'm going to concentrate and see if I can find any of these flaws in my swimming.

Smithposts said...

Love the videos! Makes me think more about my swimming stroke which is really sloppy :-)