Thursday, December 25, 2008

How Many World Records this Year?

Just in case you were wondering if the new Speedo suits were making a difference in the number of record setting performances, you might check some prior years to this figure I've posted here. It blew me away. So far, in 2008, according to Swimming World Magazine, there were ... drumroll please ... 108 world records! OMG!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Swimming in Winter - Fail

Tis the season to start contemplating the annual polar bear jump.

At first, I thought this was just another video of someone jumping into a cold pond.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Evil Water - How Water Can Work Against You

Have you ever had a swim day where the water just seemed to work against you? Did you put it off to some issue with your own physical ability for that day? Or something in your mind? I just read an absolutely fascinating article in New Scientist about how water can actually work against your stroke. Scientists were wondering why apparently strong swimmers were reporting trouble with the water - some even drowned.

Investigators discovered that different temperature gradients in water (i.e. warm on top, cooler down below) can create a wave between them which can work against the swim stroke propulsion by as much as 40 percent!

I'm filing a patent today for a big pool-water blender to keep the water temperature consistent throughout (kidding!).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dolphins, Dolphins and More Dolphins

I've always thought it would be cool to swim with dolphins - not in some amusement park pool, but in the wild. That said, I'm partial to videos about them. Yesterday, this video started making the rounds on the internet. It's by far the coolest dolphin video I have ever seen. It gets better as it progresses. Be sure to stick through to the end - hint, the link I found to this video was entitled, Dolphin Stampede. They weren't exageratingg.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Would this make swim suits even faster?

Some weeks ago, I posited that golf ball dimple technology might make for the next generation of swim suit design (think beyond those suits they wore in Beijing). I've now found an excellent video that shows in detail exactly what I mean. It's an excellent example of how the dimple reduces friction through the medium the ball must travel. I see parallels with swim suits and water dynamics. Fluid dynamic folks ... am I on track here?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Splash of the Slow

I was doing some kicking on my kickboard the other day, holding the board in front of me and with my head up, looking around, and I passed a very, very slow swimmer in the next lane. Some time as I passed, this slow guy managed to kick up some water that splashed in my lane. Here is what the slow guy's water splash looked like when it landed in front of my kickboard. Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Woman Teaches Blad Eagle to Swim

You've read about water therapy for injured war vets and therapy for aging joints, but have you ever heard of water therapy for injured birds? Here's an article with pictures of a woman who helps injured birds recover by using water therapy. Her latest student? ... A Bald Eagle! Check it out. The pictures in the pool are a real hoot (sorry, but I don't know what a bald eagle sounds like).

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Serious Swimmer Warning

Some swimmer warnings are ridiculous (e.g., don't swim for an hour after eating) and some are serious (e.g., rip tide warning). I'm adding this to my list of all time favorite serious swimmer warnings. Enjoy, but note ... it's serious!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why Titleist Ought to Make Swim Suits

Have you ever wondered what it is that allows certain fish to swim so fast? It's been reported that sharks can swim as fast as 50 miles per hour. What's the secret? Well, is reporting that the secret is in the way the sharks can create dimples in their skin to inhibit drag resistance - the same techniques used by golf ball manufacturers to create further ball flight. The dimples allow the fish to swim through the water with minimal friction.

Given this, I'm thinking we are about to see a new line of record-setting swim suits again.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A View Below the Surface

Do you prefer the world below the pool surface? Bring the pool to your computer! Here's an underwater lap pool web cam that's in Poland. Best viewing during AM hours in the USA.

PS Beware, there are a lot of people in skimpy swim suits (in your face) coming at you (or going away). Occassionlly NSFW (not safe for work) I imagine, though not much different than in any real pool.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Michael Phelps Interviewed by Tony Hawk

I found this interview held by Tony Hawk - skate board legend, with Michael Phelps. In it Tony pulls off the amazing. He gets Michael to make a few confessions.

First Michael starts out sort of complaining about wearing a Speedo! He confesses he doesn't know what day of the week it is! Is that too much chlorine Michael, or are you having withdrawal symptoms and need to get back in the pool? He makes a very bad joke (fish out of water .... aaack!). And he makes me feel old (Tony doesn't do that. Why does Michael always do that?). Check it out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Kick Board Kicking Does for You

I love kicking, but I notice so few swimmers actually practicing with the board more than a couple laps at a time. I wonder why. This post shares some of why I think kicking rocks!

I fell in love with kicking about nine years ago when I injured my elbow. Since I couldn't use my arms, I concentrated on my legs. Up until then, I could go maybe two laps with the kickboard before tiring. After that month, I could go virtually forever. It wasn't that I did anything different, other than force myself to go longer. That said, I imagine anyone can get over the exhaustion hump if they "just do it"(thanks Nike).

But more came out of my experience than an enhanced ability to push the old styrofoam for more laps. I learned that I could kick harder as needed and easily recover. I learned that an extra kick is what can push me ahead, when I want to boost my speed temporarily (e.g., to pass another swimmer), without having to pull harder with my arms. I learned that kicking makes my legs stronger even out of the pool. I can now climb stairs faster, walk stronger, and even fit into my skinny college jeans again.

Yes, kicking is an unappreciated aquatic skill that needs to be practiced, but the gains can be huge.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Long Course Lap Season Ends - Cry of Grief

The outdoor pool season is over for me. This is sad since I only have access to a 50 meter pool when I swim outdoors and the days are at their best this time of year (clear skies, comfortable temps, open lanes). I'm happy that the pool admin types had the foresight to commit to a firm extended-season end date rather than waffle about what the water temps might be and decide based on that. They went so far as to strike a deal with a guard who agreed to come every day until Sept 30th. Apparently, end of season for guards, is like finding good peaches at the end of picking season. They are there, but the good ones that will show up, are hard to find. In prior years the pool admin folks made excuses like: "we've run out of chlorine and the health department has shut us down"; "the guy swimming in the wet suit was unsteady when he got out. He had hypothermia." (Never mind, it was 75 degrees in the water and long-swimmers often have wobbly legs upon exiting the pool); "Who wants to swim when the water is below 78 degrees?". Well we got down to 72 this season and were quite happy, thank you.

So now it's back to the 25 meters and 84 degree water (uhg!). I'll try to make a point of remembering to pay attention toward the end of each length since the wall can creep up fast on those of us accustomed to 50 meters. I still expect I'll stub a few fingers before the month is out. I'm glad that's not my excuse for not posting for the past month - sorry about that :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Trim Speed - Some Findings about Swimming Slowly

Are you doing yourself a favor when you take it easy one day and swim slowly? While I do a pretty good job of getting myself to the pool daily, it's not uncommon that I find myself with little motivation to actually push myself hard. I once considered these slow days as a treat since I knew I would not find myself feeling the burn in the last half of the workout. That's a good thing, right? Not so fast (no pun intended). I find that on my slow days, things actually hurt more!

On these "off" days, I envision myself gliding through the water effortlessly, like a sea otter, enjoying his pond. Problem is, when I do the slow thing, I don't find myself gliding so much as I find myself slogging through the water. Sure the first few laps could give one the idea that things are fine, but after a while that goes away. Only when I pick the pace back up does that glide come back.

It seems that there is a minimal speed my body must have to achieve a comfortable swim. If I go too slowly, my body wants to sink such that the glide next to impossible. I must make a conscious effort on these slow days to not go too slow such that my forward progress is impeded by gravity. Often I'll have to feel the pain of the extra effort needed to move forward before I realize that if I just pick up the pace - even just a little bit - things will actually be easier.

My conclusion? Keeping one's pace up to its minimal trim speed is essential to comfortable swimming.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Easy way to Rotate your Body in Freestyle

5/26/11 Edit: OK, I am going to be the big man (never wasn't) and admit the advice I posted near the bottom of this post - on how to rotate - is wrong. It's been a while, so I'm not certain, but I want to believe my idea was to get novice swimmers to see what rotation felt like. I guess I overstepped and implied that one should do this as "proper" technique. They should NOT. Thank you to those who commented that the advice is poor - I respect your years of tenure. Note to readers, if you read the post below, please read the comments(aside from my first reply) and you'll see how wrong my advice apparently was.

* * * * *
One secret to swimming faster freestyle is to rotate your body. Rotation can be a challenge for some but after reading this tip, you'll see that it was never supposed to be hard. The tip is quite easy to understand and do.

First, what is body rotation and why rotate in the first place? Optimally, when not in a rotation, the swimmer's body should be straight and parallel to the surface of the water and the bottom of the pool so it can stream through the water with less resistance. Rotation is when the body (maintaining the parallel) turns to the side, giving the body even less resistance.

I've used the pencil analogy in previous posts, but for this example I'm going to suggest using a ruler. Hold the ruler by either end with the length of the parallel to the floor and with the scale so it is facing the floor. Now turn the ruler so the scale faces the wall. Now turn it down to the floor again and make the scale face the opposite wall. Now imagine doing that with your body in the pool. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. That is rotation.

So why should you rotate? Rotation puts your body in position to have less resistance as it passes through the water. Notice from the ruler demonstration that when the scale is facing the wall, the shape of the ruler is more like a knife (or a fish). This position also puts you in position to have a more powerful pull stroke.

So, how can you guarantee you'll rotate? This is the easy part. Standing, put your arms over your head extended straight out, fingers pointing up. Now cross your arms at the wrist so the cross is directly over your head (keep arms fully extended). Note how each hand is extended beyond the center point. Now put one arm to your side and leave the other where it is. Now switch them.

Now just do this in the pool. When you extend each arm ahead, be sure to reach beyond the center point where the wrists would cross if they were there together.

What this does. The extended reach past the center point will force your body automatically into the rotation you are wanting to achieve. If you don't find yourself rotating enough, extend your reach further (i.e. hyper-extend). Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mini-Goal Achievement Update and a Reality Check

One of the reasons I started tracking my swimming progress (see left hand column of this blog) was the eureka moment that I had when I realized that I could achieve one million meters by just doing my regular routine. It sounded so cool.

Well I hit that milestone today. Pat, pat, pat. That's me patting myself on the back. Hee hee. One million is a cool number.

Reality interrupting here: This "achievement" took a little over a year and a half to complete. Olympic swimmers' workout routines pull off this "achievement" a few times a year, at least.

Oh, really? Hmmm .... Reality sucks. I guess I'll ignore it. Pat, pat, pat.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baywatch in the Next Lane - My Surprise

Swimming next to a fast swimmer can make you swim faster. It works for me. I've proven it to myself by keeping a daily log and noting disparities from day to day. If I swim next to a fast swimmer, my times are nearly always better. But this AM was different.

Today, I had a pair of swimmers next to me that were clearly of a different caliber. I started out thinking I'd keep up. Then I realized that wasn't going to happen when I got passed twice in six lengths. Much to my dismay, this continued throughout my entire workout. Since I didn't feel under the weather at all I came to the conclusion that the pair were faster than any that had ever swam in the lane next to me before.

When I was done with 2000 meters, I paused and a regular pulled up in the other lane next to me. I mentioned that I was getting a little bit of wake-zone activity in my lane. My neighbor's reply? "Well you should, that's Ashley Tappin. She was an Olympic Gold medalist in the Sydney games' 4X100 freestyle relay (alternate)."

I got home and looked it up. She sure was gold. She was also asked to be on Baywatch, as a celebrity walk-on. My friend didn't mention that. I couldn't decide which was better! :)

I don't feel so bad now, but I sure feel slow! I expect I'll remember today for a long time.

Here are two other references (ref 1 ref 2).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to Watch the Mens 10K Swim - You'll be Glad You Read This

I just got around to watching NBC's webcast video of the Olympics Mens 10K Swim. Yes, you can watch it all, and here is the link to the launch page ... Click on the first video to the right of the article. If you haven't visited and tried to stream any video, you may be prompted to install a special video component (if you are hesitant to do that, think again, you are missing a ton of great stuff!).

Before you go there, here are some highlight moments and thoughts about the race that may make your viewing more fun:
1. The start is especially exciting. Don't skip this part. There is no commentary, so you get the feel for being with the swimmers. You can here them being told about the number of minutes to go and see them lining up on the floating dock. Once the race starts, there is the mass of humanity struggling for the lead. This ain't no 50 meter lane pool.
2. Race starts about three minutes into the video
3. You can scroll ahead (you can scroll as far ahead as you like almost right away ... I have broadband, slower speeds may not have this capability).
4. The excitement of the finish can be watched at about 1:54 on the video clock.
5. Awards ceremony at 1:54 - 1:56.

Spoiler Alert - Results Follow:

Winner was Maren van der Welden of the Netherlands in 1:51.61.6 (yes, thats over 6 miles in that time .... aaaaakkkk!). He won by only about a body length!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

If Swimmers Have Brighter Teeth are they Doping?

This article from the Daily Mail cites claims that ordinary baking soda can boost swimming performance. The article references performance boosts of 1.5 seconds on 200 meter swims.

I'm not suggesting baking-soda doping is a good idea, but I just might start brushing my teeth with the stuff. It whitens teeth, you know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Phelpian Eight

Nothing to say here but, WOW! and thanks Michael, for bringing swimming to the forefront of the public's attention for a few thrilling nights.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Michael Phelps Freestyle - What exactly is going on?

If you've watched Michael Phelps with any sort of discerning eye this week as he cracks one world record after another, you'll notice that his freestyle is a bit unorthodox from the rest of his fellow competitors. Even the most untrained eye will notice that he comes up higher out of the water than everyone else (link has an embedded picture of what I mean).

What is it about this that gives him an edge over his competitors? Is this giving him an edge?

This has gotten me thinking a little bit outside of the box, so forgive this post if I am way off base, but I tried out the stroke and noticed something peculiar. If you pull yourself out of the water high enough, you can actually throw your hips into the stroke, much like one does in butterfly. If you add the hip action, you get the benefit of more body and leg power in the stroke.

Now I'm not saying Michael is doing what I describe above. I'm not sure it would even be legal, and there are countless judges and people more versed in stroke technique watching all over the earth this week and I haven't heard any complaints or protests.

All I'm suggesting is, that this extra lift up and out of the water before going into the reach may add to one's power in the stroke. Try it for yourself. It takes a little bit of coordination to pull it off, but I think you may be pleasantly surprised. Let me know what you find.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympic Swimmer Who Can Barely Swim 100 Meters

So you think you're a fast swimmer but you know you aren't exactly up to speed with Michael Phelps? Check this video out. It starts out kind of funny, but before you're through watching, you may say, yes, I'm Olympic caliber too.

Yes, this really is the Olympics (from Sydney).

Thursday, August 07, 2008

172 Foot World Record High Dive

This link is to the video. Watch carefully between 1:20 and 1:30 and see how high this is! Makes me think the Olympians are a bunch of wussies.

Now can I dive off the pool side edge?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Big Should My Pool Be?

This past 4th of July, I went to workout. Apparently only people competing in fun-runs - and me - work out in the early hours on the 4th of July, for I found I was the only person in the 50 meter pool for an entire hour. It was nice, but I sort of considered it all a bit more than I needed.

Now jump forward to the next week. I'm on vacation at my usual summer spot on a lake in Wisconsin. My routine is to get up early before everyone else and do my swim and then enjoy an early morning relaxation period on the pier watching the wildlife (birds, fish, children) wake up around the lake. I'm usually the only person out until about 8am, save a random fisherman from time to time. But this year was different. I was joined on the lake by a man who daily rowed around the lake in a streamlined rowboat.

One might think that a 1,500,000 square yard (310 acre) lake would be large enough for two people. One would be wrong.

The particular morning of this story, I stepped out on the pier and prepared to jump in for my swim. I like to swim straight out across the lake - something that one can't comfortably do in the middle of the day when there is lots of watercraft. Looking out, I saw the rower skimming across the lake. I took comfort in knowing from prior days that his routine was to row parallel to the shore. With my routine crossing his routine path only once as I would swim out to a float and then across to the lake's center where there is an island. He wouldn't come near me. Just before jumping in, I looked out and saw that the rower was turning the corner and headed my way. He was still hundreds of meters away so I didn't give it much more thought and adjusted my goggles and braced myself to jump into the chilly water.

Upon jumping in I immediately proceeded into a freestyle toward the float and beyond, breathing only on my left (for the moment). I got out just past the float when what did I see not 10 feet off my left side and towering over my head but the rower, pausing to let me pass - his oars up out of the water. He looked out over his shoulder and directly down at me, but said nothing. I can only imagine he felt a little bit of fortune - as did I - for not sending me to the bottom of the lake.

How he got to my spot so fast from across the lake is beyond me - he must really go fast. How we happened to come to the same spot in a 310 acre lake is also a little too weird to comprehend.

I am just glad he saw me - or rather heard me. Had there been any wind, he might not have and plowed right into me.

This past Saturday - back home again, the weather was inclement and again no one else was swimming at the 50 meter pool. This time, I was glad to have it all to myself. I knew it could never be too big.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Goal Added to Monster List

I've added a new goal to my list of lap swimming goals (scroll down left panel) that should have been there all along - swim the Great Lakes. I went into Google Maps and traced the USA/Canadian border with their measuring tool - from Kingston to Thunder Bay. That distance reports in at 1,134 miles or 1,814,400 meters (if you look at it like I do, that's 36,288 circular laps in a 25 meter pool).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

35-Foot Swan Dive into 12-inches of Water

I once dove off a 3-meter board and scraped my stomach on the 10-foot bottom when I was pulling out to go to the surface. It stung for a while. Know one really cares when I tell this story. Snff snff. Maybe this guy would listen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Should You Sprint or Swim for Distance?

For as long as I've been a lap swimmer, I've always had a bad taste in my mouth for wall hangers - people who take up a valuable pool lane lying against the wall, usually chatting, when they could either get out or use the lane as it was intended. I am one to get in, swim and get out. I'm not much for chit chat. Now, today I read, that maybe I ought to join in. What's that about?!!!

I found this article about running on Upon reading it, I wondered how it could not but also apply to swimming. In a nutshell, it quotes a university study that says that "30-second all-out sprints improved their (runners) cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance as much as those who did 40 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise."

So does this mean, that I could just do a few sprints and get in the same value that I get in my 50-60 minute daily workout? I don't want to think that, but it appears to have some academic validity. I'm too addicted to the long laps thing to give that up. I guess I could do both. Looks like I'll be joining in with the wall-hangers for at least a few minutes now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Can the Weather Impact Your Swimming?

"It's going to rain. I can feel it in my bones." That oft repeated phrase, usually attributed to old people is coming home to roost for me. As I've aged (I'm a middle-40's guy), I'm noting more and more that when the weather changes, I can feel my joints and bones aching. This is particularly true when a front is coming through and the weather goes from hot to cool, or the other way around - even on the nicest of days. These fronts bring pressure changes with them. How does this have anything to do with swimming? I don't know (yet), but today I took steps to find out.

I installed a gadget on my home page that tracks the barometric pressure in my geographic area. I'll be tracking that pressure over time and seeing how it impacts my efforting. I expect I'll find something. Check back on this blog over the next six months. I should have a beginning base line to report.

PS As a side note, I'd like to apologize for my lack of recent posts. No 'scuses. I just hope to do better going forward. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How Deep is the Deepest Lake?

One of the coolest things about swimming is that you can swim in the deepest water and if you have any skill at all there is absolutely no difference than if you were swimming in water that is just over your nose.

I absolutely flipped when I saw what the deepest was. So do you have a guess before I tell you?

1000 feet - Wrong. 2000 feet - Wrong. 3000 feet - Wrong. 4000 feet - Wrong. 5000 feet - OK, you're getting warmer. Try 5369 feet deep!

Here's a link to a cool article that describes that lake and four other of the deepest lakes in the world.

What you bet that if that lake were in the USA there would be a "No Diving" sign?!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Is that Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis or are you just stupid?

I've always thought the ponds and lakes of the deep south looked inviting. Factor out the snakes and gators and you've got a year round natural open-water swimming. Then I read about PAM (see title) last year.

PAM is a brain eating amoeba. Yes, you read that right, campers. It sounds horrible and it can kill.

I thought I'd link to this since I'm guessing some of my readers are open-water afficienados (sp?). PAM is found in warm waters of a number of southern and some east coast states. It can live in ill-maintained pools and is also found in ponds and lakes (not sure about running water such as streams and rivers).

Among the recommendations of ways to avoid PAM are to avoid getting water in your orifaces. Apparently when you jump into the water and it goes up your nose, you can get the bug. Then it's just a short jump to the brain. One of the work arounds goes against my principals (nose plugs - ewww!). I guess this is one case of me thinking a nice clean pool is better than a natural.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Could Olympics Double Amputee Decision Impact Swimming One Day?

In my mind, the Olympics has done a grave injustice to itself this week by granting, upon appeal, the right for a double amputee to compete. Am I being heartless? If this were just a few years back, I might agree that I was. But I don't feel that way today. With the rapid advance in technology, we really will have accident victims performing like Steve Austin - The Six Million Dollar Man. This runner will have spring in his step that is technically superior to the life-long developed tendons in an able-bodied person. What's next? Would a sickly person be able to take steroids to "fix" their condition and thus compete? I exaggerate, but seriously, look at swimmers. In a recent post I asked the question about whether a new dolphin prosthetic could be used by a double amputee. I really think that's doable. Now take that a step further. Why couldn't that prosthetic make one swim fast - think butterfly. It certainly could. Just look at all the world records that have fallen with the new swim suits developed this year. If you don't think a trained athlete could make webbed prosthetic work in their favor, think again. I think this was the wrong decision. Feel free to agree, or disagree, but this decision is huge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Zero-Entry Pools - How to Make Your Kid into a Coward

The first swim club I belonged to (as a kid) was a pond with a sandy beach, a pier, tall slides and high diving boards. No, you couldn't see the bottom. That made it more fun! To this day, I love lake swimming. I have acquaintances who enjoy pools but won't go near a pond or lake because you can't see the bottom. We never thought our swimming area was risky - but given today's litigious society swim clubs like this aren't even considered any more by developers. Why? Insurance premiums.

Now they've gone a step further. New pools are now being promoted to the public as "zero-entry". As I understand it, that means the entire pool has no sides, just a gradual slope. What's wrong with sides? Sure, one can fall in. Duh! But life has some risks. What's Johnny going to do when he slips into a pond? Will it be the first time he's ever fallen into water? If it is, Mom shouldn't be surprised if Johnny doesn't come out.

I think developments like "zero-entry" can only make water more dangerous for people.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dolphin Posthetic - Can It Work for Man Too?

I first reported about a dolphin with a prosthetic fin about a year ago. Since then I've been wondering whether such a device could be made for those folks who have lost limbs, or have limited or even no leg motion.

Seems to me that the human back's muscles could propel a fin much like Winter here does. If I were an injured vet wanting to get back in shape, this might just be the ticket. Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Glossopharyngeal Insufflation i.e. Lung Packing

The above has to be one of the stranger blog titles you'll see today. In lay-lay (sic) persons terms, glossopharyngeal insufflation refers to the practice of learning to hold one's breath for a very, very long time.

This has been a subject that has been of interest to me ever since I heard that to qualify as a Navy Seal, one must swim underwater for 50 meters (that's been a goal of mine for some time, but to now, I've never gotten much past 35 meters).

In a post dated, May 1, 2008, has published an article about how David Blaine, the performance artist, held his breath on the Oprah Show (those names are two more firsts for this blog) for seventeen minutes! I figured it was all just a fake stunt, but I may have been mistaken. The article discusses how the body processes and prioritizes the use of oxygen and how the brain can help or hinder the body's natural abilities. Some interesting stuff. I suggest the read.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

How to Build Speed and Finish Fast

It's common to see swimmers who start out fast for a lap or two and then plod along for the rest of their workout. It's no small wonder a lot of people give up swimming. What's fun about doing something that just gets worse as you spend more time doing it? What amazes me are the regulars in the pool who do this. I think they should know better.

I figured out a long time ago, that I enjoyed swimming laps more if I built my speed over the time of the workout. This has been reinforced as I've aged, as going fast right from the start isn't as easy as it once was. Now I can ease into the workout and if everything is going well, I'll be able to cruise along at a good, fast pace in the last half of the workout.

I explain my approach below using a mile swim to demonstrate.

I start out with some easy strokes for 400 meters - breathing every other stroke, stretching to my fullest length, making sure I keep a straight line nose to toes. For the next 400 meters I add some time between breaths. I breathe every fifth stroke, alternating sides. Throughout this 1/4 mile my body is building its strength up, my muscles are getting warm and I can feel it. There is a natural tendency to speed up because, in all honestly, I want to breathe by the time I get to the five count. The muscles are working up to strength too with this added pace. The last half mile I maintain the pace but breathe every third stroke, alternating sides. This additional oxygen helps me to crank up my speed further. I can generally shave an extra five seconds off a lap with this added oxygen.

I encourage you to try this speed building approach. You might find the need to breathe more often than I. That's ok. Do what works for you but spend enough time in the pool to let your endorphins kick in. Just don't blow it all out in the first few laps. Just take it slow and ease into your workout. You'll finish faster. And because you are finishing on a high, I can almost promise you'll feel better about coming back the next time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

10K Swim to be an Olympic Event

So you think you're tough because you swim a mile or two in the lap pool while everyone else hangs on the wall after a couple laps? Check out Friday's Wall Street Journal article about the Olympic's newest swimming event (to be held this year for the first time), the 10K swim - that's about six and half miles for you 'mercans. The event is going to be held in flat, fresh water in the rowing venue.

It sure would be cool if they built a canal into the Olympic Stadium where the swimmers finish in front of the world! I can always dream.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Finally, a Computer that Heats a Pool

Ever notice how pool personnel seem to find it impossible to keep a pool heated properly? Ever wonder why they don't incorporate computer technology to do the job? Here's a pool facility which finally took the job on - unfortunately, this is NOT what I meant. Go to this link to see what I mean. Considering the aforementioned possibilities, I was somewhat appalled. How about you?

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Yorker Features Article about Swimming!!!

I suppose this post is a bit premature, but I'm excited. I just got the mail in and got my New Yorker subscription. I haven't read it yet, but the April 21, 2008 issue has a feature by my favorite cold water swimmer/author, Lynn Cox, entitled "A Dip in the Cold - Swimming in the Northwest Passage". Lynn wrote the book "Grayson", which is about a time in her youth when a baby whale decided she (Lynn) was its mother and she decided to help it find its real mother. She also is the same woman who was featured in a television documentary where she jumped into frigid Antarctic waters and swam to to shore - about a mile. She wrote about that too. See Lynn Cox in for more. This woman is nuts. I can't wait to read this New Yorker article!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Swimming and your Heart Rate

It's fairly common knowledge that swimming makes for a good cardio workout. Doing sprints is one way to keep the heart running faster. Pushing the distance can do it too as long as it's at some speed. Sounds analogous to the sport of running, right? Well, maybe not so fast.

Buried deep in an article in today's New York Times there is a mention about how one's heart works differently for swimmers than it does for runners. Runners' hearts, the article says, must fight gravity. It must pump the blood vertically up to the head. That's not the case for swimmers. The gravitational fight is not as much of an issue. You are already horizontal in the pool. I'm no medical type, but I'm having no trouble imagining that there's something to that.

OK, so what does this all mean? Does the heart rate for a swimmer working equivalently to the heart rate of a runner mean that the swimmer can put more energy into propulsion, while the runner is putting it just into surviving? I'll have to think on this some more. Thoughts from my readers are welcome.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

How to Swim Well - The Most Important Thing to Learn

I was planning this post before today anyhow, but when I ran into an old acquaintance who without solicitation offered me his opinion on the most important skill to have in order to swim well, I knew I had something - not that our opinions matched.

Anyhow, my friend said that he had learned from a "world class swimmer" (and his boss ... so he really HAD to listen to him) that the most important thing to know how to do well was to relax in the water. If you can relax, you aren't going to tire yourself out with every stroke and every attempt to breathe.

Now the above is not quite what I was going to write originally in this post, but I'm including it here because of the cred (the credibility).

My contention is (and if you've ever read more than a half dozen posts of mine, it should come as no surprise), that the most important thing to know how to do well in order to learn to swim well was to learn to keep a straight line. Your body should be linear from tip of your stretched out fingers at the end of your stretched out arms, all the way down to your stretched out tippy toes at the end of your stretched out legs - so you can streamline through the water. Once this position is learned, it must be applied during the stroke. If one breaks from the linear, the streamlining is lost and you encounter resistance from the water your are swimming through.

Do these two suggestions conflict with one another? I don't think so. If you can do the first you can learn to do the second. And if you can do the second, you can begin to do the first (to relax) since you won't have to fight the water so much.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dogs in Heaven

Another title to this post might be "Why Pools Sometimes Smell Like Dog". Enjoy.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Swim Suit Technology Setting World Records

Speedo has a new swim suit technology that is helping a few fortunate test subjects set world records at an unprecedented pace. The technology is so good in fact, there may be some question about fairness. At least three world records have been set and eight more according to this article in The suit (and this other article quotes) reportedly creates a stabelizer on the body's core which promotes five percent less drag and five percent less O2 consumption at an unspecified (but apparently, key) speed. In case you haven't figured it out yet, that's HUGE!!!

I find all of this simply amazing. As for this technology's fairness, that's best left to the sports boards. I for one, want one now! Then again, I should probably get a suit with little flippers embedded in the skin first. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pools on my vacation are disappointing

Swimming pools need to be designed by swimmers! It's clear that pools more often are not being designed for swimming. This pool is just plain crazy. All one can do is jump in or hang on the side. Maybe a little bit of slow trekking across the middle might work. A simple straight line between the two ends might be an improvement. Any pool that is more for bathing than swimming ought not be called a swimming pool.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Secrets to Swimming Like an Aquatic Creature

I've always marveled at how some aquatic creatures can swim. Particularly fascinating to me are otters, seals and alligators who all seem to have some unfathomable ability to slip through the water at high speed. Here's an article that describes the results of a study funded by the National Science Foundation and University of Utah showing some of that and what has been discovered that may lead to this skill set. I've posted a key paragraph here from the U or Utah, but visit the article to get more.

"The discovery in American alligators suggests "special muscles that manipulate the position of the lungs - and thus the center of buoyancy - may be an underappreciated but important means for other aquatic animals to maneuver in water without actively swimming," says C.G. Farmer, an assistant professor of biology."

Can some of this be applied to human swimming? Perhaps. It seems to me that air in the lungs can be shifted to the upper or lower abdomen - that may be a crock (bad pun), but it feels that way. Try it by floating on your back and holding the air near your neck, then closer to your belly.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When its OK to Touch a Dolphin

Here's a news story that will make you feel good all day. The story is about a group of people in New Zealand who were trying in vain to help a whale that kept beaching itself and the dolphin that came to the rescue. The last line of the story is a tear jerker and the answer to the headline of this post. Enjoy. :)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to do Multiple Laps with Flip Turns without Tiring

I am known at my pool as a guy who swims for a long time without stopping to rest. I guess that's supposed to be a complement (I think I'd rather be known as a guy who swims fast, but I'll take what I can get). When I swim my laps, I typically will do 1600 to 2400 meters at a time without stopping. All my turns are flip turns, and I don't rest at all until I stop for a half-minute or so before I switch over to the kickboard. Why am I not tired? Why can I go from lap to lap without stopping to catch my breath? What do I do different from the guy next to me who stops every one or two laps to rest and catch his breath?

This post will share how I got where I am. I didn't start this way. I WAS the guy in the next lane stopping every one or two lengths to hang and catch my breath. My conversion came slowly, with patience. Let me explain.

When I first started swimming regularly, I was very jealous of the guys who could swim non-stop. I even had a nick-name for them - the "human lungs". I was amazed they could go on and on and on. What was the trick? I'd try what they were doing and fail miserably. I'd figured out the flip turn, but so what? I was still tired and ready to plant my feet down and stand up right after the turn (if even I had that in me).

I decided that a good approach would be to go slow and trim, and it worked. By swimming as trim (torpedo/pencil swimming) as I could to minimize effort, and by taking it easy, I found that I would use less energy and oxygen. Thus I had enough to get through the flip and start the next length. When I started feeling tired, I'd drop it another notch, until I'd recovered and then resumed speed again. Over time (over a couple weeks of practicing this), I found I could maintain a decent pace without having to do the slow down. Over a longer period (a few months), I even found I could crank up the speed and hold it for a while before scaling back. Today, I can do a full 2000 meters at my top speed (as long as the water is cool enough).

Bottom line, just take it easy, find your easy speed that doesn't tire you out and cruise through. You'll improve your speed and ability by default. Just don't put your feet down!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

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Man Swims to Shore to Save Mates

As a fan of WWII movies, I always wondered about those guys I heard of who drowned within view of the shore when their ships were sunk. As a swimmer, I figured it would be a cinch to take care of things as long as the water was warm and calm and no one was hanging on. In my fantasy, I'd swim to shore, contact help and be the hero. Fortunately I've never gotten the opportunity to do that ... but here's a guy who's trying. Mitchell Williams, a deckhand on a fishing vessel off the coast of Australia swam 12-hours through shark-infested waters to shore to contact authorities after the ship on which he was working hit a reef and sunk.

As I write this, rescuers are searching for his lost mates. Here's the article I plucked this info from. Let's pray for the crew's rescue.

Monday, February 25, 2008

7 Easy Tips to Swim Faster

1. Kick with your toes above your heels
2. Kick from the hip and whip your lower leg like a fin (see #1)
3. Kick with bigger sweeps rather than smaller flutter (see #1 and #2)
4. Reach as far out you can (roll to reach further) before starting your pull
5. Whip your stroke faster after the mid-point in your pull
6. Pull all the way through until you touch your thigh
7. Keep a pencil profile (long and thin) to drive through the water with minimal resistance.

More in next post.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

More than a few of my previous posts have focused on my lament about the demise of swimming pools fun (e.g., the loss of diving boards, starting blocks, depth, diving off the pool sides, etc.). These are serious impositions on the fun we historically have had in our public pools. I think there are ways to make pools fun or interesting again, but the powers that be aren't focused on the swimmers but on themselves and their employees.

I've noticed a trend at my own pool (besides all of the above) of all capital improvements going toward the mundane - new guard chairs made of composite materials (the old ones apparently were too tall and made of metal), new water weights (the class attracts about six people a week), new back boards (oh, did the old ones wear out from overuse?). If these decision makers ever got in the pools they'd see where they really ought to focus (like the grunge growing in the gutters and the missing plastic panels that hold down the liner - going on two years now for both).

Going through the main gym workout equipment room to get to the locker room annex to the pool I can't help but notice all the nice new expensive equipment. A dozen new flat panel TVs, bikes with TVs, new elyptical equipment, new treadmills, new stair climbing equipment, new weights, etc. They even have a live DJ a couple times a year. Sure we get fresh water and maintenance isn't cheap, but I really could use a lap counter and maybe some music in the room - there are such things you know. If it costs too much (it doesn't), just lower the heat down to the promised 80-82 degrees instead of the weekly climb to 86.

I joke that they ought to put a giant flat panel tv on the pool room ceiling so we can watch while we do backstroke. I'd be happy if they just replaced the kickboards that have chunks literally chewed out of them - but no, the staff don't use kickboards.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Worlds Most Dangerous Swimming Pool

This video entitled "The Worlds Most Dangerous Swimming Pool" seems right on. I just wonder why they don't mention the wonderful view from the high dive? (Author's Note: The embedded links on this video's web site are a bit riske'. I don't endorse them).

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Simple Tip for Hair Care for Swimmers

There are a lot of strange theories about what can happen to your hair if you are a regular swimmer - for good reason. You know those little blond kids who get green hair in the late summer? It's from the chlorine and I suspect some copper (where does that come from?). You know those adults with frizzy, split ends? It's from the chlorine and boric acid and whatever else they're adding to your nice clean water. You know that dry skin and chlorine permeated skin you've been getting? Ditto.

I can't say I've solved these problems, but I've taken some tips from a hair stylist I once had. One summer I was having a particularly bad time. My long (longer than the short cut I now sport), thick locks turning to dried out saw grass. Knowing I was a swimmer he suggested clarifying shampoo and sold me a $20 dollar bottle of this clear stuff. I took it, price and all, suspiciously. But it worked great, almost right from the start. I bought several more bottles until I saw $0.99 bottle of the same (different label) at the supermarket and I've never looked back. Basically clarifying shampoo strips the crap out of your hair (chlorine buildup, oil, etc.) and leaves nothing in it. I put a little conditioner in it and rinse. The conditioner adds back a little oil and gives you some shine you may strip out with the clarifier.

Seeing how this worked so well, I've taken to using the clarifying shampoo as a body wash. It strips the chlorine odor that permeates the skin if you swim daily. For $0.99, it can't be beat!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Finding Your Trim Speed

If you've ever ridden in a speed boat and seen how it accelerates from zero, you'll notice all the effort the boat makes to get started. Once at speed, the bow lowers parallel to the water and the boat skims almost effortlessly through the water. I'm finding swimming is like that.

When I have my days where I'm achy or tired for whatever reason, my speed is naturally slower than usual. It's these days I notice that the effort to just go slow seems unreasonably difficult. Shouldn't it be easier to swim slower than faster? I find that the answer, surprisingly, is no. If I can break out of the achies - sometimes just working the muscles for a while helps - and I can pick up my speed, the "efforting" I'm engaging in seems to actually decrease. Yes, you read that right. I find myself streaming through the water easier, my strokes more efficient, and my speed unproportionally faster for what additional extra effort I've engaged. This is because my body becomes more horizontal in the water (as opposed to the more diagonal angle of slow speed). It's my trim speed.

This may explain, at least in part, why some fast swimmers are seemingly less tired after a long workout than slow swimmers after a short effort. Sure fitness has a lot to do with it, but finding and maintaining your trim speed helps a lot too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Freestyle Roll - When is too Much?

Rolling your body during freestyle (turning shoulder down toward the bottom of pool and hip to same) is one of those things seasoned freestyle swimmers do without much thought, but novices must learn through practice. A good roll can enhance your streamline profile and thus speed your way through the water. But what makes for a good roll? Is it possible to have too much of a roll?

Yesterday I was doing my laps and someone one lane over was doing the same. I noticed his roll seemed to be fairly extreme. When I do the roll I go only so far that my arm can extend as deep as possible. This swimmer was rolling so far that his arm was being forced away from the optimal depth. A little further and he could have rolled over onto his back. By going too far with the roll (past the optimal arm depth point) he was wasting energy and time when he could be getting through his stroke.

So when you are doing freestyle, be sure to roll, reach as deep as possible before going into your "S" pull, but don't over-roll - that's just self-defeating.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sunscreen Is Bad for your Tan AND Mother Earth?

An article in National Geographic News is saying that just a little sunscreen can bleach coral in just a few days. While it sounds a little ridiculous to consider that your sunscreen could do damage to a coral reef, the scientists behind the study cited in this article seems to be fairly certain. As I age, I've grown more fond of sunscreen products. Now I just don't know. Must we now only swim only in dim light?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

About recent lack of posts

Have been experiencing serious case writer's block. Hey, that's a post! More than I've done in a couple weeks. Still swimming :)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Plans for 2008 and Beyond

This blog has reached a milestone of its own with 200 posts to date. As such, I'm thinking about its future. Nothing firm yet, but these are some considerations I'm mulling over:

* I'd like to implement a live feed between the spreadsheet I calculate my swimming distances/goals with and the blog itself. Might save a couple minutes for each post.
* I'd like to link that same spreadsheet to Google Earth so visitors can see the progress on the global map.
* I'd like to update the template to something more pool-like. I've got an old javascript that makes the screen act like it is a pool of water. Might freak visitors out to see their mice swim across the screen (Yeah, that is cool. I can't believe I haven't implemented that yet).