Monday, October 19, 2009

Pushing Swimming Pulls

No that title is not a typo - by swimming pull, I mean the pull in freestyle. (swimming pull - kinda cool name, huh?)

I wanted to talk about swimming pulls and pushes today because I am fighting myself to do them properly.

Done properly, the freestyle stroke begins as a pull down to approximately one's chin and following a transition point (the S) turns into a push back towards and to the thigh. Lots of people skip most of the push and bring their arm back up (to begin their reach again) prematurely (before completing the push). This simple error can eliminate as much as 1/2 of the stroke's power potential.

I'm fighting this myself. I naturally want to start my arm back toward the front as soon as I've reached my waist. If I concentrate on it, I can add an additional foot of thrust (push) to each stroke.

Unfortunately, it can be fatiguing if one is not accustomed to doing this additional work. I'm practicing when I go slow, with the hope that it will build the muscle for faster workouts later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Flu Season - How Hard Should I Work Out?

A fascinating article in today's NYTimes, titled, "Phys Ed: Does Exercise Boost Immunity", says that scientists have found a correlation between amount of exercise and immunity.

The author, Tara Parker-Pope, says that studies found that mice, exposed to viruses, who ran to exhaustion, were more prone to the negative impacts of the virus than those that exercised more leisurely.

Given the high virulence of H1N1, I highly advise reading the NYT article.

So I guess this is a "Don't feel so guilty this season when I do a half-assed workout" (get-out-of-jail free) card.

Monday, October 05, 2009

If you can't swim maybe you're trying too hard

It never ceases to amaze me how hard people work when they are swimming or trying to swim. We've all seen these people - perhaps you are one of them. They flail their arms and legs, twist their bodies every contorted direction and push water around the pool so much so that a tsunami warning ought to be issued, yet they make little to no progress in propelling their body across the pool. And if they do get anywhere, they are wiped out within 25 meters of doing so. Meanwhile, the guy in the next lane over has gotten down and back in as few as eight strokes. What gives?

Perhaps you are trying too hard. The guy in the next lane can pull off the eight stroke lap because he is using the dynamics of physics to his advantage. If you look at anyone who can pull this feat off successfully, I can almost promise you'll see the following:
1. The good swimmer is keeping his body line straight throughout the stroke - this means as he goes through the water, he cuts through it like a knife so there is minimal resistance (unlike the contorted body swimmer who creates a wall of water between himself and his destination with each stroke).
2. The good swimmer keeps his hands and arms in line with his body - they do not flair out to the side like an owl. Think, which is faster in a dive, the owl or the eagle?
3. The good swimmer has a long pull, from the furthest point in his reach forward, to the furthest point he can reach behind. The flailing swimmer using only a small percentage of the available stroke distance.
4. The good swimmer uses little energy to propel himself. Fact is ... the good swimmer spends a huge proportion of time in the stroke gliding compared to the flailing swimmer. The flailing swimmer does not glide at all.