Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Free Speed

Triathletes are always looking for that extra edge when it comes to swimming. They are willing to pay for private lessons, stroke analysis, and underwater videotaping. All of these things are indeed helpful but I have come to realize triathletes are simply overlooking one of the fundamental aspects of swimming: the concept of streamlining. 

Triathletes can wrap their heads around and open their wallets to the concept of being aero. The more aero you are on your bike the faster you are, even without a lick of additional training. For whatever reason that concept goes out the window when triathletes step onto the pool deck even though water is 1000 times more resistant than air (*. 

When I mention the word  “STREAMLINE” most people envision that moment after they push off the wall but streamlining is so much more.  Streamlining is a constant effort to minimize drag in the water. 

Today I was at swim practice watching people during a kick set. Most were using kickboards (which I do not recommend for the average triathlete) but almost everyone was lying on their boards like one would slump over a bar. The result was the majority of the boards were barely breaking the surface of the water.  The guy behind me even held his board a little cockeyed. When you see boats moving through the water the front end is up pointing straight forward reducing its own drag and allowing it to cut through the water. Think about all the extra energy expended to move a boat (or a person forward) if the front was sinking low. It is not pretty.

Here are a few examples of some very non-streamline triathlete habits:

  • Kicking on your back with relaxed shoulders and bend elbows
  • Dropping your elbows
  • Bowing your back
  • Dropping your legs
  • Sticking your butt out
  • Kicking with your knees instead of a straighter leg
  • Big kicks
  • Lifting your head
  • Head too low
  • Extraneous lateral movements

Don't get lazy, free speed for the taking! 
Next time you swim take some time to think about you versus the water. What can you tighten up to reduce your surface area and subsequently your drag in the water? What can you do to bring your body closer to the surface of the water where there is less resistance? Notice the difference. You are your own million dollar race wheel. 

*It concerns me this links to a UNC page where the writer refers to a shark as a mammal. Really UNC? Really?