Chlorine Chronicle (Archive)NMSC Jan/97 Newsletter
(contributed by Cathy Merritt)
. Ron Marcikic and Roch Frey, "Blast off the Blocks", Fitness Swimmer, Winter 1997, pp. 34-35.
. Sharon Fogarty (editor) in "In the Swim", Fitness Swimmer, Winter 1997, p. 12.
. 101 Fitness Swimming Secrets, Rodale Press, pp. 7-8.
Several members have told me that they find these articles somewhat discouraging; it seems a lot of us do not measure up very well in terms of flexibilty or whatever else I have been reporting on. But think of it this way: did you feel good before reading this stuff? have you generally been improving without measuring anything? do you enjoy swimming as a form of exercise? If so, continue doing what you were doing, treating these articles as a way of providing some additional interest while progressing through the rigours of training and perhaps giving some ideas for fine tuning. After all, all of us must be reasonably accomplished swimmers and enjoy it; otherwise we would not have chosen to pursue this activity.
Which is more interesting: to have achieved perfection or to be trying to achieve perfection? I can only guess at the former, but one of the things that keeps me in Masters is the fact that there is always something to fix, even if a fair degree of competence has been achieved. And in Masters there is no time limit on learning new things (except the obvious)!
A couple of years ago, I decided that the time for me to quit would be when I had learned how to do a consistently good racing start. My reasoning was this: when I started swimming as a teenager, I was not properly taught the racing start. It is very difficult to change old habits, especially when everything happens within a couple of seconds as it does in the start. It is likely the last thing that I will get right, and so when I do, there will be nothing left to work on. So why continue if there's nothing to work on?
The winter issue of Fitness Swimmer features the racing start. Besides the steps outlined below, there are also pictures and trouble shooting tips. If this works for me, I will just change my rules on when I should quit - there's still lots of other things to work on!
Five Steps to a Racing Start
With our Winterlude meet coming up soon, and the main part of the competitive season not far away (for those who are so inclined) this article  on improving your racing start may be timely. In the words of the authors:
... flying through the air off a raised platform with speed and power in a horizontal position is not exactly natural. You have to learn it. If you follow these five mental and physical steps, you'll be on your way to a better start.
Step One: Balance on the blocks
...For a regular grab start, put both feet at the front of the block, shoulder width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent and grab the front of the block, keeping your weight forward and your head down.
Mental tip: As you hold the ready position, relax and concentrate only on the starting signal.
Step Two: Explosion off the block
Pull your hands into the block to force your center of gravity forward. Throw your arms our first. Let the top of your head follow your arms out. Really use your legs to explode off the blocks.
Mental tip: As you push off the blocks, visualize dynamite exploding on a hillside.
Step Three: In flight
Tuck your head as your arms drop slightly and lift your hips toward the backstroke flags. Keep your body streamlined (toes pointed, arms together and forward).
Mental tip: Visualize "flying" across the entire pool.
Step Four: Entry
Drop your arms and head down and tuck your chin. Keep your hands and arms together for the perfect streamlined entry. Your entire body should enter through one hole in the water. After entering the water, dolphin kick down and lift your arms and head to redirect your body forward.
Mental tip: Picture tossing a pebble in a lake.
Step Five: Breakout
Streamline your body as you reach your swimming speed and arch your back slightly to bring yourself closer to the surface. Kick to the surface first and take two to three strong strokes before your first breath.
Mental tip: Imagine yourself as a sleek torpedo speeding toward a target.
So now, just imagine dynamite exploding, flying, pebble tossing and being a torpedo all in the space of two seconds; and, oh yeah, don't forget to listen for the start! Never mind what the body is supposed to be doing, try to get your brain figuring this out!
Tip of the Day: Hand Skills
Experts say that after kicking [see the previous Newsletters' Swimbits], hand entry is the most critical aspect of a swimmer's forward propulsion. When swimmers' hands enter the water, they direct a flow of water under their arms and past their torsos. This "lift", combined with a strong kick, is what enables good swimmers to stay on top of the water.
As your hand enters the water during the initial (catch) phase of your stroke, you'll want to keep your elbow high and your palm turned slightly outward. Slide your hand forward, as if putting it into a coat sleeve. Then turn your hand and the inside of your forearm toward your feet, point your fingertips down (or slightly across your body) and press your hand straight back. As you bring your hand past the center of your torso, your thumb should pass directly under your navel.
Answer to last issue's quiz (which athletes are considered sexiest....?)
Swimmers are sexy
Women get all hot and bothered around swimmers and soccer players, according to a survey by the condom manufacturer Durex. The company surveyed men and women in 15 countries to find which sports they found most and least sexy. Ranking high on the erotic list for women were men who swam and played soccer. Low on the list were horseback riders and shot putters. Men also put swimmers at the top of their lists followed by gymnasts and ice skaters. Female boxers, however, left them cold... so to speak.
Quiz: What works best for long term weight maintenance? diet only, exercise only, or diet and exercise?