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Chlorine Chronicle (Archive)

NMSC Dec/96 Newsletter


(contributed by Cathy Merritt)

The publications which I have been referring to in these columns are now in a folder in the swim box at the pool. If you wish to borrow any of them, just sign your name on the sheet. Don C. found a set of articles by Terry Laughlin, who teaches "Total Immersion" swim workshops, on the Internet. These deal with technique and how to make your freestyle more efficient. There are about 20 pages altogether and difficult to extract a "bit" from for this column. They are certainly worth reading for the ideas; I have put a couple of copies in the folder with the other publications.

The winter issue of Fitness Swimmer arrived tonight (good thing, as I was running out of material); I will get that out to you as soon as I've had a look at it.

Today's references:

[1]. Bob Prichard, "Slow Stretching, Fast Swimming:, Fitness Swimmer, Spring 1996, pp. 34-36.
[2]. Jane Katz, "The Skill of Sculling", Fitness Swimmer, Fall 1996, p. 20.
[3]. Sharon Fogarty (editor), in "In the Swim", Fitness Swimmer, Fall 1996, p. 10.
[4]. 101 Fitness Swimming Secrets, Rodale Press, p. 13.

Shoulder Flexibility

According to [1], the flexibilty in your shoulders known as "abduction with internal rotation" (AIR), is important in getting and keeping your elbows high in the freestyle pull (many of us have been told at one time or another that we are dropping our elbows), thereby producing an efficient stroke. Good AIR may also help prevent shoulder tendinitis. Here's how to take your AIR measurement :

To determine your AIR, lie on your back with your knees up. Spread your arms out perpendicular to your torso, bend your elbows so that your fingertips point up to the ceiling, turn your palms out, then slide your elbows up toward your ears [keeping your upper arms on the floor] as high as you can. Be sure to keep your forearms vertical... so your arms are internally rotated. See the picture in [1].

Ask a friend to measure the number of degrees your arm rises above the imaginary perpendicular line running through your armpits. That measurement is your abduction with internal rotation. When you have full AIR, the measurment will read 90 degrees.

So, after finally finding a protractor, I got my kids to measure my AIR. They thought it was funny; I didn't. Not only did I feel rather stiff, but I also felt rather old (like how am I going to get up off the floor again?). It's not likely that this flexibility is going to improve by itself over the next 40 years (or however long I keep swimming for).

If you're less than 90 degrees, it's time to start stretching. When you achieve full AIR-- 90 degrees-- (your arms will touch your ears) you'll kiss shoulder pain and poor mechanics goodbye. To improve this range, you've got to stretch your armpit muscles. With consistent stretching for a year, you should be able to improve your AIR and increase your speed...

The stretching exrecises are in [1]; I won't quote them here, because they make more sense with the pictures. Also, it is important to modify the stretch if you have any shoulder pain while doing it, otherwise you may be doing your shoulders more harm than good; so if you're going to try this, you should read the whole article. What was my AIR? Between 50 and 55 degrees on each side. Combined with my lack of ankle flexibility, I'm starting to wonder how I ever make it from one end of the pool to the other. Reading all these articles must produce a swimmer's version of medical student syndrome: I do that and that and that wrong (the things they're describing) and that wrong, too! I tried the stretch once and it did hurt, so I'm leaving that one for now.

Update to Ankle Flexibility

Joan T. said she could point her toes to 2-1/2 inches from the floor. That's excellent and confirms my suspicions about her kicking secret. Don C. said he could only point his toes to something over 5 inches. He also once told me that he was the world's worst kicker, but I know that's not true. Maybe he could only point to 7 inches back then. I'm thinking Roger must be able to touch the floor with his toes.

Meanwhile, I've now gone from 4-3/4 inches to 4-1/4 inches which doesn't get me out of the poor range yet. I haven't done the exercises much, but I've found backstroke kick with flippers to feel the most effective. I hadn't timed anything for a long time, so when I tried it the other day I found that my 100 Free swim was 2 seconds slower than in September but my 100 kick was about 5 seconds faster. At this rate, in about three years I will be able to kick faster than I can swim (or swim slower than I kick?); I'm not sure this was the improvement I was hoping for!

Sculling Drills

Sculling drills are a good way to improve your "feel" for the water, especially in the "catch" part of your stroke [2]. We have been doing a variety of sculling drills (some of which I had never tried before) in Bill's group, especially to help with breaststroke. The article [2] describes sculling drills and what strokes they are good for. Here are the more relevant (to us) ones:

The basic technique: In chest_deep water, put your hands out in front of you with your fingers straight and close together. Turn your palms out and sweep your hands and forearms out to the side beneath the surface, then turn your palms in and sweep back to the center. If you scull continuously, you'll be tracing an elongated figure-8.

The drills: No matter the position, the rounded, fluid, figure-8 principle of sculling remains the same.

Back-float sculling: Lie on your back with your ears just under the water. Move your hands close to and just under your hips, using the figure-8 pattern, with your palms facing upward as you scull toward the surface and facing down as you scull toward the bottom. If necessary, add a flutter kick. An excellent exercise for warm downs, this motion also helps you "feel" the finish of your backstroke.

Canoe sculling: Lie on your front with your back arched slightly. Your head should be out of the water with your heels just breaking the surface. Place your hands at your sides and move them in a figure-8 pattern, as you would in back float sculling. Use this to practice the follow-through in freestyle and butterfly.

Catch-up sculling: Lie on your front and extend your arms forward over your head. Scull in a small outward circular motion with one hand at a time or with both. This is good pracice for the "catch" of your pull in freestyle as well as breaststroke and butterfly.

The "S" pull: This motion, used in freestyle and backstroke arm pull, is really just a big scull. You can perfect your stroke technique by slowing down the sculling and analyzing your movements, making adjustments as necessary. Sculling is a microcosm of the arm motion of fitness swimming.

Answer to last issue's quiz: Rolling Stones

(Describe the new aquatic "sport" which makes our hypoxic sets look wimpy?)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the beach... there's a new exercise fad developing on the shores of Hawaii. But be warned, it's not for everyone. In fact, it's limited to lifeguards who work on the west side of Oahu and surfers who routinely surf 20-foot waves. Surfer magazine dubs them "exerpsychos". Here's their drill: carrying a small rock or boulder (which should weigh between 40 and 80 pounds), swim out into 20 feet of water, drop the rock and dive to the bottom, pick it up and run as fast and as far as you can along the ocean bottom (devotees average about 30 to 45 seconds). After the mad dash, drop the rock, return to the surface, rest 15 seconds and repeat. Some of the toughest boulder dudes can run 45 seconds at depths of 40 feet [3].

Personally, I think I'd have better luck at carrying that weighted tube across the deep pool (unfortunately(?) I missed that practice) or Don's golf, but a trip to Hawaii might be worth trying this!

Tip of the day: Backstroke

The backstroke is not so much swum on the back as it is on the side. Accomplished backstrokers have the ability to rotate powerfully and rhythmically from one side to the other. They spend as little time as possible flat on their backs - where the water's resistance is greatest - and as much time as possible on their sides, where they minimize the amount of body surface that must push through the water.

By rotating your body at the beginning of each (back) stroke, your hand can enter the water at a deeper level than it could if you remained flat on your back. The deeper your hand, the more powerful a fulcrum you'll have to push the water behind you.

Your head position is the key to controlling what the rest of your body does in the backstroke. Your head is the only thing that should never move in backstroke.

Quiz: The athletes of which sport are considered the most sexy by both men and women surveyed in 15 countries? (Hint: We're in luck - don't leave the pool!).

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