Friday, January 12, 2007

Swimming Strokes and Running Strides, Part I

Focus on Swimming: Head Position

Natalie Coughlin looks forward to winning.When I began swimming in the mid-80s, swimming technicians stressed a high head position in the water, in which the water line hit somewhere between your brow and hairline. We even did drills in which we strained our necks to look far, far ahead of ourselves. But there were plenty of other missteps in the 80s, including, but not limited to, big hair, The Drive, Tiffany albums, and non-hydrodynamic swimming.

More recently, I've heard about techniques that emphasize the opposite, such as total immersion swimming. These approaches require a very low head position and an undulating body movement that reportedly improves your water efficiency. But the critics of this technique are plentiful. What's your opinion?

Michael Phelps looks ahead, but not too far.Last summer I attended a conference in Nashville, where I met a guy named Keawe who works at the Parker School in Kamela, Hawaii, with Matt Biondi. The Matt Biondi. Keawe had competed in the IronMan in Kona a few years earlier. He was a pretty fit guy, but admitted that he sucked at swimming when he first set his sights on the Man. So, he just had Matt Biondi coach him. The Matt Biondi. Keawe said that Biondi was really big into the immersion stroke, so I thought I would give it a try. (Because when Matt Biondi says it's the way to go, you follow his golden word; it's like LBJ telling you how to dunk.)

When I dip my head immersion-style, I feel a little more streamlined, but less controlled. And when my head is too high, my neck hurts and I feel resistance. Thus I have arrived at my own middle point, which is also illustrated in the images of Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin. They probably know something too.

Focus on Running: Where Are Your Arms?

Daniella brought up a great point about running: where are my arms? I've always known that my arms were important to my stride, but I never understood how I could make them work for me. Sometimes I paddle them aggressively through the air to keep my legs kicking; other times they're mere accessories, like my iPod armband.

Carmyn James, U. Hawaii track coach, provided these tips for positioning:
  1. Body Position: Tall posture with head and shoulders high, pelvis tucked.

  2. Arm Position: Shoulders squared and relaxed; elbows flexed at 90 degrees; hands cupped, not clenched.

  3. Arm Movement: Arms swing from shoulder joint, not from elbow joint. Elbows drive backward only, and thumbs drive back past hips. And, as Daniella advised, hands do not cross the midline of the torso.
    Source: "Running form key to success," The Honolulu Advertiser, Dec. 29, 2006
Resolution Update: Seven Miles to GO!

Finally, Big Willie Styles rolled me through 4 miles today, leaving seven to go!

I ran after work and I can't lie: I didn't want to do it at all. Various time-consumers kept me from going to lunch, but I managed to kick some butt anyway: I averaged a personal best 8:07 across four miles. My top miles were three and four, which clocked 7:43 and 7:51, respectively. As you can see from the Nike+ graph, I also ran pretty evenly this time, which was a first.

Can I do seven miles tomorrow? Or will I drag this thing out for all eternity?


Prof. Glidden said...

Hey, G...

If you decide to bust hump and finish on me? I'll join you at the Rec. Then...follow you to Starbuck's to watch you attack the dessert display case.

: )

Prof. G