Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Swimming to the Fullest

For the past several weeks I've been working on continuous swims — 30, 40, 45 minutes — and have finally reached the point at which I could probably just keep swimming into that sunset. It was time to mix it up again.

Today I swam:
500 yards free
1,000 yards pseudo IM (fly, back, fly, free)

While I took a slight break between the two sets, it was a little necessary after racing the first 500 yards and then starting that first 250 yards fly. I'll have to admit, however, that it was, for the most part, one-arm fly. But for good reason: follow-through.

Taking advantage of your full stroke improves your swimming stride, tempo and speed more than anything else I know. As I get tired, I know my stroke suffers. Big time. Just look at my blogs about suit burns on my neck and back!

One of my tired body's worst faults: cutting my stroke short. Rather than pulling along the underside of my body and flicking out of the water with a full stroke that ends near my thigh, I'll pull my arm up and out of the water at the waist or hip. That's just lazy. But when I'm tired or just in a zone it takes much concentration to optimize my stroke. So, I did some "drills" today.

I'll be the first to admit that throwing some butterfly into your workout is a good butt-kicker (and who doesn't like one of those once in a while?). Especially at the end. But doing greater distances of one-arm butterfly is one of my favorite swimming workouts of all time.

The motion requires follow through on the arm stroke and reiterates stroke after stroke the feeling of following through. It's like beating something into your head, but prettier.

So, I swam 250 yards one-arm fly, then 250 backstroke. Still reveling in the good feeling of fly and following through, I decided that breastroke was for wimps and another 250 yards fly were in order (if I were actually swimming 500 yards real fly today, then, maybe, I could call people wimps). That second set was tough and I paced myself on a semi-decent freestyle swimmer in the next lane. Wall after wall, I had to convince myself to keep going. Oh, that overwhelming urge to stop!

Despite being exhausted (first time in a long time!), I turned into that last 250 yards freestyle with my follow-through securely ingrained in my motion memory. I was tired, but my stroke was full and fluid. It took far less energy to swim at the same speed than it typically does when I'm tired because I was economical in my form. I didn't waste energy and took advantage of the full length of my stroke.

Moral of the story: Give it a try!

That's all for now. It's the last time I'll say this: off to that media ethics paper. It's due tomorrow evening!