Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Form trumps speed, form brings speed...

"Form trumps speed."  It's one of those phrases that Angie said that stuck with me.  It was sometime in the Spring and I think it was the first time she ever had us doing 25 metre sprints in the pool.  The message: don't let go of your form to try to get faster.

It made sense to me.  I got it, in the sense that I know working harder doesn't always make me swim faster.  Sometimes it only means I work harder and go the same speed.  Kind of counterproductive.

Recently, it's become a focus again.  Near the beginning of this session, Angie told me that I swim very prettily when I go slow, and it would be great if we could get my swimming to look that way when I go fast.

But, my fast swimming wasn't so pretty...

"You smash the water," Angie told me.
"Your arms remind me of a hamster wheel, just going round and round," Cindy said, in observation of one of my sprints.
"Swim quietly," Angie instructed me.
"When you go fast, focus on pulling as much water as you can, rather then just moving your arms fast," another one from Cindy.

Swimming well is hard.  I now have a pretty good idea what proper technique looks like.  I can observe it in other swimmers.  But translating that into reality isn't so easy.

I know some people get bored swimming laps.  I don't.  There is so much to focus on.  I try to focus on just one thing at a time, but it takes some seriously intense focus to keep some of my stroke flaws in check.  But, little by little, when I focus on those things, they start to become ingrained.  Then, something else presents itself as important to focus on.  Then, sometimes, I need to go back and remind myself of the previous flaws I've worked on...

And then, I go fast, and I forget everything and I look like a hamster wheel...

Until now.

Okay, I won't say that I'm a perfect swimmer, but once again, things are starting to click.  It began with the "swim quietly" comment.  Then the feedback to pull more water, which also reminded me to pull through the full stroke.

Then last night, we were doing the fist drill.  If you've never done it before, it's where you swim with your hands in a fist, which makes it so you really have to use your arms properly to help pull the water.  I found myself just slightly shifting the angle of my arm, and then it happened.

I was feeling the water.

It's one of those hokey sounding things you'll here people say about swimming: "you need to feel the water".  At least, it seems hokey until it's happened.

On the way back, (when I was swimming with open hands again), I felt like I was completely in control of the water.  I was no longer just moving through the water.  I was using the water to move me.

I got some feedback on my stroke.  I wasn't rotating enough on one side, causing me to do a funny thing with my wrist to keep it out of the water - since my elbow wasn't high enough.  And, since me and the water were connecting, I immediately got what the problem was.  I was able to work on it and could feel when I was getting it right.

Then came the test.  Some fast swimming.  The time when I tend to lose form.

And, I held it.  Pulling all the way through.  Rolling from side to side.  Grabbing as much water as I could.  I didn't smash the water, and I don't think I looked like a hamster wheel.  Wow.

Then, as a bonus, it was the first workout since my race that didn't leave me feeling completely drained and exhausted.  Kind of ironic (given it's my latest workout of the week, ending at 10:00pm), but maybe it means I'm finally kicking this cold!

Yesterday's HBBC points: 7 (60 minute swim + f/v point)
Week to date points: 20


  1. Deb it's so much fun to read about all of your breakthroughs! It's so exciting!

  2. This just goes to prove how valuable it can be to have someone watch and critique you, teach you proper form (as opposed to trying to learn it on Youtube), and make you do those endless laps.

  3. WOW great swim. I really need to take it up :)

  4. Your posts make me want to really learn how to swim (rather than fake it like I normally do). BTW: I fake it ok though.

  5. Love it when everything clicks!! Another breakthrough for you!

  6. I'm a terrible swimmer but this hit me regarding running. I've been spending months since the summer working on my technique, trying to improve my form because I'm sick of the constant injuries.
    Yesterday I ran a 15k race. As I ran, my only mantra was "concentrate on form, speed will come". Even on the $*@&$& 2km hill at the very end, I was thinking it to myself. Crossed the finish line 3 minutes faster than my goal! Very proud of myself today! Congrats to you for sticking with it - I've got to get back to the pool as well!