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Swim Club Blog: Rhythm is everything...

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

LET'S CLEAR SOMETHING UP: In last week's blog post, I stated that bilateral breathing isn't important and trying to teach it can make your stroke worse. I'd like to clarify that I'm referring to triathlon age-group swimmers, not youngsters who swim with clubs/squads. One of the issues which still exists in triathlon is that we've yet to develop specific coaching methods for mature, age group athletes. We generally take the same coaching methods used in swimming clubs with youngsters, the same drills, the same techniques and think we can apply them to a 40 year old, previous non-swimmer. It doesn't and never will work. They are 2 completely different people, we can expect that the youngsters who start early will, over time, develop a textbook stroke, that's not the case with a late starter, yet we spend countless hours thinking we can make it happen by using the same coaching methods.

Rhythm Is Everything

I've posted before about how essential 'rhythm' is for successful swimming. You can describe it in many different ways, but one thing great swimmers have is a rhythm / timing / flow to their stroke. I've said many times that becoming over-technical with your stroke and focusing on technique all the time is a bad thing and in this case, it can ruin your rhythm and flow. Watching swimmers who are obsesses with the fine detail, you can see the 'mechanical' nature of their stroke and there is a definite lack of fluidity. 

Rhythm, Rate and Glide

It's worth discussing a few terms which are common to swimmers and how they interact with each other. As a swimmer, you're very much encouraged to 'glide' through the water. No doubt at some point, you've counted the number of strokes for a single length as tried to 'glide' your way to a low stroke count.

The issue with gliding is that it tends to result in a very SLOW stroke. The arms move very slowly and the long glide is exaggerated as much as possible. By exaggerating the glide and slowing your arms, your stroke RATE is reduced (this is the speed of your arms, measured as strokes per minute, a bit like cycle cadence). Gliding can often lead to a stroke rate close to 40 strokes per minute and whilst this looks graceful and elegant, it really isn't very fast. This in itself is a key issue to highlight, swimming is a very 'aesthetic' sport... we encourage swimmers to be graceful, elegant and look good in the water. What you have to understand is that 'what you look like' is not the most important thing, it's how fast you go which is key. I'd rather be ugly and fast as opposed to graceful, elegant and slow.

It's worse in open water

Have you noticed that when you get into a swim lane and you're the only one in there, you glide through the water much more effectively? By comparison, if the water is choppy, you don't glide half as well! A slow stroke with too much glide will never perform well in open water as choppy water KILLS gliding. For that reason, you need to work on your rhythm and your arms need to be 'turning over' to ensure that you always have propulsion.

Things to consider:

1. Avoid dead spots in your stroke. As your hand enters the water, DON'T pause and glide, DO catch the water and immediately start pulling. It should be a continuous and fluid action, enter > catch > pull. At any time, one of your hands should be propelling you forwards.

2. There should be a natural rhythm... you can count it in hour head 1..2..1..2.. as your arms flow over, catch and pull.

3. Relax and don't over think the technique. If you start trying to be specific with your stroke, you lose fluidity, it becomes mechanical and the rhythm is lost.

4. If you want to swim quickly, you really should be at 60-70 strokes per minute or more. Your stroke count very rarely changes. If you swim 22 strokes per length, it won't change more than 1 stroke whether you're going fast / slow / fresh / tired. Speed is not dictated by your strokes per length, it's dictated by your 'stroke rate' (strokes per minute).

5. Holding 60-70 strokes per minute is bloody tough, so most people get tired quickly and slow their arms down to 50 or less. It doesn't require much fitness to slow down your arms and glide....

6. Get yourself a tempo trainer. This is a simple and useful tool which can allow you to set your rhythm. It's basically a metronome which goes under your cap, set it to 60 strokes per minute, relax and let your arms flow to the rhythm. Your hand should enter the water every time the metronome bleeps. When you get tired, you just need to keep up, rather than slowing down and gliding. The ONLY WAY to condition yourself to maintain 60+ strokes per minute is to do it in training.

The best in the world

Watch the swim smooth video below of Harry Wiltshire, first out of the water at Kona Ironman 2016. The key points to note are:

1. Only breathing to one side
2. One arm swings high recovery, the other low (not symmetrical)
3. No gliding in the stroke
4. There IS a consistent rhythm and rate to the stroke which never changes
5. There IS always propulsion, one hand is ALWAYS pulling, no pauses
6. Stroke rate is ABOVE 90 and at times close to 100 strokes per minute. Remember, we said many amateurs are 40-50 strokes per minute, he's going twice as fast.

See the video HERE

If you found this article really useful, then please share it as it helps us a great deal.

Remember that our coached open water swim sessions start first week of May at 3 Sisters Waterski in Wigan, details are HERE

The Endurance Store

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