Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Swimming (Page 2 of 2)

Tearing The Hell Out Of My Swim Stroke

I committed to a tri swim clinic every Tuesday night in January. I’m already seeing the benefits, and I may even end up getting some private lessons once this session is over. All kinds of stuff I’m working on, and it almost all lines up with what I wanted to change about my stroke.

I’ve noticed a couple of things I didn’t like about my stroke over the past few years. First of all, I feel like I’ve been relying on my glide way too much and should try to increase my turnover rate. Calling it a “glide” makes it sound like a really smooth stroke. But when you call it a “pause”, which I plan on calling it from now on, it sounds not so good.

The pause is directly related to the other problem I’ve been wanting to correct–the feeling (especially on race day) that my lower body is way too low in the water. I feel like I’m just dragging dead weight around. Well, that’s what happens when you glide…err….pause, unless you are willing to up your kick effort to get your lower body higher. And I don’t want to do that.

When I’ve tried to increase my stroke rate on my own, the heart rate has suffered. Again, that comes back to the pause and what it had me doing mentally. I’ve been consciously focused on really thrusting forward on my entry, but never really focused much on my pull. The result–swimming with my shoulders instead of my pecs and lats. It just doesn’t make sense to use those little muscles to propel myself forward when I could instead use the bigger muscles to pull the water behind me.

So lots of one armed drilling in the near future. Lots of sculling and tricep presses under the water while kicking. Lots of pull ups.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

I plan on having an easier entry, focused question-mark pull, and higher rate by May.

Hopefully ~7 minutes off my 1.2 miles swim too.

I Need A Pissing Contest – Why I’m Going To Get Coaching


I’m pulling the trigger and getting some coaching this year.

I’ve been quasi-diagnosed with ODD by some lesser-known psychologists, but I’m actually pretty coachable. The way I look at it, if I’m paying someone (or committing my time even) for coaching, I’m going to be all-in and do what they ask of me. Even if that’s at odds with the way I’m used to doing things.

People who know me may read that and think I’m delusional for saying it, but I’m a slave to a training schedule. I do what it says. Most of the time anyway. And I trust it–sometimes to a fault. That’s what it means to be coachable–trusting the coach and doing what they say to do. No questions.

But I can read the research and follow a schedule on my own. That’s part of the reason I’ve never sought out any coaching for triathlon. Well, that, and I’m cheap.

I don’t need a coach to motivate me to do something I love, right? And I’m pretty hard on myself during training. I know how to dig down deep and get more from my body than it wants to give.

I’m a “pusher”.

At least I thought I was before last year. But 2012’s results have me a little worried that is no longer the case.

Let me back up…

When I first started training to run distance in 2003, I’d been playing rugby pretty much continually for 10 years. A lot of rugby training translates to endurance sports, so it was really easy transition for me. I already had pretty good endurance and strength base, with an especially strong core.

Yes,there are muscles under there.

In that 10 years, I’d never let my fitness go either, and I was used to a rigorous training schedule. There were off-seasons in rugby, but that was a lot like recovery periods for endurance training, and I always kept up my maintenance training during those times as well.

I’m not claiming I was ever the fittest guy on the team, but I was often the fittest guy over 200 pounds.

But more importantly, I had built up a gritty mentality. All of our squad training and most of my training outside was done with the same group of guys or a subset of them. That meant you always had someone watching, even if there wasn’t a coach around. There was always someone there to see you quit. There was always someone who would know if you were bagging it during a sprint. There was always a guy in the weight room who could lift more and would push you to lift more. Everyone had little injuries and hurts at all times, and there was always someone hurt worse than you who was still playing.

It made for a very testosterone driven atmosphere. That was a good thing. I’m not saying that it motivated everyone to push themselves to their limits, and I’m not claiming I always did either. I had my share of lazy days. But that atmosphere and the fact that not everyone was lazy on the same days kept the bar set at a pretty high level at all times. You knew the days you didn’t reach that expectation, just like you knew which guys didn’t care if they ever reached it.

And some of us never wanted to be “that guy”.

So you pushed. You didn’t have a choice.

That was the mentality I had when I started training for endurance sports, and for the next 3 years. Even when I went through periods of what I like to call “taper-training“, where I was really lazy, I could always show up on race day and find some push.

Fast-forward to January 2012. I decided to get back into training for long distances. I decided to kick it off with a 70.3, but I wasn’t really happy with those results. So I decided to do a marathon to try to fix what was ailing my run. And I wasn’t happy with those results either.

I stuck with the schedule for both of these events, and I was really happy with my effort level during training. So why didn’t I get the results I wanted?

I’m not one to beat myself up over that kind of stuff for long. But I have realized there’s a problem that goes beyond the fact that I’m getting older. Injuries and heat aren’t going to cut it for long term excuses either–those are just a fact of racing that everyone has to deal with. So the last few weeks I’ve been doing some reflection, and I think I know what may have happened. It all began at the beginning.

Here’s what my starting point looked like in 2012:

I hadn’t done anything more than an Olympic distance tri since 2006. 10k was the furthest I’d run. I was living in a house with 4 women. Granted, three of them were under 5 years old, but still, it’s pretty much a testosterone-free zone.

I was living in a new town, not actively playing rugby. So I didn’t have an expectation there to meet, and I didn’t even have the peer pressure of being around guys I used to train with and the pissing contests that were involved in everything they do (rugby, running, lifting, eating, drinking, skirt-chasing, etc.).

That, I think, is the real problem in a nutshell...I haven’t been living in a perpetual pissing contest.

And I like pissing contests. I need pissing contests.

I wasn’t coming into training in couch-potato shape or anything like that. I don’t think fitness is the problem at all. I think I may have forgotten what it’s like to push. I mean really push. I think it’s something I may have unlearned. I mean, I think I’m pushing during training, but how can I tell if I really am?

So that’s where coaching comes in. A coach can see what you’re doing from the outside and test you, make you run that one extra interval. A coach can throw you a surprise workout that an 18 week schedule can’t. A coach can disrupt everything. A good coach will do all of these things.

Hopefully, a coach can help me reset my definition of what “push” means.

So I’m starting a triathlon specific swim clinic at the gym on Tuesday. I’m hoping everything about my swim gets torn apart and rebuilt. I’m in a good situation to do that–my cardio is fine, so I can handle long workouts, but I haven’t been swimming enough lately to have my horrible habits burned into my muscle memory in the way they would have been if I was coming off a training plan.

I’m planning on a running coach for February and beyond too. I’m hoping to maybe fix some mechanics, and definitely fix my head.

If I’m completely wrong, and I don’t get pushed that much, at least I’ll get some information I didn’t have before, meet some training partners, get some new workouts, and a new source of accountability.

But I’m pretty sure I’m right about the pushing thing.

High Level 2012 Workout Stats

ANYTHING for love

This is all rounded to the nearest whatever. Burn was right at 235,000 calories this year.


28 miles, 15 hours, 36 minutes

This is pretty pathetic. I have to crack down on my swimming. I fall in a bad habit of giving up everything I’ve gained when a race is finished. Starting a swim clinic on Tuesday…hopefully that will kick me in the aise.


1704 miles, 89 hours, 7 minutes

Slacked off on my cycling during marathon training this year. Another mistake. Should have hammered it even harder. Setting a goal of 3,000 miles for 2013.


697 miles, 110 hours, 5 minutes

Not too bad, but I could have done a lot more in the beginning of the year, and I gave up about 100 miles in the three weeks leading up to marathon. Mulling a goal of 2,013 kilometers in 2013. That would be 1,250 miles…very doable.

image credit

Haven’t Link Dumped In A While

The Age Of Data Wars Dawns

Cool Ironman Kona Infographic – Check out the decrease in bike/run splits. And the fairly level swim splits.

The Future Of Working From Home – Things are definitely moving this way. I’m pretty sure if I had to go back to a normal office situation, I’d struggle with it.

Chrissie Wellington: The Mind Over Body Battle – And you think you suffer? Love hearing how this affects even the super-humans.

Easily Monitor and Manage all of your WordPress Sites with WP Remote – Thanks to @mwender for this one. Great time saver

Google Turns Turtle and Takes Street View Underwater – Coming soon to iPhone5!

Alternative ways to ride The Downward Spiral – I created a Spotify playlist based on this. A couple of the songs weren’t in Spotify, but I found some good substitutes. Just reading this makes me afeared.

Whoa, Dude, Are We Inside a Computer Right Now? – Is it wrong that this seems completely reasonable (and likely) to me?

Solo or Group? Train Your Way – I’ve been opting for the solo route a lot lately. It’s quiet.

How To Determine Your Long Run Training For Any Triathlon Distance – Some really good info here. It’s hard to train for a distance event and fill like you got enough running in. The truth is, you really just can’t, but you can get the optimal amount.

Accessing SharePoint Lists with SQL Server Integration Services SSIS 2005

Raising Children To Become Productive Adults – In short, walk it like you talk it. Applies to pretty much everything in life.

Simple Tips to Help Your Grocery Budget – As always, thanks to @couponkatie for all the amazing tips and deals she points us to!

A Glass All Empty – When your S.O. gets on the wagon. Both of us are for the most part…one due to pregnancy and nursing, the other due to choosing brownie calories over beer calories. Must to get faster, and those calories slows me down.

An Unexpected Ass Kicking | Blog Of Impossible Things

Early December Swim Project

2:3 Breathing

I’m a 1:3 breather right now, which means I breathe every 3 strokes. This works out because it lets me breathe on both sides of my body which is easier on the neck and get a good look-see to both sides. The downside is that you don’t get much oxygen breathing that way. As a result of that (and horrible technique overall), I’ve never really swam to what I think my potential is.

In races I usually throw in some periods of 1:2 breathing, which is breathing every other stroke, always to the same side. More oxygen available, so I do this when I need to accelerate.

2:3 breathing is 2 breaths every three strokes. So it’s R, L, (R), L, R, (L), R, L, (R), L, R, (L)…

I’m going to spend a couple of weeks working on nothing but changing to the 2:3 technique and doing a better job of keeping my head low and reducing bow drag. Going to a January swim clinic to work on everything else.

Michael Phelps Rant

Dear citizens media of the United States,

Michael Phelps doesn’t owe you a damn thing. He doesn’t owe you/us/anybody another gold medal or an explanation about “what happened”. Stop using words like “disaster” and “disappointing” to describe anything he does or doesn’t do at the Olympics.

Ditto for every other athlete competing there in every other sport.

Ditto for every other athlete competing at any other level.

I swim, but I’m not really a swimmer. My longest workouts of an 18 week triathlon training plan are about what real swimmers–even the ones who are a long way from being Olympic athletes-do as a warmup before their main set. And I go about half their speed.

And they do this daily.

At 4:00 am.

And again at 4:00 pm.

For years.

With no real off-season.

What these athletes do is nothing like the trip to the gym that most of us take to “work out”. They aren’t chatting with friends between sets, listening to a 10 song playlist and calling it quits, or watching “Saved By The Bell” reruns on the screen of the cross trainer while they work to the point of almost sweating. I’ve had swimmers who weren’t even D1 level tell me their stories about swimming through their teammates’ vomit floating on the surface of the pool and having their goggles fill with tears from the pain they were suffering during training.

During the cycling road race, I heard one of the commentators mention an East German training tactic of putting a cyclist on the trainer in front of a concrete wall and having them ride for hours looking at nothing, just to build mental toughness. How mentally tough do you have to be to spend all your training staring at a black line on the bottom of a pool?

So, in closing, get off the guy’s ass. He’s been staring at the bottom of a pool for 20 years. So what if he wanted to coast into this Olympics with (relatively) little training and just enjoy the experience of being there and have some fun? He’s done this long enough to know he’ll get what he earned, and that’s something he has to come to terms with on his own (*UPDATE* Coach Vance points this out better than I did after Phelps’ post-race interview).  He’s smart enough to know that he isn’t going to be the best in the world for the next 300 years either.

He doesn’t have to answer to anyone but himself.

The second we see swimmers jump into the pool and splash around like idiots instead of actually trying to win a race, it will be time to complain. Until then, anyone who is “disappointed” when watching (from their sofas or broadcast chairs) any of these athletes’ performances should hit the off button, get up , and go do something about it themselves.

Rinse and repeat for NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA sports, and all little league competition.



Finally Training Out Of The House

One of the downsides to telecommuting is that it’s very easy to become withdrawn, especially if  you are a natural introvert like me. I find myself going days on end without leaving the house unless it’s for a quick trip to the gym,and I’m usually under water for most of the time I’m there. I do make it off of our street quite often to go out running and riding, but that hardly counts as “going out”.

The upside is that training solo makes racing solo a little easier. The downside is that you don’t get that little extra push on the tough days when you’re training alone, and you don’t get little nuggets of wisdom and information from other athletes. I was really lucky to find out about an open water swim/run brick group that meets close to the house, and I was able to actually go out last night and participate, which was awesome!

The Running Zone sponsors this workout every Wednesday night at Pineapple Park near the Eau Gallie causeway. There are a couple of swim options, and all kinds of athletes swimming a variety of paces show up. Lots of people do a quick 0.4 mile out and back swim, but there’s also the opportunity to get a full 0.8 mile (~1400 yards) swim without doing two laps of the .4 course.

See how close that is to the 1500 meters you’d swim in a Oly? See how easy it would be to do the 0.8 + 0.4 for a total of 1.2, which just happens to be the exact distance you swim in a 70.3?

Dang. I wish I’d known about this when I was training for the Haines City 70.3. I did one short single solitary open water swim before that race, and I really paid for it.

The great thing about swimming here is that when you’re done you are in the perfect spot to get a run that includes the causeway. That’s the closest thing we have to a hill here. It’s not very steep and not very long, but it’s the the best we have, and it has a very nice pedestrian walkway that is safely protected from traffic by a bike lane and concrete dividers, so it’s very safe.

Now for the best part…all the added information you get by going to where people are and actually talking to them. I met a couple of good dudes last night who gave me all kinds of information on local and semi-local races. Better than that, I got information on even more organized open-water swims and group runs. There are all kinds of opportunities for long runs with Gatorade/water support and social runs throughout the week. I’m going to make it out Sunday for the group long run, and this Wednesday night swim is going to be a staple of my weekly schedule!


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