First off, I love the Swim Smooth swim types, it really seems to make sense and has given me new motivation to persevere with freestyle swimming.
As I am new to this forum, a bit of background. 6 years ago (in my 40th year) I competed in my first triathlon, a local sprint event, and attempted to learn freestyle for the event, to no real success. I have continued to struggle with freestyle all these years since and, although I have increased my triathlon distance to Half Ironman events, I still find myself resorting to breaststroke in the actual event.
The problems with my freestyle stroke are no doubt too numerous to mention, but at present there are two main areas of my swimming that I feel if I could fix would give me a good platform to move on with the rest of my stroke. My kick is dreadful! I have attended swim training sessions and always dreaded the kick-boards coming out because I basically don't go anywhere - although going nowhere is an improvement on going backwards which is what happened when I first started to learn freestyle! The second issue is breathing. I am quickly breathless and can't swim anything more than 100m without a breather, and I can't breath bilaterally.
So, having checked out the various swim types I decided I was a Bambino and found myself really motivated to get down to the pool to work through the sessions. Swimming with fins is a revelation! I surprised myself with the speed with which I was moving once I had the fins on. Not only did they help my kick function, they also help the feel of being streamlined in the water. The other revelation came with the sink-down exercises - it will probably come as no surprise that I don't fully exhale! As far as bilateral breathing is concerned, I am still working on it and it feels like it is getting closer.
But tragedy has struck in the form of my pool's ban on the use of fins! I have resorted to the use of a pool buoy and I guess my question for the forum is; is it ok for me to focus on trying to improve my breathing technique and learn bilateral breathing using the pool buoy to help me with this section of my stroke? What about my kick? Are there other exercises to help with this in lieu of using fins? I have tried the kicking on the side exercise but without fins I seriously don't go anywhere and this just gets me into a panic.
South Somerset, UK
Tell us about your ankle flexibility level?
I've recently recommended one of my stiffest swimmers to purchase Finis Rack. At around $30.00 / piece, it's not big money for all the good it can do.
Also, could you perform the following test and report back?
Take a kick board. I know I know, you hate 'em. Perform a flat out 25m with your face in the water. Don't let it hang out like swimmers do. Leave it in the water and only pop it out to breathe. And tap on the water with your feet as fast as possible. It ain't how hard as much as how fast you can tap, on the water.
Here's a little demo (with the exception that my head is out since kicking poses no problem for me). If you still can't move forward, then you're an extreme case. Not a lost cause, but just a case that needs more work. So again, no knee thing, no finess, tap on the water furiously as fast as you possibly can:
This is not the official way to kick. It's just a test to see if you can at least get an angle of attack that's sufficient to move forward. Angle of attack is what we'd call the angle that your feet have in relation to the surface of the water. The steeper the angle, the greater the propulsion.
Charles G. Couturier, Canadian Swimming / Triathlon Coach
SolarEnergy wrote:I've recently recommended one of my stiffest swimmers to purchase Finis Rack. At around $30.00 / piece, it's not big money for all the good it can do.
.... i'm the chap you recommended to try the kickboard test in another old topic (Amount of knee bend in front/back crawl flutter kicking), but found myself going backwards slowly because my feet (pointing to bottom when in stretched out position) "hooked" water forwards as I tried kicking down with a bit of knee bend. That "Finis Rack" seems like it might help me a lot! A while ago, I "splashed out" on a GoSwim DVD "Freestyle with Jason lezak" - which I didn't really like when it arrived - sprint stuff only, and the chap has an asymmetric "gallop" style - but he showed his training kit which included an ankle stretching board like the Finis Rack. So that's another item on my wish list for Santa Claus!!! Bye / Don
P.S. Paul Newsome does a very good demo for improving the flexibility of the ankles somewhere in the SS team stuff - in which he kneels down and sits back on the lower legs, pressing the feet down to stretch the instep. I used to be able to do that, but wrecked a knee joint in a sailing dinghy mishap many moons ago, so that simple solution is not possible in my case!
Many thanks for your reply. My ankle flexibility I suspect could be better. I have been doing the sitting back on my heels stretches Don mentions in his post and I guess the fact that it is pretty uncomfortable is a good indicator that my ankles aren't that flexible. I'm looking into the Finis Rack you recommended.
I went down to the pool today and performed the test with the kick board. On the plus side, I did move forwards, but very very slowly and very breathless by the time I eventually reached the other end! I guess another indicator of inflexible ankles?
I timed a couple of lengths, one with pull buoy and one without. A 25m easy length with pull buoy was around 27 secs. I did the same time without the pull buoy, but I would not call that an easy length! With the pull buoy I can comfortably continue swimming lengths without stopping. As soon as I introduce my legs I find 75m is probably the maximum I can swim before I have to take a breather. Trying to use my legs is something like tapping your head whilst rubbing your stomach; I really struggle with the co-ordination.
Is it a case of working on the ankle flexibility and (even though I hate it!) getting the kick board out each time I swim?
We're currently trying to investigate the impact of working with fins on running related injuries with another of my athletes. Will take a long whilst before ruling in or out this possibility. All we know at this time, is that the subject got mysterious running injuries at two different times of year, and that in both cases, he had done some work with fins. He's the arniest of all Arnies I've seen though, he only know about one way of trying things, and it's all out. All or nothing at all.
Charles G. Couturier, Canadian Swimming / Triathlon Coach
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