I like passing people when I’m on my bike.
You might too. In fact, I think there’s probably some innate feeling of conquest that many of us feel when we blow by someone. There’s some hidden joy in overtaking and passing someone else. Nevermind that they might be going 8 mph on a beach cruiser. Or look like they’re as old as Methusela. It’s just…FUN!
Now let me preface this a little. Lance Armstrong I am not. I’ve never doped. Oh, wait…wrong analogy. I meant to say that I’m not some uber-fast quassi-pro cyclist who averages 25mph or better every time I’m on my bike. I’m like most other age group athletes. I have good days where I can hold and sustain close to 22mph. I have other days where it’s killing me to go 18.
This Saturday, the weather for a ride was exceptional. The temperature was relatively low. The humidity was lower than normal, and there was hardly any wind. Plus, and early morning start meant that there wouldn’t be much traffic out.
And yet….there was a lot of traffic. Lots and lots of folks were out on the bike. This shouldn’t surprise me too much – I mean, the part of town where I live and ride is superb for cycling. Wide open roads (most with bike lanes) and not too much traffic. The picture below shows what part of my ride looked like Saturday morning:
Well, I saw literally hundreds of cyclists out.
After about half my ride, it dawned on me that there was a charity ride going on. I actually figured this out by reading lots of the little signs that were stuck in the shoulder announcing sponsors, distance, rest stops, etc. This weekend was the Tour de Cure – a charity ride that raises money for the American Diabetes Association.
I was passing folks all morning. My ride was an out-and-back, so on the way out I was headed opposite of most of the Tour riders. On the way back, though, I was riding with them. I passed a couple of fairly slow groups along the way, but the biggest group was saved for last.
As I was approaching home – literally only 2 or 3 miles from home, I made a left-hand turn and was suddenly upon one of the Tour rest-stops. I cruised by, getting some “Thanks for riding” and applause (I’m thinking that folks were cheering for my cool Rev3Tri bike kit and not mistakenly thinking I was riding in their ride), and then suddenly came upon a group of close to 30 riders. I stayed behind them for a hundred yards or so, and then decided to go into full-on badass mode.
I plopped down into my aero bars, geared down two gears and started grinding – all the while shouting “on your left”. I took it up to 25mph and blew by the group, keeping my speed and momentum until I completely dropped them and gained a solid gap. By the time I reached the end of the road and had to turn off to head into my neighborhood, I could no longer see the group. Ahhhhh….satisfaction. Not only had I passed this group, but I had totally decimated them and dropped them!
Now, I’d like to think that as they saw my blue and white kit zoom by them that they were awed at the sheer speed in which I passed, and were blown sideways by my slipstream. I hoped that they wondered if I were some top AG athlete or something.
In reality, though, I suspect that most of them likely thought, “Oh what a tool.” “Poseur”. “Show-off”. In retrospect, that’s what I would have thought were I in some group ride and a yahoo on a tri bike sped past.
And so, even though I had a really fun ride, and it was amazingly epic to blow past this last group of cyclists – plus the fact that I did it really FAST – the reality is that I probably didn’t do much for the goodwill building part of triathlon. I likely looked like an ass in the process. Part of me feels bad about that.
The other part wants to do it again.
One of the really cool benefits of being on Team Rev3 is that we get access to some very amazing products. For example, we’re lucky enough to be able to use Normatek’s awesome MVP pneumatic compression system, we get superior products from Powerbar and SBR Sports (Tri-Slide, Foggle, and Tri-Swim products), and have other great sponsors. We were really excited to add Biotta Naturals to our sponsor list this year (maker of great tasting and healthy juice products).
Well, this week the folks on the team and I are getting our hands on a new product – and I’ve got to tell you, it’s electrifying!
No really. It’s shocking how cool this product is! It will really amp you up!
OK….ok. I’ll stop with the puns.
The newest tool in our triathlon stable is Compex’s Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator.
For those of you who may not know what a muscle stimulator is, basically this is an electrostimulation unit that has been widely used in the health care industry. Compex is a tool to assist with building muscle size and strength, increasing power, active recovery and more. Basically, electrical muscle stimulation mimics the way your body works to cause muscles to contract and fire. For all intents and purposes, your muscles act as if you’re working out, lifting weights, or whatever – except that instead of voluntarily firing off (because you, say, lift something), the muscles fire when given a very particular electrical impulse. There’s a whole ton of science behind the use of electrical muscle stimulation (I’ll get more into that in a future post).
I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this tool – and mine finally arrived earlier this week. Having scoured the materials that came with the Sport Elite unit – as well as other information online – I was super excited to give this thing a try!
And so, last night I used my Compex for the first time.
And I think I really liked it!
I did a 30 minute trial run on my foot to see how this might help with my plantar fasciitis recovery. I did a 30 minute “active recovery”. This felt really cool. I’d describe the sensation almost as tingling – sort of like your foot or leg feels when it falls asleep…but not painful. It is odd, though, to watch the muscles in your foot move and jump without me trying to do anything.
You can literally use the Compex Sport Elite to help you strengthen any muscle group you’ve got. Back? Check. Shoulder? Check. Gastroc? Check. Abs? Check. Wait…..ABS???? Seriously?
On the off-chance that this can help me build a six-pack of abs, I decided to (don’t judge me) try this on my abs! I hooked the leads up to my lower abs (or as my wife calls it…my frontal muffin top) and turned this thing loose for an hour on “Endurance” setting. I jacked the setting up as far as I could tolerate, and went to town while watching a couple of episodes of Duck Dynasty on the DVR. Here’s where it got cool….it felt like I was doing a ton of crunches – but I wasn’t actually doing anything. Muscle contraction. Rest. Muscle contraction. Rest. It was AWESOME!
Guess what? Today I feel like I did about 1000 crunches. My core is really tired feeling. I feel like I had one hell of an ab workout yesterday. How cool!
I’ll be experimenting with this on other muscle groups over the next few weeks, and will ultimately do a full-blown product review. More to come!
Don’t forget to enter the TriMadness March Madness contest and giveaway to win $200 worth of Powerbar and SBR Sports products! Entry closes over the weekend – so get on in and enter today! Click below to do so:
It’s been a tough year for me so far from a running perspective.
I’ve literally only run three times all year due to a pretty nasty bout of plantar fasciitis. About three weeks ago, I visited a local podiatrist for an evaluation, and was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia. He took x-rays, did an ultrasound of my heel, felt around (causing me a lot of pain) and then gave me a cortisone shot (causing me even more pain). I was advised to be fairly aggressive with stretching, icing, and some exercises. I’ve been a good patient, and followed this protocol almost perfectly (shocking, I know).
Yesterday, I went back to the podiatrist for a follow-up appointment and got some really good news. I am able to start running again!
Of course, I can’t run far. Or frequently. But I can run!
“HE CAN RUN! HE CAN RUN! HE CAN RUN” (invoking a phrase from Disney’s Peter Pan…”He can fly! He can fly! He can fly!”)
And so, tonight, I’ll run. One mile. Slowly. It’ll be a run, nevertheless. Hopefully it won’t hurt too much – either during or after. Frankly, I’m a little nervous about it. I don’t want to make the injury worse – and I sure as heck don’t want to suffer the pain again. I’m also really, really excited. I’ve been WANTING to run. That is the absolute worst thing – to really want to do something, but not be allowed to do it.
If you haven’t entered the TriMadness March Madness triathlon contest & giveaway yet – DO SO NOW! The contest is open for a few more days, and you can rack up lots of entries for very little effort. Click the logo below!
Here’s a quick, bulletized, update for the day!
Hope you have a GREAT weekend!
If you follow me on Twitter (if you don’t, shame on you. Go do so here), you know that for the past two months I’ve complained intermittently about my left foot hurting.
You see, way back on January 15th, I was out for a super-easy run. Nothing big. Just around 3 miles at a leisurely pace. Well, about two miles in, I felt a painful twinge in my left heel. Almost as if I stepped on a rock. I sort of ran through it, although I had to stop and walk a couple of times. By the time I got home that night, I could hardly walk without limping. Having dealt with all sorts of nagging injuries over the years, I suspected that I either (1) stepped on something and really bruised my heel, or (2) I had plantar fasciitis. So that night, I iced my foot, rolled my calves with a foam roller and slept in my foot split. The pain ebbed and flowed for a couple of days, but by the first of February I was almost pain-free.
Until I ran again.
This time, I didn’t really have any pain while I ran, but by the time I was done running, my foot was done being pain-free. And so I took off a couple more weeks. All the while, I was icing some, rolling a lot, and my lacrosse ball and I became friendly.
Again, the pain started to subside. So I ran again. (You’re seeing a pattern develop here, right?) Just as you would guess….no pain during the run, but crazy painful afterwards.
I was hoping that I didn’t have something majorly wrong with my foot.
The red circle represents where my foot hurt the most. In reality, if you slid the red circle down towards the bottom of my heel just a little, that’s actually where it hurt the most. And my foot also hurt along the edges of my heel on both the lateral and medial side (that means on the inside and outside). This didn’t feel like plantar fasciitis.
As all self-respecting triathletes who think they are injured should do, I tried to self-diagnose myself. I went to Google. I read hundreds of articles, posts, and blogs about heel pain. Achilles tendonitis? Maybe. Stress fractures? Could be. Plantar Fasciitis? No way. Almost everything I read said the pain was where the blue and green areas are on the graphic above. In fact, the last time I had PF, it was where the blue area was. Based on where my foot hurt, surely this was something serious!
Here we are, 60 days out from my initial feeling of pain, and I’ve only run 3 times in 2013! How the heck am I supposed to be a triathlete if I can’t run? How will I ever race in Knoxville in early May?
I finally caved and called a podiatrist yesterday. Based upon the experience of my teammate, Joshua, I decided to call Dr. Vimal Reddy at Jacksonville’s First Coast Foot & Ankle Clinic. Surprisingly, they could see me this morning.
I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t have a stress fracture or alien in my heel or something.
So this morning, I arrived at Dr. Reddy’s office and shared my story with the nurse. I got a couple of x-rays done (I guess to rule out stress fracture) and then sat and waited for the good old doctor. Dr. Reddy finally made his grand entrance, and I recapped again what has been ailing my foot. He proceeded to do an ultrasound of both my feet and then announced…
“You’ve partially torn your plantar fascia.”
“WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! But my arch doesn’t hurt!” I said.
Well, it turns out that many folks who have plantar fasciitis don’t actually feel the pain in their arch….they feel it exactly where I do. And, it’s a good thing that I’ve been rolling, icing, and becoming BFF’s with my lax ball and golf ball, as those efforts have likely been keeping my PF from getting worse. Dr. Reddy showed me on the ultrasound where I’ve got some really magnificent scar tissue built up, and then he proceeded to PUSH ON IT! Which of course, hurt like crazy.
We talked about stretching, icing, and such….and about how I can’t run for at least two more weeks. Then we talked about getting a cortisone shot to help with the swelling.
I’ve heard about those. My wife has had a couple in her shoulder and says that they rank right up with childbirth in the pain department. Now, I’m a big sissy when it comes to pain, so I’m not going to lie. I was not looking forward to this.
Dr. Reddy sprayed some chemical stuff on my foot to numb it. It sort of looked like the stuff that comes out of those cans of air that folks use to clean out their keyboards at work…you know the stuff that has warning about not exposing the liquid to skin because you could get frostbite! And then, injection time, baby!
Dr. Reddy used the ultrasound to pinpoint the needle (Ha – see that….PINpoint the NEEDLE) to the correct spot. Holy COW! IT HURT!!!! I don’t know if it felt like child birthing pain or not, but it’s not a feeling I’d like to have on a regular basis. As I was leaving I mentioned how painful the shot was to the receptionist. She said that because he used the ultrasound he could pinpoint the exact spot to do the injection and there was no guesswork involved…but that approach did tend to hurt folks more. Yay. Lucky me.
Well, now we know. The diagnosis is…Plantar Fasciitis. No running for at least two more weeks. Just more icing, rolling and making friends with my balls. Um….that sounded bad. My lacrosse and golf balls. Hopefully that stuff, combined with a pretty rigorous stretching approach, will lead to some improvement. I have read about some of the risks associated with having cortisone injections (like ruptured tendons), so I most likely will not have any more injections…hopefully one makes the swelling and pain abate some and then the more “natural” remedies I’ll follow will do the trick.
Have you ever had PF? What did you do to overcome it?
That particular line is one of the more memorable quips from the 1975 movie, “Jaws”. If you haven’t seen the movie, shame on you – go rent it! If you have, you’ll remember that the sheriff of Amity, NY – a guy named Brody – made this comment whilst riding on fisherman Quint’s boat and seeing the massive, man-eating Great White shark for the first time.
The movie was a huge summertime hit – and literally scared people out of the water!
Now I know that sharks are everywhere, and that the likelihood of getting bitten or attacked by a shark is infinitesimally small. In fact, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department’s International Shark Attack File, there were only 80 shark attacks across the globe in 2012. Of those 80 attacks, only seven were fatal. Of course, slightly more than a quarter (n=26) of those shark attacks happened in my home state of Florida.
Still, I know the chances of me getting attacked by a shark in the waters where I might swim are rare. I live in St. Johns county – a southern suburb of Jacksonville (Duval county). Over the time period of 1882-2012, there have only been 55 attacks (2 fatalities) combined in these two counties.
And yet, I don’t particularly like swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I know those sharks are out there. And I know that they are hungry. And I know that I sound like a wounded seal when I swim (not that we have seals here or that any shark that lives around me would know what the heck one is). As a side note, I’m also not particularly fond of swimming in lakes or rivers in Florida due to the apex predator that lives in those ecosystems. But that’s a different story.
Back to the main point. I’m not a huge fan of ocean swimming because of the sharks. Now, I have even more reason to not want to go back into the water. Great Whites.
Yes, that school-bus sized, triathlete-eating, animal with 2,000,000 razor-sharp teeth and a unsatiable desire for human flesh. Okay. That was only a little dramatic and far fetching, but you get the picture.
Over the past two months, not one – but THREE Great White sharks have been seen in the area. Just this past weekend, OCEARCH – a research outfit out of the Northeast – literally caught and tagged a Great White shark in Jacksonville. Or actually about 200 feet offshore in 25 feet of water to be precise.
The shark they caught was not teeny-tiny either. Measuring in at 14.5 feet and roughly 2000 pounds, Lydia is a pretty good-sized female Great White.
Again….they caught her just 200 feet off shore!
Earlier this winter, another shark – Mary Lee – was spotted by satellite receiver (she pinged when she came to the surface) literally in the break line at Jacksonville Beach…just five or so miles south of where Lydia was tagged. Mary Lee, at 16 feet and 3500 pounds makes Lydia look like a toddler.
Hopefully, all these Great Whites are just like their northern land-shark cousins (like what I did there?) and only came south for the winter. With any luck, once the temperatures warm back up, they will head back up north so that they can hang around Cape Cod for the summer. Ya know, eating Yankees and whatnot.
In the meantime, there’s no way I’m going swimming in the ocean. Oh yeah….that’s not because of the sharks (they are there all the time). It’s because the water is just too dang cold!
This spring, PowerBar introduced a new product that I have flat out fallen in love with: PowerBar Performance Energy Blends.
What are these, you might ask? Well, I could say, “They’re pint-sized goodness” and be done, but I’ll go into a little more detail about the product and why I like it.
First: As triathletes, we eat more than our fair share of fuel on-the-go. We pack gels into our pockets or flasks, load up on bars for long rides, and knock back gallons of electrolyte and/or recovery drinks. I can’t tell you how much product I go through in a year, and the amount of training and racing I do pales in comparison to lots of folks. But let’s face it…no matter how much we love a particular product or flavor (my personal gel favorite is Kona Punch by PowerBar), after consuming too many of one type of product, our palates are left desiring for a different texture or flavor. Enter Performance Energy Blends.
Essentially, these blends have a mouthfeel very similar to apple sauce. Or baby food. Or apple butter. Actually, I think the texture is more similar to baby food than the others….and boy did I ever eat a lot of baby food when my kids were young. “One bite for you….two bites for daddy…one bite for you…” (Did I really just use the word mouthfeel?). They are smooth, not chunky, and very, very swallowable. In fact, I’d say that the consistency is similar to, but perhaps a little thicker, than some gels. Still don’t get the idea? Go down the apple sauce aisle at any grocer and you’ll see similar looking pouches of apple sauce or pear sauce.
In all honesty, Performance Energy Blends really do resemble those kid-friendly fruit packs. The packaging is similarly shaped, all the way down to the yellow plastic screw-off top. Your kids’ Motts these are not, however. The biggest difference comes in two main areas (1) caloric content (2) flavors.
PowerBar’s Peformance Energy Blends carry 80 calories, and deliver 21 grams of Carbs (19g sugars). According to PowerBar’s website, Energy Blends are made with their proprietary C2max, a 2:1 glucose to fructose blend. You can tell from the nutrition facts label below that there are really no ingredients other than fruit. There is a little Vitamin C and E added, but that’s it.
The absolute best thing in my opinion about these new Performance Energy Blends is the flavoring. Let’s be honest – we’re not going to eat anything that doesn’t taste good. And these taste GREAT! There are two flavors: Blueberry-Banana and Apple-Mango-Strawberry. At this point, it’s really hard for me to decide which I like the best. I ordered two boxes each of both flavors just two short weeks ago, and I am literally down to my last two pouches.
My first tasting was the blueberry-banana. These have a pretty solid blueberry flavor, with a nice banana finish. (I sound like I’m describing a fine wine…..well, I suppose these could be considered the fine wine of the endurance fueling sector). Neither flavor is overpowering, but I’m not going to kid you…you need to like this flavor combination. I do, hence I really liked this combo. You can eat these cold or hot – I’ve only had them room temperature, but others have told me that they are even better when cold.
After eating like six of the blueberry-banana flavors, I finally tried the apple-mango-strawberry….and Oh. My. Gosh! This flavor is so, so, so good! I’ve even been tempted to put it over ice cream (that brings the whole concept of endurance fueling to a new level, huh?!). Apple is the most pronounced flavor, but the mango and strawberry compliment each other to add a level of sweetness that is just perfect.
How would you use PowerBar’s Performance Energy Blends? That’s a great question! According to their website, PowerBar recommends that these would be good for pre-exercise as well as during-exercise fueling. I have not yet taken these out on a bike ride or run; I’ve only consumed them prior to starting a work-out. Just like most gels, I have not had any GI problems….not even cramping while doing a big swim set literally minutes after eating one of these Blends. Once the weather gets a little nicer and I put my bike on the road (instead of my trainer), I plan on taking one with me for a trial run. I suspect that my experience while on the bike will be no different than pre-workout.
So….at the end of the day, I REALLY like PowerBar Performance Energy Blends. They taste amazing. They are convenient to hold and carry, and really super easy to eat. And did I say they taste amazing!
Where can you buy them? I suppose you can buy them at major retailers that carry PowerBar products. You can, of course, purchase them online directly from PowerBar (that’s what I did). They retail for $2.99 per 90g packet (or $32.38 for a 12-pack box).
As triathletes, we spend a fair amount of time in the pool (or river, or lake, or ocean) swimming. The real question, though, is how much time do we spend kicking?
It’s something I’ve wondered about for several years now. I seem to think that the vast majority of triathletes don’t really swim. I suspect that most triathletes – especially those in wetsuits – pull. I’ve been known to do this myself. At most, I seem to do a two-beat kick….and that is only to help maintain my body position when I’m breathing.
Why would we want to kick? Wetsuits keep us in pretty good position in the water – right? And, as soon as we get out of the water, we’re going to use our legs like crazy. There’s no doubting that. We’re going to cycle some distance and then run, too. We should save our legs, conventional wisdom says.
And so we, the average age-groupers, probably don’t pay much mind to kicking during a race. I’ll bet that sentiment extends into the pool for training sessions as well.
We might do a little kicking during our sets…but again, probably not much on the average. Let’s consider what I do. I typically only incorporate kick sets into my warm-up. Usually, I do one set…5 x 50yds on the :60. I almost always wear fins, as I have a really crummy kick and really tight ankles. That set is not too hard, not too easy. Plus, it makes me feel like I did a kick set.
About a week ago, I was having a conversation with one of the guys that coaches my son’s swim team. I trust this guy immensely – and he has really helped me improve my swim skills significantly over the past year. For some reason, we started talking about kicking and why he thought that kick-sets were underutilized in both age group swimming as well as triathlon.
Here’s his theory. Kicking is not just about propulsion. Certainly a high kick rate plus high arm turnover generally equals higher speed across the pool. Moreover, a solid kick helps create good balance in the water, reduces dead spots in your stoke, and helps build strong hips and core…which are essential ingredients in having sufficient body roll in your stroke. All of that makes sense to me. In fact, as he talked about all of this, I was 100% on board.
That changed when he told me exactly how much kicking I should be doing.
Each swim set, according to this coach, should include 1000 yards of high quality kicking. At a minimum. Some should be with a kick-board. Lots should be without one. Most (as in the vast majority) should be flutter kicking. Some could be dolphin kicking. Very little should be breaststroke kicking. Kicking on your side is good for working on balance. Kicking on your back is also good for balance (and a change of scenery). All said and done, though, each set should have at least 1000 yards of kicking.
WOW. That seems like a lot. My calf just cramped thinking about that!
So have I incorporated all this kicking into my swim sets yet? Well….not exactly. Frankly, given that most of my swimming happens when I’m pressed for time, devoting a good chunk of my hour swim slot to kicking just isn’t going to cut it for me. I will, however, add this in when I have my longer sets planned (and hence longer time blocks). At this point, my plan is for every 3rd or 4th swim to include a big kick set.
I will also change my kick sets up too, just to keep them interesting. Some sets will be with fins. Others without. I’ll use the kickboard some. I’ll wear an old pair of shoes for other sets. And then, I’ll add in what I’m calling the “Funky Breaststroke”. Try this kick set the next time you’re in the pool. Ditch your kickboard, and instead combine a flutter kick with a breaststroke pull. I’m not precisely sure what this drill is supposed to do (other than make you work hard), but it’s fun! And hard.
What do you think? How much do you incorporate kicking in your swim sets? How do you vary them up to make them interesting? Do you think that we, as triathletes, should worry about kicking at all?
I’m a man of many flaws. Just ask my wife. Or my pastor.
But this post is not about my supremely human qualities…it’s about my God-awful, jacked up swim stroke. Chances are that you may have a flawed swim stroke too.
Before we get started here, let me tell you that I’m an adult-onset swimmer. Of course I knew how to swim before I became an adult, but I never really swam. I wasn’t a swim-team kid during the summers. I didn’t swim in high school or college. I was a lifeguard, though, so clearly I knew how to swim. Fast forward to 2006 when I signed up to do my first triathlon. I did what all (or maybe most) newbie triathletes do. I just jumped in and started.
And of course, I did everything WRONG. Frankly, it was a miracle that I didn’t drown.
Over the last several years, I’ve become a student of swimming. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my son swims competitively, hence I’m forced to endure multi-hour swim meets at least once a month. The collateral benefit of this is that I’ve become friends with his coaches (adding a new twist to the phrase “friends with benefits”) and have leached swim stroke suggestions from them. Last year I also spent some dedicated time getting “coached up” on how to swim.
Here’s the deal. I have flaws. Sometimes I glide too much. Sometimes I don’t glide enough. I can’t breathe bilaterally. I can’t do a flip turn (not that doing flip turns is all that important to a triathlete). I can’t do butterfly or backstroke. And when I start to get fatigued, I always fall into the bad habit of catching incorrectly.
Huh? You play catch when swimming?
Well - yeah. The catch is the part of your stroke where your hand and arm re-enter the water, and just before you start your “pull” – or moving your arm back to propel you forward. When I’m tired, I get really lazy and don’t have a clean catch. By that, I mean, I lead with my thumbs versus my fingertips.
Why is this bad, you might ask? Ever heard of “swimmer’s shoulder”? Leading with your thumb is one sure-fire way to over exert your shoulder, potentially leading to injury. How can you correct this? The simple answer is just lead with your fingertips. Well, that’s easier said than done. There’s a good drill that can help you break the habit of being a thumb-leader: drill with pinky-catches. When you’re doing your drill work (I do this using a pool buoy) practice your catch by making sure your pinky enters the water first. You’ll really feel the difference quickly. I often mix this drill in when I’m doing catch-up drill.
The other thing I do is a lot of cross-over. No…I didn’t say cross-dressing. Crossing OVER. As in my stroke crosses over my midline. Cross dressing – OK for some folks. Cross-over – bad for all swimmers.
OK, Mr. TriMadness. What is Crossing-over and why is it bad?
In the picture above, you can see a super clear view of how the swimmer has crossed his midline with his catch. Why is this bad? Well – quite simply, it’s bad because it can jack your shoulder up! Think torn labrum. Painful rotator cup. Surgery. Months of not being able to wipe your own hiney. Addiction to pain killers. Oh wait….perhaps that’s too far. Suffice it to say that this type of stroke puts a significant amount of stress on your shoulder joint, and can lead to significant pain. How can we, as lazy swimmers, correct this? My approach is pretty simple – especially when there’s no one else swimming in my lane. I make a point to swim directly over the lane line. As I am swimming, I’m constantly watching my stroke to make sure that my catch starts on the outside of the black line. Of course, I don’t just windmill straight down – my underwater pull actually is a modified “S”, bringing my hand in close to my torso right before I start my recovery. A few laps of really focusing on making the catch outside the lane line does wonders for you – and gives you a good “feel” for what an appropriate catch feels like.
Ever since I’ve been really focusing on these two drills, my swimming has improved. Of course, these aren’t the only two things that have joined forces to make me a better swimmer…but they certainly helped. And if I’m paying attention to what I’m doing, I very rarely have any shoulder pain during or after swimming.
So should you take my word as the Gospel of all things swimming? Heck no! My advice to learning how to be a better swimmer is this: do some research and (more importantly) get a coach. As I stated, I did a ton of research on the web. The website where I borrowed the pictures from (Feelforthewater.com) is the blog for Swim Smooth, and offers a lot of good pointers. You can even download a graphical depiction called Mr. Smooth that shows you what a good stroke looks like. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. Some were good. Others were not so good. US Masters Swimming (www.usms.org) and USA Swimming (www.usaswimming.org) also offer great resources. My biggest growth as a swimmer, though, came from having a trained swim coach watch me swim and give me tips and pointers. Surely there is a local swim club in your town. Check out the YMCA or local university. Even some high schools have swim teams. Ask for references from your Triathlon club. Find a coach, spend a little money, and get good tips.
And maybe, just maybe, your flawed swimming will become less so! I know mine has – even though I also know I have a long way to go!
I received the text below from my son’s swim team coach, and I thought it was really applicable to all sports – triathlon included. What do you think? Any other things that “great athletes” do?
Great athletes complete their strength training assignments in full: They realize that skipping little bits and pieces of their strength/agility assignment may not affect them much in their lack of strength/agility, but their skipping will affect them in their daily practice of functioning with focused integrity – the type of focused integrity one needs to be successful at the highest level of pressurized racing.
Great athletes view practice as a chance to perform at a high level: From “predicting” performance in practice to applying perfect technique, the best athletes find a way to make practice a mini-competition…even though it’s only in their own mind.
Great athletes have their best practices after their worst practices: To do this, an athlete must first actually judge their own practice performance – and then issue a grade for themselves (or a score of some sort). Great athletes enjoy leaving a practice knowing that they have improved – and so if in the mind of the athlete, improvement hasn’t occurred during a particular practice, the best make sure big improvement gains happen the next time out.
Great athletes are optimistic as they approach a performance: It’s easy to look for reasons that we think may lead to inferior performance (poor practice performances, bad warmups, “feeling” isn’t “right”, amount of rest achieved the night before competition isn’t adequate), but the best athletes don’t think along those lines. The top athlete at any competition are in a mind state that is centered around controlling their environment – and are optimistic in their excitement to “let it go.”
Great athletes tell themselves the truth: Athletes will always view themselves in an honest light. The mirror they look through shows the true reality of their own situation (as it pertains to training effort in andout of the athletic forum). There is no room for shortcuts in a top athlete’s preparation, and the best athletes will recognize a potential short cut – and take the alternaitve (tougher, more detailed) option.