Just Like Starting Over

I’m just getting back into a regular pool practice routine. While I’ve had a few good swims in lakes over the last few months, inertia and a bum shoulder have taken their toll. My lack of muscle tone has been obvious as I “start over.” Kudos to those of you who’ve stuck it out this summer. I see you on social media, and I’m a bit jealous.


But enough of that. This post is for those of you who are also restarting your swim routine. This is a routine I’ve been using for the past few weeks, designed specifically to develop a better freestyle and to help with conditioning. The fact that I’ve lost muscle tone gives me the opportunity to re-teach my mind and muscles. And break old habits.


Focus on controlled swimming at a moderate pace.

  • Not slow, sloppy warm-down technique. You should feel some resistance and progress, but nothing close to full training pace.

  • Don’t use a time clock. Give yourself about 10-20 seconds between sets.

Use training fins.

  • Avoid long snorkeling fins, but find medium length Zoomer style fins.

  • Near the end of the set, take them off for the last couple laps. Notice the difference. This should be a good example of why all swimmers need a decent kick!

Keep your heart rate low.

  • For me, that’s in the 120-140 bpm range. (I’m in the mid-sixties. Your rates may differ.) Think of the pace as a brisk walk where you’re starting to breath a little heavier. Low heart rate training (Zone 2) seems to be a thing in the triathlon crowd.

Zero in on streamlining, body position/rotation and the catch.

  • Use alternate side breathing. At a moderate pace, this should be quite manageable.

  • If breathing on one side is difficult, train yourself to breath on that side. Everyone has an awkward side, but learning to breathe on that side has benefits. Do some laps breathing on the awkward side--but not a whole lot at first, as your body position will not be optimal.

  • Once you’re comfortable breathing to either side (it’s never as good, but comfort is the goal), use it. Even once you’re “up to speed” continue with alternate side breathing during warm-ups and some drills.

10 X 150 with 10 seconds rest

  • 1 X 50 6-1-6 Drill

  • 1 X 50 Catch-up Drill

  • 1 X 50 Really clean stroke with front quadrant timing. Zero-in on streamlining and rotation

6-1-6 Drill

  • As you start, focus on being as long as you can from fingertips to toes.

  • Rotate about 30 degrees, lead shoulder drops down, opposite hip rises up.

  • Place your resting hand on your hips.

  • Kick 6 times, focusing on holding a tight streamline.

  • Breathe to the rotated side and when you finish the breath, rotate to the opposite side as you take your stroke and finish with that hand on your hips.

  • Return to full extension—fingertips to toes keeping your presence to the water (your “shadow”) minimal for reduced drag.

Catch-up Drill

  • When you start your stroke, focus on the same rotation as the 6-1-6 drill, with the stroking shoulder lowering into the catch, and the opposite hip raising.

  • When your shoulder is lowered, your strength comes from your lat muscles, and not the shoulder muscles.

  • Rotate as you pull through.

  • As you recover, return to the position similar to the start of the 6-1-6 drill.

  • Don’t start the next stroke until the recovery hand has returned to full position.

Front quadrant freestyle

  • Start at the end of the recovery.

  • Fingertips ahead of wrist, wrist ahead of elbow.

  • Find that same extension in the 6-1-6 drill.

  • While the opposite arm is about halfway through recovery, start the catch.

  • Stay long and lean as you rotate through the stroke.

  • Use your kick and the power of the catch (especially from mid-point to the end of the pull) to push you forward and maintain a clean body position.

  • You should feel more power in the stroke and rely much less on turnover for speed.

  • As I said, swim at a moderate pace for all 50s and hone in to your perfect stroke.

Happy swimming. I can't wait to achieve better conditioning and swim faster!


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