Wednesday 1 February 2012

Speeding things up!

After having my swim stroke analysed by Paul Newsome, the first thing I did was working consciously to avoid the 'arm press down' when breathing, as well as not crossing the mid-line with my left arm. Besides these flaws in my stroke, his analysis also showed a stroke rate of approximately 54 strokes per minute and I could clearly see that I had a little bit of a glide, i.e. a dead spot at the end of my stroke, which forced me to rush through the catch phase -- the phase which is most important for propulsion. Dead spots, or gliding, is something one should avoid since the only thing it's doing in that moment is slowing us down and as a result one has to accelerate again. Gliding and accelerating feels (and is) very inefficient. In a 60 min swim, with a stroke rate of 54 strokes/min, this would mean 3240 times gliding and accelerating!! Accelerating may also put more stress on the shoulder joints and tendons due to the sudden and quick force generated by the muscles. After having done this simple calculation, I was absolutely convinced and ready to get rid off this glide in my stroke. So, I took my Wetronome, switched it into stroke rate mode, bumped it up to 60 bpm and started swimming. During the first few workouts I felt terrible and rushed as if I was fighting the water and not working with it. And if this is not enough, I still had this little bit of a glide at the end of my stroke. I started doubting the whole stroke rate thing until I realised something interesting. It's not just about increasing the stroke rate but also to shorten your stroke a tiny bit and not reaching out so far. It's almost the same when transition from fast walking with a long stride into jogging (or running) with a much shorter stride but faster leg turnover resulting in more speed. Now, I can also do 65 strokes per minute (for longer intervals) without fighting the water. My goal is to keep my stroke rate up between 60-65, and once I am totally comfortable with it, I will go back and lengthen the stroke again while keeping it quick.
When cycling I also try to have a smooth and quick pedal stroke and not pounding the pedals down (The Art of Spinning). If you have ever biked on rollers, or a trainer, you know this uneven buzzing noise when you start pounding on the pedals. In order to achieve a smooth pedal stroke, I ride rollers, listen to the buzzing noise and make it sound as evenly as possible. As for swimming, I got myself a Wetronome and listened to the beep. As for running I do a lot of track workouts in which I aim for a high leg turnover. I recently found Good Form Running, a video which is linked on Jack Cook's Fast Trax Run and Ski Shop website. It summarises all you need to develop a quick and efficient running style.
I am confident that if I maintain a high stroke rate/ cadence/ leg turnover for miles and miles, my body will eventually adapt to it and I become much more efficient and faster by decreasing the risk of injury. Isn't that all we want? Absolutely yes! But unfortunately, there is always a catch: Changing a motor pattern that developed over many years of training requires a fair amount of time and dedication, but once it's done I am sure it will pay off!

Bring it on!


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