This morning I spent an hour with a high performance female Triathlete Catriona Morrison who I have been working with since 2007. She is doing very well now after some major set-backs with a problem with her Achilles heel. Not just ‘an Achilles heel’ as is a recurring problem, but her real Achilles tendon. She is doing better now:
You will notice there are still issues in her stroke that keep popping up. I see her approximately every 4 to 6 weeks. It is not uncommon to have issues creep up. I call it the problem with walking a thousand miles; you may start out on your journey with a spring in your step but you won’t finish with it. So what I mean is your stroke deteriorates no matter what you do. We always try to find the ‘easiest’ way to swim. Unfortunately the easiest is not the fastest or most efficient.
The first issue that we worked on was her underwater phase which I divide into three parts: Press, Push & Recovery. Her Press phase was beginning to stop too early and she entered into her Push phase causing her to drop her elbows. Additionally she was beginning to hold her head up too high.
We worked on the ‘Press’ phase by putting on one paddle and one fin (opposite sides). The side that had the paddle on was then larger due to the paddle. This enabled her to feel the water and in particular the pressure on her paddle hand. We then had her copy that stroke pattern with her non-paddle hand. This worked well and we had the press-push phase back to normal. We worked on this one paddle/one fin on both sides.
The next area we worked on was the head position. The best head position is low. However with Triathletes this can be somewhat problematic because they must constantly look up and out of the water to target their position. So we talked about the three different head positions she uses; Granny Style (out of the water), head down looking forwards and head down looking down. We established the difference between these styles and then moved on to her breathing style, well actually the exhale not the breathing in.
To keep a relaxed feeling while swimming it is important to exhale properly. The normal way to exhale, on dry land is to breath in and out without thinking about it. In water we tend to hold our breath. This is hard work and it is important to constantly work on making sure that the breathing out is being done gradually and purposefully. Some swimmers use a ‘explosive’ exhale but I tend to encourage a more gradual (trickle) one for longer swims.