A few weeks back I talked about my frequent frustration with swimming.
Even significant increases in yardage didn't seem to be helping me improve my swimming performance, so I decided to schedule a swim session with Val Oswald, former Texas Longhorn swimmer and local coach, to take a look at the technique end of things.
Val's assessment was pretty blunt. "You're not using your core -- at all." In addition, I was raising my head to look down the pool, causing my butt to sink. And I was crossing over with my stroke arms. And I was over-rotating my head when I breathed.
One of the marks of good coaching and teaching is the ability to identify problems and come up with simple solutions. Val's approach was to teach me three relatively simple drills: rotation kick, side kick, and the Tarzan drill. You can check out two of the drills here:
You'll notice that a snorkel is used for the drills (more gear to buy...sigh...). After several near-death experiences in the gym's lap pool I managed to learn how to use the snorkel without inhaling a gallon of water during each breath and applied myself to doing at least 600 yards worth of drills at the beginning of each swim.
Secondly, I started swimming longer, slower intervals, concentrating on descending my times over the course of the workout.
Has it worked? I think I'm on the right track. With summer coming in I've moved to the outdoor 50-meter pool for my recent sessions, and in today's swim I was able to consistently go faster over repeated intervals, including ripping my last 100 meters off in 1:37 (roughly the same as 1:27 100-yard interval). That's faster than I used to go on my first, fastest intervals, so I think I'm on the right track.
The final good piece of news is that I think I'm starting to be able to self-correct and analyze what's going on with my stroke much more effectively than I was able to in the past. Hopefully that'll let me build the muscle memory that will keep my stroke efficient through an entire swim.
Moral of the story? It's still early, but I think I made a smart decision in stepping back to ensure the fundamentals were in order. I'll keep up with the drills and try to move on from here!