Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Prime Movers (Comparing Swimming to Running)

I drank 3 shots of espresso this morning... because Wednesday. Jogging down to the pool I was trying to decide on the main set I wanted to do today... something long and strong, I thought. After a super easy warm up I told my friends, "5x500 @8:00, descend 1-5." Boom. Let's do it.

Nalani and I used paddles while Mark and Lectie swam. Lectie only had time for 3 which I thought was perfect b/c Mark would kill himself trying to keep up with Lectie then she would get out and he would be trashed and by then I would be swimming faster and I would try to make Mark suffer on the last 2! #gameplan

#1 was 7:29 which was faster than it felt. That's typically a good sign. Lectie and Mark were way ahead.
#2 was 7:23, again faster than it felt and I kind of thought crap I still have 3 to go I hope I didn't just screw myself!! Lectie and Mark didn't get any closer.
#3 was 7:14 OMG how am I going to do 2 more faster than that?? I decided #4 would have to just feel fast and #5 was going to be a nausea inducing effort. Lectie got out after racing Mark on this one.
#4 was 7:11 and the nausea was already setting in (uh-oh). Mark swam mostly beside me the whole time and he noted that we were getting faster.
#5 was 7:05 and I honestly thought I was going to be sick. I beat Mark to the wall by maybe a body length and it took a minute before I could speak.

So. Solid set! I was trying to think of something of value I could write on this blog other than just blabbing about the main set and how it went down. I was thinking about that blog post yesterday and how I mentioned those runner girls and how I felt when I find myself working so hard and they just float right by me with seemingly so little effort... I guess my situation in the pool is pretty much the opposite of that... where I'm often the one gliding by. Why is that? Here's my thinking... Just like efficient runners, efficient swimmers are powered by the prime movers. Except instead of it being glutes, it's lats.

How's this for some bulging lats??

When I teach swim lessons in person I find myself constantly trying to figure out how to cue athletes to use their lats. It's not an easy thing to learn, but it's the difference between how efficient swimmers power themselves through the water vs how 'normal' people try to do it. I suppose just like the example I used about trying to fire up my glutes in the kitchen, athletes should try to fire up their lats on land before they're going to be able to do it in the water. Stretch cords are likely the best option for this because you can play with them pretty easily and cue yourself in different positions figuring out which is the best way for you to get those lats working. This guy does a decent job of explaining what I'm trying to say!

Of course there are other pieces to it but when thinking about what I changed today from my first 500 to the last, it wasn't really turn-over (well maybe a little turn-over increase) but the difference was mostly about the amount of tension I was holding via my lats. This is likely where the concept of distance per stroke comes from, because if my cadence stayed about the same but I was swimming 5"/100 faster, then the distance I was moving with every stroke must have been getting further. The confusion with DPS comes when swimmers sacrifice cadence to achieve it. Again the parallel with running here is between cadence and stride length. Ideally you're always running with a high cadence, but when you're running fast you're increasing your stride length. How to do that? Use your glutes to extend your leg out further behind you. Maybe every once in a while you see runners bounding as a drill but you never see runners actually trying to run fast by slowing their cadence way down and extending their stride length. It's not effective. And it requires a ton of energy! Same with swimming... to swim fast you need to keep your cadence up but at the same time use your lats to extend your reach and the amount of tension you're holding on the water.

Not sure if that makes sense, but there's absolutely a parallel there if you think in terms of prime movers (glutes for running and lats for swimming). When efficient runners run, the way their glutes work allows them to just spring right off their rear foot from one step to the next... vs quad dominant runners who have their butts in buckets have to work exceptionally hard to overcome gravity to get to that next step. So it's actually exponentially 'easier' to run when you're efficiently using your glutes! Same with swimming. If you're not using your lats as prime movers, you're likely not moving quickly enough through the water to overcome drag and then you lose momentum between strokes... It's WAY harder to swim because you're restarting your forward movement with every stroke vs continually gliding the way an efficient swimmer does. You still need an enormous amount of swim specific fitness, but when you combine that fitness with effective use of prime movers, you're really on your way to moving fast, regardless of the sport!

1 comment:

Karen said...

I've been lurking on your blog forever but I had to comment because this post is so apropo!!! I had a 500y swim test yesterday and absolutely saw this in action. My w/u was strong and I felt long and good and effortless. I did those 500 in 9:23. My actual TT was 8:48, but I felt like I was fighting the water and expanding all my energy. For ~30 seconds? Not worth it. It's totally the fact I sacrifice my length for cadence when I am swimming a harder effort. Love the way you have described this here; totally helpful! Will take this to the pool from here on out.