An answer to my "problem"

It's always great to learn new things about swimming, even at my age.

In my last blog entry, I said I was working on improving my hip flexibility through yoga because my left and right legs weren't kicking the same way. After every kick set my left leg is more sore than my right one. For the past couple of years, I thought the legs were off-kilter because I had long ago had a slightly uneven armstroke, so I believed my legs were off-balance to compensate for my armstroke.

Last night, we got "Swimming Fastest" by Ernest Maglischo in the mail. I was leafing through the breaststroke chapter, and a lot of it reaffirmed my choice to switch to the wave breaststroke, including a section on loss of velocity during the leg recovery:

The flat-style swimmer ... produces a considerable amount of pushing drag during his leg recovery because he pushes his thighs down and forward against the water. Velocity measurements of many flat style breaststrokers have shown that their forward speed decelerates markedly when they recover the legs in this manner. In fact, many come to a dead stop during this phase of the stroke cycle.
The wave style swimmer ... reduces pushing drag by lowering his hips when he recovers his legs and bringing his lower legs forward without pushing his thighs downward. ... Recovering the legs in this way produces less resistive drag than pushing water forward with the larger thighs.

But I found the most interesting thing on page 227:

The final technical feature of these kick patters that I want to comment on is the slight difference between the movements of the right and left legs. Underneath kick patters show that swimmers' right legs have a longer and wider pattern of motion than their left. Asymmetry of ths type is typical of most breaststroke swimmers (Czbanski and Koszczyc, 1979). Just asall swimmers seem to have one arm that is more effective than the other, so do the legs differ in propulsion efficiency. The left leg is usually the inferior limb (Czbanski 1975).

Wow! This was probably the most insightful thing I've learned in a long time. Essentially, I'm not the only one who has these problems, though I've never heard anyone complain about leg strength differences.

This doesn't mean I won't stop trying to make my legs as close to equal strength as possible through yoga and longer kick sets.

If you want to buy a copy of "Swimming Fastest," go to amazon.com.


Back in the water, and loving it

Today was my first day back in the water since the Ron Johnson Invitational last November, and I was anxious to get back into shape. Wasn't too happy, though, that it was long course. As much as I love long course swimming, it's not fun when you're not in shape.

I've never been so excited about a masters meet as I am for next spring's nationals in Austin, Texas.

That meet is special to me for a number of reasons. First, I was a student-athlete at UT in the 1990s, and this will be the second time I've swum in the pool since I left in 1996. I want to be at my best, especially if my college coach, Eddie Reese, shows up at the meet. I hope he's there to see my backstroke, which he hardly ever let me swim because it was always too close to the breaststroke events. (I did, however, win the 200 back in a dual meet against ASU my senior year -- we all swam off events.)

The second reason why nationals is going to be exciting for me is it will be the last nationals for me in the 30-34 age group. I want to go out in style! I don't know yet what I'll be swimming (
here's the event order), but I think I'll do a couple of off events, like I did last spring in Federal Way. It wasn't fun to do the 100 fly, but I loved doing the 100 free, just to get out of my comfort zone. Before any of you ask, one of those "off" events will not -- NOT! -- be the 200 breast.

Today was my first swimming day, but I've been exercising for the past three weeks, taking yoga classes three times a week.

Yes, yoga is exercise.

I first tried yoga in 2002 when I was writing a story for the newspaper. It was fun, but the only problem was my schedule. I've resolved to keep up the practice for at least three months, and so far I think it's really helping me.

My goal in yoga is to increase my flexibility, especially in my hips. Breaststrokers are supposed to have flexible knees and ankles, but no one really thinks about the hips. They help get the kick in formation, and I think one of the reasons why my kick isn't as strong as it could be is my lack of flexibility. Plus, I think one of my hip joints is more flexible than the other. When I'm in yoga poses involving the hips, I find it easier when I'm stretchin my right hip than my left. It explains a lot: When I do kick sets, I find my left hip and leg more sore than my right side.

Plus, yoga can really stretch out those aching muscles. The last time I took yoga I did it after Saturday workout, and it felt soooooo good to devote an hour to getting the lactate out and paying attention to my muscles.

If you're interested in yoga classes and live in Tucson, you might try
Tucson Yoga. The classes are nice and the rates are pretty decent.

My first test of this new addition will be at the Polar Bear meet in Tucson. Hope to see you there!

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