Swimnetwork.com Special: Getting into the Swim of Things

By Dr. Chris Colburn

So, you've decided to get in the water again. It's probably been a while since you last hit the pool. Maybe you swam your final conference meet or NCAAs a few months ago, or it could be a decade or three since you last attempted a swim practice. Maybe you're a triathlete or fitness swimmer attending your first organized water workout. In any event, that first practice can often be daunting. Following a few simple rules of thumb may improve your perspective, prepare you for the experience, and keep you coming back for more.

Rule 1: Say hello.

If it's your first day at practice, greeting your new lane mates and alerting the coach to your presence and status as a newbie can go a long way to creating a good experience. Your new training partners will be more receptive to helping you with the drills, local lingo, and the points of some of the sets. The coach, if you're fortunate enough to have one, often will check up on your strokes, and make sure everything proceeds as it should. While it may seem elementary, this can be important, especially in a large program with a number of coaches. Jim Montgomery, Olympic Gold Medalist and Head Coach of Dallas Aquatics Masters, has advised swimmers and coaches to "just say hello" for years. The staff follows up with new arrivals after practice and they find it much easier to do so when the new swimmers introduce themselves.

Rule 2: If you can, ask questions.

Learning about the coach (if you have one) and the workouts often makes for a better experience. Ask about the day's workout, the rest of the workouts for the week, or the overall season plan (if there is one). If you can, ask about these items ahead of time, so you can come on a recovery day, or a day that may best fit your fitness level. That way, if you can only show up on the day when the team is doing a 1650 for time, you can find out if you'll be in for daily doses of the same in the future. At Academy Bullets Masters, we often advise people of a good starting day so their first workout provides both an evaluation of the swimmer's abilities and a representative sample of the different kinds of work we do.

Rule 3: Understand what you can't do, and focus on what you can.

If you have come back to the pool after a long hiatus, you will likely find that the training you can handle now is significantly different from what you remember. Nadine (Takai) Day, former USA National Team member and holder of multiple Masters records, learned quickly that she had to limit her training due to some injuries she sustained in college. "Due to my back problems I can't do dryland, and my body can't take much hard training. I do a lot of drills, technique, and quality pace work. Focusing on the little things has really paid off." The key here is to be positive. Look at what you're able to do, and work with it. Working within some limitations may enable you to overcome those weaknesses.

Rule 4: Take the long view.

One of my newer swimmers, a recent college graduate who came to Masters four months after her last conference meet, finished her first practice saying, "That felt awful!" More often than not, the first day doesn't feel that great, regardless of your fitness level when you arrive. You may be out of aerobic shape. Your muscle memory might not be what it once was. The rules may have changed so much that people look at your turns and ask, "What ARE you doing?" In the big picture, none of that matters. You made it through your first day, and deserve some congratulations for a job well done. Keep in mind that the first day might be hard, but if you stick with it, each successive day gets easier and more successful as you adjust to your new routine.

Chris Colburn (aka DrCoachChris) is the Head Coach of Academy Bullets Masters in Aurora, Illinois, and the Chair of the U.S. Masters Swimming Coaches Committee. He has come back to Masters training many times, and firmly believes that the first day is always the hardest.

For more of Chris’ work and for more swimming, go to Swimnetwork.com.


AZ Open Water Series – Event 5

The fifth and last open water swim of the season is coming up on Sunday November 8 at Town Lake in Tempe. This will be the biggest and most exciting event of the year. The series champions will be crowned and it promises to be a lot of fun. You can register online or at the event, just remember that registering the day of the event is more expensive.

Swimmers and triathletes from all over are coming to this race, some for the upcoming Ironman Arizona Triathlon, others to complete the open water series, and still others just to see if they can complete the event. Whatever your motivation, it will be worth being a part of.

Special thanks to DCB Adventures and all the volunteers who make this event and the open water series available to our swimmers!


Six-tathlon II

The second Six-tathlon is coming up on Sunday November 8th at the Brophy Sports Campus in Phoenix. You can download the entry form here for this event. This will be twice the fun as the first because the distances are twice as long! So get your entries in pronto and get ready for a fun meet.


Getting Started with a Healthy Shoulder

by Jim Miller, M.D.

This fall, most swimmers will be coming off a break following the long-course swimming season. Coaches will be going to their annual national and state meetings, where they learn new training techniques and share some of their own experiences of the past year. The time is now to prevent injuries.

Assuming you can put the topic of high tech suits aside for a moment, the recent World Championship in Rome was inspiring with new, more efficient swimming on display. As an athlete, this is the time to improve stroke technique and work on those aspects of your training that are the weakest. If this time of swimming renewal is taken seriously, the year will be exciting with achieved goals and a decrease in injuries and soreness.

Swimming injuries are almost always related to stroke technique flaws. Overuse injuries in swimmers may involve the neck, lower back, elbow, or knee, but by far, the most common injuries involve the shoulder. Medical research reveals that between 60 and 80 percent of all swimmers will have a shoulder related injury, requiring them to take a break from training for one week or longer, at some point during their swimming careers.

So what can we do about it? Here are several tips to consider. They have been designed to help decrease this number and keep you in the water. After all, who wants to be part of that statistic?
The best treatment is prevention, so be conscious of your body. Listen to it and allow it to tell you how to proceed during your fall training.


Nutrition and Swimming

Want to learn more about nutrition and swimming?

Want to learn about these subjects from a world-class swimmer?

Yeah, the guy on that relay in Beijing...

Garrett Weber-Gale is a world-class swimmer, he is also VERY serious about proper eating and nutrition. Go to his website to learn more, it has a lot of good info on it.

Read and learn, you might just find a way to swim faster and live better.


Swimnetwork.com Special: Design a Training Plan

By Dr. Chris Colburn

You've taken the plunge, and gotten back in the water. You have a training routine, and you've set some some goals. What more do you need? A solid training plan gives you a structured way to both reach your goals and measure your progress along the way. Today we'll show you how to set up your own training plan, based on your routine and goals, to start you on the road to success.

What do you want to do?

You've already set your goals. Now, you want to structure your workouts to help you reach those objectives. Regardless of whether your aim is to learn a new stroke, swim a certain time, or finish a particular distance, put together workouts that will help you to achieve each component of your goals. If you don't have any experience designing workouts, consulting with a coach or training partner may help.

How long is your training cycle?

The length of your training season has a direct effect on how many cycles you can complete, as well as the milestones you set along the way. If you're training for a triathlon, your preparation might last a year or more. If you're following the long course swimming season, you may only have fourteen weeks. In either case, it's often difficult to near impossible for most Masters swimmers to train full time, so careful planning of available workout time is crucial to ensure the best possible preparation.

Vary your training, but keep your eyes on the prize

Many swimmers, even at the Masters level, find themselves getting bored if they do the same workouts every day, or the same series of workouts each week. Spend some days concentrating on strokes and distances you wouldn't normally race. While not quite cross-training, working on off-strokes or events helps to improve conditioning and muscle balance. For example, our triathletes train all four strokes, and they spend at least one day swimming IM each week. Regardless of your goals, keep in mind your original objective! Otherwise, it's easy get lost in the details. Use the changes in your workout to keep your mind and body fresh and ready to attack the next step in your development.

Track your progress: use intermediate goals

Setting a goal that may take a year or four to achieve may seem like an insurmountable task. When we prepare for Nationals a year in advance, we pick meets along the way to break up our training cycles. We set goals for each meet along the way, and track swimmers' progress through their performance at each intermediate step. If the swimmer misses a goal, we look at races in detail to see what the swimmer needs to work on. If the swimmer makes or exceeds a goal, we reset the goal-setting process and set our standards higher. In either case, by tracking progress along the way, we are able to send all of our swimmers back to training with a new plan to reach their long-term objective. By breaking up the time line into more manageable sub-tasks, you can achieve your long-term goals and find satisfaction from meeting your milestones along the way.

Don't forget recovery, or, it really is possible to work too hard!

Over the years, the biggest barriers to achieving swimmers' goals have not been injury, illness, or out-of-water issues. Instead, one of the biggest problems I encounter as a coach is the issue of overtraining. Without taking recovery into account, swimmers often find themselves sore, lethargic, or not able to achieve the speed they were once able to manage. Overtraining can also lead to illness, as the swimmer's body is too broken down to fight disease. We make a concerted effort to design our training programs with recovery in mind. At least one workout per week is dedicated to long, easy swimming to help swimmers recover from the challenges of their other workouts. As we move closer to the end of the season, we increase recovery so swimmers can perform at their best when it counts the most.

When you're ready to start training, make sure to have a plan! Keep in mind the length of your season, the variety of your training, the progress you make, and the rest you need. When you integrate these items into a cohesive structure, you give yourself the best chance of success at go time. Good luck!

Chris Colburn (aka DrCoachChris) is the Head Coach of Academy Bullets Masters in Aurora, IL, and the Chair of the U.S. Masters Swimming Coaches Committee. Chris believes that a good training plan is key to a successful season. He helps many swimmers design their own plans each year.

For more of Chris’ work and for more swimming, go to Swimnetwork.com.


SPMA SCM Regional Meet

The largest Masters non-Championship meet west of the Mississippi takes place during the first weekend in December every year. For the last several years, this meet has been hosted by the Long Beach Grunions at the Belmont Pool. This classic facility is on the Beach and has played host to countless meets over the years.

This year, the meet format has changed slightly. It will be a full three day meet, click here for more details and the order of events. Between 550-600 swimmers are expected so be prepared for long days.

You can register online for this meet too. They have negotiated special room rates at the Marriott Courtyard Long Beach Downtown, click here for details on that. So start making your plans now and be a part of this large, fun, and fast meet!


Arizona Open Water Series - Round IV

The forth round of the Arizona Open Water Series was held at Lake Pleasant on Saturday and produced some great swims. Over 160 swimmers of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds took to the water in both the 2000M and 4000M distances.

This round was held on the southeast side of the lake adjacent to Pleasant Harbor Marina. The water was 70F and clear, perfect conditions for an open water swim.

DCB Adventures had their crew out there setting up early. They were ready to make sure the swim went well.

The 2000M waves went off first and most swimmers got done before the 4000M events started. The picture above was the wetsuit wave of the 4000M swim.

The cove was calm...until the swimmers started churning up the water. This picture shows the mad dash to the first marker buoy.

Results for this event will be posted here if you want to see how everybody did. Make sure you join us for the final race of the season at Town Lake.

Great job by the entire DCB Adventures crew!


Buying a Suit: Knowing What Size, Cut and Material is Right for You

Swimmers come in all different shapes and sizes, and so does swimwear. When purchasing a new swimsuit, there are a few important factors that should be considered. Most importantly, you should consider …
So how do you decide? Here are a few tips to help you when purchasing swimwear.

What size do you wear?

Because there are so many different cuts of swimwear and different materials offered, it is hard to know exactly what size to purchase. Height and weight are our primary determining factors in selecting the right size swimsuit. Males, of course, are easier to fit than females. For male sizing, one should rely heavily on waist size. For female sizing, it is best to compare suit sizes to dress sizes. Always remember that suits need to be tight to reduce drag, and depending on the fabric, suits may stretch. Below is a sizing chart that will be helpful when determining your suit size.

What about the cut?

There are many different styles and cuts of competitive swimwear. For males, there are three popular styles of swimsuits: the jammer, the square leg suit and the brief. Jammers reduce water resistance and are great if you prefer more coverage. Square leg suits are form fitting and are slightly longer than briefs. Briefs provide the least coverage, but are great for competitive swimming and diving. All male swimsuit styles are equally efficient and depend most on your preference and the purpose of the suit.

For females, there are many more choices. You may prefer a more traditional thick-strapped proback suit for competition, or a more fashionable cut, such as the Speedo flyback or the Nike racerback. For those who prefer more coverage or support, you may prefer a thicker-strapped suit with lining or cups, or a more conservative knee-length suit. It is recommended that adult swimmers try on a variety of different styles and cuts to see which is most comfortable.

What material should you choose?

Most suits are made of a Lycra or polyester blend. Lycra or Lycra-blend suits are made of an elastic synthetic fiber. They’re durable, but not as long lasting as polyester suits, which often explains the slight difference in price. Polyester suits, made from synthesized polymers that tend to be more resilient than Lycra fabrics, are meant to fight chlorine and endure countless practices. Both fabrics are water-resistant and lightweight. Other materials include nylon and spandex, which may be blended with Lycra or polyester materials in swimwear.


USMS Statement on Swimsuits

Here is the latest on swimsuits from the US Masters Swimming Rules Committee:

The FINA Masters Committee has recommended that the FINA Bureau, meeting in mid-January, approve its recommendation that Masters swimmers be governed by the same swimsuit rules as the elite pool swimmers. If the Bureau approves the committee's recommendation, it is anticipated it would go into effect after the Bureau meeting. If this recommendation becomes policy with the FINA Bureau, USMS will implement it for our sanctioned swim meets.

For the time being and until the FINA Bureau issues its policy for Masters, the June 1, 2009 ruling that allowed technical suits in USMS swim meets is still in effect. If you choose to compete in a USA Swimming sanctioned meet, you must follow USA Swimming rules.

If you would like more information on purchasing technical suits, you may contact your swimsuit dealer or any of the following:

blueseventy; blueseventy.com
FINIS; finisinc.com
Speedo; speedo.com
TYR; tyr.com


Baby Wrinkles; Leather Faces

by Dr. Jim Miller

Recently, a U.S. Masters Swimming member who is in her 20s approached me with a question about her "baby wrinkles" from the years of swimming outside. What could she do before they got too bad? She did not want the leather face of the tanning disciples or her older colleagues of 40 (!) What caused them besides the sun? Well, the simple answer is, aside from genetic complexion, nothing caused them but exposure to the sun.

What creams or mixes will help her baby wrinkles? Skin lubrication with moisturizers daily or multiple times per day will help the skin to restore as much as it is capable of doing. The big problem is that each year's sun damage is layered over the damage of prior years - it is not a clean slate each year. The sun thins the skin and damages the elasticity of the skin, causing sagging and wrinkling. Unfortunately, the skin on our faces, which is the most exposed skin we have, is also the thinnest, so it is the most prone to damage. The message here is that your moisturizer needs to have a high level of sun block built in, throughout the year. I'll not get into the benefits of all the different rejuvenating creams with vitamin E, lanolin and everything else that has been tried. Studies are somewhat conflicting but one thing is clear: Nothing is as good as what you came with originally. Protect it! When applying sun block, remember ears, lips, nose, and wear a hat - full brim - not a ball cap with your ears hanging out.

This quickly takes me to the topic of SPF, or sun protection factor levels. What do they mean? As the SPF level goes up, the sun blocking protection goes up. However, the duration of protection does NOT go up. So, an SPF 14 and an SPF 25 both last the same length of time. Since we are all aquatic athletes, you should expect to have a lotion/cream/spray/gel to last about four hours. I know, there are ones that say they are good for ALL DAY PROTECTION. Really, does this make sense? Not hardly. The effects of swimming, toweling, sand, salt water, goggles up and down, fins/paddles on and off, time of day, and method of application all come into play here. Take home message: reapply at four hours whenever possible. For those of you who swim that open water 25K, there are some sun blocks that stick in place better than others. They are greasy and usually tough to apply, but worth the effort. What is the best block? This is actually an easy answer: zinc oxide. Remember the white stuff your mother put on your nose (or in the 70s green, pink, orange, blue)? That is it! However, there is now a clear version that works great and is available through your pharmacist. If applied correctly, it is close to being a complete block.

So now that I have ruined that golden brown tan, is there anything else to worry about? What about freckles? Well, freckles are sun damage! Sure they are real cute when you are 3 years old with a full head of red hair. But, have you ever seen cute freckles on the face of a wispy, balding 50-year-old guy? Maybe, but what you are more likely to see in the future is biopsy sites from his medical practitioner. The message here is also simple: If you have a skin area that is changing in any way, have someone look at it. Change means that the cells are mutating and that is not a good thing. Do not wait. In this case, a dose of paranoia is a good thing. Don't trust anything on the skin that is in transition. If you are vigilant, you may be lucky enough to catch that innocent mole before it turns into one of several types of skin cancers.

Anything else? Of course: According to an overwhelming majority of health experts, tanning beds = BAD!

So back to the title of our article. Is there a link between baby wrinkles and leather face? Actually, they are the same thing - just different stages in a history of ongoing sun damage.

Dr. Jim Miller, MD is no stranger to U.S. Masters Swimming. Dr. Miller served as U.S. Masters Swimming President from 2001-2005. He has received the USMS Coach of the Year and the Ransom J. Arthur awards. Dr. Miller is engrosed in the sports medicin community and has served as the Chair of the FINIA World Sports Medicine Congress amongst various other positions within the swimming sports medicine industry.


Ask Natalie

Want to get tips from an expert, ask Natalie.

Yes, Natalie Coughlin!

She has a page that offers several tips that can help make you a better swimmer.

They are not guaranteed to make you a multi-medal winner at multiple Olympic games but they come from one of the best female swimmers in the history of the sport...

So check it out and learn from Natalie!


AZ Open Water Series – Event 4

The forth open water swimming event of the season is coming up on October 17th at Lake Pleasant. This swim will take place by the Pleasant Harbor Marina on the southeast side of the lake. The course will be laid-out in a cove adjacent to the marina and should offer smooth water.

You can register here for the event or do it the day of the event. Both 2000M and 4000M distances are offered as well as separate wetsuit and non-wetsuit divisions. This event is perfect for triathletes who want to get some race prep in for upcoming events. For distance swimmers, this is a great event too as it offers a new challenge.

Good luck to all participants and see you at the lake!


Getting Rowdy!

What's better than watching Rowdy Gaines on TV?

Being a part of a swim clinic he conducts!

Yes, one year after Jason Lezak came to Arizona we have another Olympic hero coming to town. This time, Rowdy will be at the Kino Aquatics Center conducting a clinic in conjunction with Mesa Aquatics Club. Both Age Group and Masters are welcome at this event, everybody will get a lot out of it.

To register, go here and fill-out your information.

See you there, this should be another great swim clinic!


Swimnetwork.com Special: We Don’t Retire

By Dr. Chris Colburn

I had the good fortune of attending a USA Swimming Foundation event this week in Chicago. The evening featured the opportunity to meet and chat with twelve Olympians (eleven of them swimmers) while learning more about the mission of the Foundation and the work it does, both for our swimmers and for swimming throughout the country. Many members of the Chicago-area swimming community attended and took the opportunity to get to know these champions. Part of the program included videos about the USA Swimming Foundation and their Make a Splash initiative. The videos demonstrated how our swimming heroes give back to the sport, and how the USA Swimming Foundation helps to support our athletes until they retire.

You might be asking yourself how or why this event has anything to do with Masters swimming, and based on the main message, maybe it doesn't. On meeting the athletes, though, another story emerges. Eight years ago, I watched Megan Quann make her first Olympic Team at the 2000 Trials. Her storied career, from two gold medals in Sydney, to the disappointment of not making the team in 2004, to her amazing comeback in qualifying for Beijing, is well documented elsewhere. Nine years later, I had the privilege of meeting Megan (now Megan Jendrick) at the aforementioned event, and talked to her a little about her past and future career. Being a Masters coach, I couldn't help but ask the obvious question: "When your days on the National Team have come to a close, what's next? Have you ever considered swimming Masters?"

Megan's response was quick, but thoughtful: "I'm already a registered Masters swimmer. I was giving some thought to going to Masters Nationals this Spring, but broke my leg in March. After not qualifying for World Championships, I considered coming back to Indy in August for Long Course Nationals, but I missed the entry deadline." I thanked Megan for chatting with me, and encouraged her to check out a Nationals at some point in the future.

I have to admit that I was pretty psyched to meet Megan, and my wife was even nice enough to snap a picture of us. While brief, our conversation got me thinking. How many other elite swimmers look at Masters swimming the way Megan Jendrick does? Swimming is a part of their lives, and many of these athletes don't really retire: they continue swimming for fitness or competition well past their Olympic years. Rowdy Gaines is a perfect example. While he'll probably get on my case for writing that he recently turned 50, Rowdy still swims regularly within the bounds allowed by work, family, and a heavy travel schedule... and he still manages to set an age-group world record or two along the way.

The important message here, though, is not that champion swimmers continue with swimming well past their elite swimming days. What's important is that our swimming heroes embody many of the tenets of Masters swimming as they move on to the next chapters in their lives: swimming continues to afford them opportunities for lifelong fun, fitness, and friendship.

It is my hope that in the future, more elite swimmers like Megan and Rowdy can take the time to tell the story of Masters swimming in their travels. You see, we swimmers, like many other athletes, look up to our heroes. If those swimmers continue their careers in Masters swimming, it is my hope that more athletes will be drawn to Masters as well. Who knows... many of these elite athletes are more than happy to snap a photo or sign an autograph at a meet, at Convention, or in the NBC Sports booth, so you may run into one of your heroes when you least expect it. At the very least, I hope they tell the story that many elite swimmers may retire from Olympic competition, the drug testing, the double workouts, and the media spotlight, but they never retire from their love for swimming.

Chris Colburn (aka DrCoachChris) is the head coach of Academy Bullets Masters in Aurora, Ill., and the Chair of the U.S. Masters Swimming Coaches Committee. He believes that a break between seasons is a good thing. Break time is a great opportunity to set goals and make positive changes for the coming year.

For more of Chris’ work and for more swimming, go to Swimnetwork.com.


Butterfly - Breakout

Here is a good butterfly drill to work on, courtesy of GoSwim.

These videos are also linked on the Drills page.


15-minute Postal

The 15-Minute Postal Swim is now up and running! This is a great event for any swimmer who wishes to see how far they can swim in fifteen minutes. All you need is a short course yards pool, a timer with a watch, and a split sheet the record the times on. The event is online at www.15minutepostal.com so get your entry in today!

The event runs from now until the end of the year and is a great event for a team to do as a group. It is a good fitness challenge that swimmers of all abilities and backgrounds can be a part of. Good luck to all competitors...


Coaching Multi-Sport Athletes

by Sue Sotir, Minute Man Masters

Freakin' triathletes! They come to their first Masters practice and tell you that they are only going to swim freestyle and that their coach is giving them their workouts and they just need you to spend the whole practice just fixing their stroke ... immediately... Did I miss anything?

If that is how you're seeing your triathlete members, you're missing out on the passion, focus and commitment these athletes can add to your program. These athletes are extremely motivated to improve and they come to a U.S. Masters Swimming program looking for a coach who can guide them toward that improvement. Your role is to educate these athletes on swimming technique and the sport-specific conditioning demands unique to swimming.

Technique for triathletes should initially focus on reducing drag and increasing propulsion. Practice sets should include long-distance endurance building (800s and up), sets that challenge an athlete to maintain an uncomfortable pace over time (this morning I used 10 x 200 on descending intervals), and sprint sets that build strength and power. Sport-specific skills and tactics should also be included, just as they would for a swimmer preparing for a goal event at Nationals. Triathlon-specific needs include confidence in adverse conditions and head-up sighting. Using breathing pattern sets (such as three strokes, breathe, five strokes breathe, three, then seven, three then nine) can be one way to teach confidence under pressure.

Head-up swimming for sighting can be included using head-up/Tarzan swim and butterfly. Yes, I'm recommending that triathletes swim strokes other than freestyle. Butterfly builds core/lower back strength, demands early vertical forearm, swim-specific strength, and independent head rotation for breathing. So, yes, other strokes have their place in triathlon training. However, you cannot give triathletes all IM work all the time during their competitive season; it is disrespectful of their athletic goals. As a coach, you would not train a swimmer for the 200 breaststroke by having her swim the majority of her sets as sprint backstroke. Now, the off season is an entirely different story!

Swimming economy is the primary goal for a triathlete, meaning the fastest possible swim for the least amount of effort expended. Approach technique from a "most bang for the buck" way-- what is going to allow for the most improvement most rapidly. The number one foe of fast swimming is drag, therefore, drag reduction should be the first improvement sought. Improve body position, alignment and body balance.

Look at the kick. Is it small, even and balanced or is the athlete compensating for poor body balance with a big, wide, drag-creating kick? Many triathletes are absolutely terrible flutter kickers because their ankles are inflexible. Time kicking can be maximized by defining the purpose of the kick set: drag reduction. Many triathlon-specific swimming articles say "don't kick, save your legs." Great, now you are using double the energy to drag the dead weight of half your body along through open water. A small, efficient two-beat or four-beat kick requires minimal muscular energy, increases propulsion to a small degree and reduces drag to a much greater degree. It also aids the circulation of oxygen-rich blood through the system. More circulation equals less accumulated waste in the muscles. One other kicking note: Many triathletes also have inflexible shoulders, so kicking with a kickboard forces the hips down, creating drag. I ask these triathletes to kick using a pull buoy as the board, lifting the head for a breath as needed, or simply have them kick balanced on their side.

Increasing propulsion is the second area to target with triathletes. Many triathlon swimmers do not have an effective catch or pull. Common areas for improvement include: a delay in initiating an early vertical forearm (the arm drops straight toward the bottom, creating drag and forcing the pull to rely on the strength of the small muscles of the shoulder); dropped elbows during the pull phase, limiting the amount of leverage a swimmer can capitalize on; and the dreaded cross-over, either in front during the extension or under the body during the pull phase. Repetition of the correct muscle patterning through the use of just a few well-performed drills is beneficial. There is no good reason for practicing any drill without an image in the athlete's mind of what is right and a focus on attempting mastery.

In our program, we have deliberately chosen to minimize the drills we use for each stroke. Many drills accomplish many different technical aspects of the stroke, but very few adult athletes have the amount of time in the water to master every nuance of a long list of drills. Using a few drills may seem repetitive, but all athletes-- both swimmers and triathletes-- can really achieve mastery of a small number of drills to the benefit of overall technical efficiency. Athletes who can feel that they have mastered a skill increase their belief in the ability to use that skill. The fancy term for this is self-efficacy and it is the basis of sport performance. Self- efficacy is the belief an individual has in his or her ability to successfully perform a specific skill that is required for a successful result. Self-efficacy specifically refers to the perceived level of competence an athlete feels for a specific skill or behavior. The athlete must trust the skill. If the athlete doesn't trust the skill, the skill will not get used and habits that have been "good enough" in the past will be selected instead. Nothing keeps those pre-race nerves in check like knowing you're starting the race thoroughly prepared. It's our job as USMS coaches to both physically prepare and educate our athletes so that all: fitness swimmer, competitive swimmer or triathlete, can feel that trust, both in their conditioning and in their skill mastery and can enter a competition with the confidence offered by that preparation.

Drills Used at Minuteman Masters
12:1 -- Twelve kicks on one side, one stroke, then 12 kicks on the other side; repeat.
Goals: body balance, head position and alignment, proper depth and location of the extended arm

Triple Switch -- Three freestyle strokes, then 12 kicks in the side position, three more freestyle strokes, 12 kicks
Goals: maintaining all of the skills practiced in 12:1, with the added difficulty of using the arms

Dryland Catch -- On land, the athlete bends from the waist and extends both arms out in front like Superman. Moving both arms together, the athlete will catch from the elbow and pull toward the same side hip through to the finish by the thigh. Reverse the pattern using the same high elbow to return through the pull path in reverse, back to the Superman starting position.
Goals: Teaching mastery and muscle patterning for the underwater phase of the stroke

One-Arm Drill -- With the unused arm at the side, not out front as it would be for catch-up drill. Breathing can be same side or opposite side, depending on mastery level.
Goals: increasing propulsion, body balance and drag reduction

Sue Sotir has 21 years of coaching experience, including 10 years coaching Masters swimming. The last 7 years, she has been with Minuteman Masters Swim Club in Bedford , MA joyfully coaching (and swimming with) athletes ranging from novice swimmers to professional triathletes. Sue is currently a PhD candidate in Physical Education/Sport Psychology at Springfield College.

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