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Red60
November 20th, 2008, 12:45 AM
I swam in a meet last weekend. For some time I have been working on my freestyle timing and technique, and I think I've made progress. During warm-ups for the 50 free I felt really great--powerful, good acceleration, lots of potential energy. This swimming at maybe 90%. Then, in the race, I found myself hacking at the water--none of the same sense I'd had in warm-ups.

Today, in a workout, I was able to replicate my meet time in the 50 at that same 90% pace I'd used in warmups.

Pause for metaphor introduction: as a kid (and now, for that matter) I was a Cleveland Indians fan. They were uniformly terrible during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But in the 70s they had an outfielder named George Hendrick, who was a gifted player. Hendrick had an ability to run while looking like he was jogging. He covered a lot of ground, and was quite fast, but he appeared to be dogging it. No strain was ever visible. He got a lot of grief in the press for being lazy, even though it was an optical illusion. He ran really fast but looked slow.

So here's my question: is it possible that I should sprint at less than what feels like 100%, in order to get better efficiency and thus more speed? Or am I kidding myself, and I need to just learn to use a really fast tempo without overswimming?

geochuck
November 20th, 2008, 07:17 AM
Technique and speed go hand in hand. When I sprinted everyone said I was taking it easy. I wasn't taking it easy. What you think is 90% may actually be your true 100%.

The old coaches used the percentage thing all the time. do 70% - 80% - 90% it is all in the mind and usually a lie. I do not think anyone is capable of an accurate percentage swim.

Hiro11
November 20th, 2008, 10:37 AM
So here's my question: is it possible that I should sprint at less than what feels like 100%, in order to get better efficiency and thus more speed? Or am I kidding myself, and I need to just learn to use a really fast tempo without overswimming?Take a look at Ian Thorpe or Alex Popov's stroke. Neither were immensely strong athletes like Bernard but their drag reduction and stroke efficiency was simply insane. Popov in particular looked like he was taking a leisurely paddle, even in the 50. More recently, PVK and Cullen Jones have butter smooth and effortless technique. Sullivan also looks like he's skipping across the top of the water and that guy couldn't beat my grandmother in arm wrestling.

IMO, drag reduction, stroke continuity (smoothness) and stroke efficiency are the most important aspects of good swimming. Strength and effort are certainly important, but almost secondary. It's particularly true in the sprints.

mazzy
November 20th, 2008, 12:07 PM
IMO, drag reduction, stroke continuity (smoothness) and stroke efficiency are the most important aspects of good swimming. Strength and effort are certainly important, but almost secondary. It's particularly true in the sprints.

Well, there're a lot of way to swim, everydoby is unique, so at the Olympic Game you'll find the godzilla Bernard overpowering the water just like the smooth Popov flying over or the water-thrashing Sullivan.
The right blend of power, strenght, efficiency, talent and so on is the key.

There're level on every aspect that when do you pass it do you need a big increase of effort to gain only a little bit so you'll get better return if you'll improving other aspect of your stroke with more upside still. to be the most efficient as you can be alone it'll not maximize your performance. Maybe less efficiency but more power will lower your time. For this reason you'll see very different styles to be equally successfull

jim thornton
November 20th, 2008, 11:30 PM
I say pick a test event, say the 50 or 100 freestyle, and then sign up for a bunch of little local meets (here we have these every 2 weeks thanks to a YMCA masters league).

Try swimming absolutely all out, as hard as you can, your arms churning as quickly as possible.

Next meet, go for pure "easy speed"--as fast as you can without feeling you've lost smoothness and a sense of control.

Next meet, meet the two strategies somewhere in the middle of churning rage of controlled easy speed.

My bet is the all out kick ass approach will give you the best time. It will hurt more, look uglier, create more splashing, and general make children turn to their mothers dirty pillows in fright. But you will do a faster time.

The George Hendrick's of the world have some intrinsic gifts -- perfect muscular translation of force along each link in the kinetic chain. Most of us are not born so smooth. We can imitate it, but we can't get there--for every half million golfers, there's only one Tiger Woods.

So we do the best with what we've got, and in sprints, alas, brute strength is our best bet.

I could be wrong. Let us know.

Red60
November 21st, 2008, 12:57 AM
Great set of thoughts, all. I will do some tests and report back....

aquaFeisty
November 21st, 2008, 09:19 AM
Hey Red, great ideas from everyone here, especially swimming as many little local meets as possible and testing your event every time. I did this strategy 2 years ago with the 100 free and took over a second off my lifetime best.

One other thing to add. Were you tapered? If I'm unrested, my stroke is a lot "thrashier" in the 50s. Especially in practice, unrested, I feel like a thrashy crappy mess when I try to sprint. Don't forget the magic of the taper! When I taper, I turn over just as fast and probably thrash just as much, but I catch a lot more water and go faster.

Red60
November 21st, 2008, 10:34 AM
Feisty: I haven't put in enough yardage this fall to taper--a little too inconsistent, and no more than 11 or 12K per week, often less. I had hoped to solidify some improvements in stroke mechanics in a meet or two this fall and commit to more serious yardage in the SCY season--enough to taper from.

I think the testing concept is a good one. I may swim the Chicago TYR meet--still debating. How about you? It's in your neighborhood.

aquaFeisty
November 21st, 2008, 11:07 AM
Don't get too hung up on yardage when tapering. I only did 10k/week the year I dropped my 100 free time (it would have been great to do more, the schedule just didn't allow it). However, I was really consistent with my 10k for several weeks leading up to the taper so yeah, you're probably right about being consistent.

The Chicago TYR meet is a good one. Great pool and well run. You should definitely think about it! I swam it last year, but won't be swimming this year - I'm pregnant with #2 and WAS due yesterday. Grrrr... I am a very huge and cranky pregnant lady right now. But so long as the baby's health and mine are good, my husband and I plan to swing by the meet and say hi to everyone on Sunday so maybe we'll see you there!

knelson
November 21st, 2008, 11:16 AM
I think we all have an upper level of stroke rate above which our strokes start to fall apart. If you want to swim the fastest possible 50 free you need to attempt to increase that upper threshold. Effectively this probably means lots of fast swimming in workout, both "all out" without regard to technique and also AFAP while keeping good technique. The goal being for these two to converge.

Red60
November 21st, 2008, 11:38 AM
News to me on the yardage/tapering front. Encouraging. Maybe I can sneak in a teeny taper before Chicago.

Everyone's thoughts are quite helpful, and even more interesting. An intriguing subject, and one worth exploring systematically. I will try.

Any thoughts on how these ideas might apply to butterfly sprints? There my experience is maybe opposite. I get lots of compliments on how the stroke looks, but seem plateaued on my stroke rate, and ditto on my time.