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Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 07:39 PM
why am i so sloooooooooow? i've been swimming since i was 21, i'm now 30. When i was 21 i basically taught myself to swim and with a few tips here and there from lifeguards, i was able to swim 3 miles in the pool at approximately 35 minutes a mile.

fast forward a few years, i would consider myself a much better swimmer now, i've gotten a few lessons with coaches and i've been told my technique has gotten better. but my speed has BARELY improved!!! i'm talking major changes in technique and training, and it still takes me 34 minutes to do a mile! that's a 1 minute improvement over the time when i had taught myself to swim! it's ridiculous. and i swim so much...i swim in open water and have been doing master's for 7 months now.

is it possible that i was just born slow, or do you think i need further refinement to my technique? none of it adds up--i work very hard in the pool, my technique sounds like it's decent, and i am physically in very good shape. i can swim 9 miles in open water, but i just cannot bring up my speed! it's ridiculous. i don't want to be fast, i just want to be somewhere near 30 minutes per mile!

rtodd
November 20th, 2008, 07:45 PM
Do short repeats. Improve distance per stroke. Post a video.

inflictfreedom
November 20th, 2008, 07:45 PM
Yup ... me too. I don't know why either, I just figured everybody else gets the good water before I do.

Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 07:48 PM
oh yeah! my distance per stroke SUCKS! it takes me like 25 strokes to go 25 yards. if i try really really hard i can get it down to MAYBE 24. i don't know how to work on that other than the obvious--try to do longer strokes and pull more water per stroke

elise526
November 20th, 2008, 07:56 PM
Are you doing interval work? Having been a masters coach, I can tell you that you will find that you will drop time much faster by doing interval work at fast speeds rather than doing straight one mile swims. Rather than swim a straight one mile, consider doing the following:

300 warm-up - Your choice - try to put some kicking in there.

6 x 50 Pull with 15 seconds rest - keep heart rate in an aerobic zone

5 x 100 descend each 100 - get faster on each 100 - take 15 seconds rest between each 100

5 x 100 - 85% -90% efforts with 1 minute rest between each 100. Try to hold same time on each swim. Should be within 10 seconds of what you would do on an all-out 100 yard swim in a race.

100 recovery swim

8 x 25 on free on 1:00 - sprint hard on each one

200 easy cool-down


Try doing a workout like this a couple of times a week. On a third day, you could consider doing some easier longs swims, but make them drills. You could also do sets of 200s or 300s. Do your straight mile swim once a month to track your progress.

rtodd
November 20th, 2008, 07:56 PM
Use a pull bouy. Don't let your hand entry cross the midplane of your body. don't rush the catch, let your hand drop while maintaining a high elbow and from a good anchor. Accelerate your pull and and with a nice body roll, reach and extend for your other hand's entry. Get a freestyle snorkel so breathing does not screw you up. Learn to breathe later. Use fins. Get this feeling right first, then you can work on breathing without effecting your stroke and kicking to maintain body position.

Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 08:02 PM
Elise--yes, i do that kind of a workout 3x a week at master's. for most of august, september, and october, i was basically doing intervals totalling 4k, 3x times a week, PLUS doing about 5 ocean swims per week, at 2 miles each! with that kind of mileage (plus cross training), i shouldn't completely suck. it just doesn't add up.

one problem i have with the sets at masters is, for example, when they say to do 4x100 descending. i have basically only one speed. i can't really go slower than that because i'll sink, and i can't really go faster than that either. i've noticed that even if i sprint, my time will only be a couple seconds faster. i think i literally don't know how to sprint--it appears that i'm just wasting energy when i do that.

Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 08:04 PM
the really frustrating thing is after going from ZERO interval training 7 months ago, to now having swum 3x a week at masters for 7 months, my mile time basically has not improved AT ALL.

elise526
November 20th, 2008, 08:05 PM
Are you lifting weights? How is your kick without fins?

Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 08:08 PM
i do pullups and pushups. i have decent upper body strength--i can do a whole bunch of pushups...pullups are still hard but i can do a few at a time. i also run.

oh and my kick is so-so...usually it's slower than other people in my lane...but then again so is my swimming.

elise526
November 20th, 2008, 08:14 PM
Has the coach of the masters group made any comments about your stroke? Also, are you doing other workouts besides swimming such as running or biking? If so, how much are you training?

Surfergirl
November 20th, 2008, 08:20 PM
i've asked her to look at my stroke and she basically says it looks good. every time i ask she just says "you're doing great."

i also run but i'm not really that concerned about speed there (i'm also a slow runner, like 9 minute miles). so in a typical week i'll do masters 3x for about 4000 yards, open water swims several times (right now only a mile at a time because it's cold), run about 7 miles maybe 3 times, pushups/pullups 3x, and surf a few times.

elise526
November 20th, 2008, 08:31 PM
Have you considered attending a swim clinic such as Total Immersion or other similar clinics? Clinics are great for critical analysis of your stroke and learning about ways to improve your stroke.

Also, if you are looking to improve speed, you may need to cut back a little on your total working out during the week. Running 21 miles a week, swimming 12,000 yards a week in the pool, and doing open water swims is a bunch. If you are perpetually broken down, you will not get faster. To have speed (which requires power), you must give yourself time to recover from your workouts.

Having been a runner and a swimmer, I caution you that it is hard to train for both at the same time. Consider just swimming for 4 months and doing just one 7 mile run a week. I bet at the end of 4 months, you will see a drop in your one mile swim time.

Donna
November 20th, 2008, 08:40 PM
Interval training is a great way to learn how to swim and improve at distance swimming. I was a sprinter but by swimming with a team that focused on distance I eventually learned how to hold a pace. My first mile I think I held 45 sec per 50 yards. Over time I learned to drop it by a second, then another second until currently I am holding 39 seconds. This year I will try to hold 38 seconds per 50.

If you find your turnover is always the same pace you might try finding a song you like with a faster beat and try to swim to the beat in your head or an SwiMP3 player. In a race I will sometimes have the same song in my head for 21 minutes.

You might try some strength training or you could do what I love and use paddles to help build strength. Another thing you can do is push yourself alittle out of your comfort zone. If you do it in practice you will be more likely to do it in a race.

SwimStud
November 20th, 2008, 10:19 PM
Keep working on the distance per stroke. I see a guy at my YMCA take 72 strokes in a 25. He then does one arm drill in 35 strokes...don't ask me how this works but it does...

jim thornton
November 20th, 2008, 10:36 PM
You talk about your mile time, but what about your short distance times?

Has, for instance, your 100 yard free improved at all?

Are you one of those swimmers who "only have one speed"? You can go at a decent pace and hold it forever, but you can't go much faster when sprinting all out?

I sometimes think athletes that are predominantly equipped with slow twitch muscle fibers have trouble adjusting speeds. You might need to do some REAL sprint practices--50s, 25s, even 12.5s with lots and lots of rest, but all out. This can help you recruit a few switch-hitter muscle fibers to help your speed.

In terms of speed and endurance, you can help by gradually upping the pressure of training.

One thing our coach does on distance days is slowly, over the course of a season, decrease the intervals. For example, two months ago, we might have been doing do 4 x 500 on 7:00 or sets of 10 x 100 on 1:30 then 1:25.

Now we have worked our way down to 500s on 6:30 and 100s on 1:20 and 1:15. I am sure my mile time now would be better than it was in September. Good luck. I know it's frustrating, but sometimes people just reach their hull speed, so to speak, and huge differences in training don't translate into huge differences in performance. I would think that it would be easier to drop a mile time significantly, however, than a short sprint, if for no other reason than enhanced ability to suffer without quitting!

FlyQueen
November 20th, 2008, 10:45 PM
oh yeah! my distance per stroke SUCKS! it takes me like 25 strokes to go 25 yards. if i try really really hard i can get it down to MAYBE 24. i don't know how to work on that other than the obvious--try to do longer strokes and pull more water per stroke

HUGE RED FLAG!!!! You have an extremely inefficient stroke if you are taking 25 strokes/25. Also find a different coach.

Rykno
November 21st, 2008, 04:48 AM
HUGE RED FLAG!!!! You have an extremely inefficient stroke if you are taking 25 strokes/25. Also find a different coach.

definitely work your underwater work. it might be your hands enter the water short (too close to your head) or that you pull your hands too close to your body.

when swimming easy, it takes me 7-8 strokes with a decent streamline start. when swim faster it's up around 13-14. and I am not a freestyler.

pwolf66
November 21st, 2008, 08:58 AM
I also think that 25/25 is waaaaaaay too high. What kind of freestyle drills do you do? I would recommend finger tip, catchup and distance per stroke drills.

aquaFeisty
November 21st, 2008, 09:11 AM
I think Flyqueen has given you the best advice here. If at all possible, get a new coach. If you are really unhappy and discouraged with how your swimming has progressed (and based on the info you have given us, that is certainly understandable) your coach should NOT just be telling you, "Yeah, you look great," when you ask for feedback on your stroke.

No one on this forum can tell exactly what you need to do with your swimming program to make some improvements without seeing you swim or seeing a video, but it definitely sounds like your technique is a big factor. Like others have said, 25 strokes/25 yards is pretty high. It's possible that you have a stroke that looks great from above the water (a "pretty" stroke) but lacks power underneath. A semi-decent coach should be able to spot at least one key factor that you can work on and improve for a decent time drop...

geochuck
November 21st, 2008, 09:20 AM
Push off the wall streamline, a little bit of kick and make each stroke count. I would also do an extreme front quadrant stroke, not quite a catchup stroke. I did this yesterday and 7 or 8 strokes for each 25 yards. Some do the maximum 15m underwater after the push of I just do three dolphin kicks.

If you do the max 15m underwater I don't think you get the benefit from stroke counting. When I do 25m stroke counting normally I do 10 or 11 strokes per 25.

mj_mcgrath
November 21st, 2008, 10:00 AM
Do you swim like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjaA0JhMZsM

or do you swim flat in the water--no hip or shoulder rotation? If your stroke count is 25/25 meters you probably swim with just your arms and a relatively non-propulsive kick. That's like paddling a canoe with no shoulder or hip movement.

In the video Popov moves his hips and shoulders rhythmically so he doesn't speed up, slow down. You probably know about the efficiency of constant speed from your distance running. Also the hip and shoulder rotation engages the big muscles of the back, extends his reach, and reduces frontal drag forces by placing him on his side. If you swim flat drag increases.

You might try swimming with a straight arm recovery to force your shoulders and hips to rotate. Set the rhythm with your hips. Try to relax your recovering arms much like Popov in the video. --mjm

mattson
November 21st, 2008, 12:11 PM
try to do longer strokes and pull more water per stroke

There is more to the equation than just pushing back water. Reducing your resistance will cause you to go farther with the same effort. (Someone mentioned Total Immersion, or poke around the discussion forums.)

Surfergirl
November 21st, 2008, 12:20 PM
thanks so much everyone.

to answer one of the questions above, the fastest i can do a 100 is 1:35 i think. (my flip turns are no good, but let's save that discussion for another day). so yeah the difference between my sprinting and my normal speed is not very much.

i definitely need to work on distance per stroke--but HOW? the only drills i know are catchup and the fingertip drag. i do a little bit of catchup in every practice.

my friend told me about a highly recommended coach in la jolla who videotapes you and analyzes it...costs $100 but maybe it's worth it. the only reason i'm hesitating is that the coach told him to stay out of the ocean for 3 weeks and work in the pool on his stroke...that might be hard. that coach also does master's at UCSD but unfortunately i can't make it up there for his morning practices.

anita
November 21st, 2008, 12:26 PM
my friend told me about a highly recommended coach in la jolla who videotapes you and analyzes it...costs $100 but maybe it's worth it. the only reason i'm hesitating is that the coach told him to stay out of the ocean for 3 weeks and work in the pool on his stroke...that might be hard. that coach also does master's at UCSD but unfortunately i can't make it up there for his morning practices.

There are other coaches in San Diego...PM me if you'd like another suggestion. UCSD has other practices during the day besides the morning one though, right? Another coach may be a better fit.

geochuck
November 21st, 2008, 01:38 PM
I am working with a parapalegic that wants to swim in the Mexico para games. He had a very bad stroke and his speed was 2:00 plus for a 100 m swim. A couple of very minor changes over 3 days and he is now doing 1:30 plus with a dive for the 100 meters.The first day he was doing 27 strokes for 25 meters he now takes 15.

Just minor brushups in stroke technique can work wonders. He had major cross over problems. To early an exit, pushed water in the opposite direction on entry, hands hit the water during recovery. He lifted his head very high to breathe. He was not stremlined off his turns. I taught him a grab start. Tomorrow we will work on his turns, he did a stop and turn very bad. I think he is going to be a great 100 guy.

He had only swam in the ocean before I met him. He had a little trouble transferring to a swim pool (change in bouyancy).

I also suggest Goswim drills http://www.goswim.tv/entries/s/1/drills.html

Surfergirl
November 21st, 2008, 02:06 PM
i guess i will have to keep trying different coaches then. this is the third coach i've gone to (one for private lessons, two for masters) and i've liked the advice they've given--it feels right--but somehow it hasn't translated into greater speed. it is just so strange. i almost feel like no matter what i do, even if i doggy paddled, i would be the same speed.

geochuck
November 21st, 2008, 02:42 PM
Dog paddle can be a useful drill. Put up a short video of your stroke it has been helpful to many and let everyone here look at your stroke.

I like to see three videos one swimming directly towards the camera one from the side and one from the back. It would then become free stroke analysis.

aztimm
November 21st, 2008, 02:52 PM
I think 7 months in a masters program is not long enough to show progress for most of us. Heck, I've been in masters swimming for over 10 years, and sometimes it feels like I'm swimming backwards.

I do have some periods when I seem to progress, but also go for months where it feels like I'm simply going through the motions. Sometimes a little variety, or even a break/vacation helps.

Surfergirl
November 21st, 2008, 03:00 PM
I think 7 months in a masters program is not long enough to show progress for most of us. Heck, I've been in masters swimming for over 10 years, and sometimes it feels like I'm swimming backwards.

I do have some periods when I seem to progress, but also go for months where it feels like I'm simply going through the motions. Sometimes a little variety, or even a break/vacation helps.


okay but basically i haven't improved in 6 years. 6 years ago, i was swimming with a stroke that i taught myself.

do you think it's possible that ocean swimming makes me slow? i definitely slowed down when i did ONLY ocean swimming....but i would think that no matter how much time i spend in the ocean, swimming master's 3x a week should be enough to work on my speed.

i don't have any video of myself. i do have a waterproof camera so maybe one of these days i can get a friend to videotape me.

knelson
November 21st, 2008, 04:20 PM
I am working with a parapalegic that wants to swim in the Mexico para games....he is now doing 1:30 plus with a dive for the 100 meters.

Just out of curiousity, how does a paraplegic do a dive?


do you think it's possible that ocean swimming makes me slow?

Yes. To be blunt, swimming slow all the time will make you continue to be slow. I think you need a coach who can really help you improve the efficiency of your stroke. 25 strokes for 25 yards is very high. Once you make progress in that area you should do more fast pool swimming. Swimming at the same tempo all the time isn't going to make you any faster.

mj_mcgrath
November 21st, 2008, 05:03 PM
"i'm talking major changes in technique and training, and it still takes me 34 minutes to do a mile!"

The good news is you don't have to improve much.
--A 34 minute mile is an average 2:06/100 meters.

Improve just 6 seconds per 100 meters (2:00 min/100 meters) average and that's a 32:15 min. mile.

Your goal 30 minute mile is a 1:51 min/100 meters average. Doable if your fastest 100 meters is in the 1:35 range.

Post a video. --mjm

gr82cu!
November 21st, 2008, 06:44 PM
re the video ...
get your friend to video from the deck ... walking (carefully) along as you swim. You need to be in the 3rd or 4th lane with no one between you and the camera. The still water allows a good view of your stroke above and below the water. Then do as George suggested ... getting video from head on and from behind.

p.s. I'm really slow but faster in the pool than in the ocean, but working on getting the stroke count down -- a new coach --- will really help

I can swim 16 to 17 strokes per 25 ... without thinking now. If I really focus, I can get to 12. I was swimming 20ish when I started with masters swimming. The thing that amazes me is that my coach is amazing. He always has some very simple improvement that helps every time I go.

geochuck
November 21st, 2008, 07:53 PM
He has one leg fully effected the other not as bad, he can motor not to badly with the least affected leg. He did a track start standing on his almost good leg of course he fell in a couple of times before we got him balanced. It ended up not too bad. He held onto my shoulder until he got into position.[QUOTE=knelson;160956]Just out of curiousity, how does a paraplegic do a dive?
QUOTE]

I have taught many who have had spina-befita, they had no use of their legs and I had them dive in the pool. One that I taught when he was six was not allowed to attend school becuse he could not use a toilet. He did not have any muscle control. After several months of exercises and water walking he gained the control to use the toilet facilities and was able to attend school. He also was able to walk in a fashion with canes and braces. I also had him diving from a standing position into the pool and swimming. If there is away we can find it.

elise526
November 21st, 2008, 11:06 PM
In addition to technique, how many strokes one takes per length is dependent upon height, arm span, and build (muscular, thin, etc.). I'm curious to know your height and build.

While strokes per length is indicative of efficiency, it is not necessarily always indicative of speed. I've seen plenty of inefficient swimmers do some good times in a 50 or a 1650. They are in great enough shape to overcome their inefficiency. I've seen a young girl take 33 strokes per length and do a 26 in a 50 free which by no means is slow.

Better swimmers tend to be more efficient so you should strive to lower your stroke count to below 20. My guess is that you are not rotating enough and have a weak kick. Practice the following drill: With one arm extended and one arm on side, kick 12 kicks on your right side, take 3 strokes and roll to your left side and repeat. This gives you the feel for rotation and kicking on your side which is how most of the stroke is done.

In addition to the work on stroke technique, I still hope you will be mindful of the training thing I mentioned. I've trained triathletes that refused to drop their 5 hours of training a day and could not understand why they weren't seeing a drop in the swim times. Interestingly enough, when a running injury forced them to drop the running for a period of time and just swim, their swimming times dramatically improved without adding additional swim yardage.

norascats
November 22nd, 2008, 09:04 AM
When you say stroke, are you referring to complete cycles, or to individual arm strokes?
My suggestion would be to do kick drills. Kick on your face and rotate to breathe. Kick from the hips and rotate from the hips. When you turn, just let your arm drop to your side. Focus on streamlining and keeping your head level. In the ocean, you may be carrying your head high. That will slow you down, but is a plus in choppy water.
I'd like to see a sample of your swimming.

Ripple
November 23rd, 2008, 12:45 PM
I'm going to throw my :2cents: worth in, having very recently managed to get down to the 19-20 stroke range. :bliss:
First of all, considering you are a self-taught swimmer, you are actually doing really well. I had swim lessons as a kid, but apparently they didn't "take", because when I had to take up swimming after a car accident in '99, I averaged 38 strokes per 25 meters. This didn't change even after two separate "Adult Stroke Improvement" classes. One was just a one-hour workout, while the one was full of conflicting advice and was run by a bored young man more interested in chatting up the pretty young girls on the pool deck than teaching middle-aged women.
After working on the drills in the original Total Immersion book, I got down to 28 strokes and plateaued there for a few years. An eight week class with a local T.I. coach brought me down another four strokes, but for a couple of months after I felt like the wheels had fallen off my stroke. Then, suddenly, it clicked. Last winter I got down to the 20/21 range but then it climbed up again after I started doing speed intervals. Now I'm back to doing a one-hour group session once a week with the same coach. (He spends the first three months of every season just working on technique.)
So, what I've learned is...
1.) Progress isn't linear. There will be times when you seem to be standing still, then suddenly there will be a breakthrough.
2.) Sometimes you have to go more slowly to get faster. I want to cement the feel of these 18-20 stroke lengths very firmly into my central nervous system, so I won't jump into any speed work until I can consistently knock off 19s, length after length, without having to focus really hard on it.
3.) Changing your stroke takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. I figure I've taken off an average of 2.5 strokes per year since 2000.
Good luck, and keep looking for the right coach.

Surfergirl
November 24th, 2008, 02:42 PM
In addition to technique, how many strokes one takes per length is dependent upon height, arm span, and build (muscular, thin, etc.). I'm curious to know your height and build.

While strokes per length is indicative of efficiency, it is not necessarily always indicative of speed. I've seen plenty of inefficient swimmers do some good times in a 50 or a 1650. They are in great enough shape to overcome their inefficiency. I've seen a young girl take 33 strokes per length and do a 26 in a 50 free which by no means is slow.

Better swimmers tend to be more efficient so you should strive to lower your stroke count to below 20. My guess is that you are not rotating enough and have a weak kick. Practice the following drill: With one arm extended and one arm on side, kick 12 kicks on your right side, take 3 strokes and roll to your left side and repeat. This gives you the feel for rotation and kicking on your side which is how most of the stroke is done.

In addition to the work on stroke technique, I still hope you will be mindful of the training thing I mentioned. I've trained triathletes that refused to drop their 5 hours of training a day and could not understand why they weren't seeing a drop in the swim times. Interestingly enough, when a running injury forced them to drop the running for a period of time and just swim, their swimming times dramatically improved without adding additional swim yardage.


i am 5'7" and 148 pounds and very muscular, for a girl. strong looking arms and strong legs.

the kicking on your side thing is interesting, i think that might be one of my problems. i remember when i first started swimming, i found it impossible to kick on my side--i basically had to stop kicking when my body was rotated.

i don't think the running would negatively affect my swimming. due to shin splints, i wasn't running much until the last couple of months. i was exclusively swimming for a long time, but still not really getting anywhere.

Surfergirl
November 24th, 2008, 02:43 PM
When you say stroke, are you referring to complete cycles, or to individual arm strokes?




individual arm strokes.

jim thornton
November 24th, 2008, 02:57 PM
I think there's a way that lots of swimmers can relate to your problem: breaststroke.

Bear with me. Obviously, if you are a breaststroker, this does not apply. But for lots and lots of us non-breaststrokers, we can achieve competence in back, fly, and free, and still swim breaststroke as if the devil himself is chasing us in a dream. Even the most furious and frenetic of efforts don't seem to translate into the slightest increase in velocity.

I was thinking about your plight, surfergirl, during a meet yesterday. In the 100 i.m., I was a half body length in front of this guy at the back to breast turn. I knew he'd catch up. I didn't, however, imagine that when I finally reached the final turn, after a seeming eternity of breaststroke for 25 yards, that I would see him charging back with furious freestyle before I even reached the wall.

Highly dispiriting; extremely frustrating. Little surfer girl (well, maybe not so little, at 5' 7" and 145 lb. of solid muscle), with strains of Beach Boy music playing in the background here, please know that I feel your pain!

elise526
November 24th, 2008, 03:56 PM
i am 5'7" and 148 pounds and very muscular, for a girl. strong looking arms and strong legs.

the kicking on your side thing is interesting, i think that might be one of my problems. i remember when i first started swimming, i found it impossible to kick on my side--i basically had to stop kicking when my body was rotated.

i don't think the running would negatively affect my swimming. due to shin splints, i wasn't running much until the last couple of months. i was exclusively swimming for a long time, but still not really getting anywhere.

Try doing a 300 where you do 12 kicks on each side with 3 strokes for a 75, then 6 kicks/3 strokes for a 75, 3 kicks/3 strokes for a 75, and then regular free for a 75. Try doing 3 of these 300s with a minute rest in-between.

I admire you if you can run and swim at the same time. When I ran track and trained in swimming at the same time, it had a major impact on my swimming speed.

P.S. If you have trouble kicking on this drill, try using fins. Eventually, though, you want to be able to do it without fins.

slowfish
November 25th, 2008, 05:38 PM
my 2 cents, being of similar speed and having a similar background in swimming:

1) once you get the corrections, lower your yardage and intervals. i found that when i get a good correction, because it makes me more efficient, i get tired more easily so it's easy to resort back to the old ways and the correction doesn't stick. stick with 25s, 50s, and 100s on an interval until you feel like the correction has stuck. then move up in distance.

2) do sets with fins on intervals to get the feel of faster swimming.

3) do drills and pulling sets before the shorter sets to try and be in good form last though a set.

4) think about every stroke. not the zen of open water but by being aware of what you are doing with your body and arms with each stroke is how you get muscle memory.

5) finally -learn all of the strokes. my freestyle started getting a bit faster when i learned fly - i suspect it's because free feels easy after doing fly

Mookie
November 25th, 2008, 07:30 PM
I like your name, here it is on my boat! As for swimming speed, I could only help you go slower.