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View Full Version : [CORE] My first year of swimming, preemptive retrospective.



Couroboros
October 26th, 2009, 03:40 AM
I know, I know... a few of you may be asking what the heck a preemptive retrospective is supposed to be, but indulge me, I'm a writer. If you can put up with Jim Thornton, you can put up with the kinds of oxymorons I like to invent that would make George Carlin roll over in his grave.

I'm ten months into competitive swimming now. Feels like yesterday I was posting my introductory thread! So perhaps time flies, but I feel this year has been slower than any of the last seven or eight. I made a lot of changes in my life this year, number one among them being my entry into this sport and way of life. The last decade mostly consisted of me single-mindedly barreling towards one goal, one direction, one dream at a very damaging cost, and as such, my perception of the passage of time got faster and faster as the years just flew by. But swimming was a new and radically different variable that I threw into the mix with 2009. Everything slowed down, in the best possible way.

Now while I may be trudging through a muddy swamp of time right now (and may I stay in that swamp for a long time still), my swimming times are only getting faster and faster. My coach recently said I have made great progress in a small amount of time. To be honest, I don't know what the heck he's talking about, but I go ahead and believe him anyway. "If you say so!" He is the expert, after all. I haven't actually been to a meet since April, but it appears November I'll be returning to competition, with my USAS team. The training there is so plenty intensive that I decided to drop Masters for the time being. Wouldn't want to overtrain. But not to worry, I will return! Probably in January. But in November, I will know what my newest times are.

Recently, since I'm not really fighting the weight battle anymore (170 pounds... 70 lbs lower than my all-time high a year ago), I've begun to realize I have to think less about the simple act of getting back in shape and tearing down those heaps and heaps of fat, and more about creating and building up certain important things. For instance, I need to begin carving out the developed and powerful body that will carry me towards my goal times, I need to begin erecting a tower of confidence out of the uncountable steel beams that represent every believable indicator of my ability that I can find (the foundation work is done, all the earth dug out- but that's a removal process), and I need to finally start working on my ace-in-the-hole secret weapon, which still remains in a conceptual, theoretical stage. Every swimmer needs an Area 51... but I digress.

Going back to that powerful body I so desire raises a question... the skinniest, hardest parts about me are my arms and legs. But my torso, or my core, is the softest part of my body. This seems to fit in with the problem I've been noticing about my swimming lately... I'm swimming with my arms and legs. This is, I think, bad, and you would probably agree, especially since I have a terrible kick (that will change). My pull is better, but still... I think I've underused my core all the way up to this point in my swimming. However, and this particularly upsets me, I don't know and sometimes I can't even imagine what exactly I'm supposed to do with my core! Help me, Masters forum! I just need a nudge in the right direction. Is it like... should everything follow what the core does first, in a kind of way, as a general rule? Or something else? I have a slight idea as to how my core powers my arms, but absolutely no idea what to do with my core in relation to my legs, especially in flutter kick. Perhaps one of you can provide me with an inspiring quote or insightful anecdote about the core's importance in swimming? How is the core used in each of the four strokes? As is, I feel I'm in the bad habit of simply using my limbs to drag and push my core along, instead of making it what it's supposed to be, whatever that is.

For so long, I have neglected the core. This is really unfitting since I just realized my username itself is an unintended play of that exact word with Ouroboros.

I think you can tell what this thread is really about (CORE!), but every time I start one of these threads I can never resist writing a novel so I changed the title from "I think I'm underusing my core" to the one that's there now, as it's more indicative of the post as a whole.

Hoshi
October 26th, 2009, 07:09 AM
The core is the supporter of the entire body. Without a strong core, you will not be able to kick to the best of your ability. The core helps to stabilize you in the water; this allows your kick to go deeper without your body angling downward to create drag. So, in order to start creating an extraordinary kick with those legs, you need a solid core. Of course, even when the core gets stronger, it will take a while for you to get used to the new position you will have in the water. It sounds like you're "leaning forward" in the water to primarily focus on your main propulsion: your arms. This can lead to injury actually. Your arms, especially the smaller muscles in the shoulder like the rotator cuff, can become continuously strained by trying to make up for the lack of kick. So on your time off, I'd definitely suggest working your core to the fullest extent and going back into the pool a month earlier to see how swimming feels again.

Couroboros
October 26th, 2009, 10:45 AM
Interesting. So it sounds like not having a good core can actually actively detract from the kick, instead of just merely being a deadweight that's pushed forward.

qbrain
October 26th, 2009, 11:10 AM
Couroboros,

There is not magic core answer. A strong core will not magically improve your stroke nor does a squishy core mean that your core is actually weak, just that you still have a squishy layer around your middle.

The most obvious route for you is lots of dolphin kick. This will work core and kick at the same time. It really sucks, try it some time.

There are lots of ways to work the core in the gym. Squats and deadlifts will work your core if you start a heavy weight lifting routine. Lighter options are back extensions on a Roman chair, side bends and hanging knee raises all of which can be weighted. Then there is the typical floor work, crunches, side crunches, supermans, etc. What fits in your timeline and budget and what will you be interested in enough to stick with?

How do you use your core when you swim? You don't. The core is there to provide a stable base to work it. All the information about the core being the source of power for your stroke is mental games to get you to engage your core while you swim. The core does a lot of work during a flip turn and fly, the rest of the time is does a lot of isometric work and the work it does do will be out of necessity, not out of active thought.

How do you engage your core to provide this solid base to build on? Natalie Coughlin talks about sucking in her gut and trying to connect her belly button with her spine. There are 3 videos on line (iirc) of her talking about her core during her stroke. A rigid surface travels faster through water than a wobbly surface, so you are flexing your core to accomplish this by whatever mental images help you. This also provides you with the solid base to build your kick and pull off of and connect the two.

Like most things in swimming, it is really a small thing you are trying to change, that will make a small improvement. A billion small things add up :)

Bobinator
October 27th, 2009, 08:39 AM
All power (movement) in any locomotion is generated from the core of the body. This is done by body roll is swimming. Think of other sports, perhaps throwing a softball. We teach beginners to face the target with their side, then lead with their hips as they turn and throw. Swimming is the same. The hips are the impetus of the roll(or where the power generates from). The arms hold on and ride the body over the water.
Does this make any sense? :confused:

Couroboros
October 28th, 2009, 07:56 PM
Perfect sense! :)

It makes sense that since the core is the largest part of the body, then moving it around, abruptly, will obviously have a great impact on the swimming, negatively or positive depending on how it's used.

q- lately, I've been on the frontier of trying to make dolphin kicks a habit. First, it was flip turns, now I've got those down... so moving on to consistent SDKing. I'll be honest, it is hard. The sensation of forcing oneself to do five or six dolphin kicks is obviously not a pleasant one. And let alone succeeding in doing five or six, then there's the matter of not breathing on the first stroke... something I've failed at miserably so far.

I am addicted to oxygen, haha. I need to be weened off it a little...

The Fortress
October 28th, 2009, 10:09 PM
Couroboros,

There is not magic core answer. A strong core will not magically improve your stroke nor does a squishy core mean that your core is actually weak, just that you still have a squishy layer around your middle.

The most obvious route for you is lots of dolphin kick. This will work core and kick at the same time. It really sucks, try it some time.

There are lots of ways to work the core in the gym. Squats and deadlifts will work your core if you start a heavy weight lifting routine. Lighter options are back extensions on a Roman chair, side bends and hanging knee raises all of which can be weighted. Then there is the typical floor work, crunches, side crunches, supermans, etc. What fits in your timeline and budget and what will you be interested in enough to stick with?

How do you use your core when you swim? You don't. The core is there to provide a stable base to work it. All the information about the core being the source of power for your stroke is mental games to get you to engage your core while you swim. The core does a lot of work during a flip turn and fly, the rest of the time is does a lot of isometric work and the work it does do will be out of necessity, not out of active thought.

Like most things in swimming, it is really a small thing you are trying to change, that will make a small improvement. A billion small things add up :)

This is good advice.

I am a core/dolphin kicking maniac. I swim with my core and my legs. (But then I am a fly/back-er and those are leg driven strokes.) I have found that fins and my monofin have helped build leg and core strength. So will proper dryland training. I could list all the dryland exercises I do, but if you're interested, consult my blog. Or other blogs. Lots of people doing interesting workouts and dryland training. It will definitely compliment/enhance your swimming.

I also do dolphin kick shooters (i.e., underwater swims) all the time. You can get used to oxygen deprivation with practice.

Keep persevering. You can do it!

Couroboros
October 29th, 2009, 01:39 AM
It's a great consolation to know that one "gets used" to the oxygen deprivation. If you don't mind my asking, does that absurd tickling go away eventually? When I'm really straining, I start to tickle.

My coach has us do a lot of sit-ups, lunges, squats, jump-ups, and this one where you put your hands on your hips and lean down as far as you can, bending knees slightly, then snap back up. I forget the name of it. Sometimes they'll all be in between runs around the track. I've been at it since the new season started last month, so not very much headway yet, I think. It's very funny because the coaches kill me before I even get in the water.

I will definitely consult your blog! It sounds like you make dryland and core + legs an art-form. And speaking of blogs, I should start my own soon.

Thanks for the encouragement.

qbrain
October 29th, 2009, 10:36 AM
I didn't mean just SDK, but that is great. I doubt your coach will have any problem with you mixing in, or completely replacing your kick sets with dolphin kick. Do them with a board, do them on your side, do them on your back. Dolphin kick works the core way more than flutter kick and it is so important to most strokes that coaches will love to see you torturing yourself with extra dolphin kick.

BR KnuckleDragger
October 29th, 2009, 05:37 PM
This is such a great thread for me, Thank you everyone who responded. I too am the 46 year old with no fat on my arms or legs who is pulling and pushing this Sausage Torso...oh to be 20 again...

It is so completely puzzling to me and my friends how I can workout 9 - 11 times a week, try to eat as properly as possible and still carry around this torso???

I want to be lean...

qbrain
October 29th, 2009, 06:28 PM
Hmm... dolphin kick won't decrease your midsection fat, it will just work your core.

I don't know why you can workout 9-11 times a week, eat right and still have a mid section problem. Maybe workout harder and eat righter?

BR KnuckleDragger
October 29th, 2009, 06:50 PM
hmmm...I already workout harder than anyone in the world so it's got to be my metabolism, stress??? (Cortisol belly), or the random cocktail on the weekends...

It's amazing that I can consume a half a pound of food and drink and gain 3 lbs...

The Fortress
October 29th, 2009, 06:51 PM
hmmm...I already workout harder than anyone in the world so it's got to be my metabolism, stress??? (Cortisol belly), or the random cocktail on the weekends...

It's amazing that I can consume a half a pound of food and drink and gain 3 lbs...

I was wondering the same thing as Q ... 9-11 is a lot of workouts! All swimming or some weight bearing work as well? Swimming makes me fat, so it's better to mix in some running and/or biking. Are you lifting?

Thyroid function check maybe?

BR KnuckleDragger
October 29th, 2009, 07:06 PM
I was swimming 11 times a week and my coach told me I was over-training, so now I do dryland at my noon workouts (Bike/Precor/Weights/Abs) and just swim at night with our team...

Seriously I am amazed that I am overweight. I have had blood work done and the Dr checked my thyroid because even he could not explain the "sausageness"

Maybe I can blame it on Ahelee since she is my coach...but she even calls me fat...

lol

Ahelee Sue Osborn
October 29th, 2009, 07:35 PM
OMG - LOL!!!

I can't even call the dog on the block fat!

Seriously... thanks Fort and Q for being on the same page without even knowing it.

Perhaps there is or has been discussion about this topic already - before I got on the forum.
As a masters coach, the #1 request of me from swimmers is to help them loose weight.
The only reason it seems like more requests are from men is because there are simply more men on the teams I have coached.
Women want to know too.

The three things I ask most often are:

*Can you add time to dryland or run in your training time?

*What and how much are you eating?
(sometimes athletes need to eat more often and in smaller quantities)

*Are you getting enough sleep?

In Brett's case, I could tell he was training hard.
But all hard.
He has incredible drive and a good work ethic at least in the months I have worked with him...
He sprints the warmup. There is no such thing as EZ.
I figured out that even in the lunchtime swims at his health club he was swimming hard on his own.

And sort of unrelated -
It seems funny because in my big mileage running days, my friends would refer to our EZ trail runs as "fat burning miles".
I think there is something to that however with very limited available training time it may appear wasteful to some athletes trying to get fast.

Finally, it is senseless to compare the training elite professional athletes are doing to yours if you are just returning to workouts after 10 - 15 -20 - 35 years away...
The bodies of elite swimmers are lean, strong and prepared to swim big high quality race pace sets.

The Fortress
October 29th, 2009, 08:18 PM
I was swimming 11 times a week and my coach told me I was over-training, so now I do dryland at my noon workouts (Bike/Precor/Weights/Abs) and just swim at night with our team...

Seriously I am amazed that I am overweight. I have had blood work done and the Dr checked my thyroid because even he could not explain the "sausageness"

Maybe I can blame it on Ahelee since she is my coach...but she even calls me fat...

lol

Well, that sucks!

The only thing I can suggest, and what Ahelee alluded to, is to run. Running is usually a magic pill for weight loss, though it is hard on the joints. (Leg fatigue can also interfere with fast dolphin kicking. Sigh.) Many will laugh at Precor use anyway! Or, if you really can't run, try the stair master or other stair machines.

Or maybe you'd be a good candidate for P90X? An hour of plyos should burn a ton of calories. P90X - U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums

qbrain
October 29th, 2009, 08:39 PM
Maybe I can blame it on Ahelee since she is my coach...but she even calls me fat...


Yep, it is probably Ahelee's training making you fat.



Seriously... thanks Fort and Q for being on the same page without even knowing it.


We are on the same page a lot. Page 1. Rarely the same book.

Brett, More seriously, I have no idea why you can't loose weight. If I get my crystal ball working, I promise to let you know, even after I am rich.

COREboros lost a ton of weight, so it can be done, although he has an abnormal work ethic too.

notsofast
October 29th, 2009, 09:32 PM
The main component of weight loss is reducing calorie intake. Exercise helps, but you are already exercising at the max or close to it.
Have you ever recorded your meals/snacks for a week? You might be surprised how many calories you ingest.
On the other hand, you may just be Kirby Puckett - good athlete in a nonathletic build.

bamueller
October 30th, 2009, 12:12 AM
I think you should sit down with your doctor and discuss this situation further. I would definitely record (keep a log) of the meals, snacks, and drinks you consume each day, and analyze the results.

You could also see a dietician. They would be able to see what your resting metabolic rate is to help you understand how much burn. I did this in college when I was playing football. It turned out, I would burn 4300 calories per day just resting. If I wanted to gain weight, I needed to eat more, but I needed to eat the right things.

Working out 9-11 times per week has acclimated your body to the physical regiment. You are used to it now, which might prevent you from burning more. You might trying scaling back the sessions in the pool, and add other forms of exercise, such as running, cycling, or lifting. I feel like running has always been the fastest way for me to lose fat.

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-304--10586-1-1X2-3,00.html

Mswimming
October 30th, 2009, 11:13 AM
Brett,

You know I've been running since about September. While it has certainly helped with weight loss, at the UCLA meet I realized that it was having a real impact on my swimming as well. I felt much more agile and athletic during the meet. Starts and turns felt quicker, felt more power/pop off the walls and I still had a strong kick at the end of races. I was really surprised. I expected to not swim very well since I am Ahelee's resident slacker during work outs (swim hard when I'm feelin' it, cruise when I'm not).

And it was the first Short course meet where most of my times matched the conversion from my long course times. Usually my times are the same between SCM and LCM (or even slower :blush:). And you know for me that is a big deal and has been huge source of frustration.

I know running in not fun, but the clock doesn't lie.

BR KnuckleDragger
October 30th, 2009, 12:32 PM
Thank you everyone for the input, I am reading over this thread while eating dry wheat toast, fresh squeezed OJ and fresh blackberries.

I think I will attempt to start running, two of you have stated overwhelming results that I cannot ignore. Journaling my food intake is an interesting thought, it would probably reveal lots of potential calories I could remove.

Kevin (Mswimming)- How many days a week do you run and how far? Aerobically, I am prepared to run but as a swimmer who swims predominantly breaststroke my good healthy knees are important.

Any beginner running suggestions?

And I was just kidding about Ahelee, she is a fantastic coach!

Mswimming
October 30th, 2009, 01:15 PM
Kevin (Mswimming)- How many days a week do you run and how far? Aerobically, I am prepared to run but as a swimmer who swims predominantly breaststroke my good healthy knees are important.

Any beginner running suggestions?



Brett, I've been running about 2 or 3 times a week. Sometimes I run on the track and lately I've been running around the lake. I just saw Ahelee's email, there lots of good stuff there about starting running and being mindful of your knees.

Couroboros
November 2nd, 2009, 09:56 PM
Guys, I got my events for my meet in 3 weeks.

they all looked pretty good until I came to the last of six...


a 400 IM.
















Oh... god....
















HELP ME!

jim thornton
November 2nd, 2009, 10:40 PM
One of the best 400 IM swimmers I know suggests building each 100.

I would recommend doing this except for butterfly.

Do not let you adrenaline talk you into going too fast on the 100 fly!

qbrain
November 3rd, 2009, 09:17 AM
a 400 IM.


Never swam it, but there is a interview on floswimming (iirc) at Clovis, two girls were behind the blocks before the 400IM chanting "float the fly, float the fly, float the fly."

Sounds like great advice. Long smooth easy strokes and just finish the fly with as much energy as possible left.

If you are strong at everything else or your breast is better than your back, build. If your back is better than your breast then easy fly, strong back, easy breast, fast free.

"Easy" is an overcompensation technique. You think you are swimming an easy fly, but you will end up going a respectable time.

I would put the 400IM in the strategy race category. Don't worry about going out too easy on your first attempt, because coming home, I doubt you will still think you went out too easy :)

Also, this is USA-S. It was pretty much a requirement to talk to the coach before and after each race for me. He/She will give you direction on what to do based on how you are swimming that day, what he knows your strengths and weaknesses are and what he thinks can be learned from a potentially experimental race. The coaches' advice supersedes what advice you get here.