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USMSarah
January 4th, 2007, 11:24 AM
Hey there-

Was just wondering if any of you felt like this...

At practice: I feel strong, my strokes feel perfect - everything is great.

When at meets: The second I dive in (this is primarily on backstroke, my best stroke) - and I feel like I'm out of control, I feel like I slip on every pull - not going anywhere but my arms are going fast.

What is going on? Do I need to lift weights or what?

Thanks - Sarah

Allen Stark
January 4th, 2007, 11:31 AM
That sometimes happens to me in the 50 breast and then I try to slow my self down a little,stretch out a little and regain feel for the water. You are probably just stroking too fast and losing your grip on the water. Lifting weights will help your power ,but won't help your feel for the water,so I doubt it would solve this problem.

TRYM_Swimmer
January 4th, 2007, 12:08 PM
I think it could have something to do with tension. Whenever I can't relax before a breaststroke race, my stroke comes apart and I feel like a beginner. Try some slow, deep breathing before you race. Also read the NYT article referenced in the Free Your Mind thread.

FlyQueen
January 4th, 2007, 12:46 PM
I had this problem at the first meet I swam this year. I felt like I was fighting the water on fly and had no grip in free. My coach told me that more likely than not it was because I hadn't done much actual race pace swimming and needed to remember "how to race". Sometimes we spin and our form goes to hell ...

Superfly
January 4th, 2007, 01:33 PM
I definately vote for "to few competitions" choice. When I was young we had a meet every weekend...the feel of swimming really fast was always there. As a master I am happy to compete more than once every second month...no wonder it feels strange competing....every time.
/Per

USMSarah
January 4th, 2007, 01:58 PM
I had this problem at the first meet I swam this year. I felt like I was fighting the water on fly and had no grip in free. My coach told me that more likely than not it was because I hadn't done much actual race pace swimming and needed to remember "how to race". Sometimes we spin and our form goes to hell ...

Yes! It felt like I was fighting the water (it was like I hadn't practiced at all)!

I'll just have to get my butt moving on backstroke more at practice... that is probably it.

Thank you everyone for your comments - I've got some work to do!

KaizenSwimmer
January 4th, 2007, 02:59 PM
What is going on? Do I need to lift weights or what?

How -- and when -- you warm up may have something to do with it. In practice we're used to gradual buildup to our strongest efforts. Few of us would attempt our best repeat after sitting cold at poolside for 30 minutes. Descending sets allow you to gradually tune your stroke on way to your best swim of the set.

How can you replicate that environment in meets?

I do three different kinds of warmups at Masters meets:
1) Prior to the meet I do a fairly general and very low key warmup.I don't time anything and mix strokes to maximize the amount of muscle tissue, joint involvement and motor pattern activity involved.
2) Prior to each race I do a tuneup. During this tuneup, I'm aiming to heighten the specific kinesthetic sensation that I associate with the "Perfect Race." Specifically I'm aiming for a feeling that represents how I'd like to experience the first quarter of the race - stroke length, tempo, sense of pressure, etc. I don't bother timing myself during this tuneup either. Why? Because I won't be looking at the clock as I race so the only guide I'll have will be kinesthetic.
3) Following each race I do a warmdown which is swimming at the gentlest possible pace -- again mixing strokes to maximize the tissue that gets flushed -- until I feel just like I did before the race. I finish the warmdown with a tiny bit of tuneup for my next race.

I find that if I can establish the neural pattern and kinesthetic feel of the first quarter of the race during the tuneup the rest will take care of itself -- but I sometimes add a bit of rehearsal of the middle and final quarter as well.

It's important to do your tuneup in a way that doesn't pre-fatigue you. When I coached the sprinters at West Point, I would have them limit the race specific tuneup activity to 3-cycle "bursts" because I'd read some research that suggested that just a few seconds of activity is enough to "alert" the nervous system of a forthcoming task.

As for doing a brief amount of tuneup following warmdown from a prior race, I figure it can't hurt to sit around for 30 min or so with the nervous system already tuned up for its next critical activity.

How long before the race is optimal for your tuneup is a good subject for personal experimentation. The longer the race, the closer I want to cut it. For anything from 800 to 1500 I watch the prior heat and try to continue warming up -- gently -- until I have only a minute or two to walk to my block and start the race. For a shorter race I might allow as much as five minutes to elapse.

When the interval between tuneup and start is longer than a couple minutes, I stand behind the blocks and repeatedly "swim" the first 50 as vividly as possible in my mind. Once again the reason is that the neural pattern gets activated if you merely think about the activity. And as long as you're thinking you might as well think about the perfect start to the perfect race.

Not everyone will agree, but I'd encourage you to always look to neural preparation -- rather than things like whether you should lift weights -- as the first explanation when your racing falls short of your expectations. (This should not be taken as a suggestion that weight training does not have its place.)

USMSarah
January 4th, 2007, 08:55 PM
How -- and when -- you warm up may have something to do with it.

Wow! Thank you so much for all of that info! I will definitely be putting that to use at my next meet.

I've been good at cooling down after my events, but I'm terrible at hopping in to warm up before all of my swims. I also do visualize my events before I dive in... it's such a big help - but I like what you wrote...

When you mean "3 cycle bursts" - are you saying do 3 fast cycles of the stroke you're going to swim during some fast 25's during warmups for my 50 and 100 events? What do you recommend for a 200 IM?

Thank you for your time!
Sarah

islandsox
January 4th, 2007, 09:04 PM
Sarah,

You may be aware or you may not, but your description of this problem sounds familiar. Sometimes, a swimmer is way too over-anxious at the start and spins in the initial part of the race without the performance feedback. Terry was very correct in mentioning a proper warmup; and the better condition a swimmer is in, the longer the warmup needs to be. And that warmup will help to alleviate tension. Also, visualization of the race, usually all through a taper up to the race itself, will help immensly. I have always used visualization for anything I do, way ahead of time, and what seems to happen is that the picture in my brain does eventually match the swim itself. My body follows the picture in my brain because my body is already trained; I am just trying to get my mind around it all.

I also think with being over-anxious even if you are totally not aware of it, a swimmer loses control and sense of pace. And in any swim race, acceleration is built, not instantly obtained right out of the shoot. Maybe you are trying too hard in the beginning? Just a thought.....

Some of the races I lost, I lost because I tried to go from zero to 100 during the midportion of the start. Failure happened. Tough lesson.

Donna

KaizenSwimmer
January 4th, 2007, 09:10 PM
Three cycles would be three strokes in Fly and Breast, six strokes in Back or Free. But mainly think in terms of several seconds of swimming, during which you strive to swim with the feel you imagine you'd have if you were swimming the race of your life.

I suggested that amount to the sprinters because the key to making this work as a tuneup is for it to be non-fatiguing. For 100 speed to be non-fatiguing you need to keep the rehearsal pretty brief. When I'm rehearsing my 1650 feel I can swim 25s or 50s without creating residual fatigue. And keep in mind that I use the tuneup to prepare for the 1st quarter of the race, which is the most conservative portion anyway.

Your description "out of control...like I slip on every pull...not going anywhere but my arms are going fast" strongly suggests that your neuromuscular system was out of synch.

quicksilver
January 4th, 2007, 09:37 PM
When at meets: The second I dive in (this is primarily on backstroke, my best stroke) - and I feel like I'm out of control, I feel like I slip on every pull - not going anywhere but my arms are going fast.



If your arms are spinning too fast...you may not rolling enough. This is important for swimming fast backstroke and staying skinny in the water.


http://www.limmatsharks.com/backstroke.html
Lenny had a very fast turnover and his technique was fantastic. He rolled always. And a thanks to Terry for writing this article.

Muppet
January 5th, 2007, 10:57 AM
Practice going fast. Do sprint sets in practice where you're focusing on going as fast as you can (for that moment), but being very mindful of your stroke.

Practice longer stuff (ie 150's and 200s) for your 50's and 100s - work the last half of those longer swims hard, but maintaining good form.

Do a 50 or two off the blocks at the end of practice. After the workout is done, do a 50/100 ez, then stick around a few minutes doing a couple 50s for time.

Slowly but surely, your race-time form will start getting better as you work on your speed AND form during your practice times.

Another tip - got a video camera? tape a few swims in practice, and take the camera to all your meets. look at the tape after the meets with your coach and talk about what you could be doing better. work on that in practice. I have been using the camera for years, and even today, I go back and look at certain races to see what I was doing right or wrong.

EyeoreSAM
January 5th, 2007, 11:24 AM
Sarah-

I am mainly a backstroker too! I started back a few years ago and I was having the exact same problem. I felt like I didn't know how to swim when I got to a meet and it wasn't from lack of practice. In order to fix this, I did a few things. I started swimming fast off the blocks (from a start for back) more frequently and I entered a lot more meets. It has become so much easier to race whenever I want now. I also swim USS meets and train with a USS team which has made me challenge myself much more than when I trained alone. My best suggestion is just to race, race, race! Just my thoughts.

Suzanne

Redbird Alum
January 5th, 2007, 01:11 PM
I also enjoyed Terry's (Kaizan) comments about the three-phased tuning. Only one question left for me...

In smaller meets where there is no real opportunity for pre-event warm-ups, do you suggest the sprint tuning be the last thing you do in the general warm-up cycle?

USMSarah
January 5th, 2007, 09:41 PM
As per the above advice - I felt pumped to get in the pool and concentrate on going faster at practice. I started doing more descending and build sets in practice tonight (and sprints at the end).

I've found myself really concentrating on proper technique over the past few years - and that I've neglected the need for speed... I did feel great tonight - but I've got a long way to getting my sprint back to where it used to be.

I've got three meets in the next month and a half! Yea! :banana:

KaizenSwimmer
January 5th, 2007, 09:58 PM
In smaller meets where there is no real opportunity for pre-event warm-ups, do you suggest the sprint tuning be the last thing you do in the general warm-up cycle?

Matt
At smaller meets, in which there may be only one or two heats per event and little rest between your events, you might try staying in the pool for much of the time. Definitely keep the complete cooldown after your event, even if it means you go race -- cooldown -- race with little or no time to dry off and sit down. You'll swim subsequent events better if you've flushed out the lactic acid from your muscles. In this instance the tuneup may be quite brief.

KaizenSwimmer
January 5th, 2007, 10:01 PM
I've found myself really concentrating on proper technique over the past few years - and that I've neglected the need for speed... I did feel great tonight - but I've got a long way to getting my sprint back to where it used to be.

Speedwork is just technique work with a more exacting form of coordination. Same techniques you employ at slower speeds, but maintained at higher stroke rates, heart and respiration rates, power levels.
Will it be as precise? No, but every speed set you do should be an effort to maintain your efficiency at a slightly better level than the last time.

Allen Stark
January 6th, 2007, 12:54 AM
When practicing sprinting I try to keep one thing in mind to work on each sprint. Like in breaststroke doing a set of 25s I'll spend one 25 focusing on keeping my head down,one focusing on getting my feet high on the catch of the kick,one on shrugging my shoulders,etc.Then at a meet I'll mentally go through the stroke focusing on getting it perfect in my mind before I swim.

KaizenSwimmer
January 6th, 2007, 01:39 PM
I do it exactly as Allen does. Each sprint I do constitutes a "task" done as well as possible at the highest speed possible. I won't sacrifice execution for sheer speed, because (a) I don't want to train myself to lose efficiency as I gain speed and (b) I never race a 25 anyway so whatever I do to generate speed has to be sustainable. The "speed" I'm training to develop needs to relate to where/how I'll use it. Others may beat me over a flat 25, but can't sustain their speed much beyond that, which makes it less functional.

My tasks resemble Allen's - i.e. feel synchronization between hand-spear and leg-drive on each stroke or keep a no-slip-grip with elbow above hand. But I'll be more likely to stay with one focal point for repeated 25s than to change each length (perhaps more characteristic of a distance swimmer.) Or my task could be to try to break 16 sec at 13 SPL (free) from a push. Or it could be to swim at my max speed -- and smoothness -- at 13-14-15-15-14-13 SPL on a series of 25s.

Relating this back to the original question -- how to swim as well in a meet as you do in practice -- I'd suggest you make a practice of visualizing or mentally rehearsing how "speed" would feel in the race of your life (specific to distance and to race segment -- 1st 25 of a 100 or final 50 of a 500) and fit yourself into that mental picture while doing your speedwork. This also fits Allen's use of the term mindfulness.

The better acquainted you become with this mental picture the better your chances of making it reality. Remember the same neural activity occurs when you think about swimming as when you actually swim.