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  1. 'I Have an Idea for an Article About … ' (July–August 2017)

    by , June 30th, 2017 at 01:20 PM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Readers ask me, “Have you ever thought about doing a story on ...”

    Some readers want to tell their own stories. (Hint: We love getting humorous or light-hearted first-person essays for the Hot Tub.) Some nominate a teammate or ask about a swimmer they saw at nationals. Some have training or sports medicine or rules questions, and those evolve into article topics.

    Some swimmers share their stories in the hope of providing inspiration or encouragement to others who might be struggling.

    In this issue, John Ramos of Masters of Yucaipa in Southern California shares with writer Gretchen M. Sanders how swimming has helped him in his struggle with PTSD following the San Bernardino terrorist attack (Swimming Life, page 6).

    Some readers reach out with questions or concerns about products, and ideas evolve from there.

    Gina Pond in Chicago was frustrated with not being able to find swimsuits that fit her and wasn’t seeing swimmers of size featured in our publications. Elaine K. Howley spoke with Pond about body image issues and her quest for inclusivity (Bewitching Belief, page 18).

    Sometimes we get emails with interesting professional signatures, prompting us to ask, “Hey, what’s it like being a (winemaker, oboe player, xenobiologist) and can we write about you?”

    Many readers want practical advice on how to swim faster or more efficiently.

    In this issue’s technique feature (page 24), Jeff Commings writes that you can go wider with your breaststroke out-sweep, providing you back it up with a powerful kick. So, if you’re still mentally scraping the insides of a salad bowl, try his tips for more power in the armstroke. (I swear just reading that article has already improved my breaststroke.)

    Terry Heggy (whose online coaching and technique articles at are must-reads) asks Level 4 USMS coach Chris McPherson for a few drills to fix your freestyle (Ask the Coach, page 8) and multiple record-holder Dot Munger for some racing tips (From the Center Lanes, page 10).

    For the most part, there aren’t bad topics—only ones that will interest or won’t interest any given reader.

    If you have an idea for an article, let us know at, or contact me directly at

    Always, thanks for reading.

    Updated December 30th, 2017 at 03:25 PM by Editor

    Staff Blogs
  2. USMS Clinic Course for Coaches

    by , March 14th, 2017 at 03:52 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Why should I attend the USMS Clinic Course for Coaches?

    A: Frankly, the demand from adults seeking stroke development clinics far outweighs the supply of clinics provided by well-trained coaches with stroke technique skills. USMS developed the Clinic Course for Coaches (CCC) to increase the supply of Masters coaches who desire the pathway and skills necessary to host a successful clinic. This course provides coaches with a proven method to build a more efficient stroke through a series of progressive drills isolating specific body mechanics.

    Many Masters coaches have strong stroke correction skills which serve them well during swim practice or a private lesson. However, the objective of a stroke development clinic is to provide a group of swimmers, of all ability levels, stroke improvement that is measurable both subjectively and objectively and is sustainable.

    Masters coaches attending the CCC receive:
    A classroom presentation that includes:

    • Instructions to conceptualize, plan and implement a successful clinic.
    • A detailed timeline for the clinic delivery leading up to and during the clinic
    • A proven instructional method delivered through a specific series of drills and skills that isolate specific body mechanics and progressively builds a more efficient stroke.
    • Narrated drill videos (available to the coach after the course.)

    On deck experience during a stroke development clinic including:

    • Watching a mentor coach deliver the clinic as instructed in the classroom and course textbook
    • Feedback from mentor coaches
    • Practical experience with actual Masters swimmers

    So, if you want to learn how to put on a clinic and what to do during a clinic, you should consider attending one of the CCC listed here.
  3. How can I help bring a stroke clinic to my LMSC?

    by , October 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I attended this year's USMS convention in Kansas City, Mo. During the coaches committee meeting, you asked the Masters coaches to encourage their LMSCs to sponsor an official stroke development clinic. How can I help bring a clinic to my LMSC?

    A: Stroke development clinics are a very popular resource for Masters swimmers and coaches. USMS Education Services conducts the 2- to 3-hour clinic in conjunction with the Masters Coach Certification courses. Exit surveys from the Coach Certification courses have indicated a large demand from coaches for more on-deck educational opportunities. Masters swimmers, particularly those who swim without an experienced coach, attend the stroke clinic looking for help improving technique, learning a new stroke, increasing stroke efficiency, and speed.

    The USMS Masters Coach Certification Course is typically held on a Saturday. At the request of the LMSC, USMS Education Services will provide instructors to conduct the stroke clinic the following day. Any designated USMS certified Masters coach who would like to be on deck for the clinic may do so free of charge. If the coach would rather participate from in the water, he is required to pay the same nominal fee the swimmers in the clinic are charged.

    The LMSC must fulfill two requirements:

    1. The LMSC must be willing to offer some level of scholarship assistance for the coaches registered within the LMSC to attend the USMS Masters Coach Certification Course offered that weekend.
    2. The LMSC is responsible for securing the pool for the stroke clinic and pay for the pool rental, if necessary. Pool time is sometimes donated by a local club or workout group in many LMSCs.

    Benefits of the stroke development clinic include:

    • Continuing education for Masters coaches
    • Teaching Masters coaches how to conduct a stroke clinic
    • Networking opportunity for coaches to meet other local Masters coaches
    • Recruiting and retaining members
    • Adding value to USMS/LMSC membership
    • Introducing Masters coaches and swimmers to new training techniques
    • Inviting lap swimmers to experience the social benefits of Masters swimming and the benefit of having a coach on deck
    • Improving swimmers' technique and efficiency
    • Learning new drills
    • Learning how to use swim equipment properly and creatively
    • Hearing a different voice explain the "how" and the "why" of stroke correction and changes

    Please contact your LMSC leadership and ask them to consider sponsoring a USMS stroke development clinic. Make your request as soon as possible so the LMSC may consider your request and budget accordingly. The Masters Coach Certification Course schedule is posted online. Any questions or concerns from your LMSC may be addressed to my office.

    Working together, we can continue to improve the Masters swimming coaching profession and create enhanced benefits for our coaches and athletes.
  4. Saturday morning technique workout

    I swam the early (6am) AGUA workout. Long course is heavenly, and worth getting up at dawn for. (And I love this time of year, when the sun rises not only before practice ends but before it even starts!) Here’s what I did:

    800 lcm warmup

    Chalk talk on FR breathing / head position and flip turns

    300 FR swim focusing on those things

    Demonstration of proper technique by teammates

    100 extra-slow FR swim w/ good breathing technique that finally satisfied our coach

    400 reverse IM done as 50 K / 50 S

    1000 kick done as 400 flutter on back with fins / 300 side kicking w/ fins / 200 “gutbuster” kicking w/ fins (FL kick on back holding pull-buoy between legs) / 100 easy K w/out fins [I ended up doing about 700 of assorted barefoot kick in the slowest lane, since I didn’t have my own fins with me, and those at the pool give me stigmata. I practiced balancing at a 45 degree angle (ie halfway between on my back and on my side) while kicking—it’s easy towards the left, but difficult towards the right for me.]

    12 x 100 @ :45ish rest:
    1-4 50 FL / 50 BK
    5-8 50 BK / 50 BR
    9-10 50 BR / 50 FR
    11-12 IM
    [There were originally 16 of these, with 4 of each type of 50, but we ran out of time to do the whole set. We did a 50 easy after #s 4 and 8 to regroup. I got extra rest on this set because I had stayed in a slower lane after the kicking above, and enjoyed really pushing the pace on the IM pieces.]

    200 warmdown

    I was really happy today to see a former lanemate at workout—it had probably been a couple of years since I saw him last. He’s back for the summer, so it will be nice swimming with him again!

    Tomorrow I might get in my first outdoor pool swimming of the season—Riverbank’s 25 yard outdoor pool is open, so now there’s a choice there in the mornings of doing indoor LCM in warmish water or outdoor scy in colder water. I often end up swimming in both pools during the course of a workout. If only I didn't have to choose, but could combine the sunshine, cold water temps, and minimal turning—but I guess that’s what OW is for!
    Tags: blissy, lcm, technique
  5. Sweet summertime noon workout

    For the third day in a row I headed over at lunchtime for the noon AGUA workout. The weather has been so lovely here, it’s just a joy walking through the park to get to practice, and puts me in such a mellow mood by the time I get there. Since this is summer in NYC, I know these cool bright days won’t last forever, so I’ve been out enjoying them while I can. The only thing that could be nicer would be if our pool were outdoors. It isn't, but the city's public pools open July 6 for morning lap swimming, so I'll at least be able to swim on my own outside soon.

    It was breaststroke day (hurray—I had some things I’ve been meaning to work on in breaststroke ever since the meet, and was really glad to get a chance to do so). Here’s the workout we did:

    500 warmup plus bobbing and sinking

    7 x 50 BR (25 kick, 25 2 kicks / 1 stroke) @ third swimmer in [My lanemate and I didn’t actually have a third swimmer for the first part of this set, so we created an imaginary one. We were to the point of naming her when a real third swimmer showed up. If you can imagine it, you can make it happen!]

    Breaststroke technique chalk talk

    Breaststroke drill: swimming breaststroke upside down underwater [of course I liked this, especially after I found my nose clip in the bottom of my bag]

    7 x 200 (150 FR, 50 fast BR) @ 3:30 [I ended up doing these as 100 FR / 50 BK / 50 BR. I’m working on making my BR kick narrower, and sometimes it works and I can feel good power from it. Sometimes it still seems to create confusion in my timing, though, so I still have some work to do.]

    200 warmdown + sinking and bobbing

    The technique work I’ve been doing with my freestyle (I’ve been trying to put my face back into the water sooner after each breath) seems to be paying off. Today for the first time I noticed that I could see my left arm as it moved through the water after breathing to my right. I’ve never been able to do that before. (Hello arm—it’s good to see you!) This also helps me not drop my left elbow, since I can now see the shape of that arm during the stroke.

    On Monday I started seeing a chiropractor who does ART therapy for my neck. I was inspired to do so by Fort’s comments about ART, and by SwimStud’s decision to see someone about his back. My neck has long given me problems. Regular massages keep them at bay, but I decided it was time to see if I could do something about the underlying source. He’s working on getting more of a curve back into my neck with ART and Graston techniques (I winced when he said he wanted to use the latter, because I’ve read about Bobinator’s experiences with it in her blog, which I have by the way been missing lately). Today was my second session, and my range of motion has already increased a bit, plus things just feel looser in general, so so far so good.

    After last weekend’s trip to Vermont, I’m looking forward to a nice long lazy weekend in the city. The Farmers Market had strawberry rhubarb pies today—that’s definitely a great start to the holiday weekend!
  6. Snakes, and galloping vs trotting in the pool

    Today I swam the noontime workout at Asphalt Green. Here’s what we did:

    600 warmup

    8 x 75 K/D/S @ :10 rest, odds FR, evens ST

    8 x 50 FR w/ 6 breaths per 50 @ 4 breaths rest [This is the first hypoxic set that I’ve actually been able to do in I don’t know how long. I kept things very long and smooth (6 breaths per 50 turns out to be 4-stroke breathing for me). It was very calming, and nice for the rest interval to be tied to breathing.]

    10 x 100 @ 1:35, maintaining best avg pace [I alternated 100 FR and 50 FR / 50 BK, and kept them all 1:18-1:20.]

    1 x 75 FR from the blocks for time [:48]

    225 warmdown

    This was a nice workout, with a good mixture of technique work and faster swimming (yet at intervals that allowed me to still focus on technique stuff). It was also nice to actually get to the pool on time today and get in a decent warmup.

    Fun factoid of the day: Snakes have different gaits, just like horses (and humans). Besides slithering, snakes can side-wind (lateral movement that requires lifting part of its body: [nomedia=""]YouTube- snake in the desert[/nomedia] ) and move in “concertina mode” (folding and straightening itself like an accordion).

    The article I garnered this little nugget from didn’t mention whether snakes’ gaits are simply dependent on the speed they want to go, or whether factors like the surface they are on or particular behaviors (stalking, for example), influence their gait. I’m also not sure whether all species of snakes can do all of these gaits. The article was most concerned with analyzing the physics of slithering.

    (I believe that hoop snakes employ a unique gait among reptiles.)

    I’ve been thinking about gaits in swimming ever since I read in Fortress’s blog that she used a different technique for her LC free than for her SC free (lopey vs straight-armed, I think.). I definitely have different gaits for different freestyle speeds—while I can slow down my sprinterly FR, at least to a point, by simply moving slower and with less power while keeping my rhythm and movements roughly the same, it’s actually more efficient to transition instead into a distance free mode (gait) by switching to a two-beat kick, rotating more, and narrowing my hand entry position. This is analogous to it being more efficient to walk at slower paces than to run slowly.

    In fly I also have different gaits for different speeds—I pause and glide at the catch in the front of my stroke when doing “endurance” fly, while my sprint fly involves more constant arm movement. For backstroke, though, I think I keep the same rhythm and movements when transitioning through different paces—my 50 backstroke is just a faster and more powerful version of the movements that I would use to do a 1000 back. I do a six-beat kick when sprinting BK, and while it often looks as though I’m not kicking at all when backstroking slowly, I’m actually doing a 6-beat foot twitch, which keeps my rhythm intact even if it doesn’t generate much power.

    So as I was swimming today and yesterday I paid particular attention to the changes I was making when slipping from one gait to another, with the idea that comparing what I was doing at different speeds could lead to ways to improve my technique. In fly for example, my glidey long-distance fly works for me because the pause at the beginning of each stroke allows me to get a really good catch at the beginning of my stroke, which allows me to pull mostly straight back with power. This stroke is sustainable because I allow my core and legs to simply follow, rather than using those big muscles to generate much power.

    When I go faster, though, the catch-pause gets eliminated, and my hands flounder around before finding a good position to pull back from. My pull actually becomes less efficient, but the increased propulsion from more powerful and faster kicking more than compensates for that. So on my faster fly I need to focus on entering in front of my shoulders and establishing a firm anchor point at the front of my stroke sooner, instead of letting my hands wander around before pulling them through the water. (More strength and better flexibility would probably help here—the former I can definitely improve upon, the latter I’m wary of trying to increase).

    On breaststroke I think I pretty much keep the same gait at different distances, just speed up my tempo to go faster. I’ve seen good breaststrokers that seem to have a completely different stroke for their 200 than for their 50, though.
  7. Saturday morning workout with team

    I swam a LCM workout with my team this morning. Saturday is the only day of the week that I do a 2-hour workout, and for the last 2 weekends I had cut this practice short because of meets. Today I stayed for the whole enchilada, and I’m really feeling it now. Here’s what we did:

    900 LCM warmup

    5 x 200 FR @ 3:30, desc. [3:15, 3:10 (actually this was more like a 3:06—I waited to touch the wall until the 10 because I went into the set wanting to descend by :05 on each one, but after doing that I admitted to myself that it was silly to manipulate my times that way), 3:03, 3:01, 2:56]

    10 x 50 ST (16.7 build, 16.7 sprint, 16.6 easy) @ 1:30 [We had cones dividing the pool into thirds for this one. I did BK.]

    100 easy

    8 x 100 IM (16.7 fly, 16.7 back, 16.6 breast, 50 FR) @ 2:00 [Used the cones again for the first length of each, then the 50 FR was fast. I could have used more rest on these.]

    6 x 50 easy @ 1:00

    3 x 500 FR @ 9:00 [This was long slow distance swimming. I did the 1st one all FR and maintained a 1:40/100 pace; my attention wandered a bit on the last two, and I amused myself by mixing in some BK and combining FL and BR kicks with my FR.]

    100 warmdown

    During the IM set Coach Craig pointed out that my left-hand FR entry was too wide. This was feeling pretty difficult to correct consistently. After some experimentation (plenty of opportunity for that on those 500s), I realized that when I breathe in I relax my core muscles a bit, and allow my back to arch. Since I usually 2-stroke breathe to my right, this happens every time I’m placing my left hand into the water. Arching my back makes it hard to both place my hand in front of my shoulder and keep my elbow higher than my wrist, so I compensate by entering wider. So focusing on keeping my core strong while I breathe seemed to help me correct the left hand entry, Thinking about not looking forward before or during my breath also seemed to help, since that’s another thing that leads to back arch.
    Tags: technique