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Thread: Break the minute not having swam as a child

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    Break the minute not having swam as a child

    I'm 35 years old 175cm 64kg male self taught swimmer starting from zero 5 years ago. I swam laps for a while, but soon developed interest and passion in swimming fast over short distances and relentless daily practice.

    I have times in all strokes, but use freestyle as main benchmark. First time I tried to swim short course 100m freestyle I timed around 1:40. Over time this improved to 1:35, 1:27, 1:17 and reached a plateau there.

    So I went through a year or so of the Starting Strength program, deadlifted 100kg in sets of 5 and squatted 80kg. I began to feel like my body line, explosiveness, starts and push offs improved. Freestyle time didn't improve dramatically, only down to 1:15.

    At that point I felt I knew plenty about training of energy systems from Olbrecht, so I decided to only focus on improving my pure speed. I take 17 seconds for a push 25 in 18 strokes at 90-100 spm.

    I followed Boomer's Freestyle Reimagined and took my stroke apart 4 weeks ago. A stroke change is clearly going to take 4 months or years to happen, not 4 weeks, but I am beginning to lose the enjoyment. I am hugely motivated to see myself break the 15sec 25m and ultimately the freestyle minute, and have no idea whether it is possible with no youth swimming background.

    I posted on the UK Swimming Forum, but had no reply and thought I would post here too in search for tips or similar experiences. Would appreciate any comments!

    I've seen an adult successfully join an age group program, and haven't tried that myself. I swam with a masters club for 2 years, which was a lot of fun, but these seem to be geared towards fitness and training rather than focused development of speed. Moreover, I am not quite so fast and fit to join some of the higher profile clubs. I've been to see a number of coaches/swimmers for advice, including Swim Smooth, who all had valuable input, but nothing seemed to really point me towards some a big area of improvement. I feel like I might be missing an obvious one. There are definitely areas like "feel for water" and "stroke efficicency" that remain mystical to me despite having read volumes.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Hi Larry
    A few thoughts/suggestions:
    1. Difficult to make specific suggestions without seeing you swim. That's why working with a good coach (who trains swimmers for speed and competition) is important. Go join one of those "higher profile clubs" - your goals and attitude should fit right in and you will probably learn a lot, from coaching and from team mates.
    2. As an "adult onset" swimmer, you are of course at a big disadvantage compared to age groupers. On the other hand, you may be less "set in your ways", and thus quite able to steadily improve. I have a friend who is an adult onset swimmer. I saw him (from an age early 40s start) over 5-7 years of patient work become a world class ultra endurance swimmer, much of his training working alone. His technique is excellent. And don't think he isn't fast - he does zero sprint training but he'll comfortably cruise/repeat 100m in workout (from the wall) at 1:20.
    3. Swimming fast essentially boils down to maximizing propulsion and minimizing resistance. Both are very much based on technique. Swimming technique tends to develop slowly (as you observe) but cumulative gains can be huge with patient practice of good technique. Slow down on reaching your goals, focus on the process and enjoy the journey. As an aside, the great sprint champion Alex Popov was known for do a lot of slow swimming with good technique. Of course you have to practice swimming fast as well, but don't underestimate the importance of practice at slower speeds/intensities. Read stuff like this https://www.yourswimlog.com/swim-like-alex-popov/
    4. Have you looked at Ande's excellent thread "swimming faster, faster"? You'll find no end of good tips and advice. A coach will help you prioritize those that could help you the most. http://forums.usms.org/showthread.ph...+faster+faster
    5. As a sprinter, don't underestimate the importance of kicking. Can you kick 50 free in under 40 seconds? Improving your kicking could help both your streamline body position and your propulsion. Almost all of the good sprinters I have known have been very good/fast kickers
    6. Have you been to any clinics or camps?
    If not, try to find a one or two that are focused on speed rather than distance/endurance/tri. For example, I went to one run by the famous Karlyn Pipes. It was simple, focused, actionable advice on how to swim faster.
    7. "Feel for the water" is somewhat mystical. But there are ways to gain more of it. As an example, do you do sculling drills? Are you a good sculler?
    8. Plateaus happen, plateaus suck, get over it and get back to having fun with the process.
    There are a million ideas and nuggets of advice on these forums from some really great/fast swimmers on how to improve. Dip in from time to time for a little inspiration and training ideas to have fun with. I hope some of this is helpful
    Last edited by Gdavis; October 18th, 2017 at 11:49 AM.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    I am in no position to give advice on how to get faster. I too am trying to do just that. My PB is 1:16 and it is still the case for the last 6 months. When I first met my masters coach, he asked me what my goals were. I told him, it's purely for fitness only. I wasn't really interested in being faster. But I got more interested in getting faster and better after my first swim meet. I told him that my goals have changed and since then, he would give sets that help improve my speed and also he would tell me whats wrong with my technique.

    I'm not sure if your masters club has a coach, but if they do, perhaps you should tell them your goals.

    Btw, my coach did warn me that I was going to see major improvements and then plateau. So I am taking this 6 months as a plateau and eventually (hopefully soon), I will break out of it and have a new PB. Your subject though, made me stop and think. Looking at my masters club, the fastest lane definitely breaks the minute. But they were all previous competitive swimmers or swam in high school/college.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    18 strokes for a 25m free tells me you are probably not as efficient per stroke as you could be, especially with your body size - that or you aren't doing much off of the walls. Both of which will make it difficult to carry speed through an entire 100m. Your lifting numbers suggest that your strength is adequate for your size for a swimmer, so you should be able to get more efficient with probably only a few tweaks. I know that speaks to the "mystical to me" areas you're talking about, but I can only be abstract without anything concrete to work with. Any chance you could video your freestyle?
    400 IMer/200 backstroker in another life, now sprinter/breaststroker... Yeah, I don't know how that happened either!

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by larrycz View Post
    I'm 35 years old 175cm 64kg male self taught swimmer starting from zero 5 years ago. I swam laps for a while, but soon developed interest and passion in swimming fast over short distances and relentless daily practice.

    I have times in all strokes, but use freestyle as main benchmark. First time I tried to swim short course 100m freestyle I timed around 1:40. Over time this improved to 1:35, 1:27, 1:17 and reached a plateau there.

    So I went through a year or so of the Starting Strength program, deadlifted 100kg in sets of 5 and squatted 80kg. I began to feel like my body line, explosiveness, starts and push offs improved. Freestyle time didn't improve dramatically, only down to 1:15.

    At that point I felt I knew plenty about training of energy systems from Olbrecht, so I decided to only focus on improving my pure speed. I take 17 seconds for a push 25 in 18 strokes at 90-100 spm.

    I followed Boomer's Freestyle Reimagined and took my stroke apart 4 weeks ago. A stroke change is clearly going to take 4 months or years to happen, not 4 weeks, but I am beginning to lose the enjoyment. I am hugely motivated to see myself break the 15sec 25m and ultimately the freestyle minute, and have no idea whether it is possible with no youth swimming background.

    I posted on the UK Swimming Forum, but had no reply and thought I would post here too in search for tips or similar experiences. Would appreciate any comments!

    I've seen an adult successfully join an age group program, and haven't tried that myself. I swam with a masters club for 2 years, which was a lot of fun, but these seem to be geared towards fitness and training rather than focused development of speed. Moreover, I am not quite so fast and fit to join some of the higher profile clubs. I've been to see a number of coaches/swimmers for advice, including Swim Smooth, who all had valuable input, but nothing seemed to really point me towards some a big area of improvement. I feel like I might be missing an obvious one. There are definitely areas like "feel for water" and "stroke efficicency" that remain mystical to me despite having read volumes.
    This is not a bad time for someone that didn't swim as a kid. Also, a lot of times you can be 5 to 7 seconds faster in a masters swim race. So, your 100 meter freestyle may be really around 1:07 to 1:10. Workouts are hard to judge times since you are repeating intervals that make you slower unless you are doing a 3 to 5 minute rest for a time trial which are your age might be closer to your speed at 1:16. I swam a 5:58 500 yard freestyle in high school at 18 years of which means in practice in yards I probably could do a lot of 1:10s to 1:15. My best meter 100 meter freestyle as 1.11 as a kid and yards 1:03.8, to show your progress might not be as bad as you think.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    If you're looking to get the edge on a sprint race such as the 100m freestyle, you may want to also focus on your start and your turns, as well as a dolphin kick off the start and the walls (if you have a fast dolphin kick to begin with).

    Technique makes a huge difference, but only if you practice it consistently. If you're looking for a clinic, you'll want to find one that not only points out areas to improve, but also tells you HOW you can improve on a daily basis, and providing you with drills and tips that you can incorporate into your workouts. (Incidentally, if you happen to be in Florida in November, we are hosting a freestyle stroke clinic at Anastasia Fitness in Saint Augustine!)

    I agree that 18 strokes per 25m sounds like quite a lot. You could certainly benefit from the expert eye of a coach here, someone who can take a look at your stroke and tell you what areas you need to improve and how to improve them. If you're so inclined, you can also try posting a video of your stroke here and the forumites can offer feedback.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Thank you all for your replies

    I haven't a recent video, but will definitely post here if I get one

    I know my flutter kick is weak. As Gdavis pointed out, I can probably gain a lot on my 50 and 100 times, particularly free and back, with better kick.

    Thanks also for the tip on slow swimming. I've always tried to avoid easy continuous swimming as a means of improving technique. This is an attempt to avoid "ending up like the general public", who never seem to improve their swimming. I would swim slow for aerobic training, but not for technique. I'd do drills at easy, but no full stroke swimming. What I'm now coming to realise is that technique can improve in slow as well as fast swimming. What really counts is deliberate and concentrated practice. The general public come for a leisurely swim, and think about work, family or upcoming breakfast while they swim. The serious swimmer is learning, the recreational swimmer is relaxing. Both might be executing the exact same motions, in theory.

    Since my original post I read Phil Whitten's Complete Book of Swimming, which made me feel much more positive about "adult onset" masters swimmers. I hadn't realised that most (or all?) masters meets have no qualifying standards, which is reassuring. From there I followed a reference to John Jerome's Staying With It. This is a brilliant book for any masters swimmer, with nuggets such as:

    "Before you get the rhythm right, you will feel that there is power available out there somewhere, within your reach, but you can never seem to get your hands and feet on it for two strokes in succession. When you do get it right, every part of it drives the next part on. When you’re really cooking it’s as if the quality of the water changes. It gets solider, so you find the same firm resistance, the same possibility, everywhere you reach—because now you suddenly know just where to reach to find the power."
    John picked up swimming at the age of 47 with only very little youth swimming background, and within a couple of years broke a national YMCA record in his group

    I seem to be past the worst part of my crisis now. Swimming regularly again, I've asked a local coach nearby for a one-to-one session every two weeks and will enter a small meet early next year. To prove to myself I should stick to it, I dove in this morning for a 50m breast time trial and took two seconds off my personal best. It was pleasure to see despite the fact it had been a pathetic PB to begin with.
    Last edited by larrycz; October 27th, 2017 at 02:10 AM.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by larrycz View Post
    Thank you all for your replies

    I haven't a recent video, but will definitely post here if I get one

    I know my flutter kick is weak. As Gdavis pointed out, I can probably gain a lot on my 50 and 100 times, particularly free and back, with better kick.

    Thanks also for the tip on slow swimming. I've always tried to avoid easy continuous swimming as a means of improving technique. This is an attempt to avoid "ending up like the general public", who never seem to improve their swimming. I would swim slow for aerobic training, but not for technique. I'd do drills at easy, but no full stroke swimming. What I'm now coming to realise is that technique can improve in slow as well as fast swimming. What really counts is deliberate and concentrated practice. The general public come for a leisurely swim, and think about work, family or upcoming breakfast while they swim. The serious swimmer is learning, the recreational swimmer is relaxing. Both might be executing the exact same motions, in theory.

    Since my original post I read Phil Whitten's Complete Book of Swimming, which made me feel much more positive about "adult onset" masters swimmers. I hadn't realised that most (or all?) masters meets have no qualifying standards, which is reassuring. From there I followed a reference to John Jerome's Staying With It. This is a brilliant book for any masters swimmer, with nuggets such as:



    John picked up swimming at the age of 47 with only very little youth swimming background, and within a couple of years broke a national YMCA record in his group

    I seem to be past the worst part of my crisis now. Swimming regularly again, I've asked a local coach nearby for a one-to-one session every two weeks and will enter a small meet early next year. To prove to myself I should stick to it, I dove in this morning for a 50m breast time trial and took two seconds off my personal best. It was pleasure to see despite the fact it had been a pathetic PB to begin with.
    John may be a more natural freestyler. I knew two girls in high school that could beat me in a 50 yard freestyle without a competitive swimming background except the girls team but I could beat them in a 500 yard swim because of lots of workout,

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Reading Mastery by John Leonard, I've made myself at peace with the idea of lifetime improvement. My master plan is to break a long course minute by the time I am 49. Therefore rule the 50-59 group at county level and beyond here in the UK.

    With 14 years to go, a drop of 1-2 seconds a year initially will get me there, with 0.5-1 second a year later on. In all my naivety, I went on and made a fancy graph showing my historical PBs, trajectory towards a sub minute time, and practice volume by month. The dashed red line is how much practice would need to ramp up relative to historical in order to reach 10,000 hours by the end of that period. This is the most realistic attitude on swimming I've ever allowed myself, but might just be what I need to stick to swimming for a long time.

    I feel I could do with a training buddy. None of my friends, family and work colleagues is a swimming enthusiast of similar caliber (borderline obsessive), unfortunately. I thought, therefore, I would post here to see if anyone fancies a virtual buddy. The whole purpose is to hold each other accountable, share the experience, and perhaps exchange ideas. The closer your goals are to my "project 1", the better, but I suppose it can work in any kind of swim training programme, whether it's sprint, distance, open water, club or no club. I'm just looking for somebody to join me on the path to adult onset swimming "mastery".

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Reading Mastery by John Leonard, I've made myself at peace with the idea of lifetime improvement. My master plan is to break a long course minute by the time I am 49. Therefore rule the 50-59 group at county level and beyond here in the UK.

    With 14 years to go,...
    If you actually commit to this, you should keep a video journal. Whether you get there, or not, it is likely to make a wonderful documentary/story... I'm sure there will be some big emotional ups and downs, startling unexpected roadblocks and profounds insights along the way.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    1st challenge - < 0:15 25fr SCM
    2nd - < 0:30 50fr SCM
    3rd - < 0:30 50fr LCM
    4th - < 0:45 75fr SCM
    5th - < 1:00 100fr LCM prior to 50 yrs

    Quite possible for you. I started from zero at 41 but only accomplished the 3rd and havent even tried the 100m fr (only went 28.3 for 50). You would have to train properly and avoid injury, whatever that takes. Form and technique would be the very first priority and would continue throughout

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    1st challenge - < 0:15 25fr SCM
    2nd - < 0:30 50fr SCM
    3rd - < 0:30 50fr LCM
    4th - < 0:45 75fr SCM
    5th - < 1:00 100fr LCM
    This seems so obvious, yet the vast majority of coaches that I have ever known seem to completely ignore (or only give lip service to) the importance of sprint speed. If you can't break :15 for a 25, you certainly can't break 1:00 for a 100, yet they never assign tasks designed to build raw speed. Read Coach Tom Topolski's post, "Do your swimmers know their spot?"

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl_S View Post
    This seems so obvious, yet the vast majority of coaches that I have ever known seem to completely ignore (or only give lip service to) the importance of sprint speed. If you can't break :15 for a 25, you certainly can't break 1:00 for a 100, yet they never assign tasks designed to build raw speed. Read Coach Tom Topolski's post, "Do your swimmers know their spot?"
    This is such a fundamental point. I'm convinced I wouldn't be able to sustain stomach-churning anaerobic sets long term on my own in public swimming pools without knowing I can ever achieve the necessary speed. So I want to see a sub 15 push 25m. It would probably serve my thread better to title it "break 15 second 25 SCM", because I seem stuck trying to get below 16-17.

    I have doubts about this concept, though. Can you really "hack" swimming development this way? Can you mostly work on pure speed and become a sprinter capable of then sharpening the energy systems to the point your new speed can be taken through an entire 100? Or have you missed something in the process by not doing tons of slower swimming like everyone else? Is this really a shortcut coaches don't normally take, but could?

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    1st challenge - < 0:15 25fr SCM
    2nd - < 0:30 50fr SCM
    3rd - < 0:30 50fr LCM
    4th - < 0:45 75fr SCM
    5th - < 1:00 100fr LCM prior to 50 yrs

    Quite possible for you. I started from zero at 41 but only accomplished the 3rd and havent even tried the 100m fr (only went 28.3 for 50). You would have to train properly and avoid injury, whatever that takes. Form and technique would be the very first priority and would continue throughout
    Wow, I have so many questions I don't know where to begin:


    • is each challenge push, no dive?
    • where did you start at challenge 1, and how long did it take you to progress?
    • was it a linear progression, or dips and plateaus?
    • how many strokes?
    • how does a sub 15 feel now compared to what you remember it feeling when it was much slower?
    • do you focus on taking mighty long strokes or stroking fast, or delicate balance of both?
    • did you get below 15 with long underwaters, or mostly surface swimming?
    • did you find that pure strength made a difference?
    • what has your approach to kick been, how much kick time in training?
    • is there one thing you could single out that made the most difference?
    • anything that you found plain wrong and had to be changed?


    I know many of these are individual and what worked for you might be wrong for me, but I'm interested to hear about your whole experience

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by larrycz View Post
    ... Can you mostly work on pure speed and become a sprinter capable of then sharpening the energy systems to the point your new speed can be taken through an entire 100? Or have you missed something in the process by not doing tons of slower swimming like everyone else? Is this really a shortcut coaches don't normally take, but could?
    As far as I know there is absolutely NO shortcut. Aerobic conditioning is a HUGE aspect of swimming fast. My point is that it can't be done to the exclusion of everything else with the expectation that one will get faster over all distances. Just me ranting I guess. now back to your regularly scheduled thread...

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl_S View Post
    As far as I know there is absolutely NO shortcut. Aerobic conditioning is a HUGE aspect of swimming fast. My point is that it can't be done to the exclusion of everything else with the expectation that one will get faster over all distances. Just me ranting I guess. now back to your regularly scheduled thread...

    It depends upon the age and the swimmer. I certainly can't do the yardage I did as a kid. On other hand, I know of someone in their 90's that does more yardage than me. I recommend mixing some sprints and moderate and slow swimming and doing other strokes as well, slow to fast. It helps to reduce injury if you do different strokes than free.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    This is a great video detailing the legendary Alex Popov (and his coach Gennadi Touretski)'s approach to success in the sprints:

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by larrycz View Post
    Wow, I have so many questions I don't know where to begin:


    • is each challenge push, no dive?
    • where did you start at challenge 1, and how long did it take you to progress?
    • was it a linear progression, or dips and plateaus?
    • how many strokes?
    • how does a sub 15 feel now compared to what you remember it feeling when it was much slower?
    • do you focus on taking mighty long strokes or stroking fast, or delicate balance of both?
    • did you get below 15 with long underwaters, or mostly surface swimming?
    • did you find that pure strength made a difference?
    • what has your approach to kick been, how much kick time in training?
    • is there one thing you could single out that made the most difference?
    • anything that you found plain wrong and had to be changed?


    I know many of these are individual and what worked for you might be wrong for me, but I'm interested to hear about your whole experience
    PM sent

    I am just average for my age group, so my advise can be interpreted as such. Anyhow, the 100 LCM free is a totally different beast than shorter distances in terms of metabolic demands, training required, and preparation. The only similarities would be the need for streamline, turns, starts, shaving, and suit.

    For the 100LCM You would have to implement a training regime structured for all the energy systems demanded.

    For example a structured regime would be: swim 6 days a week having a exclusive day of rest, work pure speed on 2 of the days, suffer lactate production on 1 day, spend 1 day doing easy swimming keeping your heart rate below 120, and 2 days working on aerobic threshold. Drills, starts, turns, drylands, and kicking should be included throughout. For just a 25 m you can get away with eliminating the aerobic days
    Last edited by __steve__; November 21st, 2017 at 07:29 PM.

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    1st challenge - < 0:15 25fr SCM
    2nd - < 0:30 50fr SCM
    3rd - < 0:30 50fr LCM
    4th - < 0:45 75fr SCM
    5th - < 1:00 100fr LCM prior to 50 yrs
    I think Steve's challenge is a legit way of looking at the steps needed to go under the very lofty goal of 1:00 SCM or LCM. However, by the time you get to the 5th challenge, your other times need to be well below the earlier challenge points. They will need to be like a :13 low for 25scm and at least :28 low for 50 scm/lcm.

    Additionally, as you reach your mid-50s it becomes harder and harder to build and retain muscle and it will take more time and opportunity to train in order to get there. That said, there are still swimmers hitting very fast times up into there 70s, but they all probably started out swimming at a young age, were very fast, and kept it up over time.
    Some guys they just give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece. Some guys come home from work and wash up and go racin’ in the street. (Bruce Springsteen, 1978)

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    Re: Break the minute not having swam as a child

    Larry,

    Unless I missed it, you have not mentioned what your training program is like – frequency and volume/practice. If you are NOT practicing 3-5x per week and swimming at least 2,000 yds/meters each time, you are probably not putting enough time in.

    Having said that, no amount of swimming with inefficient technique is going to make you faster. You have reached a threshold that only technical improvements can change. Swimmers with inefficient technique are like “dragsters on ice.” Adding more horsepower only spins the wheels faster – there is no increase in speed.

    There is a theory in speed boat design that applies to swimmers: “The longer the boat, the faster the boat.” In swimming, this translates to techniques that reduce drag. If you look forward when you swim, your legs will drop and you increase drag. If your arms are mostly straight when you pull, you increase drag. If you have poor ankle flexibility, you increase drag. More drag = slower swimming.

    Try these two tests: a) using a kick board and flutter kicking, how many kicks does it take you to go from one end of the pool to the next and how fast? and b) how far can you glide when pushing off the wall? Glide as far as you can – on or under water – holding your breath the entire time.

    The “a” test is a measure of foot size and ankle flexibility. Poor ankle flexibility adversely affects everything in swimming. The “b” test is indicative of how streamline you can make your body which also affects everything in swimming. Better streamline = less drag = more speed.

    These are just the beginning steps of determining what is holding you back. Looking forward to the results

    Paul

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