09 December 2009

What a difference a kick makes

I have to confess, I'm not a very good swimmer. I've been doing it for going on 4 months now and though I’ve seen a lot of improvement, there is still a lot of work to do.

One thing I have going for me is that I really want to get the stroke right. I’ve seen what a smooth efficient stroke does for my daughter and I want that. There are a ton of kids that flail through the water trying to get to the other wall through brute force while this little blonde machine just smoothly glides past them with seemingly no effort. Other than not being little and blonde, that’s what I want to look like.

So, I’ve solicited input from Chopstick, her coach, and the ever helpful local masters coach. I try to work on one or two things at a time and really get it right. First it was breathing, then my arms (I guess it’s called the pull), then it was more pull, a bit more pull, and finally it’s time for the kick. It’s time for the kick for the sole reason that it will help my latest quest with the pull: reducing stroke count.

I’m getting that stroke count down, working on the glide, keeping my elbows high to use my whole forearm/hand paddle, and streamlining off the wall as much as I can. I had plateaued at 17-19 strokes per 25 yards. So I tried kicking (little fast kicks with an almost straight leg like Gary Hall, Sr. recommends) and wow, it works. But it hurts. I can’t do it on every lap without feeling pain but I did a few laps with 15 strokes just by kicking better and harder.

What really resonated with me was Gary Hall, Sr.’s assertion that your kick can’t disturb your streamline, that drag is worse than the benefits from big kicks. That makes sense. So, I stopped these wide unproductive kicks and just tried to kick harder and faster and I could feel the speed difference and was shocked that the wall came up so fast. In fact, I felt a lot more momentum as I hit the wall.

Now I just need to build up the leg strength to keep up that level of effort for longer because it definitely works.

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