Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Swim Season Begins Again: Focus on Snorkeling and Sculling

For many swimmers and coaches this is the time of year for a new beginning. High school seasons in the fall as well as all the college programs and most of the US Swimming teams are beginning training again. Our team is no different than yours. We began last Monday, the 25th of August. As we start it is a chance to put all of the past behind us and begin anew. This is the natural opportunity to look forward uncluttered by what has been happening. Even if there is only a two or three week break somehow it symbolizes exactly the kind of separation needed for a fresh start.

We will have a discussion next week about goals but right now we'd like to focus on two things we are developing this season: snorkel use and sculling. You have probably used a snorkel already; we certainly have. Likewise with sculling you have probably used it to some extent already; we too have done so. What is different for us this year is a commitment to making it a larger part of our training program.

When you use a snorkel you take the distraction of the head turn or head lift out of the equation. All of your focus can be directed towards implementing technique that pulls and pushes the body forward, never needing to compensate for the breath. Flyers and breaststrokers keep your ears in the water. Backstrokers get a pass here! - Although some of our kids have fooled around with turning the snorkel such that they can actually swim on their backs with it; crazy but true. There are tons of drills using the snorkel. We do sets of repeats, sometimes with drills and others just normal swimming. And at this time of year we regroup on our technique and do not worry about the amount of yardage, just the quality of what we do.

Then at the same time we are doing this we add in sculling - lots of it. Think of the power those synchronized swimmers need to develop in their hands, wrists, forearms and shoulders to be able to do what they do. They seem to be sculling all the time! We scull with the hands out in front, down under the torso and back at the thighs. We do laps using all three positions. We work on relaxing the neck, allowing the head to rest in the water. This is where the snorkel is invaluable. We look for a long flat spine. We tighten the transverse abdominals, activate the glutes and hamstrings, put the heels and toes together (make sure you point the toes) and drag a long flat needle of a body behind the power of the scull. Start with widths of the pool if you need to, then progress to lengths, then to repeats of 25's working your way up from there. You won't get as many yards as regular swimming. You will get swimmers with elevated heart rates and strong wrists and forearms that have feel for the water and strength to catch it. They will also have an increased awareness of the need for proper body position and the value of it as it translates to the full stroke.

Many of you out there have numerous drills and technique items you are using effectively today. Why not share your knowledge with the greater swimming community? Drop us a line! See you at the pool, maybe tomorrow?!

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