Improvement: Easy as 1, 2, 3

By Whitney Hedgepeth – January 3, 2012

I think the New Year is a great time to make new swimming goals. Well, I think any time of the year is a great time to have lots of goals, but it’s an especially great time at the start of a new and potentially exciting year. There are three basic things I would love to see new swimmers, triathletes, and even seasoned swimmers attempt for the month of January.

Goal 1: Commit to Swimming 3-4 Times per Week
As a former competitive swimmer and a long-time Masters swim coach, I find the rule of thumb is that you need two swimming workouts per week to maintain where you are and three times per week, or more, to see improvement. Aim for improvement by making that commitment to swim 3-4 times each week.

Goal 2: Commit to Doing Flip Turns
I believe flip turns are a necessity. Flip turns help you carry momentum both into and out of the wall. This helps you learn to swim at a faster rate of speed. Start off small; maybe you just attempt flip turns at the odd ends of the pool, gradually working your way up to doing them at both ends. Think about how you do a roll on land—or better yet, practice a few on land. Keep your chin tucked into your chest and use your hands to help get your feet over fast. While you are turning, blow air out of your nose just like you would if you were blowing your nose into a tissue and trying to be quiet. The turn portion is actually only ¾ of a roll with a push-off onto your back and then corkscrewing onto your stomach.

When to do the turn is as critical as how to do it. Swimmers usually start a flip turn one stroke past the “T” on the bottom of the pool. If you have no “T” at your pool, try counting your strokes to find what number takes you to be within one stroke of the end of the pool. Knees should be pulled close to your chest on the roll. The tighter the roll, the faster and easier it is to flip. Practice some turns in the middle of the pool; see how fast you can get around and blow air out of your nose. Once you feel confident with this, move on to trying turns against the wall.

Goal 3: Commit to Improving Streamlines
You are never moving faster than you do when you push off the wall or dive in. Use that to your advantage. The tighter your streamline, the faster and further you will go. What is a streamline position? Put one hand on top of the other with your elbows snug against your head right behind your ears, stretching your arms out as far as possible. This takes hardly any energy but will make you go considerably faster. I find a lot of people think of this as cheating or a waste of time. Don’t we all want to swim faster and have it seem easier to do? Let’s say you streamline further off the wall than the person beside you; that means you have taken two strokes to their six. The chances of you being less tired and swimming faster at the end of a mile are very good.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Whitney's Bio
Whitney Hedgepeth, a two-time Olympian, seven-time National Champion, and former American Record Holder (200-yard backstroke), currently oversees more than 150 Masters level swimmers here in Austin at Longhorn Aquatics. Hedgepeth has experience coaching since 1996 and works with swimmers of all abilities and ages, from newbies to former Olympic swimmers to professional triathletes.



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