Your weakest link?
Biologists like me are taught to consider all of the factors influencing a system and then rank them in order of importance in terms of positive and negative influence. In the case of negative influence, this is like looking for the weakest link in a chain. This method can also be applied to swimming races. Having watched most of the SWSC competitors in action at the recent Dolphin Open I would identify turns as the weakest link of races for most of you. This is a general observation. There are a few who are very good at turns. As you all know there are few things more depressing in competitive swimming than going into a turn ahead and coming out behind.
Turns are supposed to speed you up! That is why short course (25m pool) records are faster than long course (50m) records. Look up the World or Irish SC and LC records and you will see what I mean (you can find them through the Swim Ireland website). Traditionally USA swimmers have very good turns. Several years ago the coaches to British Team realised that they were less good at turns and made a huge effort to improve. At top level they now turn much better. Turning well takes three things- knowing what to do, concentration and lots of practice.
Do you know exactly what you are trying to do in each turn? Assuming you do (and ask your coach if not), do you practice it in every turn you do. The senior squad cover more than 6000m in a two hour session. In a SC pool that’s nearly 200 turns so you’ll get plenty of practice provided you do each and every turn as well as possible, whether you’re doing short rest aerobic sets or sprints. Your coaches have talked with you about the specific mechanics of each kind turn (front or back tumbles, open turns in fly or breaststroke, the various IM turns) but there are certain factors common to all turns: go in fast, turn fast and get off the wall fast, and of course keep it legal. As Richard repeatedly tells you, kick hardest into and out of the wall. On the way in DO NOT look at the wall. Turns are timed off the T in free, fly and breaststroke, or off the flags on backstroke. Turn fast and tight. Plant your feet in the right position (too high will send you to the bottom and too low to the surface). Push as hard as possible (this is the fastest part of your race apart from the start) then really streamline from finger tips to toes. The idea is to maintain the speed into the surface swim. Do you know what’s best underwater for you? How many fly kicks should you do on anything except breaststroke (where the rules say-one). Is your breakout to the surface smooth and fast? Younger swimmers often mess up the breakout and nearly stop. That’s a lot to think about! Then you have to practice and practice so you can turn smoothly and effectively without having to think about it.
You are obviously not able to practice in the pool at present but at least four other things are involved-agility, flexibility, core strength and leg power. All of these can be greatly improved on land. So work hard on your land conditioning then you can go back into the pool ready to turn much better. How about SWSC being known for having the best turns in the country?