Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Alex and Cameron Craft

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Hi Amy.
As our first visit with you at The Race Club comes to a close tomorrow, we want to thank you, Abby and your Dad for the superb training that you have provided to our sons, Alex and Cameron.
They have had the time of their lives, and I simply have to share an experience from this afternoon that Mark and I will never ever forget…nor will Alex.
Your dad worked with the kids on breast stroke this afternoon and although it has always been absolutely Alex’s weakest stroke, Coach Hall got him on track and awakened the breast stroker in our son. After years of thinking he just wasn’t ever going to be very good at the stroke, something clicked, and your dad gave Alex the technical skills and confidence to believe in himself; it was a major “aha” moment and Alex is absolutely on a breast stroke high this evening!
For Mark and I to witness this transformation firsthand, we can only say that we are floored, amazed, impressed, and astounded at Coach Hall’s expertise.
I guess that is why we are here, but I just want to let all of you know that you have met and exceeded our expectations and only wish tomorrow morning was not our last session!!!
Before he went to bed, Alex said that Coach Hall changed his life today and that he really learned a lot  about himself and his sport.
As swim parents, you are undoubtedly aware how much our lives revolve around the pool (we wouldn’t have it any other way). We dearly love our boys and to see Alex and Cameron so happy, proud and confident with their newly learned skill sets, makes us happy beyond belief…..All that, and they had a great time too!!!
With Respect and Gratitude,
Mark and Trish Craft

Alex and Cam Craft


How Oxygen Affects Our Bodies in a Swim Race

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The Art of Breathing Part I – Swim Race

Breathing while swimming seems like a natural thing to do. After all, we do it all the time without even thinking about it and, if we stop doing it, we cannot survive for more than about 7 minutes. Yet, while swimming, breathing is not that simple. The questions ‘How often do we breathe?’ ‘Where do we breathe?’ or even ‘How do we breathe?’ are legitimate ones. The answers are not that obvious, either.

Breathing in swimming freestyle or butterfly can be problematic. It can slow the stroke rate, if one takes too long to get the breath. It can lead to an increase in frontal drag, if the breath causes an alteration in the pulling motion of the arm under water, or if the head lifts too much for the breath. Yet, in any race lasting longer than about 20 seconds, the delivery of oxygen to the muscles, in order to provide an important source of energy, is vital to our ability to sustain speed. In other words, we have to breathe to keep our pace.

The fastest way to swim fly and free is without breathing. Unfortunately, in any race event over a 50 sprint, not breathing enough leads to a catastrophic dependence on anaerobic sources of energy, which leads quickly to a lowering of the body’s pH (H+ ions). Once the body begins to become acidic, the muscles cease to recover or function at the same rate. In swimming vernacular, we ‘die’ in our races.

Perhaps the fastest way to increase the body’s pH, to restore neutrality, is by breathing. The faster the respiratory rate, the more CO2 we blow off in order to increase our body’s pH. Frequent breathing during intense exercise not only helps to maintain a neutral pH, but it also helps prevent the acidosis to begin with by delivering more oxygen to the muscles. Having a pipeline flow of oxygen delivered to the muscles engaged in the activity is essential to high performance swimming. Increasing the stroke volume of the heart, increasing the numbers of red blood cells, improving the transport systems for delivering oxygen to the muscle cells, increasing the numbers of mitochondria in the muscle cells available to convert glucose into ATP (Adenosine triphosphate, the fuel for our muscles), and increasing the number and type of muscle fibers available for contraction are all important parts of the physiological and anatomical improvements we seek from training. Yet, even if we develop those systems, none of them are optimized if we don’t have a nice flow of oxygen arriving at the alveoli of our lungs, ready to be delivered to the muscle.

After the first 20 seconds or so of our race, when we have used up the most readily available and stored sources of high-energy phosphate (Creatine phosphate), the two systems of producing ATP on an ongoing basis are the aerobic (with oxygen) and the anaerobic (without oxygen) systems. The two systems are needed and work simultaneously during intense exercise to produce the kind of power required to swim very fast. While the aerobic system produces more ATP per molecule of glucose than the anaerobic system (approximately 36 moles of ATP vs 2 moles of ATP), the anaerobic system produces ATP faster than the aerobic system. In this respect, they each may have their advantage, yet only the anaerobic system will lower our body’s pH, leading to a dysfunction of muscular contraction. The more we can utilize our aerobic system of producing ATP, the longer we can sustain our power.

If you compare the respiratory rates of swimmers racing with competing athletes from other sports, like running or cycling, where they can breathe at will, the rates of swimmers are usually slower. At maximum effort on land, the respiratory rate of an athlete is typically 50-60 breaths per minute. Rarely is a swimmer breathing that often, either in a race or in practice. One can make the argument that swimmers train hypoxically most of the time, which means that by under delivering oxygen to the lungs, swimmers are developing all of the other body’s mechanisms to deliver oxygen more efficiently to our muscles and to manage lactate production. By training at altitude, where even less oxygen gets delivered to the muscles, one can build all of those mechanisms even better and faster. That is a good thing. But when it comes to racing, other than in the 50 sprints, do we want to race hypoxically? I think not. I can still recall the pain of swimming the 400 IM at the Olympic Games of Mexico City (7,000 feet) in a time about 10 seconds slower than I would have swum at sea level. At altitude, we may not have the choice of getting as much as oxygen as we need, but at sea level, it makes less sense to deprive ourselves of getting that oxygen. That means swimmers should be breathing more, not less.

Next time, we will discuss the how and where of breathing in freestyle and fly.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read How to Inhale and Exhale While Swimming Fast: The Art of Breathing Part II

Read Oxygen! How Often Should I Breathe in Swimming: The Art of Breathing Part III


Swimisodes – Backstroke Kick

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Getting the backstroke kick right can be very challenging. In this installment of #swimisodes, World Champion Junya Koga first shows you what a typical backstroke kick technique with too much knee bend looks like, causing an increase in the frontal drag slowing you down. Then, using an elastic band above the knee, Junya demonstrates a more correct and faster technique of backstroke kick using less knee bend and a lot of power derived from the hip flexors and relaxed, loose ankles. To kick properly and to avoid the temptation of over bending the knee to get more power out of each kick, Junya and Olympic champion Roland Schoemann demonstrate two important dryland exercises that help increase the flexibility of the ankle. Achieving such flexibility with loose and relaxed ankles is one key qualities needed to develop a faster backstroke and freestyle kick with a tighter, narrower kick.
We use the Finis Ankle Strap in a variety of ways at our Race Club camps to improve kicking technique. When you first try using the elastic band you may get frustrated by the slower speed of your kick. Be patient and continue to work on ankle flexibility with this narrower technique of kicking. Eventually you will see your kicking speed and, more importantly, your backstroke speed begin to increase. Using the flick kick and freestyle kick dryland exercises, you can see great improvement in your ankle flexibility occurring within weeks. The technique of kicking with less knee bend takes time and practice to perfect.

Purchase the Finis Ankle Strap here


The Race Club is Hiring Swim Coaches and Swim Teachers

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The Race Club, with locations in the amazing tropical paradise of Islamorada in the Florida Keys and in Pacific Palisades, a beautiful southern California coast escape from the energy and excitement of Los Angeles, is hiring swim coaches for all staff coaching positions ranging from 3 month internships to Senior Staff and Site Directors for experienced, professional coaches and everything in between.

The Race Club’s Primary Focus is on Swimming Technique and the Technical aspects of swimming. This non-traditional coaching position emphasizes teaching and the science of swimming where the coaching staff is expected to have or develop technical expertise and be on the cutting edge in the sport. This is a great opportunity to launch your coaching career to the next level by learning from world-renowned coaches and world-class athletes while applying proven fundamental progressions to a diverse population of swimmers.

Our Coaches must have a passion for swimming, curiosity and a likeable personality with the ability to communicate positively and effectively with others. Swimming experience and success counts, however, all experience levels of coaches will be considered. Applicants should have talents, skills, experience and/or education outside the sport that effectively demonstrate intellect and capacity to learn. Specific skills in computer science, social media, technology, graphic arts, marketing and business administration are particularly valuable.

Benefits. Every day on the pool deck as a Race Club Coach is a step into the lab to learn at the highest level in the sport, develop and practice your coaching skills, both technical and interactive. Off of the deck, you will have the ability to contribute to building the preeminent swimming organization in the world. Opportunities for significant additional income, international exposure, and growth in a dynamic leader in the sport will be available for the best members of our staff. We are also a leader in swimming social media and online delivery of services, making a coaching position with the Race Club one of the most technologically innovative opportunities for coaches in the sport.

Join the Family. If you, or someone you know, is interested in this unique opportunity of coaching/teaching positions, please contact us. International Applicants must already have authorization to work in the United States. All open positions are for Islamorada, FL location. Email your resume to info@theraceclub.com.


Summer Swim Camp Islamorada, FL June 18-25, 2016

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Come join us for our Summer Swim Camp in Islamorada, FL! Below are the details of each session. You can sign up for as many sessions as you’d like, but you can see why we encourage you to sign up for all 8 sessions and the enhanced sessions. Lots of Great material to cover! These sessions are for any swimmer that wants to swim faster. We have had swimmers and triathletes from age 7- 86 ranging in abilities from beginner wanting to learn a flip turn or a stroke, to Olympians. Sign up and we hope you’ll have a great time!
CAMP SESSIONS
June 18th 10am-12noon – Science of Swimming – Reducing Frontal Drag – Freestyle technique
June 18th 2:45pm-4:45pm – Race Club mobility routine – Increasing Propulsion – Freestyle technique
June 19th 10am-12noon – Nutrition talk – Conforming to the Law of Inertia – Freestyle
June 19th 3pm-5pm – Yoga – Progression to a Fast Backstroke
June 20th 8am-10am – Strength training talk – Key Points to Improve Breaststroke
June 20th 4pm-6pm – Starts – Race Club Circuit Training
June 21st 8am-10am – Mental training talk – Developing an Easier and Faster Butterfly
June 21st 4pm-6pm – Race Practice and Strategy
June 22nd 8am-10am – Science of Swimming – Reducing Frontal Drag – Freestyle technique

June 22nd 4pm-6pm – Race Club mobility routine – Increasing Propulsion – Freestyle technique
June 23rd 8am-10am – Nutrition talk – Conforming to the Law of Inertia – Freestyle
June 23rd 4pm-6pm – Yoga – Progression to a Fast Backstroke
June 24th 8am-10am – Strength training talk – Key Points to Improve Breaststroke
June 24th 4pm-6pm – Starts – Race Club Circuit Training
June 25th 10am-12noon – Mental training talk – Developing an Easier and Faster Butterfly
June 25th 3pm-5pm – Race Practice and Strategy
*All sessions are subject to change depending on the individuals signed up in each session, weather, etc.
ENHANCED SESSIONS
June 18th 12noon-1pm Breathing Technique and Breathing Patterns
June 19th 12pm-1pm Hybrid Freestyle (the third style of Freestyle or Phelps Swimming technique)
June 20th 10am-11am Back to Breast Transition Turn
June 20th 3pm-4pm Starts
June 21st 10am-11am Turns
June 22nd 10am-11am Breathing Technique and Breathing Patterns
June 22nd 3pm-4pm Hybrid Freestyle (the third style of Freestyle or Phelps Swimming technique)
June 23rd 10am-11am Open Water Technique and Training
June 23rd 3pm-4pm Dolphin Kick Technique and Drills
June 24th 10am-11am Back to Breast Transition turn
June 24th 3pm-4pm Starts
June 25th 12noon-1pm Turns
Pricing:
Sign up for as many camp sessions as you’d like with a minimum of 3.
  • 16 camp sessions plus 8 enhanced sessions – $2550 ($650 savings if you register by May 17th, 2016)
  • 16 camp sessions = $1950 ($450 savings if you register by May 17th, 2016)
  • 8 camp sessions plus 4 enhanced sessions = $1300 ($300 savings if you register by May 17th, 2016)
  • 8 camp sessions = $1000 ($200 savings if you register by May 17th, 2016)
  • Each camp session is $150 (minimum of 3)
  • Each enhanced session is $100
Location: Islamorada, Florida Email for questions. Or Register Here.

Swimisodes – Breaststroke Kick – Speed Drill

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Having great speed in breaststroke kick is one of the techniques that led Olympian Rebecca Soni to gold medals in the Beijing and London Olympics. In this #swimisodes learn Rebecca’s favorite breaststroke kick drill which helped build her strong legs to maintain a faster stroke rate than her competitors. Developing such speed in the legs in order to get through the breaststroke kick cycle so quickly, requires a lot of work on swim drills such as this speed kick drill and the wall kick. We often see swimmers who breaststroke kick with the knees too wide, lengthening the time for the kick cycle. The kicking speed of many breaststrokers is often too slow and cannot be improved without specifically working on bringing the legs forward and pushing the insteps backward as quickly as possible. These speed drill techniques are often done for short bursts of time of 10 seconds up to 30 seconds, as they are difficult to sustain for longer periods.
In this Race Club Swimisodes you will also notice how Rebecca’s knees draw closer together during the quick bursts of speed drill, then spread further apart during the few recovery kicks that are relaxed. It is critical in using a fast breaststroke kick technique that the knees by held fairly closely together, at the hips or inside the hips. Otherwise, it is simply impossible to get through the breaststroke kicking cycle fast enough. In order to keep the knees close together and kick with power, the swimmer must also have great hip flexibility for external rotation. Just a few more degrees of flexibility in the hip can result in a much more powerful kick. Come to The Race Club camp and learn several dryland exercises that can help you develop the hip flexibility necessary for fast breaststroke technique. Thanks for watching!


Race Club Los Angeles Swim Camp April 21-24, 2016

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Come join us for our Los Angeles Swim Camp! Below are the details of each session. You can sign up for as many sessions as you’d like, but you can see why we encourage you to sign up for all 8 sessions and the enhanced sessions. Lots of Great material to cover! These sessions are for any swimmer that wants to swim faster. We have had swimmers and triathletes from age 7- 86 ranging in abilities from beginner wanting to learn a flip turn or a stroke, to Olympians. Sign up and we hope you’ll have a great time!
CAMP SESSIONS
April 21 6:15am -8:15am – Science of Swimming – Reducing Frontal Drag – Freestyle technique
April 21 5:30pm-7:30pm – Race Club mobility routine – Increasing Propulsion – Freestyle technique
April 22 6:15am-8:15am – Nutrition – Conforming to the Law of Inertia – Freestyle
April 22 5:30pm-7:30pm – Yoga – Progression to a Fast Backstroke
April 23 9am-11am – Strength training – Key Points to Improve Breaststroke
April 23 2pm-4pm – Starts – Strength Training with Brian MacKenzie
April 24 9am-11am – Mental training – Developing an Easier and Faster Butterfly
April 24 2pm-4pm – Race Practice and Strategy
ENHANCED SESSIONS
April 21 11:30am-12:30pm Breathing Technique and Breathing Patterns
April 22 11:30am-12:30pm Dolphin Kick Technique and Drills
April 23 11am-12noon Back to Breast Transition Turn
April 24 11am-12noon Starts and Turns
Pricing:
-All 8 camp sessions plus 4 enhanced sessions = $1300 ($300 savings if you register by March 21st, 2016)
-All 8 camp sessions = $1000 ($200 savings if you register by March 21st, 2016)
-Each camp session is $150
-Each enhanced session is $100
Location: Pacific Palisades High School, 15777 Bowdoin Street, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
We recommend finding an apartment or house to rent in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood near the pool. Otherwise there are many hotels in Santa Monica. Email for questions. Or Register Here.
los angeles swim camp

Freestyle Swim Technique – Body Position

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Body Rotation is one of the key ingredients to a fast freestyle swim technique. At The Race Club, we believe a swimmer should rotate the shoulders maximally during most races. One of the most important drills we have found in teaching swimmers how to rotate their body for freestyle swim technique is the body rotation swim drill. In this swim drill we use fins and a snorkel to allow the swimmer to focus on the act of rotating. The swimmer rotates their body aggressively so that the shoulder is vertical after 6 kicks. Turn the body slightly or slowly and you won’t feel much increase in power, turn the body quickly and aggressively and the increase in speed will be dramatic. You can also try this drill with 12 kicks or for a real challenge try every 3.

We use many dryland exercises at the Race Club to improve our body rotation in the pool . Bicycle Sit Ups are a great exercise we regularly incorporate into our dryland as well as Roundhouse Boxing. By using the core for these exercises one can feel a stronger connection in the pool and lead to a faster freestyle swim technique. Learn the secret to improving your rotation by learning this drill and these dryland exercises in this #swimisodes


10 Ways to Reduce Frontal Drag

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Frontal drag is the number one enemy of the swimmer. Swimming is arguably the most technique sensitive sport on the planet. With water being some 800 times denser than air, the frontal drag forces that slow swimmers down come into play at much slower speeds than all other sports on land. For that reason, in order to become fast, we must learn how to reduce frontal drag as much as possible.

There are three types of frontal drag; friction, pressure (form) drag and surface (wave) drag. Researchers have shown that all three can contribute significantly to the slowing of a swimmer. In any given medium, including water, the frontal drag forces of an object are determined by its shape, its surface texture (friction) and its speed squared. Here are ten good ways to help reduce frontal drag.

  1. Keep the body aligned. A curved body creates more frontal drag than a straight body. While some curve in our body is needed in order to create more propulsion, such as during the hip undulation in the dolphin kick, it is important that we bend, but not break the body. Too much curve or too much angle of one of our appendages sticking out causes an enormous increase in frontal drag. Keeping the body aligned requires having a tight core.
  2. Keep the head down. Keeping the head down helps keep it in alignment with the body, but more importantly, a head down also can help reduce surface or wave drag. There is actually less drag underwater than on the surface of the water (think of a submarine), because we eliminate surface drag. Frontal drag is proportional to our speed squared, so ideally, we would like to see the head submerged during the fastest point in the stroke cycle, which I call the surge point. All four strokes have a surge point where the head should be underwater, even if it is slightly so.
  3. Pull underwater with a high elbow. In the pulling motion of all four strokes, the upper arm is the ‘bad cop’, causing most of the frontal drag. By keeping the elbow nearer to the surface (except it backstroke) and more in alignment with our body’s motion, we can reduce, but not eliminate, the frontal drag caused by the forward motion of the upper arm during the pull.
  4. Wear the fastest technology racing suit possible. The records set in 2008 and 2009 convinced all of us that the suits really matter. Even today, the best suits help reduce friction and keep the body tighter to reduce frontal drag.
  5. Shave all the hair from your body. Although this is generally not done (or recommended) until post puberty, when significantly more hair grows on the body, shaving the entire body will reduce friction and make us slicker and faster.
  6. Streamline off the start and all turns. Getting into the tightest streamline possible creates a huge advantage when you are moving fast. The fastest point you will reach in a swimming race (about 15 mph) is when the fingertips touch the water off the starting block. The second fastest is when your toes leave the wall on each turn (6-8 mph). At either time, because of the exponential relationship between speed and frontal drag, you had better get into the tightest streamline possible.
  7. Keep your kick tight. In freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke, the kick must be tight in order to help reduce frontal drag. With the former two, that means not bending the knees too much and in breaststroke, it means keeping the knees at or inside the hips.
  8. Double cap. Covering up that thick head of hair and creating a new surface for your head with the reduced friction of silicone is another good way to reduce drag. Most athletes today will double cap, leaving the goggle straps between the first and second caps. The outer cap should be a thicker silicone material to maintain its smoothness.
  9. Wear low profile goggles. Racing goggles should be strapped on tighter to the face and are a little smaller and sleeker than larger training goggles. The less they protrude from your face, the better.
  10. Point your toes. One of them most common mistakes made on the start is not pointing the toes at entry. A German study recently showed that a relaxed foot creates 40% more frontal drag than a pointed toe. In general, the less splash one makes on the dive entry, the less frontal drag. The other common strokes where the relaxed foot causes more frontal drag is at the end of the breaststroke kick and the down kick in dolphin. In either case, keep the toes pointed backward to reduce drag. 

If you successfully comply with all of the above, you will graduate from being a swimmer, one who slogs through the water, to become a much faster ‘swipper’, a swimmer that slips through the water. Let’s hope you become a ‘swipper’! (Click here to find out what a swipper is)

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


The Fifth Stroke part III – Dolphin Kick

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There isn’t an elite swimmer out there that doesn’t excel in what we call The Fifth Stroke or dolphin kick. Many are talented kickers, but all fast swimmers work their kick a lot. Dolphin kick not only requires tremendous leg strength, it demands the whole body to move to create maximum propulsion.In order to become a faster swimmer, the dolphin kick deserves a lot of training attention. In short course, for good kickers, the underwater dolphin kick is more a part of the backstroke race than is the backstroke swim itself. So one needs to train using this technique often to improve the backstroke races. Of course, with this technique a swimmer can improve in all four strokes, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. That is why the dolphin kick is called the Fifth Stroke.
In this third #swimisodes on The Fifth Stroke, we examine how to kick dolphin kick on your back and why it helps develop on faster swim kick. Olympic gold medalist Roland Schoeman has an extremely powerful and fast dolphin kick. He trains considerably using this technique, both with fins and without fins. Although he works the up kicks very hard, providing about 80% of the total propulsion, Roland is careful to quickly pull the feet downward firmly after each up kick. Doing so, he avoids excessive frontal drag from the feet not pointing backward and he creates a bigger vortex, augmenting the propulsive force of the following up kick. Basically, the turbulent water going back and propelling a swimmer forward from their powerful up kick can be used on the less powerful down kick, if it is a quick and technique efficient kick. It may be easier for you to use the dolphin kick backstroke technique with a nose clip to avoid water going up the sinuses. Practicing dolphin kick underwater on your back is a great swim technique to improve your backstroke, as well as all four of the other strokes.

Watch The Fifth Stroke Part I

Watch the Fifth Stroke Part II