Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Summer Swim Camp in Florida June 16-19, 2017

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The Race Club Florida Summer Swim Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us, your Race Club family. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, June 16th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, June 17th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, June 18th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, June 18th 11am-12noon testing for Velocity Meter option
Monday, June 19th 8am-11am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Monday, June 19th 11am-12noon filming for Video Analysis option

Morning Camp sessions are $250 and Afternoon Camp sessions are $150. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions on or before May 15th, you get a $300 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early for all sessions, you get the whole camp for $1300.   The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.

 


Easter Swim Camp April 14-17, 2017

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The Race Club Florida Easter Swim Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us, your Race Club family. 

We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions over the 4 days. Enhanced sessions are just a continuation of camp. We try to cover all 5 strokes, starts, turns and all 5 disciplines of the Race Club during the 20 hours in 4 days. Jammed packed so you can improve in just a short time!

Friday, April 14th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Friday, April 14th 10am-11am enhanced session
Saturday, April 15th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, April 15th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, April 16th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, April 16th 10am-11am enhanced session
Monday, April 17th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Monday, April 17th 10am-11am enhanced session

Camp sessions are $150 and enhanced sessions are $100. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions on or before March 13th, you get a $300 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early, you get the whole camp for $1300.  The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


Florida Spring Break Swim Camp March 24-27, 2017

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The Race Club Florida Spring Break Swim Camp is unlike anything out there! We try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us. 

We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, March 24th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Friday, March 24th 10am-11am enhanced session
Saturday, March 25th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, March 25th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, March 26th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, March 26th 10am-11am enhanced session
Monday, March 27th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Monday, March 27th 10am-11am enhanced session

Camp sessions are $150 and enhanced sessions are $100. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions on or before February 23rd, you get a $300 discount. Full price is $1600. If you sign up early, you get the whole camp for $1300.  The pool is located at Founders Park Pool, 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.


Unique Swimming Methods at The Race Club

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Keep Your Elbows Pointing Forward

Teaching swimming technique is very interesting. Every client we have at The Race Club is different. Some learn easily. Some don’t. For those that struggle more with adapting to changes in technique or stroke mechanics, we find that our success often depends on taking a different approach or by using a different description or drill. A concept that is easily grasped by one swimmer may be completely incomprehensible to another. Our methodology in swim camps and private sessions gets down to the bottom of what each swimmer needs. Teaching the correct pulling motion in freestyle is a good example of this challenge.

For every event, other than the 50-meter sprint, the pulling motion of elite freestylers is strikingly similar. We often refer to that correct motion as the high elbow pull. Some call it early vertical forearm. I have written extensively about why it works, but that does not make it any easier to learn. There is really nothing very natural or intuitive about this motion. Some would consider it downright awkward. It requires flexibility. It diminishes propulsion to some extent. Yet it may be the single most important change a swimmer can make in improving freestyle technique.

Of all of the freestyle pulling motions we see with our Race Club clients, I categorize them into four different techniques; the out sweep, the in sweep, the deep pull and the high elbow pull. Excluding the 50 sprinters, I would say that upwards of 95% of our clients manage to find one of the three wrong pulling techniques. Very few learn the correct high elbow pull without some help.

Through years of teaching, we have developed three of our favorite drills for teaching this high elbow pulling motion. Yet, even after spending a great deal of time and effort using these drills on this one important technique, many still don’t get it right. So we are always searching for new ways to teach an old subject.

Recently, I was working with one of our clients who struggled to pull correctly, so I decided to give her some advice that I had never given before.

“Once your arm enters the water,” I started, “initiate the pull with the hand and the forearm, but keep your elbow pointing forward, toward the end of the pool for as long as you can…in the direction you are swimming.”

Presto, she got it. It made perfect sense. Suddenly, her upper arms, the cause of most of the frontal drag during the pull, were less in harm’s way. They weren’t sticking out so far. She felt like she was slipping through the water. Not surprisingly, she was swimming faster.

So now, when swimmers are challenged by the high elbow pull in freestyle or the correct pull in backstroke, I simply tell them to keep their elbows pointed toward the end of the pool for as long as they can. For many, it really helps them with both freestyle and backstroke pulling technique.

Sometimes, old dogs like me can learn new tricks.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

 


March 17-20, 2017 California Swim Camp

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The Race Club swim technique camp is unlike anything out there! In this California Swim Camp, we try to cater to each individual swimmer. Just ask around and read our testimonials to hear what people say about their experience with us. 

Swimmers will focus on all 4 strokes, starts and turns and the 5 disciplines of swimming. Triathletes will focus on everything freestyle technique to become a faster triathlete swimmer. We encourage everyone to attend all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions over the 4 days.

Friday, March 17th 7am-9am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Friday, March 17th 9am-10am enhanced session
Saturday, March 18th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Saturday, March 18th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, March 19th 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm camp sessions
Sunday, March 19th 10am-11am enhanced session
Sunday, March 19th 11am-12noon Velocity Meter testing
Monday, March 20th 7am-9am and 1pm-3pm camp sessions
Monday, March 20th 9am-10am enhanced session
Monday, March 20th 10am-11am Filming for Video Analysis

Camp sessions are $150 and enhanced sessions are $100. If you sign up for all 8 camp sessions and 4 enhanced sessions on or before February 16th, you get a $300 discount. The price would be $1300, instead of $1600. The Velocity Meter option is $1000. The Video Analysis option is $600. The pool is located at Brian Bent Memorial Aquatic Center, 818 Sixth Street, Coronado, CA 92118. Please fill out the registration form and submit online here.

*There may be slight changes in the schedule only due to unforeseen circumstances. 


How to Maximize Propulsion with Coupling Motions

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While nearly all of the forces that create propulsion come from the hands and feet, there are certain other movements that we can do with our bodies that will increase the amount of propulsion coming from the pull and kick. We call those coupling motions.

I have written extensively in the past about the importance of coupling motions, but for those that missed reading them, let me explain. A coupling motion is a motion of some part of our body that by itself produces no propulsion, yet, when coupled with the propulsive forces, will make them stronger. Since we live in what is called an open system in nature, where the energy from one part of our moving body affects other parts of our body, using coupling motions are a powerful way to swim faster.

The coupling motions of swimming are very important; like putting a fuel additive into your gas tank. Any serious discussion of propulsion in swimming would be remiss without mentioning the coupling motions.

The following are important coupling motions in all four strokes and in the start and the propulsive forces they are coupling with.

  • Freestyle: Rotation of the body (including the head after the breath) and the recovery of the arms (pull and kick)
  • Backstroke: Rotation of the body and recovery of the arms (pull and kick)
  • Breaststroke: Elevation of the upper body (pull) and pressing down of the upper body and head (sometimes the arms, depending on the technique) (kick)
  • Butterfly: Recovery of the arms, snapping down of the head on the front breath (second down kick)
  • Start: Elevation of the head, motion of the arms, elevation of the back leg (feet or feet and arms, depending on the technique)

 

The keys to making the coupling motions effective are precise timing and more energy. The coupling motion is most effective when the maximum kinetic energy of the motion is timed precisely with the maximum propulsion. For example, if the coupling motion ends before the propulsive force begins, it has no effect at all. A good example is in breaststroke, perhaps the most timing-sensitive stroke of all, where if the body pressing forward reaches the water much before the feet begin to push backward, the benefit of all that work is lost. For that reason, the kicking cycle of breaststroke needs to be lightning fast to work well with the coupling motions of the upper body.

The kinetic energy of coupling motions in swimming can increase in the following ways: rotating faster, lengthening (straightening) the arms, pressing the body forward harder or snapping down the head faster. There is a price to pay, however, and it is called work.

It is much easier to swim without using these high-energy coupling motions. I call that technique survival stroke, which utilizes less energy to get through a workout. If you get accustomed to swimming with survival stroke technique that is the way you will likely swim in the competition. You may invest less energy in the race, but you probably won’t swim as fast and likely won’t win.

At the Race Club we take coupling motions very seriously. Coupling motions are one of the main reasons that swimmers that do not appear to be very strong can swim faster and with more power than bigger, stronger swimmers. We have designed many drills that will help you with the energy and timing of your coupling motions. Come to Islamorada or Coronado and let us show you them!

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

  


Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool

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Part IV: Five Great Training Tips

Practice makes perfect. You cannot develop a fast freestyle or dolphin kick without a lot of hard work. But the rewards are great. Here are five of my best tips for developing a stronger, faster kicking speed.

  1. Increase Plantar Flexibility of the ankle

This simply means that the ankles must be loose and the toes need to be able to point a long way down. Great plantar flexibility is a prerequisite (must have) for fast free and dolphin kicking, but it alone does not guarantee a fast kick.  The good news is that the ligaments in the ankle controlling this motion are fairly small and subject to quick change. Dryland exercises are the best way to improve this motion. We recommend sitting on the tops of the feet with the knees in the air for extended periods to stretch these ligaments. One can also do ankle pushups yoga style to stretch the ankle. I have also found by placing the feet under a low lying couch and straightening the legs while leaning back will put a great stretch on the ankle.

  1. Increase the strength of your kicking muscles

Some of this strengthening will take place in the pool but much needs to be done in the weight room. The quadriceps and hip flexors for the down kick can be strengthened by doing leg extensions from about 45 degrees knee flexion to horizontal. The hamstrings, lower back and gastrocnemius muscles used for the up kick can be strengthened by doing straight leg lifts in the prone position. We recommend 30 to 50 reps for each or to reach exhaustion repeated three times.

  1. Practice lots of kicking

Think about it. If you average a stroke rate of 100 in the 100 freestyle, with a six beat kick, your leg stroke rate is 600 kicks per minute. Considering that you get no recovery time with your legs, that is a lot of demand you are putting on them. It is no wonder that the legs are usually the first part of your body to give out during the race. The legs need to be very fit.

At The Race Club, we recommend that you try to do some hard kicking sets in each practice and that at least once per week, dedicate the entire practice session to kicking. Be creative with kick sets but do lots of kicking.

  1. Kick with alignment board and snorkel

While you may be able to kick faster with a conventional kick board by using the board to buoy your body up, you will never swim a race with your body in that same position. We think that by using the small Finis alignment board with your favorite monosnorkel, keeping the head down and in alignment with your body, you will simulate a more natural swimming position for your kick sets. It will also help you improve your streamline.

  1. Use an elastic band below the knee to develop a tighter kick

Over bending the knee is a common problem in freestyle and dolphin kicking. Under bending the knee is not. An elastic band placed below the knee will help keep the knee from over bending in freestyle kick. It may also slow the kicking speed, but it will make the swimmer become more aware of the need to depend on ankle flexibility to increase kicking speed, rather than on knee bend.

In summary, do not underestimate the power of the kick to help you with your swimming speed. To develop a strong kick requires a sustained program incorporating drills, tough kicking sets and dryland exercises. If you need assistance, let us help you set up the kicking program. Stay the course and you will see great improvement in both kicking and swimming speed.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick 

Read Part II: Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Things a Fast Kicker Does


Two Things a Fast Kicker Does

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How to Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

I want to bring your attention to two common, but not widely recognized, problems of the kicking motion that adversely affect kicking speed. Neither is related to propulsion, but both are related to frontal drag.  

  • Slow transition time from down kick to up kick
  • Drawing the legs forward on the up kick too aggressively

 

In freestyle, after the down kick, a swimmer will often relax the foot before initiating the next up kick. By relaxing the foot, it will hang down toward the bottom and cause as much as a 40% increase in frontal drag. In swimming, within hundredths of a second, a swimmer can change from quick acceleration to dramatic deceleration because of an adverse body position, like the hanging foot. A fast kicker transitions from their down kick to up kick quickly, avoiding the hanging foot. 

Most of the propulsion that occurs from the foot in either the down or up kick occurs very early in the motion. After the initial snap of the foot backward on the down kick, most of the propulsion is over. The motion of the foot from that point is downward and then forward, providing lift, but little or no propulsion. Similarly, the propulsion that occurs during the up kick occurs at the beginning of the motion, as the foot first enters the stream of the vortex.

During the up kick, a fast kicker should bend the knee to around 60 degrees or less to limit frontal drag. If the swimmer draws the foot up and forward too aggressively during this motion, he causes more frontal drag resulting in more deceleration. Therefore, the motion of the foot needs to be very fast at the beginning of the up kick, with short transition time between down and up kick, but not too fast on the up kick once the propulsive phase is over.

Think of your kick in the same way that I operate my boat in the Florida Keys when trying to get it up on a plane. I pop the throttle all the way down, then back off the throttle as the boat comes up. While kicking, pop the throttle at the beginning of the down and up kick, but then back off the throttle after the initial snap down or up. If you keep the throttle down too long, in either direction, you actually decelerate faster.

Sound complicated? Well, it is and that is why we don’t see that many really fast kickers. To do so requires great plantar flexibility, great strength of core and legs, fitness and the knowledge and experience of when and how to move the feet and legs.

A fast kick is the way to a fast swim…so that is why at The Race Club, we focus on developing a lot on kicking speed and propulsion, like in this video. 

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Getting the Motion Right

Read Part II: The Importance of the Up Kick

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool


Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

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Part II: The Importance of the Up Kick

One of my pet peeves is when coaches refer to the up kick on freestyle (or dolphin kick) as the ‘recovery phase’ of the kick. While the biomechanical strength of the down kick is at least double that of the up kick, the up kick also creates propulsion. A stronger up kick not only creates more propulsion, but it also creates a bigger vortex behind the foot, which leads to even more propulsion on the following down kick. To become a fast kicker, there is no recovery phase. By working the kick in both directions, just like a fish does, you can learn to kick faster.

The propulsion generated by the foot is highly influenced by the vortices caused by the swimmer’s body and moving feet. The foot on the up kick, for example, never moves backward relative to a fixed point in the pool. It moves upward and forward. Yet, the up kick can still generate propulsion because the foot is moving through a stream of water flowing forward behind the swimmer (vortex). So long as the stream is moving forward faster than the foot, or the foot is moving backward relative to the water, the foot can create propulsion.

When you turn the swimmer over onto his back, whether doing flutter or dolphin kick, the acceleration, deceleration and velocity curves all change significantly from those seen when kicking on the stomach. When the swimmer is on his back, suddenly the weaker down kick creates as much or more propulsion as the stronger up kick. The reason is that now the down kick pushes against a much stronger stream (vortex) than with the up kick, where the foot drops below the stream. The up kick contributes to the increased strength of the vortex for the following down kick. With less biomechanical strength, the down kick will now produce the same or more propulsion than the more powerful up kick. That is the influence of the vortex.

One of our favorite drills to teach the up kick is doing dolphin kick with fins underwater and on one’s side. We teach the swimmer to not let go of the water with the fin. In other words, we want the swimmer to feel the pressure of the down and up kicks at all times, snapping the fins down on the down kick and drawing the fins up quickly for the up kick. Sounds easy to teach, but in order for swimmers to really get it and practice it, The Race Club has a methodology.

Another great drill for developing the up kick is the vertical kick. If one relaxes on the up kick doing this drill, the head will drop down under water. The only way to keep the head above water at all times is by working both the up and down kicks hard.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part I: Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool


Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

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How to Increase the Speed of Your Freestyle & Dolphin Kick

Part I: Getting the Motion Right

The amount of propulsion generated by the kick is arguably the most important difference among fast and not-so-fast swimmers. While the motions involved in the propulsion for freestyle, butterfly and backstroke kicks are similar, the breaststroke kick requires an entirely different set of physical attributes. For now, we will focus on freestyle or flutter kick.

As with the pull, the propulsion generated by the kick depends on the amount of surface area of the foot and the speed of that surface pushing backward (relative to the water). Unlike the pull, where the water in front of the hand moving backward is relatively still, the flow dynamics behind the swimmer (vortices) contribute significantly to the amount of propulsion generated by the foot.

There are three articulations involved in the freestyle kick; the hip, the knee and the ankle. To kick fast, they all need to be just right. As with the pulling motion, the ideal kicking motion must reach a compromise between the propulsive forces and the frontal drag forces.

The saying ‘bend but don’t break’ could not apply more appropriately than with the kicking motion. Having plantar flexibility of the ankle is the single most important physical attribute of a fast kicker. With greater plantar flexibility of the ankle, less knee bend is required to get the same amount of surface area of the top of the foot pushing backward. Some knee bend is required in all fast freestyle kicking, but once the bend of the knee passes around 60 degrees, the system breaks down. The drag coefficient increases dramatically and the swimmer decelerates quickly. A strong kicker with plantar flexibility knows exactly how much to bend the knee on each kick, before snapping the foot backward. A poor kicker with little plantar flexibility will often bend the knee well past 60 degrees in order to get more foot surface area to push backward. In so doing, he nearly comes to a screeching halt. The increase in propulsion he may get from over bending the knee will not offset the deceleration caused by the frontal drag from the knee bend. The resulting inefficient, varying speed does not conform to the law of inertia.

In order to reach the optimal knee bend for maximal kicking speed in freestyle and dolphin, the foot must come out of the water during the up kick. Swimmers with poor plantar flexibility tend to bring the foot too far out of the water. With great freestyle kickers at maximum effort, one sees a virtual boil of water formed behind the swimmer from the continuous hard motion of the foot in both directions. For more on the dynamics of the kick and vortices the foot can create read this Aqua Note.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

Read Part II: Kick Faster in Freestyle and Dolphin Kick

Read Part III: Two Important Nuances of a Great Kicker

Read Part IV: Five Ways to Kick Faster in the Pool