Aqua Notes - The Race Club

Maranda Edwards

Leave a comment

Hi Amy,

Our experience at The Race Club swim camp was exceptional in every way.  I knew it would be a great swim camp when I read all the swim blogs and viewed the swimisodes on the website, but when I watched my Age Grouper learn and go, go, go at swim camp, I became even more of a fan.

She was inspired to swim better and faster than she has ever swum before. And it transpired into the post-swim camp arena as well.  Shortly thereafter, at championships, she dropped 1 second off her 50 meter freestyle, 4 seconds off her 100 meter butterfly and 5 seconds from her 100 meter freestyle.  I can’t wait to see what’s next.  You not only inspired my young swimmer, you inspired me as well.

The Race Club swim camp experience is high-quality and first-class ~ from the website, to the registration, the swim camp venue, the equipment, the instruction, all the information and expertise, the invoicing, and the yoga.  The yoga was such a favorite too.  Yoga designed specifically for swimmers and swimmer muscles – young and older, novice and elite.  There is knowledge and depth of understanding threaded throughout and it becomes evident in the outcomes. Being with The Race Club now, is like having an additional swim support network for my swimmer. It is one of the most satisfying and solid swim experiences we have ever encountered.  One which we are excited to continue.

Good swim camps may inspire swimmers, but great swim camps inspire entire families.  This is a great swim camp.

Our sincerest thanks and gratitude!  Daphne & Maranda Edwards, Age 10


What’s So Important about Dolphin Kick?

Leave a comment

Dolphin kick, which is now used in all four strokes, is often referred to as the ‘fifth stroke’. It is so important to faster swimming that Olympic coach Eddie Reese dedicates sets in each practice to improving the dolphin kick. It is no wonder that Texas had 6 out of 8 finalists in the men’s 100 yard fly at the NCAA Division 1 Championships this year. If you aren’t devoting a lot of effort to building a stronger dolphin kick, then you should rethink your training.

When I ask our Race Club campers how many dolphin kicks they are allowed to take during a butterfly stroke cycle, the usual answer is two. The real answer is four, two down kicks and two up kicks. In analyzing the acceleration and deceleration from our velocity meter studies during the dolphin kick, it appears that the down kick provides about 80% of the propulsive kick force and the up kick about 20%. However, the up kick provides another important function, so it cannot be taken lightly without paying a big price.

The muscles driving the up kick, primarily the lower back, hamstring and gastrocnemius (calf) muscle, are not as strong as the quadriceps muscles, primarily driving the down kick, yet they need to be developed for this important motion. The motion of the feet during the up kick is the only motion of the body that provides propulsion without having the feet move backward in the water. Since water is liquid, propulsion is derived from the propelling surfaces (hands and feet) moving backward relative to the still water (Newton’s third law of motion…action and reaction). During the propulsive phase of the down kick and the pull, the feet and hands are moving backward, but not during the up kick.

The reason the up kick can provide propulsion while the feet move forward is because the preceding down kick creates a vortex (wake) behind the feet that moves forward and downward, trailing the feet. In addition, there is a vortex (wake) behind the body of the swimmer, following the swimmer. The combination of these two vortices causes a stream of water to move forward behind the swimmers’ feet. In order to provide propulsion, the feet need to be moving backward relative to the still water. Since the water behind the foot is moving forward, the motion of the foot during the up kick can move forward at a speed slower than the vortex and still create propulsion. That motion also creates a vortex that helps the subsequent down kick. Therefore, the more aggressive the up kick, the more powerful is the following down kick.

One of my favorite dolphin kick sets is five, 45-second vertical kicks (with or without fins), with the arms held in a streamline above. 15 seconds of rest are taken between each vertical kick. On virtually any horizontal dolphin kick set, the swimmer can take it easy on the up kick motion. Not so on the vertical kick, if the swimmer wants to keep the head out of the water in order to breathe.

Work on the dolphin kick, whether it is on your side, stomach, back (on your back the up kick is really the down kick) or vertically. But work it. Particularly, work on the weaker part, the up kick, as it is more important than you might think.

Watch The Fifth Stroke Part II Swimisode

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


Ike and Zeke Erickson

Leave a comment

Amy,
I just wanted to let you know how much my boys enjoyed the camp, and how much they learned!  They were amazed at all of the knowledge you and your family possess, and really appreciated the objective, and timely feedback they got. Thanks again for everything.  You guys were Awesome! – Todd Erickson, father of Zeke and Ike

Thanks for all the help!! When my dad signed me up for [the camp] I was on the fence of quitting or not but after these days, I remembered why I loved the sport. And that alone was worth it not to mention how much we learned. :) – Zeke Erickson, 21


Alexa Hommen

Leave a comment

Dear Race Club,

Thank you so much for the amazing experience. I had a wonderful time and learned a ton of techniques that will help me earn quicker times. Thank you for teaching me the shoulder driven freestyle, I will drop seconds. Thank you again for teaching me breathing in freestyle too. I absolutely feel as though breaststroke will be my best stroke after the improvement you guys gave me. I hope to come back some time in August and learn butterfly the Race Club way. I dropped five seconds on my PR for freestyle.

Best of wishes,

Alexa Hommen, 11


What Can We Learn from Emperor Penguins and Sun Yang?

7 Comments

The other day I was doing my swim at Founder’s Park in Islamorada, when Chris, a marine researcher from Key Largo, swimming in the lane next to me, asked me if I had ever seen a documentary on Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic. I hadn’t.

“They have this amazing ability to sequester air under their feathers”, he explained. “When they are swimming under water and getting chased by sea lions, they somehow release all that air around their bodies which results in a sudden burst of speed. That’s how they avoid getting eaten for lunch.”

“Hmmm”, I thought. “Interesting.” I was wondering what the relevance of this was to us.

“I watched Sun Yang on Youtube”, he continued, “and couldn’t help but notice that he blows air out through his nose after each breath and a lot of that air ends up under his body. Do you think that makes him faster”?

I had never really thought about it, but perhaps Chris is right. Perhaps it does make a difference.

Sun Yang does a few things out of the ordinary. While swimming the 1500, he takes 3 or so successive breaths in to and out of each turn and often again in the middle of the pool. Except for the final 100 meters, he takes only four out of the six beat kicks, opting to rest on two during the breath stroke. He bends his knee on the kicks, when the opposite hand enters the water, more than one would think he should (what I call the ‘surge’ kicks). He takes no dolphin kicks off walls. And he seems to get more air bubbles under his body than most, coming from his nose. He tucks his chin down pretty close to his chest after the breath strokes and that may be responsible for the released air staying under his body.

He also has an enormous wingspan, pulls with an extremely high elbow, has a monster kick, especially in the last 50 meters (who else finishes under 26 seconds?) and with a stroke rate of 60, manages to beat everyone else and break world records.

With each of these quirky techniques, I can’t help thinking that there is a method to the madness. I can understand and appreciate that with a stroke rate of 60 breathing every cycle (30 respirations per minute) would not be enough to maintain such a high speed. The extra 5 or 6 breaths each lap could really make a difference. Giving up the two dolphin kicks off each wall seems a bit contrary to what most coaches would advocate, but perhaps the trade for the earlier breaths is worth it. I have never seen another swimmer use his unusual kicking technique, but in spite of forfeiting two kicks each cycle, he somehow manages to maintain his speed with a slow stroke rate. Undoubtedly, that enables him to finish with his incredible kicking speed. But what about those air bubbles?

It always seemed to make more sense to me to keep air in the lungs as long as possible before exhaling prior to the breath. After all, the more buoyant we are with the air in our lungs, the higher in the water, the less frontal drag. It would seem, but perhaps not.

Water is some 800 times denser than air and the frontal drag forces in water are astronomically higher than in air. The Emperor Penguins do not escape the wrath of the sea lion by kicking or pulling harder, but by reducing frontal drag, surrounding themselves with tiny air bubbles, rather than water, at that critical feeding time. I know that some racing boats put steps in the hulls in order to trap air under the boat and increase lift and reduce drag. Perhaps a few air bubbles under the chest of a swimmer has more impact on reducing frontal drag than keeping all of it in our lungs. Who knows?

I do know this. Swimmers, like Sun Yang, end up teaching us more than we think we know. It is up to us to observe, to think, to question and most importantly, to learn. Chris might be right. The Emperor Penguins and Sun Yang may be on to something.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


The Art of Swim Parenting

8 Comments

Being a swim parent is not easy. If it were, we would likely have 2 million registered USA Swimming members, rather than half a million. Swim parents have to be unselfish, dedicated, loving, committed and invested to help their children succeed in the sport. In this day and age, how many parents will sit on a hot bleacher or in a chlorine filled natatorium or behind a starting block, timing all weekend, for the pleasure of watching their child swim for a few minutes? Or how many children today would rather be sitting around for the same duration in the same environment waiting to race when they could be in their air-conditioned home in front of their large screen television playing Minecraft or Game of War?

Those are some of the challenges that face the sport of swimming, as well as every other sport in America. What about you as a swim parent? What challenges do you face in order to see your child truly enjoy swimming and derive the most benefit from the sport?

Every swimmer of any age who comes to The Race Club is told the same thing. It is more important to have fun than it is to win Olympic gold medals. Of course, I always make sure that when I tell the swimmer this, the parents are standing right behind them. The truth is, the message is more directed to the parents than it is to the swimmer.

Too often, parents are overzealous in their desire to help their child succeed. While they only want the very best for their child, their words of advice, criticism or even encouragement can backfire on them. To a child, these words, no matter how well intended, are often construed as feeling pressure to succeed. A swimming career should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. If a swimmer feels pressure coming from the parents or coach for too long a period of time, he or she will often rebel and quit the sport. If not, then swimming ceases to be fun. Either way, the child loses out.

I learned a great deal about swim parenting from my mother. My father was a solo-practicing Orthopedic surgeon in the days before cell phones. He was on call 24/7 and could never leave the house phone. He rarely got to see me swim. My mother drove me all over the LA basin to workouts and meets and volunteered to time at most of them. She rarely said much to me, but when she did, it was always positive. Before I would compete, she would always tell me to ‘have fun’. After each race, whether good or bad, she would put her arm around me, hug me, and say ‘I love you’. Those were the only words I needed to hear.

As parents, my wife, Mary, and I had six children (3 boys, 3 girls)…all swimmers. Of course, Mary did most of the driving to meets and workouts. Once, when they were young, and dabbling in different sports, they started to get hooked on video games. I put my foot down.

“You are all going to do some sport” I told them. “I don’t care what sport, as long as you do something.” That was naïve.

“Are you kidding me?”, Mary interrupted, having overheard this conversation. “Do you think I am going to drive six kids all over this valley to different sports programs? What do think I am, a taxi driver? No, we have a great swim club nearby. They should all swim.” So that is what they did.

All six children had different levels of ability and passion for the sport. Mary and I subscribed to my mother’s philosophy of swim parenting and basically told them to ‘have fun’ and always ‘I love you’ after each race. They all had various levels of success, but I believe that they all had fun and, for the most part, look back fondly on their swimming careers. Swimming taught each of them many valuable life lessons.

My advice to all swim parents is to do the same. When you feel the urge to critique your child for an obvious mistake, bite your lip and keep your mouth shut. Let the coach coach. Your role is supportive, emotionally and financially. If you truly want your children to enjoy swimming and you want to help them succeed, and if you want your children to swim for life, not just as children (what other sport has an age group for over 100 years of age?), then simply remember two important sentences, ‘have fun’ and ‘I love you’. Get them to swim practices and the meets. If they need help in technique and aren’t getting enough of that at practice or if they need more motivation, bring them to The Race Club. Do those things and tell them those five magical words. The rest will take care of itself.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.


The Art of Swipping

6 Comments

Swipping is a conjoining of the words Swimming and Slipping. Swipping is a new word that I invented to describe swimming with the least amount of frontal drag possible.

In each passing year that I teach swimming technique at The Race Club, I gain more appreciation for the importance and the sensitivity of frontal drag to the swimmer. Because our sport takes place mostly in water, which is some 800 times denser than air, the forces of drag come into play at much lower speeds. Further, minute changes in body or arm or leg position can lead to significant increases or decreases in frontal drag. Swimming is indeed a sport of minute details.

For the most part, elite athletes, competing at the highest levels of our sport, have learned how to swip rather than swim through the water. Either through a process of trial and error, good coaching, a better feel for the water, or some combination of all three, these athletes have learned how to get through the water with a lower amount of frontal drag. While they are also quite powerful, it is the former quality, rather than the latter, that may have led to their ability to win races.

The real challenge of learning to swip, rather than swim, is that swimmers don’t feel the frontal drag forces as they are moving through the water. Typically, they feel the propulsive or lift forces on their hands, or if they really concentrate, they may feel forces against their feet as they are kicking. That is about it. Unfortunately, the positions of maximum propulsive power are not the same as those of minimal frontal drag. Consequently, most swimmers fall into the power trap. That is, they swim, instead of swip.

The high elbow pull in freestyle is a good example of learning to swip. While the deeper arm pull produces more propulsive power, the speed of the swimmer, which is determined by the propulsive forces minus the drag forces, ends up being slower (over the longer distances) than while using the high elbow pull. The high elbow pull is like the skate boarder cruising down the street who keeps tapping the asphalt backward with his foot to maintain his speed. He goes a lot faster and with less effort than the skateboarder who slows down nearly to a stop and has to push really hard with his foot to regain the speed over and over again. The tapping skateboarder is not only using less energy but is also taking advantage of the law inertia to stay in a more constant motion.

There are many other examples of swipping through the water, but the important point is that it doesn’t take much to change from a swip to a swim. Swimming is a sport of millimeters, tenths of seconds and degrees. Drop the elbow a few millimeters and the drag jumps way up. Begin the breaststroke pull a few tenths of a second too early and the drag during the kick goes way up. Reduce the external rotation of the hip by a few degrees so the knees must be wider on the breaststroke kick and the drag goes way up.

We don’t expect coaches to have the time or ability to spot every detail of stroke technique during a crowded workout. It is hard enough just to keep swimmers on the right intervals. That is what we do at The Race Club. We pay attention to the details above water and below water. We turn swimmers into Swippers.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.


Swimisodes – Yoga for Swimmers – Core Exercise

1 Comment

Follow Olympians in this 20 minute vinyasa yoga for swimmers focusing on core exercise. At the Race Club we find the benefits of yoga to strengthen and lengthen muscles, help improve recovery and nutrition giving an Athlete an advantage in competing at a top level and prevent injury from occurring. In this core exercise video we have incorporated traditional Vinyasa Yoga with some of our favorite core exercises that seamlessly blend into this intense and rewarding Yoga for Swimmers sequence.

Richard Hall and The Race Club created this Yoga for Swimmers Core Exercise sequence for you to follow along at home or practice with your team. So grab a couple yoga blocks, roll out your mat and get ready to sweat with elite athletes and Olympians; Rebecca Soni, Junya Koga, Lexie Kelly and Zach Hayden led by Amy Hall from The Race Club. No matter your level or ability, we believe yoga for swimmers can benefit your swimming and general well being. Just like in the pool, we advocate correct technique over forced, and sloppy form. Remember to breathe with each movement, use an ujjayi breath, allowing oxygen to lengthen and strengthen your muscles. If at any time the exercise is too strenuous, rest in child’s pose.

Special thanks to Liz Arch (www.lizarch.com) for her guidance in creating this sequence and to Hubert Baudoin (www.themooringsvillage.com) for allowing us to film at this beautiful location!

Yoga sequence focusing on the Legs

Yoga sequence focusing on the Shoulders

Rebecca Soni on Yoga


Swimisodes – Rebecca Soni – Yoga

3 Comments

#swimisodes Rebecca Soni is a 6 time Olympic Medalist (3 Gold), World Record Holder and first woman under 2:20 in 200 meter Breaststroke and Yogini. In this interview filmed at the most beautiful location in the World, The Moorings Village in Islamorada, FL, learn how Rebecca used Yoga during her career as an elite athlete eventually replacing her weight lifting program entirely with yoga. Watch her fluid movements as she has developed her practice of yoga and see for yourself how these movements can help her swimming. Reb was drawn to yoga at first, as a way to really pay attention to what was happening in her body in and out of the water.

Learning how to hold your body in certain ways can help you feel the proper way to align yourself in swimming. At the Race Club, we practice yoga as part of our dryland training program. Whether you are a recreational swimmer or competitive, we believe that Yoga can teach us how to breathe in different ways to help your body in all moments from intense exercise to deep recovery and also increase flexibility especially in the regions that Swimmers tend to be tight in. With all the benefits that come from yoga in sports and life, like Rebecca we haven’t found a single reason not to do yoga!

We have created a series of Vinyasa Yoga sequences for you at home to follow along to. Once you watch this interview and are inspired, roll out your matt and tune into our #swimisodes – Yoga series! We have 3 different Vinyasa flow sequences to practice and each one focuses on a different region of the body. Each day is different and each practice can create new benefits so keep on practicing the #swimisodes Yoga sequences with Rebecca and you’ll surely find something new each time. Just as there are so many reasons why Reb loves yoga, there are as many benefits physically and psychologically for anyone to reap. It takes time and many breaths to develop proper techniques and movements. Knowing safe and effective ways to move requires great teachers, patience and paying attention to your mind and body. Just like in swimming, we advocate a focus on technique in yoga.

Yoga sequence with Reb focusing on the Legs

Yoga sequence with Reb focusing on the Shoulders


Swimisodes – Freestyle – How to Pull Underwater

26 Comments

#swimisodes Many swimmers rely on natural instinct when they learn how to pull underwater in freestyle. But if we stop and think about what happens during the stroke cycle with our arms and body, we might choose to pull in a different way. There is quite a range of possibilities in how to pull underwater. From a pull way underneath our bodies to a pull way out to the side, there is a sweet spot for all of us, depending on the swimmer and the race.

We have a saying at the Race Club that drag is the number one enemy of the swimmer. Therefore, we must pay attention to drag and feel all it’s forces in order to best deal with it in creating speed through water. In this #swimisodes learn the advantage of a deep pull equating to more power vs the advantage of the high elbow pull creating less drag but also less power during the underwater pull.

At the Race Club, we practice several ‘drag appreciation drills’ as seen in this #swimisodes. Watch 4 time Olympian Roland Schoeman, World Champion Junya Koga and Elite Marathon swimmer, Lexie Kelly led by Coach Gary Hall take it back to the basics allowing the swimmer to feel ‘drag forces’ that may often go unoticed. Compare and contrast the feelings of more power vs. less drag. These drills might help you understand how to pull underwater in swimming freestyle.