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May 18 2015
There are just three weeks remaining to enter the DAM-hosted Lake Berryessa 1 and 2 mile OW races on Sat., June 6. During those three weeks, all of the Distance Day sessions be focused on drafting, sighting and race strategies. Any and all DAM swimmers have the conditioning and strength to complete the 1 mile swim, and by attending the upcoming Distance Day practices they will gain the confidence. Yes, the first OW swim is a little unnerving but we guarantee that feeling doesn't last forever.
(Full disclosure from Stu and Mary - our swim coaching specialty is definitely pool swimming but we have a lot of coach-friends who are experts in open water. We've turned to them for expert advice.)
Here is some general OW info and a few links to specific topics and websites.
Most local OW events are either .5, 1 or 2 mile races, and they all begin with a safety meeting for all participants before the first event. The actual race starts are from a beach or in the water and that is where the conditions are most crowded. If you're anxious about being jostled at the start, stay away from the middle of the pack and move out towards the edges, though many good swimmers now place themselves on the fringes of line to get a calmer start. After the race begins, the line of swimmers quickly changes from horizontal to vertical as the competitors jockey for placement ahead or behind each other. Other than thinking of keeping up your technique as fatigue breaks it down, the only other two items on your mental checklist should be sighting and drafting. And, of the two, sighting is more important. Swimming in non-linear directions can add as much as 20-25% to the total race distance. That's upwards of 600 yards in a 2 mile swim. Watch this video to see swimmers finishing an ocean race as they head to the beach. This video makes it clear that you can add a lot of distance to your swim by not swimming straight.
And here is a YouTube video on Sighting and Navigating (See if you can recognize the voice of the narrator. Hint - a former DAM Head Coach.)
May 11 2015
Compared to fins, the science behind hand paddles is still relatively unknown despite their common use and the extensive research and design in their creation. According to the manufacturers, hand paddles can help: 1) increase efficiency, 2) create a more consistent feel for the water, 3) help build better swim mechanics, and 4) improve overall strength and technique.
However, in the case of technically inefficient, beginning swimmers or experienced swimmers with compromised neck, shoulder or elbow problems we DAM coaches recommend the use of paddles be minimized or eliminated entirely.
When used properly and over the right distance, hand paddles have been shown to create substantial improvement in power and feel. It’s clear from research and anecdotal observation that swimming speed may improve when using paddles, but it's unclear whether paddles improve long term aerobic outcomes via transfer to non-paddle swimming.
Selecting the correct paddles is a little more involved than choosing the right swim fins. As a starting point, the surface area of the paddles shouldn't be larger than about 10% of the hand. Once the large upper body muscles strengthen and adapt to hand paddle use, then the size of the paddle can increase. Second, begin hand paddle use by selecting styles that are perforated over solid plastic shapes. The holes reduce water resistance by allowing fluid to pass through the openings, thus increasing hand sensitivity.
In our KISD training plan, we offer at least one Pulling day per week, if not two. Even though we value the advantages of paddles, we still remain sensitive to the DAM member population by offering paddles in three basic sizes (small, medium and large) from seven different manufacturers.
Use the following descriptions as a guide when choosing your paddles.
HAN'S PADDLES - These black paddles feature well-designed holes balanced throughout each paddle. This increased hand-sensitivity to the water leads to technical stroke efficiency. Han's Paddles are designed to minimize joint stress. The adjustable finger holes - 3 parallel positions with smaller holes near the center for the size of each swimmer's hand. The middle finger should reach the end of the paddle in the normal position.
FINIS AGILITY PADDLES - The ergonomically advanced design of the Agility Paddles helps teach swimmers the correct palm positive hand position. Due to the paddles' strapless design, incorrect technique will cause the paddle to fall off the swimmer’s hand. The Agility Paddles’ convex design also promotes an early catch and reminds swimmers to maintain an early vertical forearm position. The Agility Paddles are versatile, they work for all four strokes and accommodate most hand sizes.
Small and Medium Sizes
FINIS FULCRUM PADDLES - (Yellow/small, white/medium) Known as the SHOULDER-SAFE PADDLES, this new paddle reduces if not eliminates shoulder stress allowing you to use larger paddles safely during sessions. The new improved design allows for a very fast catch and develops high speed neuromuscular coordination. Providing swimmers with greater feel of the water while swimming. The paddles build muscle size, strength, quickness and increases propulsion, while allowing for a higher arm turn over rate.
SPEEDO I.M. TECH PADDLES - (Blue/small, Red/medium) Now you can maximize all your training needs with the first multi-stroke paddle. The I.M Tech Paddle from Speedo was specifically designed to benefit the catch, pull and feel for all four swimming techniques. Paddles may be interchanged between right and left hands for specific stroke practice. The pronounced edge promotes better feel for "catch" phase of each stroke.
Medium and Large
RECREONICS PADDLES - (Red/medium, Yellow/large) These swim paddles are for aquatic exercise and competitive swimming training.
STROKEMAKER PADDLES - These are the original stroke technique paddles. Designed to improve technique and increase strength in the swimming specific muscles while reducing the pressure on the shoulders, these are the paddles used by the majority of the top swimmers in the world. Flexible, buoyant and now more resilient.
TYR CATALYST PADDLES - These paddles help improve stroke technique while building strength. Showcasing a patented keyhole design, the LVC Training Paddles help distribute pressure more evenly while improving water feel and reducing shoulder stress.
May 4 2015
Shortly after taking the reins in 2008, I added a long fin kicking day to the weekly exercise routine. It was to become the linchpin of our KISD training acronym. Growing up as a swimmer in the late 60's and early 70's, kicking was a term I hardly ever heard mentioned or even saw utilized. In fact, one reputable coach during that era advised his swimmers not to kick on any race over a 200 for fear that the blood vessels in their legs could burst.
Today, the kick has become so important in short course swimming that it's termed 'The Fifth Stroke'. All sprinters now use a continuous (6-kicks per 2 pulls) motion and most of the top middle- and distance swimmers do, as well.
Here are the four biggest reasons DAM uses long fins.
Increase fitness and Cardiovascular Conditioning - Although swimming is considered one of the best aerobic or cardiovascular-conditioning exercises, many people forget to use their legs where the largest muscles are located. Since the greatest cardiovascular benefits come from including the highest percentage of the body's muscles - that's why cross-country skiing and rowing are considered two of the most demanding sports - it makes sense that swimmers who activate the large muscle mass of the legs by kicking will benefit from a more demanding workout that burns more calories and increases fitness levels. Add fins to the equation and the increased load they add to the legs means that as long as exertion levels remain high, the cardiovascular system gets an even more intense workout with even greater fitness benefits.
Increase Ankle Flexibility - Have you ever noticed that runners, cyclists or triathletes new to swimming who start a serious swim program have a hard time just kicking and going anywhere? In fact, they sometimes go backward! One reason is that their ankles are so inflexible that when they kick, their feet act like hooks, catching the water and pulling the frustrated swimmer in the wrong direction. Good swimmers, on the other hand, can hyperextend (plantar flex) their ankles, pointing their toes so that the top of the foot forms a straight line with the shin. Because of the extra load from the increased surface area that fins provide, swimming or kicking with fins forces ankle extension during the power phase (pushing down when swimming freestyle) of the kick. Repeated fin use eventually stretches the ankles, increasing their flexibility for moving in all directions and helping the kick become more propulsive and efficient. The extra load from the increased surface area that fins provide, swimming or kicking with fins forces ankle extension during the power phase (pushing down when swimming freestyle) of the kick.
Develop Leg Strength - Kicking with fins is like lifting weights: the added resistance of the water on the blade of the fin increases the workload on your leg muscles. Your body adapts by increasing the strength and endurance of the muscles involved. Stronger muscles move more water making you swim faster, all other things being equal. Another note about specificity: Remember that muscular strength for swimming needs to be "specific." Good runners, cyclists, roller bladers, etc. can have very strong leg muscles, but the muscles have developed for running, cycling or roller blading, not for swimming. Fins develop leg strength specifically for swimming, and in a way that few other activities can.
Improve Body Position and Technique - Fins add extra propulsion to the stroke, which increases a swimmer's speed through the water. Good swimmers tend to plane on top of the water while poor swimmers tend to drag their legs and swim in a more vertical position slowing them down. One of the goals of swimming faster with fins is to swim faster when the fins are taken off! By transferring the feeling of swimming faster and higher with fins to swimming without them, a swimmer makes use of a phenomenon know as neuromuscular patterning. The muscles and the nerves can actually remember the feeling of swimming faster and will try to duplicate the pattern the next time out. The more times the pattern is repeated (swimming faster and higher in the water with fins), the easier it is to duplicate it. The end result: the swimmer's technique and neuromuscular coordination improves.