Lesson Series Summer 2018

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    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – July 12

    With you having been out of the pool so long, we took time to tune up your fundamental features of the stroke, getting you back into position for easier breathing:

    1. the long, firm Torpedo (Frame) Spine
    2. the straight, firm, stable Skate Position
    3. Send Force Forward in the Recovery Arm Swing
    4. ideal Arm Switch Timing

    I had you work through each one of these features, one-by-one, on 6x short (1/3 length) repeats with no breathing. We made extra repeats for any focal point that needed more attention.

    Specific Focal Points we worked with:

    • For Frame: Tippy Toes (ballerina)
    • For Skate: Spread shoulder wider on extension (slide scapula out, rotate shoulder inward or elbow upward)
    • Fore Skate: Keep hands in gentle fist to reduce finger tension, increase awareness of hands
    • For Recovery: Drag the fingers
    • For Recovery: light, fluid swing
    • For Switch: no hesitation as it enters
    • For Switch: Catch and Entry happen together

    You want to develop a lower rotation angle, staying nearly flat, but not quite, on each rotation, so that your torso stays higher in the water, more surface area supported by water pressure pressing upward. The wider shoulder and turn of the shoulder/elbow will help resist over-rotation.

    Use gentle fists to help increase your awareness of what you are doing with the hands, and gradually release the fists while keeping a soft hand (wrist is aligned, but fingers are soft), and palm facing downward on entry and extension.

    And, you want to search for that sweet spot where the fingers are entering on the recovery side at the same moment you are setting the catch. This will allow the biggest, smoothest transfer of force from one side of the body to the other. And this will provide more thrust, which will assist you in sliding near the surface on the breathing stroke.

    I put a Tempo Trainer on you, set (after experimenting) at 1.40 seconds, to help you fix the timing of the stroke so that when you made an adjustment in the timing of the recovery arm (to create more or less overlap) that change in one arm would not affect the timing of the other arm. We would use this device to help you practice separating the action of the two arms so that you could adjust the speed of the recovery while holding the patience of the lead arm.

    You may consider picking up a Tempo Trainer (or buy one from me at cost, $40) if your old one is not swim-suitable. This would become one of your most valuable training devices!


    Extra Exercises

    I had you place a hand on the wall and then practice rotating your shoulder inward (rotating the elbow upward) while keeping the hand flat. You may do this at home, with the hand on a table. Place your palm flat on the table and rotate without tilting the hand. 

    Your assignment is to do 20x repeats of this exercise, on each arm, before eating dinner. :))


    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – July 18

    In today’s session we focused specifically on crafting the thrust in the stroke to assist your breathing.

    To do this, you first needed to feel how the catch/pull, the torso rotation and the extending lead arm work together to create the acceleration on each stroke. This acceleration, or thrust, helps your head stay at the surface while breathing.


    Non-Breathing Strokes


    • Superman to Skate – Hold donut in extending lead arm, practice blending catch and extension together
    • Skate to Skate – practice alternating from side to side, sliding lead arm ‘up the ladder’

    Sensory Focal Points

    Feel catch connected to and empowered by the torso rotation.

    Feel catch/pull helping your extend the lead arm farther ahead.

    Feel pressure on catch side as proportional to rate of extension on the other side.

    Use the image of the ladder – hold one side (catch) to enable you to slide the other side up the ladder to the next hand hold, 3 inches farther (extension).

    Feel the pressure build behind the catch arm.

    Feel the wave of force that comes from that pressure behind the catch, as it transfers through the rotating torso and travels into the extending lead arm, enabling you to slide farther forward. The action can be strong, but it must be smooth and gradual.

    Notice the head position as you practice the thrust on each side. The head should slide along in neutral position, at the surface. Use the thrust of the catch and transfer to keep the head sliding at the surface. You are in control of where you direct your body using that thrust.


    Breathing Strokes

    I had you practice doing the same activities, with turning the head toward air.

    • Superman to Skate
    • Skating – breathing every 4 strokes to right
    • Skating – breathing every 4 strokes to left
    • Skating – breathing every 3 strokes

    Focal Points

    • Head position is neutral before turning
    • Turn head sooner (as soon as possible, don’t delay)
    • Turn a bit more aggressively (without speed up the rest of the motion of the body)
    • Take just a small, quick sip of air (a little is better than none)

    The main point of the entire practice today was to experience using the thrust that comes from the synchronized catch-torso-extension to keep the head near the surface and make it easier to turn the face to air.

    And, by the end, there you were, swimming a full length, turning to breath and taking a little sip on every 3 strokes!

    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – July 26

    Our goal is to have you swimming 800 continuously by the end of summer (start of school).

    I proposed that we set you up with a practice routine that has you working your muscles and metabolic system a bit more, while keeping you focused (at any moment) on one particular focal point in the stroke, so that you are still etching better movement patterns.

    If you can get in 3+ days a week, this will really help stimulate development of the metabolic and muscular systems specific to swimming.

    Let me suggest this following set to use for a couple weeks, and then we can gradually increase the challenge level as you feel yourself getting stronger and more confident. You are permitted to modify the set, but keep in mind that by keeping the set the same from practice to practice, it will be easier to compare your results and notice genuine progress in more subtle as well as dramatic ways.

    Pick 3 skill projects focal points. One of them is to be about breathing. For each skill project, choose just 2 focal points.

    Use a Tempo Trainer (in Mode 1) set to 1.35 seconds, if it is suitable to the focal point you are working with (turn it off if it is a distraction to that focal point).

    Swim 3 rounds of the following set (about 500 yards for each round), or until you get too tired. Assign a different skill project to each round. During that round, you may alternate between focal points (holding one fp for the entire repeat) or blend your two focal points.

    Practice mindfulness to bring your attention back to your assigned focal point when you notice your mind wander.

    Between rounds you may take time to do any drills that help you tune up the skill you will be working on in the next round.

    With fins swim…

    • 3x 25
    • 1x 50
    • 1x 75
    • 1x 50
    • 3x 25
    • 20 seconds passive rest between repeats

    Then without fins swim…

    • 2x 25
    • 1x 50
    • 1x 50
    • 2x 25
    • 20 seconds passive rest between repeats
    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – August 10

    Today we examined your air management technique to see how we may improve your sense of adequate respiration, and get you swimming longer continuous distances.

    Your form looks very good – too good to explain why you feel as much breathlessness as you do.

    There is likely some psychological reaction to sensation of slight air deprivation – even with best technique and fitness in place, from high moderate to race pace, there is a some sense of deprivation that is normal and OK – it is no longer experienced as a negative thing. But it takes a while for the land mammal brain to test this out and come to believe its OK. Before that happens there is some subconscious anxiety and reaction which can increase the sense of stress and provoke some compromise in form.

    Yet, I think you are experiencing excessive breathlessness that is linked to some technical solution.

    And, I think we need to build up your muscle and metabolic strength by having you swim gradually longer repeats. This will, by intention, to bring you into some fatigue and stress so you must find ways to use these focal points to reduce the discomfort.

    Your main objectives

    • Finish exhale underwater (waste no time with exhale above the surface)
    • Use diaphragmatic breathing (emphasis on exhale)
    • Restrain amount of exhale

    Your Focal Points

    • Focus on the exhale – let inhale (mostly) take care of itself
    • Use diaphragm contraction to affect the exhale (avoid thoracic/chest breathing).
    • Reduce the volume of exhale (subjectively, aim for 1/3 in moderate swimming and about 1/2 in higher efforts)
    • Try holding breath on the first stroke, start bubbling on the second stroke, then increase aggressive exhale on third stroke, with last squeeze of diaphragm to blast air through the nose and mouth to clear the air ways at the moment they break the surface.

    In other words, with the total volume of exhale in mind, let your exhale follow an increasing gradient, from none to final blast to clear the air way.


    Practice Set For The Next Week

    Warm up 10+ minutes with gentle swimming and drills.

    Main Set

    Swim 2 rounds of:

    50 + 100 + 150 + 100 + 50

    Use fins. Minimize leg movement.

    About 20 seconds of passive rest at the wall between repeats. Use diaphragmatic breathing only.

    Aim to breathe every 3 strokes.

    Try to minimize stopping at the wall during each repeat.

    Keep movements calm, a bit slower than your default. As long as it is not a distraction, you may use the Tempo Trainer set to something between 1.25 and 1.35 (something that feels restrained but still comfortable).

    Our hope is that after 3 or 4 of these practices, you will notice an increase in strength and ease in breathing. It will feel more familiar, more normal to breathing from the diaphragm, in this exhale pattern.

    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – September 10

    Our objective today was to:

    • getting your bodyline to rest on the ‘mattress’ (on it’s unique neutral line)
    • reduce stress of trying to keep the body at the surface on non-breathing strokes
    • slow down to a ’12-minute’ mile like pace, to allow you to calm tension inside
    • use thrust of catch to slide to the surface for the breath, then settle back to neutral line

    And, I had you minimize your kick, just enough flutter from the ankles to keep the legs from sinking. Do not expect any forward thrust from the kick. Let the torso do that work for you.

    We also examined your exhale to see if we could improve your sense of respiration. Some thoughts on that:

    • hold breath on first non-breathing stroke
    • then increase exhale 1/2 stroke before the turn to air
    • careful to not exhale too much, or too soon to prevent sinking

    We also isolated the fact that you feel more relaxed while swimming half length just holding your breath. But when we inserted 3-stroke breathing pattern, your heart rate went up, and your sense of breathlessness – this suggests that the anticipation of turning on a set pattern is provoking some stress. So, I had you then just swim along as if you were going to hold your breath, in that relaxed mode, and then whenever you feel like it, just slip up to the surface for a quick sip of air and continue on, to see how that feels. You seemed to do better with that.



    Rather than feel pressure to swim a certain number of repeats or total distance, I would like you to work on the restraint of swimming in this ‘walk-mode’ of swimming. You may approach your swims like this:

    • Push off the wall into streamline and wait for water to bring your body to surface
    • Superman Glide
    • 1/2 length whole strokes, no breathing
    • 1 length, with quick sip as you please

    Then go into an open-ended swim with the objective simply to keep your body on that mattress, slipping up for air as you need it, and immediately go into another length as you feel you can protect or correct to keep your body on that mattress, in that more relaxed, walk-like swim mode.

    If you can go 2 lengths or 4 lengths (100) great. Try another 2 or 4. As your body adapts to this more relaxed manner of moving, you’ll be able to do more continuous laps.

    We will keep working on this to get you up to about 800 yards of continuous swimming, then we can build speed on top of this calm foundation.


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