PJ Preparation Sessions

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    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – March 8

    We will focus on:

    • Building better breathing skills – at rest, on land, in water, during brief rest intervals
    • Building up the major efficiency skills, and training those to automaticity
    • Building fitness for 1K, exceeding the PJ swim requirement
    • Building more calm, observant mental space under stress

    In this session today we worked on:

    • Getting a bigger grip with the catch arm
    • Tapping into torso power on the underwater stroke
    • Did a 400 yard continuous test swim
    • Open turns at the wall
    • The kick for breaststroke


    Torso Power

    Being able to know how to connect and keep the catch connected to the power of the torso rotation will be a major advantage for you.

    Before you are able to swim faster, you need to learn how to make this connection, then develop muscle coordination and tone to hold the superior catch shape and pull with the torso rotation. Once this connection is consistent and stronger, then we can load it with more intense swimming situations to build more speed.

    The main action is: Gather with the forearm, hold that shape with shoulder muscles, THEN start to pull that catch arm with the side of the torso. Feel the torso (back) muscles do more of the work on each stroke. 

    Focal Points

    • Elbow stays high
    • Build up pressure on forearm, closer to elbow
    • Pull catch arm with hip – as if tied by an elastic band
    • Feel the shoulder slide, feel it being pulled down the side of the torso


    Open Turns

    Sequence of events

    Come into wall full speed

    Reach with lead arm,

    Let trailing arm point in the exact opposite direction, at its target

    Keep head in weightless position

    Sneak hand up to the grip point on the wall

    Let momentum slide body toward the wall

    Pivot around the center of mass – hips/legs swing toward wall as head flips over the surface

    In deepest crouch, position feet down about 18 inches below surface

    Your head quickly flips over the surface – switching directions 180 degrees

    Take your big inhale while the head is flipping

    Keep the head as low as possible while flipping

    Line up head with new lead arm

    Swing grip arm over to come into streamline arm position

    Line up body in front of feet

    Then push off

    You will glide faster and farther when the body is under the surface 18 inches or more, and lined up parallel to the surface. straight as an arrow.


    Breaststroke Kick

    Let’s have you focus on getting this kick to work more effectively, to get more distance per kick, before concentrating too much on the arm stroke. The kick and glide is the primary action.


    Push off the wall into streamline position to study how the feet push back, angle of the ankles.

    Use a kickboard to practice getting a better press backward against water

    Use a vertical frog kick in deep water to practice getting creating more resistance, more sustained resistance on a better press downward on each kick. Try to lift the head farther out of the water and hold it there just a moment.

    Focal Points

    On the ‘cock’ before the kick, the ankles need to be dorsal flexed as much as possible – like when pushing off the wall.

    Draw the knees toward chest more so that heels do not rise so close to the surface. The better grip is deeper down.

    Press straight back more than outward to the sides.

    Squeeze the water between the feet and lower legs as the legs come together at the end of the kick.

    Think of pressing and squeezing the water more than shoving or jumping abruptly.


    Test Swim

    I prescribed a 1000 yard test swim, 3 times a week or more.

    The mail goal is to be able to swim the full 1000 yards continuously, with freestyle (FR) the whole way.

    In working up to that point, you can work toward that in two ways:

    Continuous swim 1000 and insert a length of backstroke (BK) as needed to provide active rest.

    Swim freestyle intervals, with short rest between.

    Continuous 1K

    You will swim continuously, but you may swim in this pattern: 10x (75 FR + 25 BK)

    As you get stronger in FR, you may increase the ratio of FR to BK, like 100 FR + 25 BK, and then 150 FR + 25 BK, and so on.

    1000 By Intervals

    Here is a progression of intervals you can follow to work your way toward 1000 continuous swim. Start with the first and use that set for several practices until you feel the next step up might just be within reach.

    • 14x 75 FR
    • 10x 100 FR
    • 7x 150 FR
    • 5x 200 FR
    • 4x 250 FR
    • 3x 400 FR
    • 2x 500 FR
    • 600 + 400
    • 700 + 300
    • 800 + 200
    • 1000

    Practice deep breathing at the very first moment of the rest interval. Take 8 deep breaths to measure the length of your rest interval. As you get more fit, you may reduce this interval to 6 breaths, and then to 4 breaths.

    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – March 25

    We worked on improving your awareness and control for connecting the catch to the torso muscles, and we worked on your 2-Beat Kick connection.


    Catch-Torso Connection

    You may alternate with single arm Skate swimming (with lead arm kept in Skate Position), and whole stroke.

    You may wear fins some of the time, when stroking slowly.

    You may do your 1000 swim cycling through like this:

    • 5x (50 LEFT single arm, 50 RIGHT single arm, 100 whole stroke)

    You may think of the action in two steps:

    1. gather with forearm, to build up initial pressure against the forearm
    2. then pull the arm back with the side of the torso

    There are three actions to identify:

    1. the gathering of water with the forearm and hand – a mere bend at the elbow
    2. the torso rotating
    3. the big muscles of the torso pulling back on the shoulder and arm (the arm that is shaped and held in that shape to maintain pressure against the water)

    #1 and #2 start at the same moment. #3 happens a fraction of a second later.

    It may seem exactly opposite, but looking at this from another viewpoint, you want to initiate the torso rotation before you start pulling back on the arm. You gather with the forearm at the moment the torso (represented by the hip) starts rotating, Think of it this way – your elbow does not pull back right away – first the hand scoops or gathers inward to come along side the elbow. While the hand is gathering, the torso (hip) does start to rotate, so that the torso is moving before you actually start to pull back on the elbow. This way the resistance you build up against the forearm can be transferred to the rotating torso. If you pull against the resistance before rotating, you’ll load the shoulder muscles instead, and the torso can’t receive the load after that.


    2-Beat Kick Connection

    So, in the first part of today’s practice you are working on the connection in the front half, arms and torso, and in this section, you are working on the back half, the legs and torso.

    You may work on the connection with the ‘hug yourself’ drill in horizontal position. You may also follow this sequence which I call the 2BK Swedish Sequence after the Swedish gal I worked with many years ago and we developed this drill which unlocked the kick for her. If you have deep water you can do the vertical part.

    Focal Points

    • Press down (or arcing) with a twist of the ankle and rotation of hip
    • The poised foot presses down and the other foot slides up to the surface in response, to occupy its poised position.
    • Keep the knees close together. Your inner thighs should touch.
    • As you get better, the press gets smaller, more compact.
    • The press of the foot helps rotate the opposite shoulder down.
    • The press of the foot helps the opposite lead arm reach a few inches farther ahead.

    The press of the foot downward, provides both leverage to enhance the torso rotation, and the opposite foot reacts in the opposite direction, sliding up to the surface. Deliberately reach that other foot up to the surface (the heel stops just below the surface), riding that reaction, and the average position of the legs will stay much closer to the surface. The 2BK should provide just enough lift to keep the legs up.

    Work on the catch-torso rotation separately from the 2BK, for a while. As it gets more and more familiar, even preferred by your body to shift into 2BK rhythm, then start adding it consciously to your longer swims.


    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – March 29



    The two main improvements we worked on were:

    1. connecting the arm catch/pull to the torso rotation
    2. creating more tone in your posture


    Focal Points for Catch/Pull

    • Torso rotation takes your arm down into catch position
    • Reach for a deeper target (so you don’t turn the torso deeper after you begin the catch)
    • Gather water pressure along side the body, not beneath
    • Bend the elbow, bring the hand a bit closer to the surface
    • Feel pressure build up along the forearm
    • Use rotation to help you finish pushing from ribs to hip


    Focal Points for More Tone in Spine

    • Feel extremely stretched from your ribs down through your thighs
    • The back should feel like you are arching, almost like a banana
    • Forehead should be deep in the water, submerged
    • Navel is lifted to the air


    Focal Points for the Kick

    • It is more like a 4-beat pattern, with a double flutter on each rotation.
    • The emphasis is on the down-press, to give the legs a little lift
    • One of the up-presses on each side helps you rotate to the other side (the foot pressing up, gives a little leverage to help rotate the hips)



    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – March 31

    You did very well today!


    In todays’ session I had you work with a new emphasis on the stroke – to view the main action as swinging that recovery arm forward, to reach a grip point a bit farther down the lane ahead.

    The catch/pull side is there to assist with that – one side of your body is reaching ahead, and the other side is pushing against the water to help you reach farther. The torso between those two sides is connecting the effort of one to the assistance of the other.

    We started with 1-Arm swimming. Use the torso to lift recovery arm out of the water, then use the torso rotation to bring that arm back into the water, taking the hand to its target.

    Then use the pulling arm on the other side to help you reach 1 inch farther with that swinging recovery arm.

    I had you get into streamline position, torso rotated down, with the lead arm at catch position, and the other arm snug beside the body, underwater. Then we used this sequence of commands to get the two coordinated with the torso:

    Lift. Then pull, and Swing.

    Lift the recovery arm just out of the water.

    Then start to pull with the other arm.

    Using the leverage of the pulling arm, swing that recovery arm forward, a bit more forcefully.

    Without thinking about it directly, the torso is rotating at the right time, connecting the two sides. The torso is rotating as the catch side arm comes out of the water and the recovery side arm is entering the water.

    I had you pause in streamline position after each stroke, so that you could follow the sequence again on each stroke.


    Legs Near Surface

    To keep the legs closer to the surface, to keep your body more balanced, I had you work on what I call the Counter-Balanced Foot Position (CBF), which is the poised position for the 2 Beat Kick.

    We took the same idea of tone and posture from our backstroke lesson and I had you focus on that tone and position of your lower body in freestyle.

    In Skate Position on every stroke, that Skate side foot (the heel specifically) need to be held up near the surface. The kick itself will press the kicking foot downward and the other foot will passively react an drift upward to its poised position. But you must actively lift that foot the final inches and hold it there steadily until the next switch, otherwise it will drift down and lose its position and the legs will start to sink. By holding your heel at the surface, you create more internal tension in the lower body, down the hip flexor and thigh. This helps shift weight forward and keeps the average position of the legs closer to the surface.


    • Superman to Skate
    • Skate to Skate
    • Skate to Skate with 2 switches
    • Skate to Skate with 3 switches
    • Skating (slow motion whole stroke) with no breathing
    • Skating with 1 breath
    • 1 length of whole stroke, with breathing

    We tested how consistent you could bring that heel to the surface on each switch.

    Your left foot has an easier time finding and holding the CBF position. The right foot goes there initially, but then wants to drop immediately. This happened particular on left side breathing too.

    And the right foot, when it should be passively switching from down position back to poised CBF position on the switch, it wants to do an extra flutter on its way up, and the left foot may be passive as it drifts down, when it should be pressing. So you will need to work on right Skate position, and switching to left Skate, to train each foot in its role during that switch.

    I had you swim several lengths of the pool, and you were able to hold the CBF about 80% consistency. Then you got tired, which I wanted you to experience. This is neural fatigue, in contrast to muscular or metabolic fatigue. Rather than focus on getting stronger muscular or metabolic fitness (yet), you need to keep working on getting stronger neural fitness which is your ability to hold position for more consecutive strokes, regardless of the speed. As this neural fitness gets stronger, your other kinds of fitness will come a lot easier, and you’ll end up swimming longer and stronger  just by the neural gains you are making.

    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – April 19


    Skill Projects

    Our list of skill projects:


    • Keeping that long, straight, Skate side of the body
      • Hand at deeper, wider target
      • Foot at pigeon toe, with heel reaching to the surface
    • Especially on breathing strokes

    Body Near Surface

    • Using 2-Beat Kick pattern to keep legs close to surface, minimal effort


    • Exhaling from diaphragm
    • Exhaling a bit more deeply (starting earlier)
    • Breathing on 3-stroke pattern (2 is too soon, 4 is too late, so add other side occasionally)

    Torso Power

    • Shape the catch (over the beach ball)
    • Gather (with forearm) – Rotate (from hip) -Pull (with side of torso)


    A Practice Pattern

    You may start your swim each time with a 400 swim.

    • Start as gently (walk mode) as you can
    • Focus on deep exhale
    • Then focus on spine length
    • Then focus on legs near surface
    • Then focus on torso rotation

    Then work on completing 1000 in intervals.

    You may work with 10x 100

    For each 2x 100, choose one of the focal points to use from the skill project above.

    You want to push your fitness boundaries a bit, but use your focal point to delay that fatigue and then reduce it while you are in the midst of it. Train your desired response to fatigue.

    As needed to give you a mental break, you may insert drills for turns, push-offs, backstroke or breaststroke along the way. But do at least 2x or 3x 100 before you change activities.

    Mat Hudson

    Pool Session – May 5

    We acknowledge your body’s cry for a more considerate, wiser approach to building your strength. In the pool, we need to push aside the concern for speed right now, and patiently pursue the ‘walk-mode’ swimming so you can finally swim 550y easily, without a sense of respiratory desparation. Once this is in place, you can build power and speed up your swimming a lot more effectively. But without this foundation of ease – or rather, all the skills that make that ease possible – you’ll always feel like you are redlining the effort while not being able to swim fast enough to qualify.

    In today’s session we focused on streamlining the legs more, take you farther into that sleek, high riding frame so you don’t have to use the legs to kick so much.

    I had you do a hand-stand next to the wall to simulate that kind of tensility needed in the lower half of the body, to extend those legs and feet behind you in a more extraordinary way. This, combined with the counter-balanced foot positioning, will allow that lower body to ride more parallel to the surface  = far less drag = less effort in swimming.

    Four Main Focal Points

    • The reaching behind you with the feet (to create that core tensility)
    • Thighs touching on each CBF position
    • (Skate side) heel reaching to the surface
    • A bit deeper target (keep front of the body down so back can rise up more)


    As you cycle through these, feel the water flow under your body-frame, feel the flow of water create more lift for your lower body, keeping it parallel to the surface, sliding through the water more easily.

    This week you may swim short non-breathing repeats as you cycle through these focal points and you may use a swimmer snorkel to swim longer uninterrupted lengths, dialing in your control with these focal points.

    You may also practice doing some turns and underwater, streamline push-offs. Maybe 20 turns. Choose some feature of the turn to improve every 4 or 5 repeats.

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