My last update, about 6 months ago, was about improving my average freestyle crawl time by measuring my breathing carefully. It is well known that breathing less increases your time. Since that time I have been trying various drills to improve my 50 meter freestyle average time. Iâ€™ve dropped it to around 49 seconds still taking about 30 strokes (15 cycles).
Iâ€™ve done this in two ways. The first drill is what I call fist paddles. I donâ€™t know the official name, but probably something like closed fist crawl. Generally you just keep your hand closed in a fist. I covered this in February in an article about catching the water in your crawl stroke. Iâ€™ve forced myself to only swim like this, where before I was only doing a few drills with it. The results have been great.
First off, once you stop relying on your hand position and learn how to use your arms to anchor your stroke your average time on 50 meters should be the same with or without your hand. Mine was only about two seconds better, but it depended on the lap.
So where did I get my huge gain? By re-trying something Iâ€™d pretty much given up on almost a year ago: staying high in the water. Back in October I had a post about my work on trying to get my shoulders higher in the water. Itâ€™s interesting to look back at the technique review Iâ€™d done using images of Olympic swimmers, but after working on this for a couple weeks I didnâ€™t have any improvement.
So what changed in my swim technique? I figured this out back in July, but didnâ€™t keep it clearly enough in mind (meaning I didnâ€™t use it enough before taking a two week break). When I got back in the pool I couldnâ€™t remember what had made such an increase. I was really upset, but I just kept on doing my fist paddles. The interesting this is when your hands are in a fist you realize how much you focus on them. My theory is that because hands have so many nerves in them your brain focus on the response without realizing. Once I made a fist I suddenly became very aware of my arms, especially my forearms.
I started to feel that I wasnâ€™t getting a great catch in the water and my push was slipping through the water, rather than pushing. As I tried different crawl techniques I tried arching my back more which brought my torso high in the water. This felt a lot better on my arms and I was thrilled to see that taking the same number of strokes and using about the same effort I did my 50 meters freestyle average decreased to 49 seconds. I tested it some more and found it to be consistent.
The impact trickled down to my other drills, which all increased. The most interesting part was when I opened my hand I didnâ€™t swim significantly better. I am going to see how my 50 meter sprints go using this technique, the 25 meter sprints were the best Iâ€™d had all year.