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The Most Productive Warmdown

February 15, 2013

Another Carrot
Warm-down, schmarm-down – how often do we get a “proper” warm-down done?  It takes valuable time, time often that we have already spent because our main set went longer than we thought, or our workout started later than we thought.  And while experience may say that we are more likely to excel tomorrow when we do a thorough warm-down today, it is still just to easy to let it slide.  Only the most disciplined athletes/coaches get it done.  Even if the promise of tomorrows good sensations don’t entice us to warm-down, perhaps we can come up with a reason to make it even more appealing?  Can we have another carrot please?

Maximizing Propulsion
For most athletes, I have found that the breath is the single greatest obstacle to effective propulsion.  There is a very powerful relationship between the head and hands, when the head is in the neutral position (i.e., not turned to either side for a breath) our ability to position our hands effectively in the water and to deliver our most powerful pull is at its peak.  As soon as we have our head turned to the side, both of these abilities are compromised, we can neither pull with peak force, nor position our hands well (the exception being young, highly flexible athletes, but even these folks have limitations).  Even the best of the best, see Michael Phelps video below, get their head in line prior to the peak of propulsion.

So, the quick-fix is to simply make sure that your head is in line when you pull.  OK, but in reality, it is not that simple, getting all of these things to work in a rhythmic fashion is our challenge, fatigue, oxygen demands, coordination, kick timing deficiencies – all of these things work against us.  So, what I choose to do is to use restricted breathing swimming, breathing every 4,5 or 6 strokes to get time to practice what it feels like to have my head perfectly in line.  I do these on easy swims with high rest in order to avoid it being a “hypoxic” exercise, since as soon as we get short of breath, our focus wanes and our stroke tends to get sloppy.  This is FEEL PRACTICE.  When the head is in-line and the stroke is not interrupted by breathing we can truly be at our propulsive best.  And to do this at the end of a workout, for warm-down, is perfect.  Here is how I go about it:

20 x 25 EASY swim breathing every 4-6 strokes
on :30 (get 10-15 rest)

Focus on Feel, Occasionally Count
One way that we think of measuring stroke effectiveness is by counting, less stroke equals greater propulsion, right?  Well only sort of, less stroke might equal greater coasting, or greater kicking, or harder pulling.  What  you really want to do here is focus on feel.  How do my hands feel?  Are they grabbing water?  Do I feel firm resistance?  At what points in the stroke is the resistance the firmest?  Can I feel the water rushing by my body as I propel myself?  Do I feel comfortable?  That is, do I feel “absence of awkwardness”?  Do I have gaps in the feeling of positive resistance against my hand?  Can I eliminate those gaps?

After I have probed my sensations with those questions, I can take an occasional look at the clock, or a count of my strokes, especially if I am tweaking something, performing an experiment.

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