Improving Swim Stroke After Age 50 Using Swim Speed Secrets by Sheila Taormina – Part 2

Part 1

I have discovered back muscles that I didn’t know I could activate!  Although all my clothes still fit and I don’t see anything monstrous when I look in the mirror,  just moving my shoulders in every day activities I am aware of my upper back muscles being stronger and more at my command.  Weird, I know.

It is somewhat surprising that it is this noticeable.  With all the swimming, gardening, and even moderate weight training, I have done over the past few years, I don’t recall anything quite like this.  It’s like my arms have taken on a new level of animation; almost like I could sprout wings out of my scapula!

It’s not that I feel tremendously stronger or that I have plans to leap off of a building.  (Tried that once in grade school; found out I don’t float at all.)  I’m not suffering from super-hero delusions.  It’s a more subtle change than that….  But, I can definitely tell there is a difference.

I can only attribute it to my modified application of exercises and routines from Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes.    Even though I don’t want to give the time or money for the full scope of the suggestions, such as buying a Halo Bench, I have chosen an approach that is yielding results for me.

Moderate increase in effort is very important for me.  

  • It helps me avoid injury
  • It keeps me from being exhausted and useless for my real life responsibilities
  • Therefore, I began my routine by backing off some from my former distances
  • I cut the recommended number of repeats of drills/exercises down to about a third until I saw how it affected my stamina and muscle strength
  • I warm up with a few laps before beginning the drills

I chose 4 of the in water drills and 1 pool side exercise to do, ones that were most appealing to me and took less equipment.

  • The sculling drill (page 94) is strange, but it gives me a distinct idea of what it would feel like if I was getting maximum pull from my stroke
  • Streamlining (page 78) really does help loosen up the shoulders.  I do some at the beginning and end of my workout.  One lap of streamlining at the end is a good cool down.
  • The one arm drill (page 105) not only lets me concentrate on the pull of one arm, but shows me that my right arm has a much weaker pull compared to the left.  That surprised me, since I am right handed.
  • After doing 25 yards with the left arm, I can analyze what is different for my right arm.  I did have nerve damage to that arm almost 9 years ago, from a ruptured disc in my neck, but I thought I had regained full strength, judging from my other activities.  I do occasionally have residual pain in it, so it is possible that there is still weakness.  Regardless, I have felt improvement with my right arm’s pull from this study.
  • I try to do half of the above drill beginning the laps with one arm, and half beginning the drill with the other arm.
  • The catch-up drill (page 101) helps me set the muscle memory to begin each stroke with the right form.
  • I do a light flutter kick when doing these drills, even though I do a one beat kick per stroke for my regular laps
  • The press-outs on the side of the pool are kind of fun. (page 93)

I take turns paying particular attention to:

  • fingers and hand position
  • body rotation and hip switch
  • relaxing the arm that is out of the water
  • core body tension

The results so far (after swimming 3 times per week for 3 weeks) have been:

  • I have decreased my one lap time by 3-5 seconds.  You may ask how I can know that a few seconds is really measurable.  Granted, it is difficult to time yourself swimming laps, but after a couple of years of never being able to dip below a certain lap time, it is meaningful that I can measure this.
  • I have cut 5 seconds per lap off of my 4-10 lap sets.  This even with decreasing my stroke rate to make sure I was getting the pull right.  I use a tempo timer, so I do know exactly what my stroke rate has been.
  • Even though I am still able to be relatively relaxed in the water, the pull does require extra exertion.  I have just gotten back up to being able to swim 10 laps in a row and feel comfortable with it.

My plans are:

  • to add another couple of drills to the routine as I gain speed and it doesn’t take so long to get things done
  • to purchase Resistance Training Bands for the tubing drills that don’t require the special bench.  I’m sure I can get some people around the house to do some sets with me while they watch TV.
  • continue swimming at least 3 times a week, which should be easier once our pool is done!  More on that soon!  There is work being done on it as I write.  :-)




About Laura Blodgett

I am just an ordinary 53 year old woman having extraordinary fun!  My fun right now includes barefoot running, swimming, triathlon training, gardening, discovering how to be a grandma (going by the grandma name of "Lulu"), sewing, studying Mandarin Chinese, learning about the stock market, non-institutional Christian fellowship, cooking, and occasional traveling. Read more about me here!