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. :-)