Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

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Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

Post by Don Wright on Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:11 am

Am going to do some timings on each of the FS "variants", I practice every session - am not going to "bust my gut" in going as fast as I can - it's just for "ball-park" comparisons between the variants - and it gets me doing 2x20m without a rest, with a single open turn - don't all laugh! - you are probably a lot younger/fitter than me! 

Think the main problem at my age/fitness level is not just the "mechanics" of different styles of FS - but the importance of getting the arms through the water at a decent sustainable pace.  Some years ago "SolarEnergy" on the SS forum advised me to set my TT at 42 when first using it - then try to gradually increase that rate.  The sad fact is, that I found that far too exhausting and ended up trying much lower rates.  You may well say it is almost impossible to swim at a decent pace at low SPMs - and reckon you are right!  I have never since that time, managed to turn-over the arms at a rate much better than 3-5 secs/complete stroke cycle (arthritic shoulder joints etc and occasional rotator cuff injury are limiting factors).  So please bear that in mind when you laugh at my timings for the various "variants" below!  I frequently hear the quick "chop-chop-chop" noise of a fast FS lady swimmer in the lane next to me as her recovering arms enter the water.  She gradually overtakes me while I am doing my best effort with V3 or V6 "variants" (see below).  So am convinced that the main problem in my case, is just swimming with a low SPM.

I remember that the old SS forum classified slow FS-ers like me as "Over-gliders".  Yet I explored that business and came up with the solution that have employed ever since (Dropping the lead arm down to a catch, as, or very soon after, the rear arm finishes its UW work and starts recovery - leading to a more continuous arm action!).  So the stroke mechanics may be OK but if the arms are not "paddling" at an effective rate - the stroke is going to be slow.   Better swimmers can easily achieve a rate of 0.5 sec/m - and I am struggling to do better than 1.5 secs/m!    

V1 - Although the "simplest" one I timed  - "almost full arm catch-up" action and 2-beat kicking, seems to go so well for me - I was a bit disappointed to see that it took me 1'10" - so that works out at a rate of 1.75 secs/m - which is darn slow (I would hope to be able to swim FS at a rate close to 1 sec/metre). However, I was only using an "early curl-over of the hand" shortly after arm's water entry, instead of my usual EVF catch! (a pity my shoulders scraped against the adjacent lane rope during the turn - must remember to do it less close to the rope!). I want to introduce a few dolphin waggles at each push-off in future - to add to the fun!

 (BTW, V1 is the only variant for which I don't use an EVF catch!)

V2 - Normal FS with 6-beat flutter kicking - taking care to fit in 3 kicks during each UW arm stroke  (timing one to coincide with a recovered arm's water entry to help offset "pushing drag") and 3 kicks during a somewhat exaggerated arm recovery - 2x20m took me 1'06", so that's 1.65 secs/m - only very slightly better than V1 - pathetic!  (If am doing about 10 arm cycles/20m (3 secs each), that would make the SPM about 20!  Rolling Eyes


V3 - I wrote about this in topic "A bad FS idea!" when trying to use similar body action - as in "on the tum" swimming - for flutter kicking on the side.  It didn't work out as had hoped.  Basically when FS-ing,  it's doing a vigorous hip flick downwards a bit, on the same side as the arm entering the water as the body rolls towards that arm.  The idea was to leave my legs completely relaxed - so that hopefully my darned awkward feet would not interfere so much with the water flow beneath the body.  (Maybe I am deluded in thinking that the quick hip flick is really analogous to shaking a loose rope to send a ripple down it.  The thigh, lower leg, foot, all moving a bit out-of-phase may provide a backward-facing component at times, to aid forward motion!?)  The arm recovery is also a vigorous "throwing oneself forwards" style of action! Have to avoid the head coming up too much during inhalations, due to the strong "lift" of the stroking arm doing it's up-sweep.  (Timed on 29 Nov, 2x20m took me 59" i.e. approx 1.5 secs/m)



V4 - Loping and doing frenetic flutter kicking - deliberately leaving the elbow of my left arm poking out of the water near the side for a few seconds while concentrating on kicking and "skating", body rolled to the right by some 45 degrees, and right arm outstretched straight -  moving forwards under momentum from previous arm stroke and hopefully from the kicking.  Then when needing more air, dropping right arm to a catch and doing a quick "inhalation" stroke with right arm, as the left arm recovers and also does it's quick UW stroke, then waits by the left side, ready to start the next cycle. (
Timing on 2nd Dec, 2x20m 1'12" = 1.8 secs/m - conclusion, my frenetic kicking is not very effective - I already knew that from the "on the side" kicking efforts!)

V5 - Normal FS but doing inhalations on every 3rd arm stroke. Am expecting this to be somewhat worse than pathetic!   - my sole concern is to inhale satisfactorily on my "less happy side" without taking in water.  Over the years, have tried various ideas to keep the head at a constant level so as not to spoil any attempt to inhale on that awkward side (even tried visualizing my head as partially floating - air between the ears ?   - semi-immersed,  staying near the surface despite any neck movement for inhalation!).  Think the best/simplest solution is to arrange to inhale early during the "awkward side" breathing stroke.  Possibly during the down-sweep to the catch rather than leaving it to later, during the stroking arm's up-sweep.   I know this means asymmetrical arm action - but what the heck, am not out to break any records and am a bit too old now to ingrain better ways of doing things! I only do 3 arm stroke bilateral breathing at times, because think we should all be able to do it when required by conditions. (Timed on 29 Nov - 2 separate 20m lengths took me 35" & 36" - i.e. approx 1.8 secs/m)

V6 - Normal FS, but inhalation on every 4th arm stroke. "Upping" the stroke rate a bit - waggling the hips clock/anti-clockwise a bit faster than normal helps me get the arm turn-over a bit quicker (the rate of faster than usual hip waggling "determines" my rate of arm stroking)  so can get air a little more often!  Using the longer time between inhalations looking to make sure am really "dropping" the lead arm down to a catch and not pushing it down.  Can also concentrate on using minimal body roll, and really breathing in the trough (almost UW)! (Timed on 29 Nov - 2 separate 20m lengths 30" and 31" - i.e. approx 1.5 secs/m - like the controversial style of V3) 

V7 - This partly copies a "GoSwim" clip I once saw, in which there is normal FS arm action, but the legs are left relaxed together, while the head is pushed down a little way beneath the surface every time the arm on the breathing side enters the water.  Basically it's an exercise in "Pressing The Buoy"!  It seems quite quick due to the arm's unbroken "windmill" action. The inhalations are "snatched" to the side, before the head is quickly returned to the front to do the "head nod" down which raises the completely relaxed legs towards the surface.  I like using this as a prelude to doing one-arm fly etc - which also benefit from a "head nod" downwards near the start of each stroke.  Think my SPM is probably at a more "sensible level" when swimming this variant! 
Timing on 2nd Dec, 2x20m 1'3" = 1.5 secs/m (my arms were going almost like bees wings - but there was no down-thrust of the lower legs towards the end of each stroke (legs left relaxed) - so I must try a bit of a dolphin kick to see if that reduces the time! 

 I see that for long distance FS-ers the time for a complete stroke cycle is somewhere in the range of  1.0 -1.5 secs/cycle - how do you bods manage it!?  I need ample time to think about "dropping" my lead arm to a catch and more thinking time during the pull/push. 


Will update my above timings when have done them all properly.  Who knows, I might be able to get used to swimming at a decent SPM - one day! Rolling Eyes 

The "grey matter" seems to work more slowly while am in the water (brain gets "water-logged") so keeping count of the strokes/length is not an easy matter for my noddle, while trying to concentrate on doing each stroke as well as I'm able.   Smile I think some of you have a "smart" swim watch that tells you number of strokes/laps  done - but it would be a waste in my case.



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Last edited by Don Wright on Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:11 am; edited 7 times in total

Don Wright

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Re: Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

Post by cottmiler on Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:44 am

The three usual chappies in my lane either swim crawl non-stop or alternate laps with breastroke. All a bit boring, eh!

On the other hand people like you and me get bored after one lap of the same action and I often experiment with different things on the same lap.

However I continue to try and improve body balance in order to reduce any work and effort needed to move forward.

This principle is so thoroughly reinforced when I see Bregor fighting valiantly in the syrup. He is a mirror of our own attempts to swim.

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Re: Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

Post by Sprinter on Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:26 am

Hi Don, just a few general remarks:

First, I believe that the general discussions about "overglider" and "EVF" have really nothing to do with your experiences.

Especially the EVF thing would be foolish to attempt, since its only reason is that at HIGH speeds, for the HIGHLY trained athlete it might be possible to reduce FRONTAL drag by GIVING UP power and keeping the elbow at the surface. Now your speed is not high, you are not highly trained, the frontal drag is irrelevant, but gaining POWER is most important for you.

On the other hand, I got the picture that your swimming happens very much on the side, so I guess what you mean with "EVF" is you lying mostly on the side, and then dragging the arm along, where actually NOW it seems most natural to keep the arm at the surface -- but that has nothing to do with the general "EVF" discussion, which is about high-performance (long-distance) swimming with relatively very little rotation (see e.g. Karlyn Pipes).

Also "overglider" seems irrelevant here, since every reasonable swimming below a strokerate of 60 strokes per minute will necessarily be "overgliding" (the alternative is whirling your arms around, mindlessly, which then wouldn't be "overgliding", but much worse).

Better swimmers can easily achieve a rate of 0.5 sec/m - and I am struggling to do better than 1.5 secs/m!  

Here you got carried away a bit, I guess (and using your non-standard speed-etc-notation might also invite errors -- I would think about switching to the standard m/s, since then everybody knows what you are talking about, no reciprocal values need to be computed): In my age group 50-54, only the very best of the world can reach 2 m/s, that is, 50m in 25s (especially since you likely mean without dive, just the real swimming speed). Look at the UK masters record over 50m
https://www.swimmingresults.org/mastersdata/records/?v=2
and there you see that over the age of 70, 30s for 50m is international level, that is 1,67 m/s.
Considering just 20m (which would make good sense for you, since that already takes a long time!), you would be talking about using 10s, which is now somewhat easier, since that is now really a sprint distance, only uses the anaerobic system), but still this is very difficult: This is definitely a goal for me, but I don't know whether I can reach that.

Achieving 1 m/s over 20m, that might be very difficult for you (but who knows). But it would all be about power projection into the water, with a reasonable stroke rate. With strength training (which would be extremely useful anyway) perhaps ... That would be 40s for the 40m, where I really would first concentrate on 20s for 20m.

I believe if you can't do the flutter kick, you also can't do the dolphin kick -- the speed comes just from the feet in dolphin kick, as with the flutter kick. And the core-strength needed for dolphin kick seems to be even greater (so that the flutter-kick might be a good exercise anyway).

I would evaluate, from time to time, your side-swimming issue. My general experience is that certain conditions vanish (or weaken) over time, but one just gets used to them. Perhaps also, just for checking, seeing how it is without your special shorts -- all these tools can develop a life on their own.

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Re: Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

Post by Sprinter on Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:48 am

Just a remark on those 2m/s: at the swimming camps with Holger Luening, we always get into that (big) flume channel, hanging there at the wall for a while at this speed, which is just about the WR for 200m freestyle in the 50m pool (this includes the dive and the turns). His point is to demonstrate what a completely different type of swimming it is, and how ridiculous it is for 99.99% of all swimmers to consider the videos (and discussions) about such swimming as guides for their own swimming. Some things become much easier (you don't need to worry about lift -- you are just floating on top of the water without any effort (besides holding the rail)), while now drag becomes really a problem. And THIS DRAG is what many coaches talk about (which is, unfortunately, much concentrated on the absolute top end of swimming).

I believe for swimming 1m/s or slower, drag is rather unimportant. The whole point here is just getting some power into the water, in the right direction (and THIS is helped by a more horizontal position). All of that stuff you could do with your hips etc. seems completely irrelevant here.

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Re: Variations on an FS theme - at low SPMs

Post by Don Wright on Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:20 pm

Sprinter wrote:Hi Don, just a few general remarks:

First, I believe that the general discussions about "overglider" and "EVF" have really nothing to do with your experiences.

Especially the EVF thing would be foolish to attempt, since its only reason is that at HIGH speeds, for the HIGHLY trained athlete it might be possible to reduce FRONTAL drag by GIVING UP power and keeping the elbow at the surface. Now your speed is not high, you are not highly trained, the frontal drag is irrelevant, but gaining POWER is most important for you.

On the other hand, I got the picture that your swimming happens very much on the side, so I guess what you mean with "EVF" is you lying mostly on the side, and then dragging the arm along, where actually NOW it seems most natural to keep the arm at the surface -- but that has nothing to do with the general "EVF" discussion, which is about high-performance (long-distance) swimming with relatively very little rotation (see e.g. Karlyn Pipes).

Also "overglider" seems irrelevant here, since every reasonable swimming below a strokerate of 60 strokes per minute will necessarily be "overgliding" (the alternative is whirling your arms around, mindlessly, which then wouldn't be "overgliding", but much worse).

Better swimmers can easily achieve a rate of 0.5 sec/m - and I am struggling to do better than 1.5 secs/m!  

Here you got carried away a bit, I guess (and using your non-standard speed-etc-notation might also invite errors -- I would think about switching to the standard m/s, since then everybody knows what you are talking about, no reciprocal values need to be computed): In my age group 50-54, only the very best of the world can reach 2 m/s, that is, 50m in 25s (especially since you likely mean without dive, just the real swimming speed). Look at the UK masters record over 50m
https://www.swimmingresults.org/mastersdata/records/?v=2
and there you see that over the age of 70, 30s for 50m is international level, that is 1,67 m/s.
Considering just 20m (which would make good sense for you, since that already takes a long time!), you would be talking about using 10s, which is now somewhat easier, since that is now really a sprint distance, only uses the anaerobic system), but still this is very difficult: This is definitely a goal for me, but I don't know whether I can reach that.

Achieving 1 m/s over 20m, that might be very difficult for you (but who knows). But it would all be about power projection into the water, with a reasonable stroke rate. With strength training (which would be extremely useful anyway) perhaps ... That would be 40s for the 40m, where I really would first concentrate on 20s for 20m.

I believe if you can't do the flutter kick, you also can't do the dolphin kick -- the speed comes just from the feet in dolphin kick, as with the flutter kick. And the core-strength needed for dolphin kick seems to be even greater (so that the flutter-kick might be a good exercise anyway).

I would evaluate, from time to time, your side-swimming issue. My general experience is that certain conditions vanish (or weaken) over time, but one just gets used to them. Perhaps also, just for checking, seeing how it is without your special shorts -- all these tools can develop a life on their own.


Thank you "Sprinter for those "general remarks"! 

 Am not quite sure where to start in referring to them, but maybe the choice of my "non-standard rate of movement" as "x secs/m" will make a suitable start .- My idea was that by glancing at the figure I provided, other faster/more skilled swimmers could immediately mentally multiply both sides of the "/" for the pool size they use, and get to their typical timing if doing the same sort of thing as one of the "variants" (and have a good laugh at the comparative times!). E.g. for my V6 in a 25m pool a time in excess of 30 secs/length would not be good - but better than the the 35 secs it actually used to take me in my old 25m pool some 5 years ago (and it seems I have got even slower now!).  Furthermore that old pool had a list  on a board in the foyer, of the times accomplished for 100m FS sprints by club competitors - I seem to remember that the top ones, took about 51-52 secs  - comparing that with my pathetic "best" rate of approx 30 secs/20m FS length (V6) by multiplying both sides of my rate of 1.5 secs/m, by 100 and if I could just "last long enough" to do 5 lengths of the 20m pool without a rest - it would now take me something like 150 secs!!!  Rolling Eyes


Think you have drawn the wrong conclusion when writing "I got the picture that your swimming happens very much on the side" - that is not so, particularly in "V6" in which I try to minimise body roll .  It is only in "V4" that I maintain for part of the stroke cycle, a dramatic body roll of some 45 degrees to the right - while flutter kicking "skating" on the side (not that my kicking does much for me!).

The business of using an EVF catch has been part of my swimming for some 6 or more years now - and I do not want to change it now for the a catch style more like the SS one!  I have found that the EVF catch suits me far better.  The pull phase from the catch is I know, only hand/forearm deep, while the upper arm remains up close by the surface, approx until the push phase starts.  As an expert, you will doubtless, "pooh-pooh" at me continuing to use an EVF catch - yet for me, experience of using it over the years has shown that my arthritic shoulders can cope with that quite happily (think I sometimes "goof" by straining my shoulder joints when I sometimes forget to do the fly stroke up-sweep properly, with bent elbows initially and the forearms/hands inclined downwards beneath my head ready to press down/back, and upper arms just past the vertical, near the ribs - so have had a few rotator cuff injuries but "swam past them").

Now on the business of "over-gliding" you have your more expert opinion - but I keep on coming back to the obvious point, that if the arms are not in continuous motion (grabbing muscular rest during an FS non-propulsive down-sweep to a catch) then there will be times during the stroke cycle when only the flutter-kicking legs are providing propulsion.  The nearest one can get to continuous arm propulsion (let's face it, I may never get any useful propulsion from my legs!!!) - is to start the lead arm down-sweep to the catch at, or very near, the rear arm's water exit.  I have proved to my own satisfaction in FS, that applying propulsive force with both arms in the water simultaneously - one pulling and the other pushing - disturb smooth flow of water beneath the body, although by dint of effort one may produce faster forward movement over a short distance, before one quickly tires. In variants V1, V2 and v5, I allow myself a "lead arm rest" - so it's not all "wind-mill" arm action.

Have been warned not to try weight-training to improve the muscular strength of my arms due to increasing problems with osteo-arthritis and cartilage shrinkage at the joints.  The knees are in a very bad way now, "bone against bone" noises if I crouch down - when going up/down stairs the knee joints sometimes give way, despite me doing leg exercises.  The hips also give me more trouble now - they get quite painful if I lie too long on one side during sleep.  There is also the unwanted result of "statin" medication (on it since 2010) - it is known that it causes reduction in muscle mass. It ain't much fun growing old!

The reason for doing the variants at all, is to provide variety, more able swimmers can carry on with a single style of FS, trying to improve their timings - that is not an option for me!

P.S.

We've had about 15-20 cm of snow here in Shropshire, over the past couple of days - no bus services, roads too treacherous etc (taxis running but charging extra money 'cos they can only move at about 10 mph!).  So haven't been for a swim since last Wednesday 6th Dec - and have discovered that the terrible skin irritation I had on my lower legs (surgery nurse gave me "Dermol" lotion to combat it) has now almost disappeared - think it might have been caused by the chlorinated water in the pool!?

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