The frosty mornings are here on the northern hemisphere, and who doesn’t cringe just a little at the thought of diving into a cold pool first thing in the morning to get your day started? Well I do…which is why I prefer to swim mid day when possible. My ideal swim time is after breakfast has had a chance to digest a little, or possibly swimming on an empty stomach around 9 or 10 in the AM.

Regardless of what time you get your swimming practice in here are three practices written by Fresh Freestyle coaches Celeste, Dinah & Suzanne.  They are all holiday themed…giving & receiving, or decorating your swim stroke.  Huh?

Try them out, and comment with any questions, or how well you enjoyed the practice. What did you learn from it?

Note that that these are short sets and can be incorporated into any swim practice you have on your docket

From Coach Celeste:

It is tradition in this culture at this time of year to practice giving and receiving. Did you know you can
apply this give and receive ritual to the water as well! No money needed!

It is counter intuitive but give into the water through Surrender and the water gives support back. By
letting go, you can then allow yourself to feel the support of the water. This means, getting your body
balanced and streamlined shape. This practice is to experience just that, give by letting go to receive support.

The key is to spend time getting into your superman first to feel your float, surrender the weight of your
body to the water, let go, settle into the support of the water. Like a boat finding it’s ballast in the
water. Once you have found your float in superman, change your shape by slightly shifting your weight
to one side in lead-arm position, yet maintain your “floaty” feeling.

Give and Receive (1000 y/m +/-) 

2-5 x 50 with 10 seconds rest by taking relaxing breathes to feel your muscles soften, loosen, letting go
of any unnecessary tension (shoulders, hands, neck, belly, groin muscles). Check in if you are gripping
anywhere in the body, note it then soften.

3- 5 x 50 start each length with superman float and a gentle kick taking this moment to feel your body
weight settle into the water-get heavy. As you feel the surrender, notice if you feel the “push back” or
support of the body. Feel your float as you shift to lead-arm then into swimming-the focus is to feel the
sensation of surrender and support as you go. Rest between 50’s with relaxing breathes.

2-5 x 100  as above to practice keeping your sense of surrender and support by starting each length with
a superman. Of course, you must maintain a little bit of muscle to move, be straight and aligned. This is
the practice, how much surrendering the body weight, the tension, can there be but still move? Yet, not
let tension creep in. Do you still feel “floaty”, supported? Rest between 100’s with relaxing breathes.

 

From Coach Dinah:   Give and you shall receive practice

The water loves to receive….just the right amount of gift though! Too much and we will find it feels greedy….too
little and the water feels undervalued.

Enjoy this practice that explores giving just enough!

2400
Warm Up
200 freestyle – as you begin swimming, feel the body’s need to rid carbon dioxide. Stay relaxed and gently exhale
just enough to satisfy the body’s need to remove waste and just enough that you can inhale back the cleared
volume. Too much and you will be gasping, too little and you will be holding back carbon dioxide.

Tune Up
Use this set to dial in some focal points that require just enough execution. Use just enough rest to regroup and be
ready for the next interval.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough length through the spine to find a tall posture that allows neck muscles to
relax, and head to fall into alignment with the spine. Too much and the spine may arc, too little and the core will
collapse.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough extension through the lats and armpit of the low side edge of the body to
create a hydrodynamic shape. Too much push and the shoulder may drop and the arm tense, too little and you
may not be as sleek.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough tempo in the recovery arm – keep the arm moving at a briskness that allows it
to stay relaxed. Too much and you may pull the shoulder out of a stable position, too little and you may sink.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough twist from the core to slide from long edge to long edge. Too much and you
may over rotate, too little and the body may move slowly from edge to edge.
2×50, 1×100 freestyle – Just enough press back on the water during the pull phase, aim to match momentum from
the high side edge of the body moving forward. Too much, and you may create unstable water, too little and you
will just be floating by.

Metrics
Your choice:
1. 5×200 with 30 seconds rest.
2. 10×100 with 20 seconds rest.
3. 8×25, 6×50, 4×75, 2×100 with 10-20 seconds rest.
Choose one focal point, and aim to give just enough. Test the focal point as the interval repeats by giving just
enough plus a little bit more. Time your repeats. You will see if adding more is producing a balance of giving effort
for receiving speed gains. Is just enough, enough?

Cool Down
200 easy swim – what was your favorite just enough area to explore?

From Coach Suzanne: Choose the best tree for your home and Decorate it! 

Did you ever have the opportunity as a child (or adult) to choose your own tree from a farm, cut it down and haul it back home…only  to discover it was too tall or too short?  I recall setting up a beautiful spruce in our living room when I was 9, 10, 11, 12…(it was a yearly ritual), only to have my father curse, take the tree out of the (&@#%) tree stand, Lay it down one the coffee table and slice off a 1/2″ segment with a orange handled hand saw.   Some years this ritual repeated itself half a dozen times before the cursing stopped.  Only when the tree was just the right height and standing up straight, did we string the lights–starting at the top– and then finally begin to decorate the tree.

This practice is inspired by that yearly ritual in three parts

  • A) Choose the right tree for the house
  • B) String the lights evenly form top to bottom
  • C) Decorate and hang the ornaments.

Warmup: 500 – Choose the right tree
The tree you bring into your home needs to be just the right height. Not too tall and not to short.  When you swim too tall, you risk stressing your shoulder, neck or lower back.  Strive to have your posture “just right” so you’re tall from crown of head through heels, and your arm extends forward, but only enough to keep the line of posture and not force you to arch too tall when you extend

4 x 25 sequential focal points. Repeat three times total for 300 y/m total

  • Point the crown of your head in the direction you’re swimming (Laser beam)
  • lengthen your spine by imagining a rope pulling you forward from the crown of your head.
  • Gently squeeze your glutes as you extend the arm, feeling how good posture crosses the waist into the lower limbs as well
  • Point your toes as you feel a long line form crown of head through your feet.

200 continues freestyle, rotating through any focal points above that felt most helpful

Set 1:  String the Lights 1000
We String the lights starting at the top and try to space them evenly.   IN this set you’ll do a body scan from head to toe as you did in the posture focused warmup.   Look for symmetry between right and left sides as you do so.

5 x 50 sequential focal points. Repeat for a total of 500 yds

  • Head Stable – head doesn’t wobble side to side as you rotate the body with each stroke
  • Arms extend on tracks – send arm forward as the body rotates, not across the body. Slide the arm out a little bit away from the center if you sense any crossing in front. Make each side even
  • Shoulder Blade (not full shoulder) clears the water with each rotation.  How far do you rotate? See if you can rotate “just enough”, so that the shoulder blade and back of shoulder clear the water, but the entire shoulder doesn’t come to air.
  • Hips align with shoulders. The hips should rotate as a unit with the shoulders. Pay attention that when the right shoulder blade clears the water and comes to the surface, the right hip should come to the surface as well.
  • Legs quietly respond – Try to quite the legs instead of kicking the legs. Allow them to respond to the symmetrical rotation and stability created with the focal points above.

500 Freestyle Swim – Rotate or pick and choose from any of the preceeding “top down” focal points as you string the lights on your tree.  Occasionally check in to make sure that the height of your tree is still the right size for your room. In other words check in on your posture once every hundred or so.

 

Set 2:  “Decorate the tree”

In swimming we can think of decorations as all the fine points that happen in the periphery of your stroke.  Fingertips, toes, elbows, knees, nose, chin etc.   These small body parts are of course attached to the bigger parts and usually follow where the core, shoulders and hips go. But directing awareness and attention to them can heighten your ability to improve quickly and make a smoother, more efficent and faster stroke.

4 x 75 rotate focus by 25

  • Chin – is your chin jutted forward, pulled back, teeth clenched or face puckered?  Focus on a soft chin gently drawn back to help align your cervical spine wiht good posture
  • Elbow – allow your elbows to swing toward the sides of the pool building during your recovery rather than up towards the ceiling or behind your back.  Pair this with the torso rotation focal point to really stabilize your side to side rotation with each stroke
  • Knee – Focus on the back fold of the knee and try to keep it open and pressing gently toward the ceiling when you bring your leg up prior to your kick. This helps lengthen the legs by helping remove excess knee bend. Soften the knee during the down beat of the kci, then press the back of the knee toward the ceiling again.

300 Freestyle Swim – Rotate through each of these three “decorations” as you swim a continuous 300.