As I was thinking about what to blog and share with all of you, an athlete texted me about the swimmers he is watching in the Olympics. He was inquiring as to why the swimmers he is watching don’t look like they are doing a freestyle stroke with overlap or a patient lead arm or front quadrant timing. Good question.
First it depends on the distance of the race. The shorter distances like 50 or 100 free are all out events. In the longer events such as the 500 or the 1500, and especially the 10k open water, the longer the stroke out front. It is about holding the length of the stroke to keep a streamlined body line. The long narrow body shape moves through the water quicker than a broad, short body line. A broad and short body line is more typical of a windmill type stroke and also translate into more strokes. A longer stroke out front would allow less strokes. But the key is to connect the arm extending forward with the hips shifting.
A windmill style stroke is not connected to the hip rotation leaving the power to come from the shoulders, even though the hips may be moving. The arm that extends forward is driven forward by the hips when they shift, then you want it to stay patient out front. The patient lead arm also helps the next stroke to be driven forward as it then acts as the pivot point for the hips. A patient lead arm leaves both arms connected to the hips, one arm is driven forward while the other is set for the catch or anchor (we can talk about this in a future blog!).
Not everyone in the Olympics is going to be swimming with front quadrant timing, but I ask you to notice the difference in those with a long stroke and those with a short stroke. Spend some time counting strokes also, as stroke counting can help you asses efficiency as well. In practice 5 I introduce swimming golf. This is about adding your strokes to the time it takes you to swim the distance. With swim golf it is a method to see how you are doing in a quantifiable way. You can check your stroke and see what happens when you have a patient lead arm. Check it by noting your time and adding it to your stroke count, that will be your score.
This is one way for you to try it for yourself, what happens when you hold that patient lead arm. And how does it feel? Which way would you want to swim?