Saturday, February 28, 2015

Drilling Basics

What with one thing and another, I have not been feeling the swimming love. Being slapped with how slow I am is discouraging, it's February during a colder and snowier winter than we've had in years and I am struggling with something kind of childish.

For those who don't swim, let me clue you in: swimming is almost entirely form-driven. Everything you do with swimming is about reducing or preventing drag in the water. Yeah, it's mostly physics, and dealing with a powerfully resistant medium.

Know what else is mostly physics? Martial arts.

Know what else is entirely form-driven? Dance (specifically ballet, but other dance is as well).

So, why do I bring that up on a swimming blog? This is where the childish part comes in. I do need to get faster. To get faster, I need to improve my form. I'm taking classes and all that smack, but what has me not feeling the love?

Drills. Don't like 'em.

For someone who comes to swimming from a non-athletic or non-physical background, there would be some excuse for this. I have none. None at all. I spent fifteen years of my childhood and early adulthood studying dance and martial arts.

Every single ballet class starts with a warm up of a series of basic movements. This is utterly standard. You'll see it anywhere you look. The students don't whine about doing these drills. It's simply an accepted part of the class. I can't ever recall a complaint about starting out with the barre exercises.

Martial arts? The style I studied first was an obscure Okinawan one called Isshin-ryu. The first thing you learn are the fifteen upper and lower basics. The really skilled martial artists drill these every day. No flashy or fancy kicks, no intricate moves more suited to a movie set than an actual fight, just very, very basic punches and kicks. If you wanted to be a good martial artist with a solid base, you'd drill these every day, even if your goal was a spinning back kick ending with a floor sweep.*

Me being resistant to doing drills and wanting just to swim distances without thinking about it is about as foolish and childish as you can get. I know full well from my own background how important basics drills are. But no… I wanna rack up the miles when I go to practice.

I need to come up with some version of the upper and lower basics that will start my swim practice, just like the barre exercises or the fifteen upper and lower basics in Karate. That just needs to be how I start my practice, no matter what. Everything I've ever done that is form-driven does this. 

Swimming is no different, and I know it. I only have limited time to practice, but a set of 500 yards of some basic drills at every practice would improve my swimming to no end. I need to stop focusing on the yardage and trust that will come as my form improves.

I'm going to throw this in as my basics drills, each one just 100 yards:
  1. Single Early Vertical Forearm Single-Arm Drill Right
  2. Single Early Vertical Forearm Single-Arm Drill Left
    These first two drills focus on Early Vertical Forearm – a technique where you're keeping the elbow high and dropping the forearm perpendicular to the bottom of the pool early in the stroke. This reduces drag quite a bit. I won't go into the physics of it much here, but you can click on the link for an explanation.
  3. Slow arm recovery with hesitation
    This helps with timing on the pull.
  4. Closed Fist Drill
    Closed fist drill is meant to break you of using the hand entirely on the pull and use the forearm as well. That may sound kind of silly, but what has more surface area, your hand or your forearm?
  5. Kickboard
    I do not kick from my core nearly as much as I should. Drilling that and concentrating will drive the movement into muscle memory better.
Certainly swimming is an integration of movements involving the entirely body, but drilling on specifics is important, I know it, and I need to stop screwing around and start making them as regular a part of my workout as barre exercises or the fifteen upper and lower basics were for my other practices.

I am also going to a class today to learn how to do a proper flip turn. Meaningless for open water, but I feel like a dork not knowing how to do one.
* For the record, no, I never did learn to do that.
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