Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Popov and Butterflies

I am not trying to draw a connection between Alexander Popov's swimming technique and the way butterflies fly - just posting these two things on the same day - but if you stretch the imagination you can possibly see a link between the two.

As I swim by people in the swimming pool, I often notice they struggle with freestyle and while a few have good technique, most don't. Not having a good technique will often lead to soreness and discomfort, so that by trying to swim a lot, they may end up with a lot of shoulder pain. This is what I sometimes struggle with. Hopefully not serious, and possibly because I did not warm up well before swimming, or else I added a few awkward movements to my swimming practice. While on a short swim one may not feel very much, I find that when you get beyond the 3,000m mark in a workout, that is usually the time when you can feel some soreness. By then you may be feeling a little tired and the stroke loses its smoothness and firmness, thus opening the door to poor technique and possibly injury.

I often think that human beings were not primarily designed for swimming. A frog is a far better swimmer, and a fish moves rapidly with ease. For this reason, we need to learn good technique and by watching Popov and other swimmers we can observe how their hands move through the water and how the body rolls in one direction and then the other, in such a way so as to maximize efficiency and hopefully minimize injury. As I noted the other day, in the 400 plus days between now and next year's Hapuna swim race, I want to avoid missed practices due to injury as much as possible. To do that, I not only need to do appropriate stretching exercises, but also to focus on good technique as much as possible.

Today, I felt slightly more tired than yesterday, partly because I swam yesterday after having a day of rest and because of the busyness of work and a little lack of sleep. We cannot do everything, I guess. I also felt a little soreness in my left shoulder and so I took it more easy on my arms, using my feet a lot more when it came to accelerating to pass someone where I needed to be quick. That reminded me of the fish, which propels itself forward through the strength of the area around its tail. Our feet are in some ways like a propeller on a boat. I am unlikely to hurt my ankles kicking freestyle, although rash movements with my arms and shoulders may lead to damage somewhere in my upper body. While I was slightly slower than yesterday on the longer swims (finishing the 5,000m in about 1hr 42min), after a few minutes of resting (in the jacuzzi) and an easy "warm-up", I almost won the 100m "race" today, covering the distance in 1:29, while trying to keep my stroke flowing. My friend, who was not at his best today, beat me by less than half a length. He is someone with pretty good freestyle technique. If he trained more, he would get faster and faster. My friend and others here say that I am getting better. I am not really surprised, as I covered 5,250 meters today.

After the swim I stopped at the butterfly garden, determined to get some footage of them, and I was quite pleased with what I got. Watching the butterflies is a nice way to relax before getting ready for another busy day of work. For those of you doing the big Honu race in Kona this weekend, I wish you all the best and don't forget to be well-rested for it. Although it is only a "half" (Ironman), it is still a longish and tiring race.

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