Monday, January 25, 2016

Swim Social: Can 1 Skills and Drills Session Really Make a Difference?

It was a great class and Mark helped improve my front crawl immensely – in just one hour!

I've always been a fairly confident and strong swimmer and thanks to all the swimming I did when I was a child I have always been happy with my technique. But there is always room for improvement and Scottish Swimming’s 'Skills and Drills' classes can be hugely beneficial.   I wanted to do some work on my front crawl so headed to Tollcross International Swimming Centre for a lesson with coach Mark Wilmott.

I jumped in the water and set off to do a couple of warm-up lengths of front crawl. I could see Mark watching me from the side of the pool and as I finished he said those words that made me think he was about the change everything I normally do, "that was great, but… your arms are rotating too fast." Demonstrating from the side of the pool he continued, "I want to see you leaving one arm out longer and don't move that arm until you have brought the other arm alongside it." 

I set off again and worked on what Mark had told me. Every time I brought an arm round I left it out front and waited until I brought the other arm round. With this small piece of advice everything changed. First of all I felt more in control of my stroke and the pace I was doing, and secondly it changed my breathing. I normally breathe every third stroke, but now I was breathing every second. I couldn't believe how much more efficient my front crawl was after just ten minutes in the class. After another couple of lengths Mark said "that was great and although you slowed your stroke down you were going just as fast as when your arms were spinning round."

I was in a class with around seven other people and as well as working on individual issues, there were a few common ones that mark wanted to improve. Mark wanted all of us in the class to work on looking down instead of straight ahead while we were swimming. This doesn't sound like much, but as I did a couple of lengths to practice I had to fight against all my instincts to look ahead to see where I was going instead of looking straight down. It also made breathing harder as I felt like my head was coming out of the water from much further down. We all spent another couple of laps practicing and slowly we started to get comfortable with it – and again it started to show an improvement to our swimming.

Gathering us together again Mark wanted us to work on our push off from the pool. Putting his arms above his head he demonstrated how we should hold our arms as we push off into the front crawl. The challenge was to see how far each of us could glide once we had pushed off. Everyone took it in turns and had varying degrees of success. Then it was my turn. I dropped down under the water and pushed off. I started off straight, but as time went on I could feel myself rolling to once side. I also didn't go as far as I was expecting. As I came up Mark said "Did you breath out at all?" "No" I replied feeling a bit silly. I had been so busy concentrating on putting in a good performance I had forgotten to breathe out. "That would have helped you go further and keep your balance." 

Mark then decided he wanted to bring all his advice together, but instead of demonstrating from the side of the pool, he jumped in the water. We all found a good place to watch as he swam down the pool. First he wanted to show us the right way to do it. He pushed off from the side of the pool and glided through the water for as long as possible, before efficiently moving his arms and kicking his legs, while his head was looking down. He made the front crawl look effortless. Next he demonstrated the wrong way. He pushed off from the side of the pool with his head and shoulders above the water, and then began cartwheeling his arms round as he went down the pool. Getting out the pool he said "changing your technique to make you more efficient in the water is difficult.  It should take a while before the new technique feels as easy as your existing technique.  If it feels too easy in the coming weeks it means you have probably slipped back into doing it the wrong way."

"Next time," Mark said to me "we will work on your position in the water." He explained that although I was now moving my arms better, my body was angled slightly down the way, which he said meant I was almost dragging my body through the water.

It was a great class and Mark helped improve my front crawl immensely – in just one hour!  That’s the beauty of Skills and Drills; you can see improvements very quickly.   I’m off to practice what Mark has taught me and I’ll head back in a few weeks to get some more tips.