It’s been interesting to video the underwater strokes for some of you over the last few weeks and see what is really happening underwater (I will keep bringing the camera each week so ask if you want to be videod at the end of the session).  One of the commonest things that comes out is a tendency for overgliding, or over reaching, at the front of the stroke.  You can see a good example of overgliding and a corrected version on the excellent recent  Swim Smooth blog.

Over-reaching at the front of the stroke makes it much harder to get the high-elbow catch and one of the ways we can improve this is with stroke rate.  But Rob, I hear you cry, don’t you keep talking about having a nice long stroke?  And if I speed up my stroke I will shorten it, surely?  It is true that if you only shorten your stroke and keep the same stroke rate then you will swim more slowly.  But, if you increase the number of strokes you do per minute, and your distance per stroke only drops only a little due to the improved catch you get, then your overall speed will increase.  Think of it a bit like the difference between spinning in a comfortable gear on your bike at 90rpm versus pushing a really hard gear at 50rpm.  The major difference here is that if your technique improves at the slightly higher stroke rate then you get a double benefit of a more efficient stroke and a more comfortable stroke rate to swim at.

The session this week is in 3 parts.  The first part is a set of 150s at aerobic pace where you have the chance to really think about your catch.  As I mentioned last week, a good way to make sure you have a high-elbow catch is to really think about keeping your elbows near the surface of the water.  You may feel you are swimming a bit like a crab but please do try it.

The second part of the session will be some drills where we will increase the stroke rate by doing some head up front crawl and some swimming with fists.  Try and keep the high-elbow catch, with elbows near the surface of the water, but you will have to increase your stroke rate as part of these drills.

The final part of the session will be some pursuit swims.  These are good fun – and get your competitive juices flowing – but also have a good mix of fast and steady swimming.  This will give you a chance to practice a higher stroke rate and keeping that strong high-elbow catch between the faster-paced stuff.

See you Saturday!