Category Archives: Stretching

Recognizing and preventing common triathlon-related injuries

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please also read terms of use.

Prevention and Recognition of Injuries

Rest, which by nature triathletes are inherently bad at, is an integral part of the healing process. This is when the body heals itself and gets stronger, whether you are taking a day or a few weeks off from working out or reducing the intensity or volume of your workouts. Prevention techniques that assist with healing, including stretching and specific strengthening, are often overlooked but are an essential part of triathlon training.

Injuries are not an act of nature. They indicate that the athlete has reached a breakdown point at which the body can no longer respond in a positive fashion and heal the injury. The body is pushed past its reparative capabilities and begins to develop signs and symptoms of injury. One of the hallmark symptoms of injury is pain. We all have experienced discomfort when working out, but when is it bad to push through the discomfort? Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensation that is often associated with damage to the body. What about the sayings “Pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “No pain, no gain”? These proverbs are fun to say but if practiced can lead you down the path of chronic injury.

Any discomfort may be an early warning sign of injury. Discomfort that begins with an activity but goes away as you warm up may be an acceptable symptom you are able to train through with appropriate modifications. However, discomfort that continues through the activity should be a clear warning sign that something is not right, and activity should be discontinued. Discomfort that persists after the activity, does not respond to the basic treatment of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and affects Continue reading

Why marathon swimming is so unique and rewarding

This excerpt is from the book, Open Water Swimming. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

Preparing for Marathon Swims

With over 70 percent of the world covered in water, and stunningly gorgeous lakes, seashores, channels, rivers, and islands dotting the earth, it is not surprising that people eventually took to marathon Swimming. The catalyst of marathon Swimming was when Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to successfully swim nonstop from England to France in 1875. His exploit dramatically enabled endurance athletes to think the impossible was within their reach.

At its most fundamental level, marathon Swimming is a daring personal challenge in which swimmers pit themselves against the elements and experience a wide range of emotions that fluctuates between despair and relief. Marathon swimmers vividly remember their final stroke in the water after Swimming for hours and hours on end. Their first step back on terra firma after struggling in relentlessly difficult conditions is the point when exhaustion turns to exhilaration. This love–hate relationship with the open water—strange as it may sound—creates the allure that draws endurance athletes to the waterways of the world.

The Marathon Swimmer

Marathon swimmers tend to be doggedly persistent people who are also successful in other aspects of their lives. They ply their trade far away from the media attention in arenas where there are usually no fans. They often achieve their greatest success on a barren shoreline where only their support crew can witness their victory. But their sense of accomplishment runs deep; their inner satisfaction is empowering and uplifting – and will remain with them throughout their lives.

Among the world’s marathon swims, the most iconic and well-known waterway is the English Channel. Thousands of people have attempted the 21-mile (33.8K) swim since the first documented attempt in 1872. Yet the number of successful English Channel swimmers remains fewer than half of the number of people who have climbed Mount Everest since it was first scaled in 1953.

Of the 1,189 people who have crossed the English Channel through 2010, 33 percent have been women and 67 percent have been men, although the relative percentage of women who cross the English Channel has increased over time (41 percent during the 1990s).

The average one-way time is 13 hours and 31 minutes, and times range from the world record of 6 hours and 57 minutes to a patiently plodding 26 hours and 50 minutes.

The English Channel swimmers are a global mix, hailing from 63 countries. The average age of the successful channel swimmer is 31, but their ages range from 11 to 70 years, including 50 people who crossed it after their 50th birthday and are members of the Half Century Club. With a growing number of members in the Half Century Club around the world (25 in the Catalina Channel, 32 in the Strait of Gibraltar, 175 in the Rottnest Channel, and 51 in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim), age seems to be no impediment nowadays in the marathon Swimming world.

Marathon Swimming requires discipline of the highest order, demanding long hours spent training often alone and under harsh conditions. But it is also a sport where the concept of team is paramount due to the essential roles played by the escort pilot, coach and support crew and where camaraderie and collegiality exist in abundance.

Marathon swimmers experience nature in the most tactile way possible: enveloped in water, surrounded by marine life, and interacting with a dynamically changing environment in nothing but swimwear and goggles. It is no wonder that marathon swimmers across borders and cultures often form profound friendships; they share experiences that are often difficult to endure and difficult to explain.

Marathon swimmers experience nervousness before a swim and a sense of accomplishment afterward. They know the sting of a jellyfish and of cold water. They understand problems with leaking goggles, removing lanolin, and breathing boat exhaust. They appreciate the feeling of Swimming powerfully in calm, clear water in daylight hours and of being uncomfortably disoriented in rough water at night.

The collegial atmosphere in the marathon Swimming world is a function of these shared experiences. As the athletes come out of the water exhausted beyond comprehension, punished into submission by the elements, some barely able to stand and some nearly unable to talk, they share smiles, looks, nods, winks, hugs, and handshakes that speak volumes about their mutual respect for each other and their escort boat crews.

Common combination workouts to prepare you for race day

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Science. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

Combination Workouts
Combination workouts bring two or more disciplines into a single workout, either for convenience or for specific race preparation. The most common combination workouts are swim to bike, bike to run (usually called a brick), and run to bike, depending on the goals of the triathlete and time of year.

Swim-to-Bike Workouts

A small segment of the triathlon population experiences some lightheadedness when transitioning from the prone position of swimming to the standing position of running, as triathletes do when moving from the swim to the first transition. Another small segment of the triathlon population experiences unusual leg fatigue going from swimming to running and then cycling.For these triathletes, one strategy is to set up a bike on a trainer on the pool deck.

Triathletes can begin with an easy swim of 500 meters or so and then transition to the trainer for an easy spin of around 10 minutes. They repeat this sequence two to four times in a single workout.

If the triathlete is not adapting or feels so lightheaded that passing out is a possibility, a doctor should be consulted to be certain that no medical issues are present. Depending on the severity of the problem, triathletes may want to be checked out before doing any swim-to-bike workouts.

As triathletes adapt to the easy swim-to-bike workouts on the pool deck, they should increase intensity by following a fast swim segment with an easy ride. The second round should be an easy swim followed by a faster ride. As adaptation to the transition between swimming and cycling continues, the triathlete can increase the intensity of both the swim and the ride.

Many triathletes do swim-to-bike workouts as a matter of convenience, particularly on weekends. Many do a pool workout and then head straight to a bike workout. With workouts sequenced in this manner, they can decide which workout or workouts should include intensity. As triathletes approach race day, they may want a swim-to-bike workout as a dress rehearsal for race day.

Bike-to-Run Workouts

Swim-to-bike and run-to-bike workouts are often called combination, or combo, workouts. The bike-to-run workout is often called a brick. Although the history of the word is not clear, one theory is that the name was given to the workout because when triathletes go from fast cycling to running, their legs feel like bricks.

To help triathletes adapt to the change of body movement and muscle recruitment from cycling to running, and the feeling that this change produces, aerobic brick workouts are a good place to start. Some prefer to do brick workouts every week throughout the training plan, but others limit brick workouts to once per month, perhaps as a workout during a recovery week. Others limit brick workouts to certain macrocycles. No standard has been set about how often to perform brick workouts, and some triathletes appear to make this adaptation better than others do.

In one study on elite international Olympic-distance racers, the intensity of cycling did not have an adverse effect on neuromuscular control and running economy. Even moderately trained triathletes experienced little influence on running muscle recruitment after cycling. These studies may lead the reader to believe that experience in the sport of triathlon eliminates any effect of cycling on running economy and muscle recruitment, but that is not true. A third study found that despite years of training, some elite triathletes do experience changes in leg movement and muscle recruitment in running after cycling. The effects of cycling on neuromuscular control and running economy appear to vary among people.

When deciding how many bricks to include in a program, triathletes should consider their experience level, goal race distance, and race results. Slower sprint- and Olympic-distance racers are more likely to do short brick workouts. For faster sprint- and Olympic-distance racers, brick workouts are often in the range of 50 to 100 percent of race distance. For half-Ironman racers, bricks are often 25 to 50 percent of race distance. For Ironman racers, bricks become less important because the need for blazing fast transitions is not an issue except for the top triathletes.

For Ironman racers, the benefit-to-risk considerations of long brick workouts need to be evaluated. For example, how much value is gained from doing a 60-mile (100 km) bike ride followed by a 10- to 13-mile (16 to 20 km) run? Would this triathlete be better served by entering a half-Ironman race and using that race as part of the training strategy? Is the triathlete prone to running injuries? What is expected to be gained from the brick workout? Individual athlete strengths and weaknesses need to be considered when making training decisions. The bias should be toward conservative undertraining so that the triathlete remains injury free and mentally sharp.

Intermediate and advanced sprint- and Olympic-distance racers often complete brick workouts every 3 to 4 weeks. These workouts are done at the same intensity as other workouts in the macrocycle. The intensity portion of the brick can be structured in multiple ways:

- Aerobic ride followed by an aerobic run.
- Aerobic ride followed by a run that includes some portion at current training-cycle intensity. This run can be a steady effort or broken into intervals.
- Ride that includes some portion at current training-cycle intensity. This ride can be a steady effort or broken into intervals and is followed by an aerobic run.
- Ride followed by a run in which both disciplines include some portion at intensity.

Run-to-Bike Workouts

Duathlon T1 is easier to practice than triathlon T1 for most triathletes. Any yard or garage can be turned into a mock T1 area. The duathlete can go for the assigned run, return home, complete the transition, and head out on a bike ride.

The intensity for any run-to-bike workout should match the intensity of the rest of the workouts in that macrocycle. As workout intensity increases with an approaching race day, race-pace run-to-bike workouts can be included in the mix. Examples include the following:

- Run 5 kilometers, doing the last 1.5 kilometers at race pace. Immediately transition to an easy ride of 10 kilometers.
- Run 2.5 kilometers at aerobic intensity. Transition to a 15-kilometer negative-split ride. Begin at aerobic intensity for 7.5 kilometers and then ride the last 7.5 kilometers at close to race intensity. Faster duathletes can finish at zone 3 to 5a intensity and build from zone 3 to 5b in the second half of the ride.
- Run 5 kilometers, doing the last 1.5 kilometers at race intensity. Immediately transition to a ride of 15 kilometers. Make the first 7.5 kilometers at race intensity and finish at aerobic intensity.

The design of the workout should have intent for the duathlete. That intent may be transition practice, muscle recruitment when changing disciplines at an easy pace, or race-pace rehearsal. New and intermediate duathletes may consider making the workout distances less than race distances. Top duathletes may want the distances to be the same as race distances. They may perform only a portion of the workout at race pace so that they save the best performance for race day.

Looking for something new to enhance training?

This is from the author of Breathe Strong, Perform Bette. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

“For every sport and fitness category described in the following sections, inspiratory muscle training (IMT) will improve exercise tolerance or performance by delaying the onset of the inspiratory muscle metaboreflex and reducing the perception of breathing and whole-body effort. These sections summarize the additional benefits.

Exercise and Fitness

For those engaged in general fitness training, IMT will make exercise feel easier, which enables people to maintain higher exercise intensities for longer durations. This enhances the fitness gains and caloric expenditure of general fitness conditioning.

The rate of perceived recovery will also improve, which will enhance the ability to maintain the tempo of activity during exercise-to-music classes and the intensity of circuit training. The enhancement of core stability will reduce injury risk and improve weight training.

Weight trainers will benefit from improved core stability, which may produce an improvement in maximal lift performances for lifts where trunk stiffness and stability contribute to the ability to overcome a load (e.g., Olympic lifts).

Endurance Sports

A wide range of endurance sports are reviewed here, but the principles that have been applied can be adapted to suit any sport.

Running

IMT will improve the runner’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment), enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and improving leg drive efficiency), and improve postural control (balance). IMT may also reduce the risk of developing a side stitch.

Cycling

IMT will improve the cyclist’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment) and enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and knee stress and improving pedaling efficiency). IMT will also allow the inspiratory muscles to operate more comfortably in extreme cycling positions (e.g., when using aerobars).

Swimming

The addition of IMT to swim and other aquatic training will improve the swimmer’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern and will enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment). IMT can also enhance the swimmer’s ability to inhale rapidly and to achieve and sustain high lung volumes. As a result, the swimmer’s body position and stroke mechanics will be improved. A decrease in the number of breaths per stroke will also be possible. In addition, the muscles of the trunk will be better able to meet the dual demands for breathing and providing propulsive force.

Those using scuba will also benefit from a deeper, slower breathing pattern, which reduces air use and extends cylinder wear time. Furthermore, free divers and surfers may also experience an improvement in breath-holding time. Breathing restrictions imposed by wet suits will also be easier to overcome or tolerate after IMT.

Multisport

The addition of IMT to multisport training will provide the benefits summarized for each component. Most triathlons involve a wet suit swim, and IMT will enhance the swimmer’s ability to breathe efficiently and comfortably. Furthermore, the unique breathing-related disruption that occurs during the transition from cycling to running will be alleviated.

Rowing

The addition of IMT to rowing training will improve the rower’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern; enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment); and enhance core stability and trunk stiffness (reducing spinal loading and improving force transmission to the blade). Furthermore, improvements in intercostal muscle function and the ability to generate and maintain high intrathoracic pressure may reduce the risk of rib stress fractures. IMT will also allow the inspiratory muscles to operate more comfortably at the catch and finish positions.

Sliding Sports

People taking part in sliding sports have a number of factors influencing their performance, including the effects of altitude and the challenges associated with maintaining balance. IMT will improve their ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment), enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and improving leg drive efficiency), and improve postural control (balance) and trunk stiffness. The ability to maintain aerodynamic postures for longer periods without the associated breathing discomfort is another benefit of IMT.

Hiking and Mountaineering

Hikers and mountaineers have to contend with the effects of altitude, the impact of carrying heavy backpacks, and the challenges associated with maintaining balance on unpredictable terrain. IMT will improve their ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern; enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment); and enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading). The challenges to postural control (balance) imposed by carrying a backpack and by traveling on uneven terrain will be minimized by IMT, and trunk stiffness will be improved. In addition, the ability to overcome the resistance to normal breathing movements of the trunk that are induced by backpacks will be improved.

Team and Sprint Sports

Team sports are diverse in their challenges, but they all have three important factors in common: They involve repeated high-intensity efforts that drive breathing to its limits; they require the contribution of the upper body and the core-stabilizing system (e.g., fending off opponents, changing direction quickly, or passing objects to teammates); and they require tactical decision making at a time when the distraction from breathing discomfort is high. IMT will improve the rate of perceived recovery between sprints, which will enhance repeated sprint performance and the quality of interval training. These improvements in perceived recovery should enable players to maintain the intensity of their involvement in the match or game, rather than back off for a period of “cruising” recovery. In addition, the damping down of breathlessness will lessen the distraction that this sensation imposes on tactical decision making.

Improvements to core stability will advance a player’s effectiveness during physical interactions with opponents (e.g., tackling, fending off) and in activities such as kicking and throwing.

For contact sports and those that involve activities requiring the application of whole-body isometric forces (such as a rugby scrum), players will benefit from the increased ability of the inspiratory muscles to function as breathing muscles. This is important in situations where the demand for breathing is high but the requirement for maximal core-stabilizing activity is also present.

Finally, in those contact team sports requiring the use of mouth guards and other protective equipment, IMT can improve breathing comfort and reduce the risk of inspiratory muscle fatigue that results from the restrictions imposed by the equipment.

Racket, Striking, and Throwing Sports

Sports falling under this heading most commonly require the participants to use an implement to strike a ball—such as a racket (e.g., tennis, squash, badminton), club (e.g., golf), or bat (e.g., baseball, softball, cricket)—or they may be sports that involve throwing a ball (pitching and bowling). In the case of racket sports, the player is required to direct the ball within the bounds of the court using a range of strokes. Matches are fast paced, requiring speed, agility, and skill. In contrast, in sports such as golf or baseball, the player is able to square up to the ball or pitcher and is stationary as the ball is struck. These two scenarios create very different demands on the breathing muscles, but there are two common denominators: the involvement of the trunk musculature in providing a stable platform and in protecting the spine; the contribution of the entire trunk musculature to the task of accelerating a racket, club, bat, or arm.

After using IMT, players in racket sports will be able to maintain a higher tempo of performance during rallies, and they will experience a reduction in unforced errors. Rate of perceived recovery between rallies will also improve, which will enhance the ability to maintain and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. In addition, the damping down of breathlessness will lessen the distraction that this sensation imposes on tactical decision making. The enhancement of core stability and improved contribution of the trunk musculature to racket head speed and precision will increase the likelihood of aces and shots that are “winners,” as well as reduce the risk of injury.

Many of these sports require high levels of core stability and a contribution from the trunk musculature to the swinging of implements (such as clubs and bats) or the launching of projectiles (such as in field sports). Players in these sports will benefit from the enhanced function of the diaphragm and the enhanced contribution of the inspiratory accessory muscles to these movements. This will result in an increase in striking and throwing velocities. In addition, there will be a reduction in injury risk because of the enhanced spinal stability and the improved resistance of rib cage muscles to tearing.”

Why swim a marathon?

This is from the author of Open Water Swimming. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

In the sport of marathon swimming, in which extreme distances, extreme temperatures, and extreme conditions (large ocean swells, strong currents, and marine life) are expected, individuals come from all walks of life. Their physical abilities to push themselves hour after hour are augmented by their tremendous mental focus and strength of character.

Marathon swimmers are generally an introspective group with plenty of opportunities to reflect upon their motivations while swimming. Some swim to achieve a personal goal. Others strive to set records or to gain some level of fame. Some raise money for charity. Others endeavor to promote a cause. But they all have an unwavering passion to achieve their goal.

Deeply Held Passion
Without passion, a marathon swimmer cannot do the training necessary for success. They genuinely enjoy their time in the water and the challenges they inevitably face.

Training can be harsh and is always conducted without fanfare. Swimmers face the solitary walk to the shoreline, countless hours swimming alone, and shivering and muscle soreness afterward. Their ability to persevere is what defines them at their very core. They possess the uncommon ability to focus on the positive, ignore the discomforts they face, and readily accept sacrifices.

Passion helps push marathon swimmers past the pain, boredom, and difficulties. The immense joy and satisfaction of touching the ground and finishing by walking-or crawling-onto shore is a feeling they cherish for the rest of their lives.

Uncommon Commitment
The commitment shown by marathon swimmers takes many forms: physical, emotional, financial, and logistical. Physical endurance and strength of character are not enough. The financial means to support one’s passion and the ability to assemble a knowledgeable support team cannot be underestimated.

The physical commitment has to do with the requirement to swim for hours. This commitment frequently requires the adjustment of work schedules, family obligations, nutritional habits, and sleep schedules.

The emotional commitment speaks to the marathon’s swimmers sustained mental focus over time. Fatigue, boredom, nervousness, and discomfort are significantly more powerful forces in the open water than on land. When the conditions in the open water become difficult, it is tempting to stop, get out of the water, and look forward to another day. Marathon swimmers understand that the strength of their mental efforts and their control over their emotions enable their bodies to follow.

The financial commitment to marathon swimming is high because escort boats, support crews, hotel stays, meals, and travel must be arranged. The total cost, including a qualifying swim, travel for the swim itself, governing body fees, food, training time, and equipment, can easily run over $10,000 depending on the location of the swim.

The logistical commitment includes arranging for an escort pilot and support team. It also includes organizing all the travel, feeding, and equipment as well as completing documentation, visas and medical release forms in a timely manner. Pre-swim promotions, interviews, and a post-swim party or follow-up with one’s chosen charity are just a few of the details swimmers manage before and after their marathon swim.

Swimmers needn’t fear the open water

This is an excerpt from an upcoming book, Open Water Swimming. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

Veterans of open water swimming know to expect the unexpected in
the open sea. But for those new to the sport, the open water can be frightening.
Steven Munatones, author of the upcoming Open Water Swimming (Human Kinetics, June
2011), says open water swimmers must learn to accept the conditions of the sea and,
rather than experience apprehension, welcome the challenge.

“Although it is not always possible to overcome all your fears of the open water,
you can certainly minimize many of these through training, anticipation, and preparation,”
says Munatones.

In Open Water Swimming, Munatones discusses the most common elements that swimmers
will encounter and how to be prepared for any circumstance.

Swimming in saltwater. Swimming for long periods in saltwater can cause a person’s
tongue to swell and feel different, but gargling with mouthwash or a mixture of
water and mouthwash can help alleviate the sensation. “Occasionally, if you swim
for very long periods in very salty water, you will temporarily lose the taste
sensation in your tongue,” Munatones says. “This is normal, and the sensation will
soon return.”

Phenomenon of third spacing. “One unique physiological effect of swimming in freshwater
or saltwater for long periods is third spacing,” Munatones explains. “Third spacing
causes your body to look softer and pudgier than normal.” The extent of third spacing
depends on the person, but can occur in less than an hour and the body returns to
normal within 24 hours. Actions such as not hydrating adequately during a cold water
training session can accentuate third spacing. “If you don’t adequately hydrate
during a long swim, the loss of electrolytes can also cause third spacing when extracellular
fluids go out of the blood vessels and into your skin tissue,” Munatones adds.
Marine animals. “Some swimmers fear what they can see. Other swimmers fear what
they cannot see,” says Munatones. “Accept the fact that you are entering another
world with innumerable aquatic denizens that consider you the intruder.” Swimming
with a teammate or escort side by side can help swimmers stay focused and keep their
minds off of what is swimming below. “The most feared predators are sharks–of any
kind. Fortunately, and realistically, the chances of encountering a shark are nearly
zero,” Munatones adds.

Risk of pollution. Pollution in the open water may be in gaseous form (e.g., escort
boat exhaust), liquid form (e.g., oil slicks), or solid form (e.g., flotsam, jetsam,
plastic bags, floating pieces of wood, or other discarded remnants). “Bacteria or
unseen pollutants in the water can cause anything from an upset stomach to severe
skin reactions,” Munatones explains. “Although you will not be able to prevent everything
from entering your system, use earplugs and try to keep your mouth as closed as
possible when your face is in the water.” Munatones adds that swimmers should rinse
off soon after getting out of the water, preferably with soap.

“Adventure, a sense of accomplishment, and the thrill of competition are a few of
the many reasons millions of people are heading to the open water,” says Munatones.
“Contemporary athletes’ desire to accept the challenge of the open water is no longer
questioned but rather encouraged, supported, and celebrated.”

Master the freestyle

For anyone who has spent any time leaning and perfecting freestyle, you realize that the more you practice it, the more your understand it is a technique sport. There are so many movements that have to be executed correctly for it to work well, that it can overwhelm you. So pick one or two drills or areas of focus per training session and just focus on that. It WILL pay off for you in the long run!

Here’s an excerpt from Swimming Anatomy with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

“As the hand enters into the water, the wrist and elbow follow and the arm is extended to the starting position of the propulsive phase. Upward rotation of the shoulder blade allows the swimmer to reach an elongated position in the water. From this elongated position, the first part of the propulsive phase begins with the catch. The initial movements are first generated by the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major. The latissimus dorsi quickly joins in to assist the pectoralis major. These two muscles generate a majority of the force during the underwater pull, mostly during the second half of the pull. The wrist flexors act to hold the wrist in a position of slight flexion for the entire duration of the propulsive phase. At the elbow, the elbow flexors (biceps brachii and brachialis) begin to contract at the start of the catch phase, gradually taking the elbow from full extension into approximately 30 degrees of flexion. During the final portion of the propulsive phase the triceps brachii acts to extend the elbow, which brings the hand backward and upward toward the surface of the water, thus ending the propulsive phase. The total amount of extension taking place depends on your specific stroke mechanics and the point at which you initiate your recovery. The deltoid and rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) are the primary muscles active during the recovery phase, functioning to bring the arm and hand out of the water near the hips and return them to an overhead position for reentry into the water. The arm movements during freestyle are reciprocal in nature, meaning that while one arm is engaged in propulsion, the other is in the recovery process.

Several muscle groups function as stabilizers during both the propulsive phase and the recovery phase. One of the key groups is the shoulder blade stabilizers (pectoralis minor, rhomboid, levator scapula, middle and lower trapezius, and the serratus anterior), which as the name implies serve to anchor or stabilize the shoulder blade. Proper functioning of this muscle group is important because all the propulsive forces generated by the arm and hand rely on the scapula’s having a firm base of support. Additionally, the shoulder blade stabilizers work with the deltoid and rotator cuff to reposition the arm during the recovery phase. The core stabilizers (transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, and erector spinae) are also integral to efficient stroke mechanics because they serve as a link between the movements of the upper and lower extremities. This link is central to coordination of the body roll that takes place during freestyle swimming.

Like the arm movements, the kicking movements can be categorized as a propulsive phase and a recovery phase; these are also referred to as the downbeat and the upbeat. The propulsive phase (downbeat) begins at the hips by activation of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles. The rectus femoris also initiates extension of the knee, which follows shortly after hip flexion begins. The quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis) join the rectus femoris to help generate more forceful extension of the knee. Like the propulsive phase, the recovery phase starts at the hips with contraction of the gluteal muscles (primarily gluteus maximus and medius) and is quickly followed by contraction of the hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus). Both muscle groups function as hip extensors. Throughout the entire kicking motion the foot is maintained in a plantarflexed position secondary to activation of the gastrocnemius and soleus and pressure exerted by the water during the downbeat portion of the kick.”

Triathlon Training DVD series

I’ve reviewed this DVD series, “The Ultimate Training, Technique, and Strategy Series for Triathletes” and recommend you check it out. Most are taught by Clark Campbell, former Professional Triathlete and University of Kansas Swimming Coach.

The Bike, The Run, The Swim DVDs will take you through the nuances of technique and then go over detailed training plans in depth.

“The Core Strength: Pilates for Triathletes” is a superb teaching of core strength taught and flexibility by June Quick, Certified Pilates Instructor, licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Stanford University Swimming consultant. She explains the movements that are demonstrated by a beginner and pro triathlete, how to make some more advanced movements when you’re ready, and pre-hab to prevent common athletic injuries.

If you’re new to triathlon and learn better visually, this is the package you want. It’s like having a coach start you out. If you’ve been around the track a few times, pun intended, you may still pick up some technique and training pointers.

Championship Productions forwarded these to me for review and I’m glad they. I had not heard of them but these are some really good training resources.


Author shares his swimming secrets (podcast)

Swimming anatomy is quickly becoming a top seller for those wanting to learn more in depth about their swimming. Here’s a podcast by the author of from Swimming Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Ian McLeod, is the author of Swimming Anatomy. Recommended by USA Swimming, McLeod has extensive experience working with world-class athletes, particularly swimmers. A certified athletic trainer and certified massage therapist, he was a member of the U.S. team’s medical staff at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He has also worked extensively as an athletic trainer with the sports programs at the University of Virginia and Arizona State University.”