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Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips
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My name is Gary Hall Sr., father of the much more known swimmer with the same name. I am new to Slowtwitch but very familiar with Triathlons as I competed for over ten years in short distance Tris in Arizona. For a really bad runner, I did ok.
My son and I run The Race Club in Islamorada, Florida Keys. It is a technique camp for swimmers of all types and ages. I have trained triathletes for the swim for several years but am recently decided to team up with Lee Zohlman in Miami to do the swimming part of his triathlon clinics. The first will be in April.
If I gave you the option of doing the swim leg with a drag suit or a wetsuit (assuming the water is not 85 degrees) which would you choose? If I gave you the option of getting through the swim leg with 27% more oxygen, would you take it? Of course.
As obvious as the answer to these questions are, nearly every swimmer (even some really good ones) use bad techniques in freestyle that add so much drag, they are the equivalent of throwing a drag suit on in practice. Why? Because reducing drag is tricky. It requires sacrificing both some power and visibility for reducing resistance and involves putting the head and arms into a 'not so obvious or friendly' position. Where you feel most comfortable with your head and arms doing freestyle is, unfortunately, where they produce more drag, ultimately causing you to fatigue much more.
As for the oxygen, most swimmers will breathe to one side only. In other words, they breathe either left or right and take a breath for every two arm pulls. For every ten pulls, they get 5 breaths of air; not enough for most of us.
Oxygen is our lifeline for ATP production. With it, we produce about 30 molecules of ATP for each molecule of glucose. Without it, we produce 2 molecules of ATP and lactic acid. Ouch. As fast as we are using up ATP in our swim, we need all of the oxygen we can get. So to remedy that, learn to bilateral breathe (unless there is such a strong wave coming from one side that forces you to breathe to the opposite).
Bilateral breathing means breathe left, then right; one breath for each arm pull to each side. Then i recommend holding for one stroke only then bilateral breathe again. That means you get 2 breaths for each 3 arm strokes, rather than one breath for each 2 arm strokes. Or 26.6% more breaths. That is a big difference. I first saw this done by Kieren Perkins of Australia when he demolished the field in the 400 meter freestyle in the World Championships in Rome in 1994. So don't tell me world class swimmers never do this.
When you first try this, you may get dizzy, turning so often, but you will get over that. It also forces you to rotate your body more which is a good thing.
With regard to your head and arms, come to the clinic with Lee in MIami or read the blogs on our website http://www.theraceclub.com. where i teach 3 fundamentals of fast swimming (none of them obvious).
Finally, try starting your tri (30 minutes before race time) with Liquid oxygen and Thunderbolt (ATP), which you can find on our website. Should help your VO2 Max and reduce lactic acid production. Our swimmers (50 in the past 3 Olympics) have used it successfully and swear by it. The combination of both products is key. Take two capsules of Thunderbolt and then 20 drops of liquid oxygen under the tongue, hold for 30 seconds, then swallow. Then, off you go.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Hall Sr.
68 72 76 Olympic team
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Wow. Thanks, Gary.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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welcome and interesting idea. I am always looking for a bit more oxygen in the water.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [jackmott] [ In reply to ]
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I have a friend on my swim team that does that. It's really weird to watch but it works for him.

jaretj
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [jackmott] [ In reply to ]
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Like with anything new, it will feel strange when you first try it, but very natural when you get used to it. Believe me, you will not only welcome the 02 but will feel more ability to sustain your speed.
Bonking in a race means running out of glucose or water or both. But our bodies automatically slow down when we run out of ATP or overheat. If the conditions are poor, we may not be able to avoid overheating, but we can surely keep the pipeline of 02 and ATP going by simply breathing more. Try it and you will see.

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Isn't the liquid oxygen a little chilly on the tongue?
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Something different to try but for someone who has the most difficulty with the swim I need any and every trick because I still haven't found one that works for me yet. Thanks!
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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I've definitely heard about the benefits of bilateral breathing, but never in this concept of 2:3 breath:pull ratio. I think I'll stop amusing my coworkers by practicing it in the air and give it a try during this evenings workout...
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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great advice about the breathing. because there are still some misguided folks (some even on this forum) who suggest "bilateral breathing" (just 1 breath for each 3 arm strokes) for distance swimming. and yet nearly no elite swimmers or triathletes do this at race pace. finally, some advice from someone who knows fast swimming. thanks!





Where would you want to swim ?
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [tim_sleepless] [ In reply to ]
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Dear tim_sleepless,

Liquid oxygen isn't like liquid nitrogen, which would definitely freeze your tongue. Liquid 02 was developed by NASA for toxic clean up (oxygen is very germicidal) but never was developed there. Instead, it found a home in the supplement industry.
It is comprised of one Hydrogen atom with 4 Oxygen molecules (very unstable). Once it touches anything from the plastic container, the 02 will immediately jump off. That is why it needs to go from the bottle to under your tongue and hold for 30 seconds or so. Never put on a spoon or glass or mix with other liquid. The 02 goes right into the blood and saturates (97%). It has a tiny bit of chlorine also (not enough to harm) and tastes just like pool water.
I use it (along with Thunderbolt) before each practice and each race. It works.

Regards,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Unfortunately, I would bet that the vast majority of folks on this forum that are weak in the swim are those with the poorest form ... myself included. The culprit to my poor form is my inability to smoothly breath without lifting my head. The lifted head, of course, results in dropped legs ... the drag-suit you mention. Along with the lifted head is a stroke on the breath that tends to push down to compensate for the head lift - resulting in less forward propulsion. These are flaws in my swimming technique, I understand, and I am endeavoring to eliminate them. Until I do, I will likely not be incorporating more of what I do worst.

Now, if you have any tips that'll make my head-lifting issues evaporate i would looovvvve to read that.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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I was of the understanding that venous blood is never completely desaturated under "normal" breathing: there is always oxygen in the blood. It is not lack of oxygen in the blood, but rather the ability to deliver it to the muscles (capillarization) and to use it within the muscles (mitochondria) that is the limiter. Do you have pointers to studies that will disabuse me of this idea?

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"i disagree with your analysis [or judgment], nevertheless you have the responsibility of moderating this board so i honor your authority to make the moderating decisions."
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [Just Old] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
I was of the understanding that venous blood is never completely desaturated under "normal" breathing: there is always oxygen in the blood. It is not lack of oxygen in the blood, but rather the ability to deliver it to the muscles (capillarization) and to use it within the muscles (mitochondria) that is the limiter. Do you have pointers to studies that will disabuse me of this idea?


Ken, you may be right, but you must also be missing something. Go run a 5:30 minute mile forcing yourself to breath in with one quick gulp then slowly exhale over 4 strides...keep that breathing rythm all the way through that mile and then tell yourself that there is always oxygen in the blood.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [jyeager] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
In Reply To:
I was of the understanding that venous blood is never completely desaturated under "normal" breathing: there is always oxygen in the blood. It is not lack of oxygen in the blood, but rather the ability to deliver it to the muscles (capillarization) and to use it within the muscles (mitochondria) that is the limiter. Do you have pointers to studies that will disabuse me of this idea?


Ken, you may be right, but you must also be missing something. Go run a 5:30 minute mile forcing yourself to breath in with one quick gulp then slowly exhale over 4 strides...keep that breathing rythm all the way through that mile and then tell yourself that there is always oxygen in the blood.

Hence my qualification of "normal breathing." Also, comparing swimming to running is a bit off, as swimming uses much less oxygen due to less musculature coming into play.

When I swim, I'm never gasping for air (except in turns in the 200 breaststroke, and even then I suspect it's too much CO2 and not insufficient O2); that's never been a limiter.

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"i disagree with your analysis [or judgment], nevertheless you have the responsibility of moderating this board so i honor your authority to make the moderating decisions."
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [Just Old] [ In reply to ]
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Dear Ken,

The process of getting oxygen converted to ATP at maximal exercise (so called VO2 max) is complex. it depends on the %02 in the air (altitude), the number of breaths, the number and size of alveoli in the lungs and associated capillaries reaching them, the number of RBCs in the blood, the stroke volume (blood expelled with each heart beat), heart rate, peripheral resistance to blood flow, capillary perfusion at the muscle, transport rate of O2 across the cell membranes and the number of mitochondria and other organelles required to manufacture ATP.
With minimal exercise, the % of arterial O2 saturation begins to diminish immediately. I am a physician and tested this on myself with a pulse oximeter in my own operating room once. It dropped down into the low 80's but jumped right back up to 97% with the liquid oxygen. Cardiopulmonary (aerobic) training will improve most of the above functions, but with maximal exercise, one cannot maintain a high saturation of arterial O2. Therefore, the number of breaths we take is important, just as we notice the %02 in the air with altitude also makes a huge difference.
So at race time, your physiology is pretty much stable (although ATP has been shown to increase peripheral blood flow and may improve your VO2 max), but you CAN control the number of breaths coming into the system. If it doesn't cause serious technique flaws, which if done properly, it shouldn't, then it is worth every precious breath.

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [GregX] [ In reply to ]
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I feel like I'm the only one that doesn't get it. Are you all talking about breathing on 2 consecutive strokes, then getting another stroke in before breathing again?
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [Robroo] [ In reply to ]
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Dear Robroo,

Sorry. It is a bit confusing. Let me explain. Right arm recovery, breath to the left. Left arm recovery, immediately breath to the right. Then hold one right arm stroke and begin the same cycle. This time the cycle starts to the left. This is NOT breathing every third stroke to opposite sides which is getting LESS oxygen, not more.
Practice it a few laps. Once you get it, its like riding a bike. You will get into a definite rhythm.

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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So don't tell me world class swimmers never do this.

Can you give us a link to video of this being used?

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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [TomAnnapolis] [ In reply to ]
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Dear TomAnnapolis,

You make a very good point. Lifting the head too high is one of the most common mistakes swimmers make in the freestyle. The best reasons I can come for this fault are two: 1) we like to know where we are going and 2) we swim defensively....that is if we are in a lane with 5,6 or 7 other swimmers circling or in a tri swim with kicks and feet and blood in the water, we watch out for the drunk swimmer going down the wrong side of the lane or the vicious triathlete who refuses to cut his or her toenails.
LIfting the head creates two big problems. First, it causes the hips and legs to sink significantly increasing pressure drag as we move through the water. Second, with the head above the surface we also increase surface (wave) drag, further slowing us down.
In our camps, i can easily teach swimmers with some selected drills to get their heads down (though most can't believe how far down they should be) but keeping them down is another matter. It is as if the head is made of cork. As soon as they take the first breath, the head goes right back to the high position. Here are some tips to help you.
Your line of sight should be either straight down at the bottom of the pool or even back 10 degrees or so. If you are looking forward in the pool at all, your head is too high. Second, buy a monosnorkel by Finis (you can also find on our website http://www.theraceclub.com). Don't just use the snorkel (which eliminates the need to side breath), but place a tennis ball between your chin and your chest and hold it there while you swim with the snorkel. That is the head position you want to maintain (even while side breathing). Do this enough and you will get it....but take out insurance for swimming related injuries because you should never be able to see that swimmer coming down the wrong side of the lane!

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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It is a bit confusing. Let me explain. Right arm recovery, breath to the left. Left arm recovery, immediately breath to the right. Then hold one right arm stroke and begin the same cycle. This time the cycle starts to the left. This is NOT breathing every third stroke to opposite sides which is getting LESS oxygen, not more.
Practice it a few laps. Once you get it, its like riding a bike. You will get into a definite rhythm.

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Thanks, I was also a little confused on this.


Train safe & smart
Bob

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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [schroeder] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
So don't tell me world class swimmers never do this.

Can you give us a link to video of this being used?

Well, here's Kieran Perkins at the worlds in 1994.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIOQvfFYCdI
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [schroeder] [ In reply to ]
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Dear Schroeder,

Sorry. I can't and rarely does one see world class swimmers use it. I have seen a few. But their VO2 maxs are also off the charts. For the rest of us mortals who don't train 8 hrs a day, it is a nice way to sustain our speed better.
Some of the things I have learned about efficiency have been on my 57 year old body that doesn't have the cardiopulmonary system it once had. This is one of them and I can assure you it helps me.

Respectfully,

Gary Sr.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [tim_sleepless] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks,

you could see him taking the extra breath right before the turn but I couldn't catch any other. But picture clarity and the camera work made it difficult. When I'm tired, I breathe like that right before the turn also but always thought of it as a negative.
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Re: Struggling with the swim? Here are some good tips [gary hall sr.] [ In reply to ]
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Thank you for killing off one of the holy cows.

When I first started swimming 4 years ago, common sense told me that more oxygen good, less oxygen bad, and I could never understand the obsession expressed by quite a few with holding ones breath for as long as possible.

I would like to hear your opinion on another subject, exhaling.

I was lucky when I started to have as a coach a former Olympian (1988) and US record holder (I dont want to use her name, havent cleared it with her but I am pretty sure she was of the same generation as your son and that you would know her)

She changed my exhale from slow throughout the underwater phase to explosive as I rotate out.

This makes intuitive sense to me as it retains maximum oxygen for absorption and it greatly aids in fully emptying the lungs before each breath, avoiding shallow breathing. It also makes the upper body more buoyant for longer though that may be a debatable benefit.

On further thought, if starting to breathe on both sides, it seems the only way to empty the lungs in the short period of time between breaths.

Again, thanks for your advice.
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