Freestyle Swim Tips

By | Coaching, Fitness, Swimming | No Comments

To all those resolving to start off 2015 with renewed focus on technique, I wanted to share some freestyle swim tips that have helped me in my training and coaching.

I like to think through each arm stroke beginning with the finish, then recovery, entry, catch, and push*:

1. As the hips rotate, finish the stroke, pushing water back past the hip.

2. Use momentum from the finish to “swing” the arm forward (relaxed forearm) in recovery.  The armpit should clear the water’s surface during recovery. Avoid trying to control the arm.

3. During the hand entry, the shoulder should be internally rotated, so that the elbow is higher than the hand. This sets up a good high-elbow catch.

4. The fingertips drop and point to bottom of pool, with the wrist remaining straight (to prevent elbow dropping!).  The elbow stays forward and high during the catch.  The latissimus dorsi (aka. “lats”) should be engaged here!

5. Push* the water back (behind you) using your forearm (fingertips to elbow) as a paddle.  Don’t forget to use those lats!  They are large muscles for a reason.

*I like to use the word “push” vs. “pull” to emphasize a high elbow position and make a point of pushing water back.  The word pull makes me think of a “pull-up” movement, which is not an appropriate analogy for the freestyle stroke.

Thinking through the stroke backwards helps me to see how each movement builds on the previous movement. For example, without a strong push back and finish, the recovery can become flat and lazy, leading to poor hand entry and catch positions. Without a quality catch position (internally rotated shoulder, high elbow, straight wrist), the push is less effective. Besides the efficacy cost, a poor catch position (dropped elbow) may lead to shoulder injury over time.

A proposed drill set to include in your training sessions:

3 rounds of the following progression (round 1: right arm focus, round 2: left arm focus, round 3: both arms focus)

2 lengths with focus on strong finish
2 lengths with focus on recovery with exposed armpit
2 lengths with focus on internal shoulder rotation and entry with hand below elbow level
2 lengths with focus on straight wrist and high elbow catch (engage lats!)
2 lengths with focus on pushing water back (use lats!)

Swim Smart!

The (Very) Official BrittFit Gift Guide

By | Fitness, Swimming, Triathlon | 2 Comments

Titles like “Athlete Holiday Gift Guide” have adorned many a blog post, magazine article, tweet, and hash-tag in athletic social media circles lately.  After navigating page after page of supposed holiday must-haves for athletes, I decided to formulate my very own list, based on what myself and fellow endurance athletes actually do want for Christmas this year–no marketing schemes attached!  Here is the Official 2014 BrittFit Gift Guide of endurance athlete  “essential” and most-desired items:

The (Very) Official BrittFit Gift Guide- What your fit friends (probably) want for Christmas

1. Big Ticket Items (*important to select proper fit, size, style, cut, color, function, etc. as these items are very athlete-specific)

  • New bike**
  • Bike components: saddle* (aerobars*, pedals*, water bottle cage)
  • Bike accessories:  helmet*, bike shoes*, stationary trainer*, power meter*, bike shorts*, jersey*, cycling vest*
  • Swim gear: wetsuit*, swimsuit*, snorkel
  • Run gear: run shoes*, run shorts*, run shirt*
  • Triathlon gear: transition bag
  • GPS watch* with or without compatible heart rate monitor
  • Multisport Services: coaching gift certificates, massage gift certificates, yoga pass, swim class pass, run club membership
  • Excursions: race entry fee, travel/hotel moneys
  • Recovery/Core tools: foam roller, yoga mat, swiss ball

2. Stocking Stuffers

  • Bike accessories: fuel/tool bag, socks, arm warmers, gloves, bike light, water bottles (good ones that don’t leak all over your face when sipping)
  • Swim gear: swim cap (silicone or latex, based on athlete’s preference), goggles (make sure they are the athlete’s favorite style and that they fit!)
  • Run gear: hat, headband, hair ties, gloves*, socks*
  • Triathlon gear: race belt, elastic shoelaces
  • Fuel: gels, bars, drink mixes, COFFEE
  • Gift certificates to multisport shops, and/or places that carry yummy coffee, fuel, and treats
  • Books on training, technique, sports nutrition, and FOOD
  • Recovery tools: compression socks/tights*, pedicure/manicure gift certificate, chocolate
  • Hygiene products: chlorine removal shampoo/conditioner, dry shampoo, deodorant, face cleansing wipes, sunscreen, lotion, Body Glide or other anti-chaffing product

Hope this list is a help to all who fear giving uncool gifts to athletic friends and loved ones!

Please refer to my “BrittFit Gift Guide” Pinterest board for more specific gift ideas (i.e. brands/styles).

Meet the Athlete: Teagan

By | Coaching, Fitness, Meet the Athlete, Swimming | No Comments

Welcome to the first edition of “Meet the Athlete”, where you can learn a bit about BrittFit athletes– newbies, recreational athletes, and future Olympians.

Let’s meet Teagan, BrittFit High-Performance Youth athlete since Fall 2013.

age: 12
sport: swimming
favorite post-swim meet treat: In-N-Out strawberry-vanilla milkshake, double-double, & fries
post workout snack: chocolate milk, or bow-tie pasta w/ butter
favorite swim set: relays
favorite drill: floatin’ (aka. buoyancy drill)
fave event: 200-yard individual medley, & 100-yard butterfly
best times: 2:16(ish), & 1:02, respectively
best accomplishment: qualifying for Senior Zones
hobbies: watching movies, playing with Mowgli (miniature schnauzer)
last thing you ate: an apple
dream job: Olympic swimmer & marine biologist

Want to see yourself featured in a future edition of M.T.A.? All BrittFit Athletes are eligible. You could be next!

Donner Lake 2.7 Miler

By | Fitness, Fuel, Race Reports, Swimming | No Comments
Last Friday, Brice and I drove our new (used) Honda Element (which we love) up to Truckee to visit some most excellent friends.  When we finally arrived, after sitting in the car for a total of about 9 hours, it was so nice to be in the middle of beautifulness.  Jon and Jessica live on a mountain surrounded by tall trees, fresh air, and quietness.  Ahh.  Jessica and Jon eat well, so we basically ate whole, fresh, foods all day and night, when we weren’t off exploring the river or eating cupcake splits (more on that later).
Saturday morning, we woke up at 6(ish), had breakfast (oatmeal with granola, almonds, banana, and milk, plus an orange…and coffee, of course–yum!), and headed to Donner Lake.  The guys dropped us tough ladies off to pick up our packets, use the facilities, get our bodies marked (race numbers), and march to the beach for the race start.  I really enjoyed the relaxed vibes at this packet pickup.  Triathlon packet pickups (especially on race morning) typically carry with them a lot of rushing and nervousness (but maybe it’s just me).
Walking to the beach was calm as well.  No feet rushing by or hurriedly trying to pass us up.  We took our time, and so did everyone else, it seemed.  We waited around on the sand at the shaded start area, and then took a quick dip to let our bodies get acquainted with the cold(ish) water–but it was 68 degrees, which was actually a lot warmer than what I’d expected.  After our “warm” up, we found Jon and Brice…err…they found us.  We left our stuff in numbered plastic trash bags (which were carried to the other side of the lake by boat for us to pick up at the finish).  I slurped a Honey Stinger energy gel (so good!) 15 minutes before the start, and off we went.  The start signal was not highly distinguishable, but after a couple milliseconds of looking at each other confusedly, we all decided to start swimming.
Jessica and I, waiting on the beach for the start
There we go!

There were a few nudges against other swimmers, but the field spread out within a few minutes.  This spreading was made wider by the fact that there were no site buoys throughout the swim– we just charged straight (well, as straight as we could navigate on our own) to the opposite side of the lake.  While there were no site buoys, I could see the orange finish chute across the lake.  I tried to keep my eyes on this about every 10 strokes.  There’s no telling if it worked, or if perhaps I swam an extra half mile.  Things got a bit confusing about 30 minutes in, when I could clearly see packs and lines of swimmers a good 50 yards to my right and left.  I guess that most swimmers took to the outsides of the lake, while I seemed to be straight in the middle.  Was there some secret that I wasn’t let in on?  There were a few odd swimmers scattered throughout the middle, but most were off to the sides, and I was alone for about 90% of the race with at least a 25-yard radius of clear water around me.  Oh well, I just kept swimming.

After about 50 minutes of swimming (I wore my pink Soleus watch…good decision! It helped me keep tabs on how long I’d be going, and to estimate how much longer I’d have to go, approximately), and still feeling great at this point (thanks, Honey Stinger gel), I turned my head to the right to breathe and saw my hubs and his friend Jon in their canoe.  Apparently, the pink watch was about the only thing that distinguished me from the other 400 swimmers in black suits and green caps.  The guys were fist-pumping and yelling encouragements at me.  It made me smile (and spit some water at them).  After that, I decided to gun it in to the finish, assuming it was pretty close.  I kept turning up my tempo and kick, but the finish was not coming fast enough.  Finally, at a total time of 1-hour and 8-minutes, I reached the beach.  With wobbly legs, I stood up and jogged across the finish line.  Brice and John had just arrived on the shore, so they cheered Jess and I into the finish.

Post-race foods and drinks were superb!  Fruit, bagels, nutella, pb, hot cocoa, lemonade…and complementary lunch was served to finishers: bbq chicken sandwhiches, salad, and beer on tap!

I would definitely do this swim again.  Such a fun experience.  The environment after the race was just as relaxing and friendly (and even more fun!) as it was before the race start.  People hung out with their families and friends on the beach, in the warm sun, snacked, went Stand-Up-Paddling, kayaking, and cheered on finishers until the 2-hour and 30-minute cut-off time.

After the race, and nap time, Jess, Jon, Brice, Kenai (Jon and Jess’s amazingly entertaining and sweet Husky), and I played in the river (walking distance of their house), then went for ice cream.  The ice cream shop happened to also be a cupcake shop.  So, Brice and I shared a “cupcake split” which consisted of a chocolate cupcake, caramel pecan and strawberry ice creams, chocolate sauce, house made whipped cream, and crushed candy-cookie toppings.  So good!

Just Yum

It was a beautiful day for a swim in the lake, and a beautiful weekend with friends.  Plus, I got to take home a pretty “Donner Lake, 2014” embroidered towel for an age group win!  Fancy Swag.