Thursday, July 2

Biondi And Stroke

So I have riffed in the past about my new swimming technique, which has cut my strokes per 25 yard length from 20 to 11. While impossible to suggest that my new freestyle would reduce my times today, age 42, there is growing acknowledgement that slower, controlled "power strokes" more effective then the high-tempo distance turnover I employed as a youngster. At slow speeds one can get a large portion of the desired stroke length as a result of front-quadrant timing (semi catch-up swimming) and streamlining (longitudinal balance, getting off your stomach and onto your sides, keeping compact body lines). Good body roll power transfer (hand/hip connection and vertical forearm throughout the stroke) also plays a role at slow speeds. So basically as I undersand it, as swimming speed increases in a race, low resistance and power transfer become greater factors in stroke length than catch-up timing. You can see this in sprinters like Biondi, Popov and Bernard who’s strokes become less front-quadrant as they move into intermediate speeds yet they still maintain very streamlined positions and vertical forearms (also known as “high elbows”) to keep their strokes much longer than their competition. Biondi, when I swam with him at Cal my senior year of HS, took seven strokes at lap. For elite swimmers moving at the highest speeds the front quadrant aspect is gone altogether—but there is still impeccable streamlining and vertical forearms for excellent power transfer. (photo of Matt Biondi in his prime circa 1988 from the www)

In my day, mileage was king and we pounded away morning and night with little consideration of build or peak - the year was one long boot camp broken by Far Westerns, Northcoast, Nationals, and other championships. It was not until Walnut Creek, where I trained with former gold-medalist coach Mike Troy and like minded and intense athletes that I made significant strides forward. Brown, coached by Ed Reese who had been active for 30 years and more interested in water-polo, a step backwards that ultimately ended my career. So today what is important: after the Berlin marathon I aim to join a Masters program and reviewing neighborhood clubs and fortunately there are some good ones despite a shortage of nice (outdoor) pools. This is England, afterall.