----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Swim Smooth
To: adi
Sent: Friday, July 12, 2013 2:12 PM
Subject: Swimming With a Band Isn't Easy But Great For Your Swimming

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Newflash: Following on from Paul Newsome's win in the Manhattan Island Marathon swim a few weeks ago, Swim Smooth Coach Emma Brunning won the Brighton 10K Open Water swim last weekend overall (beating all the men in the field too!). Great job Emma!

Improving Your Rhythm And Timing With A Band

If you've ever tried swimming with a rubber band around your ankles you'll know it can be hard work. But used in the right way - and with the right focus - it can be an insightful way to help develop your stroke.

Swimming with a band isn't supposed to be easy so you have to mentally set aside the difficulty of the exercise. Once you've done that, using a band comes into its own as it gives you immediate feedback as you work on different areas of your stroke. Improve your technique and you will feel the benefits straight away as your legs lift upwards and you pick up speed. In particular it helps develop good rhythm and timing in your stroke, perfect for triathlon and open water swimming in particular.

A band (sometimes also called a strap) should lightly fit around your ankles which will hold your feet together, stopping you kicking. It will also add some drag at the back of your stroke, which will pull the feet downwards in the water, making things more difficult than swimming normally.

You can buy bands from swim shops (such as this one from Finis) or make your own by cutting up an old car or bike inner tube:

Swimming With A Band

A band tends to pull your legs downwards which in turn can reduce the amount of rotation in your stroke. Higher drag and reduced rotation can increase the load on your shoulders so we strongly suggest limiting the distance you swim whilst wearing one. 8x 50m is a sensible maximum for a single session, even for advanced swimmers.

Treat swimming with a band like a drill, swimming over short distances of 25 or 50m at a time. The idea is to swim quickly with good rhythm and focus on areas of your stroke which will stop the legs sinking lower in the water. We suggest starting with 4x 25m with 15 seconds rest between each 25m, building up the distance slowly as you become more competent wearing it.

Watch Paul demonstrating how it should (and shouldn't!) be done below. Paul makes this look quite easy but that's because he has a good stroke technique with good rhythm and timing :

 Try focusing on the following areas yourself:

- Make sure you are exhaling smoothly into the water to reduce the buoyancy in your chest and help bring your legs upwards.

- Try breathing less frequently than normal (e.g. every 5 strokes) to give you more time to get rid of the air in your lungs.

- Stretch through the core, lifting your rib cage away from your hips. This will improve your core stability and hold you higher in the water. More on doing that here.

- Point your toes behind you and turn your feet slightly inwards so the big toes touch.

- Keep your head low in the water when you breathe, with one eye under the water, one out. We sometimes call this the "split screen view" as you should be able to see under and above the water at the same time:

- Focus on a good catch, pressing the water back behind you with good rhythm. A poor catch presses downwards on the water (or forwards and away from you), this lifts you up at the front and sinks your legs.

- Swim with a continuous rhythm without any deadspots or pauses in your stroke. A pause will cause you to stall in the water so that you start to sink (you can see this happen in the clip of Paul above). More continuous propulsion overcomes the resistance of the band and keeps you moving forwards effectively, just like it does in open water.

Some men (particularly Arnies) have very lean muscular legs that are very sinky in the water. If this is you, try placing a small pull buoy between your legs whilst wearing a band to rebalance you slightly. Make sure it's a small pull buoy though, a large one will make things too easy and give you nothing to focus on to improve, defeating the object of the exercise.

When To Use It

Swimming with a band is a good exercise to add into a drill set or open water skills session. When you become proficient at it you can use bands in group exercises too, drafting close to other swimmers and racing over short distances. It's not easy but can be very beneficial to your swimming, particularly if you want to perform better in open water.

Swim Smooth!
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