Fall Down 7 Get up 8

Week of September 1st. 2010

"Dear SheRock" Q&A Column

*Please feel free to send us your questions here.
 (on the comment section..below)
SheRock will attempt to answer them as soon as she is able!

Dear She Rocks.

    Hope all is well. Doing fine here. Still waiting ever so patiently for my bike……. Ok, not so patient, but as patient as I can be. I am so ready to get in the park and hammer it for a while, but if the salt goes down first, then it's wait until spring… That's ok, the bike isn't my weak link. Speaking of my former weak link (the swim..) I was in the pool yesterday doing 25 drill,25 swim, sometimes 50 swim. Anyway, I noticed that I was able to swim past someone I could never keep up with before. These weren't long swims, so there is still an issue of fitness, but I wasn't killing it in the pool, and was just swimming away. Not sure what the times were, because I still haven't looked at the pace clock since that one day. I did get a look from the guy I swam past after I got out of the pool. It was the kind of look that wasn't a happy one. It was how did he swim past me? That never happened before. Now that was cool.

   Feeling good in the water. This morning I just spent about 20 minutes in the warm pool at Lifetime, sculling and drilling. I am almost to the point where the stroke is feeling more natural now. I suspect that is from the dryland with the tubing. (The blue tubing is perfect) Every night, at least 100 pulls. Slow, no pace at all, just position. What I find good about the tubing is that I can feel in different parts where the position is correct. Not just the arm, but in the back, and shoulders too.

  Have a good one, just checking in, and saying thanks again for taking the time to write the book, and share with me. I'll get a video before too long, and send over.
Chat with you soon.


Dear She Rock,

What are your thoughts about having hand force tested? There are companies that place sensors on the hands to determine the amount of force applied throughout the stroke cycle, and I was wondering if you thought this was useful?

Coach M.


Dear Coach M,

Thank you for sending your inquiry regarding hand force testing. It is interesting....similar to the flume analysis at the Olympic Training Center. In fact, I think USA Swimming just did away with the flume though...don't know why. I had my stroke analyzed there in 1991 and found out that my velocity of hand speed (which also probably led to decreased force) was considerably lower at one phase of the stroke than the American Record Holder's hand speed. It was interesting, but no one told me what to do about it. The analysis is useful if the swimmer can practically apply the technique change necessary.

I think there are a fair number of swimmers and triathletes who like the NUMBERS, so this a great for them. There are more who don't know what to do with the numbers. I found out as an athlete that I was not a numbers person, so I never used a heart rate monitor, power tap, etc. I just went off perceived exertion, technique, rhythm. Each person will differ in what makes them tick.
Also, when looking at the website that offers hand force analysis, I did not see that the testing showed in what direction the force was placed. A person can place force in the water all they want, but if not done in a manner that moves the swimmer forward, then it is meaningless. On page 56 of my book, Call The Suit, I address this:
"You may be in the water feeling the resistive forces like a champ, but if they are not applied in such a way as to move you forward then you are no better off than before you started reading this book." p. 56 Call The Suit

I think the swimmer must extrapolate from the other information given from the hand force analysis (stroke count, stroke rate, velocity, and the other numbers given) whether or not their hand is angled in such a manner as to move them forward or if their lower force is due to strength/power/speed issues (these being a training effect issue).

All in all, I think things like this can add an element to the overall understanding of swimming. They are one piece of the puzzle. The coach and athlete ultimately need to have the discussion on what drives the athlete. For some, a scientific approach is a real motivator and extremely interesting. For others it is quite overwhelming. You know yourself best, so you get to call the suit on this!!

She Rock

Dear SheRock,

I just finished your book, and it is FANTASTIC!!! It is the best presentation of this information that I have EVER seen. I enjoyed the humor, and it was a very readable, enjoyable book, and I've read a LOT of swimming books that are tough to read (to the point of consulting a physicist for help understanding the Bernoulli's principle! Still don't get it). There is one area that I had hoped you'd cover in more detail, and I understand why you didn't, but it is an area in which I need help. I am a triathlete coached remotely, making use of video, and there is no master's group and no one in my small town who can help me.
I have excessive hip roll, which is worsened by broad hips. I cannot coordinate the timing and balance in my hips to allow me to flatten my stroke or access the power of my core from my right arm to the left hip, and it dictates my turnover speed. When my right arm is extended, my right hip is down with weight in it, and I have to wait to begin the catch until I begin to move to the other side. Lately I have tried to weight the opposite hip, so that when my right arm is extended, I imagine the weight being in my left hip, which has helped decrease the roll and engage my core. Although I imagine putting my weight into the left hip, video confirms that I still have a significant, although reduced, hip roll. I don't feel like I can get into a high elbow catch because of my position in the water. "Drive from the hip" is one of those frequently used phrases that is never defined and I can't figure out.

I suspect I am not alone in this conundrum. As you noted, the hip roll has been practiced by many of us to an extreme for a long time. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. It may not be a vital element, but it limits my ability to execute the vital elements.

Thank you so much for your time and for writing this book! I am recommending it to everyone I know!



Hi Susan,

Thank you for your email. I really appreciate your comments, and I am so happy to see that you fully understand the concepts. Nice job!
I have thought about your situation for a couple of days, trying to think of what could be causing your situation. It is difficult to know for certain without seeing you, but my best guess is that you've taken "hip roll" to include a full roll of the torso and perhaps even the shoulders. Many things written on swim technique promote slipping through the water on "your side" to reduce resistance. Naturally an athlete will take that advice to make their entire torso rotate almost 90 degrees. If you look at the photos throughout the book you will see that the torso is not on its side.
Rather, the torso elongates forward. The degree of actual rotation is very little. So, my guess is that you are getting your torso significantly on its side. Next time you swim, only think of your hips rotating very little, and remove any excess body motion (torso rotation). The only movement your torso should make is to elongate forward. The pics on page 51 show this best.
I hope this helps.




Dear She Rock,

Congrats on your book !! I ordered a copy yesterday and can't wait to read it.
So...I'm a 38 year old ex-competitive athlete (completely unrelated to swimming), with a very limited competitive swim background, who just transitioned from "occasional" lap swimmer to joining a masters group several times per week. To see where I am time wise, after a couple of month of swimming, I entered a Master's swim meet and swam the 200 free (Short-course yards). I came in at 2:15. (Ouch !!) With learning of proper technique and dedication, would it be completely unrealistic to have a goal of shaving off 15-20 seconds off that time within 2 years? Oh, and I'm also a shorty...5'6" (otherwise in good physical condition). I know it's hard to answer that one as there are many variables. But...is it "possible", or am I completely off my rocker? All the best to you - and congrats on a fantastic and admirable athletic career - and an inspirational transition into your new chapter in your life of "giving back".

--- "Catfish Moe"

Dear "Catfish Moe"

You are not off your rocker at all. I love your vision, and it is completely possible. You are a believer in human potential just as I am. Here is the key ~ in the book I continually encourage "the process." The process will take you to a sub 2:00 200 yard free. When the book arrives (thank you so much for ordering one!), pay close attention to the parts where I stress that the technique MUST be developed before the tempo/rate side of the equation. I like that you have stated a time frame for meeting you goal....2 years. Nice job! That tells me that you understand that great things take time. Take that patient perspective and enjoy getting to know the muscle memory of the position that is so unique under the water and the FEEL that goes with it. At first the position will feel mechanical, but as you continue through the process, you will gain the flexibility and strength to naturally flow into that awesome swimmer's position! Enjoy your journey to your goal. I am cheering for you. Please write in to report how it's going, and keep checking the website for camps that might work into your schedule. Would love to work with you in person to help.



Dear She Rock,
   I have a swim question for you-I have been diligently using the bands and the one armed kick board drill has become favorite of mine. But regarding that drill, I do have a question. I know it is not all about counting strokes, but it does give me a "standard of measurement"--so when I do the one armed drill with the kickboard, I can do one length of the pool in 19-20 strokes. Yet, when I swim the same length, I am always 22-24--I am not understanding what I am doing incorrectly to go up in strokes like that-- when I swim compared to the dill--when I drill I am using one arm and very little kick if any...

any ideas??

GTL, Austin, Texas

Dear GTL,

Thank you for writing. Without seeing you I cannot be certain, but here is what I think is happening:

When you do the drills in the book, they are designed specifically to concentrate on one arm at a time. The kickboard drill is such a drill....you only need think about the one arm, so you are able to do a great job of getting into the high elbow position that allows your forearm and hand to place force against the water, thus moving you a good distance on each stroke. When we go to normal swimming there is so much going on at one time that we can get overwhelmed at first so that nothing really goes as well as we hope. This is OK!! The high elbow position is not natural, so it is not necessarily going to be there in your normal stroke for the first weeks or even months. That is why I encourage the mindset of NEVER GIVING UP on it :) It WILL come. Believe that. It just takes incredible patience. Keep working those one arm drills. When you do swim, slow it way down so as to ensure your fingertips are pointing toward the bottom of the pool during the early phase of the stroke as you get into the high elbow position and hold that water with your palm and forearm in a strong position.
Since the triathlon season is pretty much finished for 2010 you can afford to take it easy and work on technique. This is good for overall recovery at this phase of the year too. You do not need to look at the clock. Speed comes later, like in the spring! :)
So, the bottom line is that I think you may not be getting into the high elbow position quite yet when you swim, and that is why you are seeing an increased stroke count. My recommendation, therefore, is to ignore the "rate" side of the equation for now (if perhaps you were trying to keep your normal rate going while swimming). Right now you should only go for slow concentrated swimming for technique only. Even if you are 2-3 seconds per full stroke cycle right now, She Rock say that is OK. You know why you're doing that...to get the muscle memory lodged in for the high elbow. Come Springtime, and you will add rate to the beautiful technique, and then you will see the rewarding results of your patience :)
I hope this helps. Please keep me updated.
She Rock