This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Stanford Masters Swimming

I finally decided to try a US Masters Swim program and found one through Pacific Masters. Coincidentally, my super athletic friend Julie is also part of the one I chose: Stanford Masters Swimming.

I asked Tim Edmonds, the program coordinator, about the time commitment involved to become a better swimmer. He said that I would see an improvement if I went to 10 sessions in a 21-day time period. The first five would be a struggle, the next five would be better and I would enjoy swimming by the 11th workout.

I was excited about swimming as soon as I saw the beautiful 50M pools. I introduced myself to the coach, Greg, and told him that I was training for a triathlon. "Which one?" he asked. He nodded when I told him Treasure Island and said it was too late to cram for Sentinel! He pointed out where the fast, faster and fastest lanes were in the pool. I hesitated for a moment before asking him where the SLOW swimmers should go. He laughed and pointed me to the furthest lane. Here's what we did:

  1. Warm up: I managed to swim a good 300M-400M right off the bat. Awesome. That's more than half a sprint distance swim!
  2. 4x 100M IM (3x for the slower folks): IM? OH MY GOODNESS -- INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY!! Each 100M consisted of 25M each of butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and front crawl. The last time I tried that was 15 years ago. I was pleased that I could do three sets.
  3. Lateral buoyancy drill (front crawl): We were supposed to lie on our side, stretch out the arm that was closest to the bottom of the pool, rest our head on that arm, and float horizontally (not at an angle) while kicking. The key is to lie on our sides and NOT our backs or bellies. We were also supposed to press our sternum down so our hips would pop up. If done properly, we would float on the surface of the water so we could wiggle our fingers in air (on the arm that is oustretched) and have one eye look above the water as the other was below the surface. Theoretically, we could then breathe by just turning our head. It's a more advanced version of the Total Immersion Skate drill. We were supposed to do 25M floating on one side, followed by 25M crawl, 25M floating on the other side and then another 25M crawl. That was a hard drill that took me a while to figure out. I kept on sinking although I made a point to at least sink horizontally. I did about 200M worth in total.
  4. High elbows (front crawl): Slow recovery with elbows high in the air and re-entering the water 6-12" in front of the head with PINKIES in first. I used to think you were supposed to swim with thumbs leading so this is new information. We were also supposed to focus on core rotation and also use our entire forearm to pull before bringing our hand back to our thighs ready for recovery again.
  5. Hitchhiker drill (backstroke): Backstroke is done on your SIDE and on not your back! We were supposed to kick twice on our left side, twice on our back, twice on our right, twice on our back, etc. usingo our core to rotate our hips. Meanwhile, we'd alternate lifting our hands upward without reaching back and a hitchiker motion. I could not do this for the life of me since I was using all my energy to just stay afloat.
  6. Shoulder shrugs (backstroke): Similar to hitchhiker drill but shrug the shoulder instead. Equally difficult and unsuccessful.
  7. Backstroke: I was able to travel the length of the pool doing this but I kept on crashing into the wall. I must be pulling stronger on one side versus the other. It's important for the pinky to enter the water first and to be lying on your side whilst doing so (all part of the core rotation thing). I had a persistent calf cramp in my right leg by this point which was quite annoying.

There may have been other drills and sets but I can't remember any of them. I finished off swimming breast stroke since that was the only thing I could do with a calf cramp. I asked some of the other swimmers what to do to prevent cramping and I was told (1) not to point my toes as much (use floppy foot) (2) eat bananas (3) drink pickle juice (in case I overhydrate) and (4) drink Gatorade.

This was the best swimming experience I have ever had. I couldn't do everything and rested when I needed to, but I was motivated and tried my best. I also felt incredibly sore the next day which has never happened to me before so I know it's working. I know I'll make progress if I stick to it. I know I'll have be a confident swimmer by the time Treasure Island rolls around.

Last, but not least, there was a lot of lingo that I didn't understand. I'm still trying to figure out what "plus 40" means. If you are equally confused, here's a workouts and lingo site for swim programs.

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