Friday, August 16, 2013

Swim Lessons - Stroke Doctor Triathlon Swim Clinic Review

Tuesday morning I did something I hadn't done before. I went to a Stroke Doctor group class in Cutler Bay.

The Stroke Doctor is a semi-local swim coach affiliated with Total Immersion. I say semi-local because he is based in Davie which is a town about 40 minutes from me. He's also a sponsor of my tri club.

Stroke Doctor Clinics
He's doing 2 triathlete centered group sessions right now in the mornings. Neither is really super convenient to me but they are both in good places. Tuesday mornings its at Cutler Bay pool 10100 SW 200th Street (about 20 minutes South of me) and the other is Thursday morning at Jose Marti pool which is I think close to downtown (about 20 minutes North of me) although I've never been there. Each class is from 6:00-7:00 and costs $20 a class for a drop in fee. I think if you want to go every week for a month he gives you a better price deal but I don't remember.

In the past I have done a private lesson with the Stroke Doctor before and also group open water clinics all with good results.

Why this and why now?
I decided to do this on Tuesday for a few reasons.
  1. I was too lazy to get up for masters practice Monday morning and I was feeling very guilty.
  2. My masters coach has been telling me to change something in my stroke for months and I haven't had any success just willing my stroke to change.  I thought an hour with Gary might help me focus in and make some changes. He actually gets in the water and sort of tugs you into the right position so it's helpful to me. 
What is special about the Stroke Doctor classes is that it's almost 100% drill work with a lot of individual attention. If I swam 800 yards during the hour that might be a stretch. It's warm up (200 yds and I think I was the only one who made it all 200)  - then drill and then drill some more and then swim a little bit. But the reason is that he explains exactly why you're doing what he's asking you to do. I think this is really good for making changes to your stroke.

So he deconstructs the stroke into little peices and has you do each piece very slowly and then puts it all together bit by bit and at the end you are swimming again with a little bit of an improved stroke.

Did it work today - was it worth $20 and 2 hours of my life. Why yes I think it was.

One selfie with a new friend whose name I've forgotten at the Cutler Bay pool.
You just did an Ironman swim ... what's the problem?
Here's why. For months every few days my masters coach Andrew will point out one/some of the following things:
  • I start my pull too early especially on the left side and my arm is straight down in the water.
  • I should breathe a little earlier and then rotate when my arm is entering the water
  • I cross over the middle a little bit on the pull.
There may be other things he says I forget. It is amplified on my left side where my stroke is weakest. So here's the deal it's really all basically the same little quirk which shows up in different ways which is that first one which is that I start my pull too early.  I do this because I feel like I'm sinking and blahbitty blah. I had asked Andrew how to stop this and he said concentrate on the extension of my arm. Excellent advice but try as I might to work myself out of it I wasn't having much luck. I should say I think Andrew is a great coach and he's super gentle with feedback.

Second selfie with Claudia who is a fun Hammerhead. Nice sunrise flare, eh?

So why does it work to change it when the stroke doctor says it and not when Andrew told me. Well I think a few things. First this is all I worked on with the stroke doctor. No intervals, not even swimming the whole distance of the pool, not even breathing while I was working on this. He had us do about half the pool so 12 yards and going very slowly so I didn't need to breath. And twice he walked beside me and adjusted my position so I could feel where I was off which is very helpful to me.

What did you adjust and how?
What was the change? Well Gary observed that I was pulling my left arm too far over my body (ribcage) as I brought it out of the water. I was over rotating as a result or vice-versa who knows. This did cause me (and apparently everyone) to sink a bit. When I sink I instinctively start the pull to move forward or up or something to stop the sinking. When he moved my left arm away from that spot it felt weird but not bad. I felt flat in the water but he said I wasn't. Also, apparently I should be relaxing my shoulders (this is the impossible task he should talk to my massage therapist because she says the same thing). Then he told me to reach a little bit more when I felt that instinct to start the pull and he took me through 2-3 super slow strokes giving my wrists tiny tugs to feel the difference.  Then we put it all together. On the first practice I was going along and then all of a sudden I did it the old way and I felt the difference which was a huge point (I felt the sinking and I felt that my pull started too soon ... it was an a-ha moment). Then on the next two rounds I was able to concentrate on doing it the new way and it felt much better.

Did it work?
So the result is that on Thursday when I went back to Masters practice. The whole practice I was concentrating on that extra reach. Coach Andrew was going down the line telling folks make sure you reach, your x side you're doing a straight down arm on the pull, you're crossing over the middle on your x side ... these are all things he's said to me that I have been working on but unable to stop. Then Andrew said, "Amy your pull looks good." Woohoo! That felt good. So, yes ... I think it worked.

Will you go back?
I think that these are great clinics. Sadly I can't go very often. I mentioned before there isn't a ton of swimming time in them and most of the time I'm obsessed with yards swum. Also since each location is I think 20-30 minutes away from my house it takes extra planning during the school year for me to do this - simply put I need to be back in time to get the kiddos to school at 8:15. This is actually why it took me so long to get to one of these. So I won't be going every week or probably not immediately but I do think it's a great thing and I'm super happy that he's doing this in Miami.  

Last Thoughts 
My last thought is that I can't honestly believe I had this much to ramble on about a swimming lesson ... I am a total nerd. 

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