Scrutiny in the Flume

By Dana Willett

“I bet your closet is very organized.”

That was Eney Jones’ assessment of my swim stroke and mechanics back in 2013. I’d only swum one lap, and she had me pegged, watching from the pool deck, just from the way I held my fingers.

pinwheelShe also pointed out my stiff hips, and introduced the “pinwheel” concept of opposite sides of the body moving separately, but in concert, with torque, and a twist.

Back in 2013, during our few pool sessions together, she had me swimming with rocks in my hands, focusing on a “lift” in my chest, and really thinking about the dynamics of my body and how it moves in a substance 800X as dense as air…

dana flume2Eney has influenced me over the years, from her frequent Facebook posts encouraging women in sport, to her continued personal success as an open water swimmer. But mostly, each day in the pool, week in and week out, I think of her observation of my rigidly straight, firmly compressed fingers during what is supposed to be the “recovery” portion of the stroke. And I’ve tried, t-r-i-e-d, over time, to loosen my grip. To not waste energy. And to take advantage of the “skin” on water and separate my fingers a bit for a greater “paddle” surface area.

Last week, at the newly unveiled University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center, at the mercy of multiple video cameras capturing every angle of my stroke, kick and rotation, I received magical praise from renowned Eney Jones:

hula handssalsa hipsI’d achieved “Hula Hands” and “Salsa Hips.”

 

 

eney flume2As I leaned on the wall of the brand-spanking-new SwimLabs flume, sporting Eney’s coveted 2015 Waikiki Roughwater Swim commemorative suit (because I had, alas, left my suit on my kitchen counter, and this is what Eney had in the trunk of her car), I heard her magical words: “This is what I love to see! This is really beautiful! Do you see how your arm is loose but intentional? And right there – THERE! – do you see your lats engage? That’s really beautiful.”

So much enthusiasm. I felt like a rock star. This is high praise, coming from the 6-time “first out of the water” Kona champion and open water Masters World Champion.

flum side by sideAhhh, the magic of video.

There is truly tremendous benefit to seeing your form in slow motion, on the big screen. We all know this.

As Eney points out, “Why kill yourself doing 3,000-, 5,000-, 10,000-yard sets trying to get faster, if some element of your stroke is not maximized? Or worse yet, working against you? It’s wasted energy, it ingrains movement through repetition that may not be beneficial, and it sets you up for injury. And especially, as triathletes, the whole goal is to move through the water as quickly as possibly while expending the least amount of energy.”

notes eneyThis is a nice segue to look at the video for areas ripe for improvement. We shift from what I’m doing well to some stroke habits that are not serving me well.

My left arm is really slacking off, pulling out of the water a full four inches short of the end of the pull. Total slacker. (This learned by doing a one-arm drill in conjunction with Eney’s“SharkBite” paddle, which she invented to help teach the use of the forearm.)

flume1-1But even this realization is put in the most positive light, as Eney pronounces, “This is great news! You know why? This means that even with this shortfall, your speed has improved. Just imagine what will happen when that left arm is performing! This is huge, because you can really drop some serious time by refining that one element.”

There are a few other observations, which Eney points out to me one at a time, with me swimming one- and two-minute segments in between, each time incorporating her advice. To see the image, and have her draw on-screen what I’m doing, and what she’d like me to do, is incredibly helpful. I now have a solid mental image to draw upon as I’m in the water, and combining all the elements of catching, recovering, kicking, breathing, rotating.

jellyfishShe helps me understand at which point of each stroke I should be engaging and feeling different muscle groups – as well as which ones shouldn’t be triggering. She offers varied anecdotes and analogies – like the movements of jellyfish – to help me understand the minutia-laden, total-body ripple that we call swimming.

eney1aI receive the video via email, with Eney’s text notes included, for further review, and I’m eager to set up regular sessions (once a month or once a quarter) to go back, check progress, and insure my own mental image lines up with what is actually happening with my body in the water.

Open to the public, the Center rents space from CU. While providing services for CU athletes, the Center also offers varied services for anyone interested in testing and training related to endurance sports, especially triathlon, including competitive and recreational athletes of all types. Some of the services offered include VO2Max testing, Lactate profile and metabolism testing, classes, camps & coaching, nutrition, running & cycling biomechanics, AlterG Treadmill, and indoor cycling classes.

For more information on the Sports Performance division of the CU Sports Medicine Center, CLICK HERE.

To schedule a session with Eney Jones in the CU/SwimLabs flume, CLICK HERE.

Eney Jones has achieved remarkable success as a triathlete, pool, open water swimmer, coach and innovator. As a triathlete, Eney was the first woman out of the water (6 times) in the Hawaiian Ironman (World Championships). In the pool, Eney was an SEC Champion, NCAA Champion, All American (both in Athletics and Academics) at the University of Florida and was a United States National Team member. As an open water swimmer, Eney was the Masters World Champion in Perth Australia. Eney still competes internationally and enjoys coaching all levels from the novice to the champion. As an innovator, Eney developed and patented the “EneyBuoy”, a pull buoy with adjustable buoyancy, which mimics open water. She also created “SharkBite” paddles which help teach the use of the forearm. Eney has trademarked the swimming concepts, “Split Tempo” and “SuperHero Swimming” and looks forward to having you swim like a Super Hero at SwimLabs too. For more information on Eney please visit www.eneyjones.com

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