Monday Masters: Working the Recovery

Photo via Simone Castrovillari

Courtesy of Eney Jones

Everyone works the bottom of their stroke, we reach, then push and propel ourselves forward. But we are dealing with two different elements while swimming, water and air. It is easy to be more deliberate underwater in a denser material, but rarely do swimmers work the “recovery” part of their stroke. They even hear the word recovery and they slow down and relax, and place their catch. Instead we need to speed up our airspeed as I call Split Tempo.

Having more speed and alacrity in the air will create a more deliberate forceful catch. Speed creates power. I have always found this helpful in Open Water but last week end watched it in Caeleb Dressel’s 40:40 100 relay split. In sprinting you want more length in the front of your stroke. The higher you can be in the water the easier it is to push yourself forward.

When you tell swimmers to speed up their tempo often they shorten their stroke. Working on Split Tempo will allow the stroke to be longer under water and faster through the air. In Caelebs’ 100 free split in the relay each arm underwater was .33 seconds. His left arm straighter and faster thru the air was .21 seconds and his right more arced arm thru the air was .23 seconds for a 1.1 second rotation of both arms. This is quite amazing because his is 6’3” inches tall. On a Finis Tempo trainer setting #1 set at 1:1 the beep is when his left arm hits.

See Video Caeleb Dressel 400 Medley Relay A-Final.

Katie Ledecky’s overall Tempo in the mile is 1:37 ( she is 6 feet tall) but once again she is faster thru the air than the water. Usually the difference is not as pronounced as Dressels’, but that is why most people are looking at his feet or just feeling a wave go by.

There are a few ways to work this:

  • On land – Keep you upper thoracic mobile. Everyone uses cables to mimic swimming, but have the cables behind you and punch forward and down. Before a race rather than swing your arms around bend over and cross front and back ( think Phelps) .
  • In the water – Use shells, biscuit sand dollars, whiffle balls or tennis balls with holes: something that will fill up underneath and drain thru the air.
  • Drill – Grab paddles over the front end, slice thru the air, punch the catch.

Be deliberate and be fast thru the air and you will find your times dropping from easily from there.

Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer, and is also a yoga instructor.

  • Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
  • Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
  • National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
  • Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
  • European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
  • Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
  • Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
  • Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).

Read the full article

Tri Coach Tuesday: Why You’re NOT Swimming Faster

by D3 Multisport Coach Dave Sheanin


Of the four legs of triathlon (yes, transitions count too), swimming is arguably the most technical. And, not surprisingly, it’s the leg that many athletes struggle with the most. I believe there’d be general agreement that the “easiest” way to become a great swimmer is to start when you’re young, have great coaches who help you hone excellent technique, and then put in lots of yards under watchful eyes through high school and eventually college. I’ll bet that any triathlete who followed this simple plan is one who leads the pack into T1 today.

That’s nice for the few, but what’s the right path for everyone else? I am absolutely certain that the right path is not what most people take. I see so many triathletes, in their quest to become faster swimmers, make every mistake they can make–all the while, believing that they’re doing what’s required to become faster. They are on a long, inevitable march toward disappointment (and slow swim splits).

If you have been frustrated by your improvement in the water, the key to getting on the right track is multifaceted. It is probably obvious that making technical corrections to your position and stroke is key–something that’s difficult to do on your own. Nothing beats having an experienced coach providing individualized and immediate feedback and using tools such as video to provide detailed analysis. That’s not a realistic plan for most folks on a daily

basis, but having these resources is the absolute key to improvement so work them into your training, even if only occasionally.

Many of us use to-do lists in our daily lives, but how many have a stop-doing list? Stop-doing lists are just as critical as to-do lists for success (in life and in swimming). Here are my recommendations for your swimming stop-doing list.

1. Stop doing what you’ve been doing! If you’re happy with the way you swim now, you should ignore this advice. But if you want to get faster and haven’t been able to do so up to this point, what makes you think that doing more of what you’ve been doing will work? Before you read the next item, pause for a moment and think about this. Really think about your commitment to improvement. If you aren’t willing to adhere to this piece of advice, there’s no need to read further.


2. Stop caring what other people think!

3. Stop swimming 3-4 times a week and striving for big yardage!

4. Stop “shopping” coaches for swimming advice!

5. Stop expecting immediate results!

6. Stop thinking toys are the key to improvement!


Now (the offseason) is the right time to be working on your stroke. Remember that it may take months (or even years) to dial in your new, faster, more-efficient, safer stroke. The pressure of going fast on race day is generally antithetical to improvement–give yourself as much runway as you can. Put the right effort in once and avoid a lifetime of frustration. It starts with your stop-doing list. Get started today.


Be sure to read Coach Dave’s full article on D3  here