Why Count Strokes When Swimming Freestyle?Written by Kevin Koskella
You may have had coaches that make you count strokes throughout workout, either by mixing it into drill sets, main set, or at end of workout. Some coaches recommend making a habit of always keeping track of your stroke count. As a coach of distance swimmers and triathletes, I believe stroke counting is a necessary part of most swimming workouts.
If you stick with it and do it on a consistent basis, stroke counting in swimming is an excellent way to increase your DPS (Distance Per Stroke). The world’s best swimmers are faster than you because they travel further with each stroke, not because they are moving their arms faster. Keeping track of number of strokes you take per length will allow you to begin to lengthen out your stroke, as well as add more speed and distance while keeping your heart rate down and allowing you to save your energy for later in swim or race.
The goal should be to bring down your average stroke count per length. Great swimmers like Alexander Popov or Ian Thorpe may be able to scoot through water at record speed while taking 30 strokes per length (50 meters), but this low stroke count does not have to be your golden number for improving your stroke. First, determine what your range is. Try to swim most of time at low end of your range or below your lowest stroke count. Don’t worry about speed at first- you can influence this later, perhaps as you begin to learn what your “ideal” stroke count is. Here is an example of a set that can help lengthen your stroke, as well as build endurance:
Bilateral Breathing: Should you Breathe to Both Sides in Freestyle Swimming?Written by Kevin Koskella
One of most common wonders of swimming world is, should you use alternate-side, or bilateral breathing?
Throughout my swimming career, I had always breathed to my right side only until a year ago. Why? Because breathing on my left side felt awkward and uncomfortable! This is reason why most swimmers will breathe only on one side. Last year I had an experience that made me change my ways. I was getting a massage and my therapist noted that my left lat muscles (back) were much more developed than my right. Putting two and two together, I realized that years of right side only breathing in pool had caused me to use these muscles on my left side far more than my right as I was balancing with my left arm while sucking air into my lungs!
The answer to question is yes, you should use bilateral breathing, if you’re not already. The main reason is that it will balance out your stroke (as well as create symmetry in your back musculature!). The problem with breathing to one side only is that it can make your stroke lopsided. In a one-hour workout, you may roll to your breathing side 1,000 times. A lopsided stroke can become permanent in a hurry after practicing this for a while!
The benefits to breathing nearly as often to one side as other are that using your “weak” side more frequently will help your stroke overall, and you’ll lose your “blind” side. If you are an open water swimmer, later benefit will help you check for landmarks, avoid chop, or keep another rough swimmer from splashing water in your face (or punching you in nose!) as you breathe.