Swim like Ryan

Today the New York Times features a story on Olympic hopeful (and veteran) Ryan Lochte’s training–and what elements of that training we ordinary mortals might adapt to our own use. Among the points made:

Even though Lochte has been swimming since he was 9, he has not yet perfected his strokes. “I spend more time on stroke mechanics now than I ever have,” he said.

He also spends part of each practice slowing things way down.

“The only way to really work on technique is to swim very slowly and really think about every little thing that you’re doing,” he said. “How your body is positioned, what your hips are doing, the positioning of your shoulders and hands and feet.”


“I work a lot on staying high in the water, not fighting the water, moving with the water,” Lochte said.

To that end, he concentrates on keeping his belly above the water during his backstroke and he also frequently practices with a piece of buoyant foam (or pull buoy) between his legs. Using a buoy, Troy said, can be useful for swimmers, because “you start to feel proper body positioning, then you replicate that” without the buoy.


Perhaps the single biggest change in Lochte’s swimming routine from days past is the amount of pure kicking he does, sometimes with fins (his are standard, long fins) or a kickboard, sometimes without.

“Kicking stabilizes the body,” Troy said. “You achieve correct body position far more with the legs than the arms.”

Leg muscles require far more oxygen than the arms do, he added, so the legs “must be fit” or a swimmer risks early exhaustion.

“The amount of kicking that most elite swimmers do in practice has gone up at least 20 percent in the past few years,” Troy said.

He said that coaches used to have athletes kicking less because “it takes more time in the practices to kick than to swim,” so you get “less overall swimming volume.” But most of them have come to realize that less volume with more kicking produces world records.

So there you go: world records.

Weight training is also mentioned, and finally:

Even if you’re a fitness swimmer, incorporate competition and goal-setting into your routine. You don’t necessarily have to sign up for races, but aim to reach the far wall a smidgen faster than you did the day before, or try to break a minute in the 100-meter freestyle, a good benchmark for speed. Lochte’s best time in that event is 49.04 seconds, a mark he set Saturday at the USA Swimming Sectionals competition in Orlando, Fla. He said he would like to bring it down to 48.2

I do not foresee a sub-minute 100 meter free in my immediate future, but then, Lochte, to achieve his times, is training (per the article) 3 to 5 miles “most days, sometimes twice a day.”

I wonder what kind of training the OW swimmers are doing? The top finishers in the Beijing 10K OW swim are expected to complete the event at around (or under) an average 20 minute/mile pace. That kind of speed for more than 6 miles! Zowie.


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