14 Day Swim Challenge - Week 2

Shawn Gerber

Coach

Endurance Sports, Nutrition, Strength and Conditioning

Workouts, aerobic exercise, swimming, triathlete, triathlon, swimming drills, 14 Day Swim Challenge

 

Welcome to the second week of the 14 Day Swim Challenge! Go to the Week 1 of the 14 Day Swim Challenge to start at the beginning. Otherwise, thanks for jumping in on the first week of this adventure. To reiterate, the goal of this challenge is to take you from zero to swimming (freestyle) with comfort and competence in fourteen days. This week, like the last will have 5 days of short swim workouts and two days of work on dryland on your off days. Mastering the technique takes priority over fitness development.

 

 

Day 8: Getting Closer, 6-1-6 to 6-3-6

Welcome to your second week of the challenge! Today we take a big step towards actual freestyle swimming. We’re going to build from the 6-1-6 drill that you did last week and add more stroking with the 6-3-6 drill. Everything will be with fins today so you can comfortably get a feel for the drill. The 6-3-6 will start to put all the things together: feel for water, body position, kicking, body roll, and actual stroking. The journey just got pretty exciting!

 

Gear Needed: Fins and pull buoy

 

Drills for today:

 

  • Scull 8x50, scull down, kick back w/fins & buoy.
  • Side kick, without fins, 4 x 25
  • 6-1-6, w/ fins, 10 x 25.
  • 6-3-6, w/ fins, 10 x 25

 

 

Sculling

Grab a pull buoy, put some fins on, and push off the wall with you face just out of the water. With your arms extended in front of you, move them so that your finger tips are below your wrist, and your wrist is below your elbow. Then, move your hands side-to-side 2-3 feet, experimenting with the angle of and shape of your hand. If done correctly, this will propel you forward (slowly). There is no kicking in this drill. Take your time and play with it until you find what causes you to move down the pool most efficiently. Do eight laps (a lap is one length down and one length back). For each lap, scull down for one length, turn and kick back holding the buoy out in front of you.

 

Side Kick With Fins

Push off the wall and begin kicking from a prone position. As you kick extend one arm out in front of you, reaching for the wall while leaving the other arm relaxed at your side. This will pull your torso around so that your belly button begins to face the side wall. Aim to kick at about a 45 degree angle. Your face should be close to your arm with your eyes looking either straight down or 2-3 feet ahead. As needed, rotate your head to breathe on the side facing the side wall.

 

6-1-6 With Fins

Start out as you would for the side kick drill. Count to six, then pull back with your extended arm using it to rotate you to side kicking on the other side. While you’re doing this, bring your relaxed arm up and around to enter the water and extend in front of you, replacing the other arm. Make sure you are exhaling through all of this and rotate to a breath before you take a stroke. As you start the stroke with your extended arm, think about tipping your fingertips down first. Your palm should face the wall behind you. As you start to pull back try to get your palm and forearm vertical as soon as possible so that they are both parallel to the wall behind you. This gives you the biggest possible “paddle” to propel you forward. Avoid dropping your arm and pushing water down instead of back as this will cause your legs to sink.

 

6-3-6 With Fins

Treat this like the 6-1-6 drill with one major change: instead of one stroke to switch sides, you will do three before returning to your 6-count. The trickiest part of this drill is choosing when to breathe. It is typically easiest to do it right before you take your three strokes. Doing it after the strokes can be a touch long and cause discomfort if you really need some air.

 

Day 9: Dry Land Drills and Strength

Today’s dry land work will look very similar to day two, but will focus more on strength exercises for developing your core.

 

Drills:

  • Wall extension
  • Side stroke Drill
  • Plank 3 x 30-60 seconds
  • Single Leg Bridge, 2 x 20-60 seconds

 

 

Wall Extension

Good swimmers are “long swimmers.” Extension causes rotation, and rotation makes you slice through the water. This drill is a good way to practice and visualize the cue “reach for the wall” and emphasize why it matters. Face a wall with both arms extended overhead. Then, drop one arm to your side and reach as high as you can with the other. What happens? As you reach, your whole body rotates. This more sideways position reduces the surface area visible to the water, making you more hydrodynamic. Better hydrodynamics mean you will go further with less effort - you want that! Swimming efficiently is all about switching from side to side smoothly, not about plowing through on your stomach.

 

Side Stroke Drill

This drill is another low risk way to work on your stroke mechanics, more specifically the arm portions. Lie on your side with your bottom arm extended in front of you. Then, “stroke” with your other arm. A couple key pieces to focus on are:

 

  • getting your stroke hand to face the wall behind you as you pull towards your toes
  • recovering by pulling your elbow to a high position with your hand coming up to your armpit
  • practicing an entry that is between the elbow and wrist of your extended arm.

 

Plank

Lie face down on a mat with elbows resting on the floor next to your chest. Your palms should be flat on the floor or in a fist position. Feet should be together. Then, push your body up off the floor into a pushup position with your body resting on your elbows and hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold this for 30-60 seconds before returning to the starting position.

 

Single Leg Bridge

Lie on floor or mat. Place one leg straight and bend the other leg with foot flat on floor or mat. Place arms down on mat to each side of hips. Then, raise body by extending hip of bent leg, keeping extended leg and hip straight. Hold for 20-60 seconds. Return to original position by lowering body with extended leg and hip straight. Repeat on opposite side.

 

Day 10:  Game Time! 6-3-6 to Hand Swapping

This is a game changing day. Today you will do a drill that brings you about as close to actual swimming as possible. The big difference from what you will see in the hand swapping drill versus swimming is a slower stroke rhythm and the use of a pull buoy. Other than that, you will actually be swimming! We’ll build on what we’ve practiced so far, reviewing side kicking, and the 6-3-6 before letting you bust out a full-on stroke.

 

Gear Needed: Fins and pull buoy

 

Drills for today:

 

  • Scull 8x50, scull down,  6-1-6 back
  • Side kick, with fins, 4 x 25
  • 6-3-6, w/fins, 10 x 25
  • Hand swapping, 10 x 25 w/buoy

 

 

Sculling

Grab a pull buoy, and push off the wall with you face just out of the water. With your arms extended in front of you, move them so that your finger tips are below your wrist and your wrist is below your elbow. Then, move your hands side-to-side 2-3 feet, experimenting with the angle of and shape of your hand. If done correctly, this will propel you forward (slowly). There is no kicking in this drill. Take your time and play with it until you find what causes you to move down the pool most efficiently. Do eight laps (a lap is one length down and one length back). For each lap, scull down for one length, turn and do 6-1-6 back with the pull buoy.

 

Side Kick With Fins

Push of the wall and begin kicking from a prone position. As you kick extend one arm out in front of you, reaching for the wall while leaving the other arm relaxed at your side. This will pull your torso around so that your bellybutton begins to face the side wall. Aim to kick at about a 45 degree angle. Your face should be close to your arm with your eyes looking either straight down or 2-3 feet ahead. As needed, rotate your head to breathe on the side facing the side wall.

 

6-1-6 With Fins

Start out as you would for the side kick drill. Count to six, then pull back with your extended arm using it to rotate you to side kicking on the other side. While you’re doing this, bring your relaxed arm up and around to enter the water and extend in front of you, replacing the other arm. Make sure you are exhaling through all of this and rotate to a breath before you take a stroke. As you start the stroke with your extended arm, think about tipping your finger tips down first. Your palm should face the wall behind you. As you start to pull back try to get your palm and forearm vertical as soon as possible so that they are both parallel to the wall behind you. This gives you the biggest possible “paddle” to propel you forward. Avoid dropping your arm and pushing water down instead of back as this will cause your legs to sink.

 

6-3-6 With Fins

Treat this like the 6-1-6 drill with one major change: instead of one stroke to switch sides, you will do three before returning to your 6-count. The trickiest part about this drill is choosing when to breathe. It is typically easiest to do it right before you take your three strokes. Doing it after the strokes can be a touch long and cause discomfort if you really need some air.

 

Hand Swapping (With Pull Buoy)

In your first few attempts, push off the wall and proceed as if doing the 6-3-6 drill. Once you settle in, keep stroking instead of side-kicking on a 6-count. The key here is to “swap your hands” which will be a little bit slower than the actual swim stroke. To do this, make sure both hands are extended out in front of you before stroking your other arm. It’s just for a split second. In the real stroke, you start to stroke slightly before you recovering arm enters in front of you. With a lot of new things to tackle here, I’d recommend choosing to breathe on whatever side is easiest and stick to that side, breathing every other stroke. As an example, you could breathe every time you are extending your left arm and pulling underneath with your right arm (or vise versa). This gives you the most breaths and will help you be comfortable until you are ready to tackle bilateral breathing (to both sides, usually every three strokes).

 

Day 11:  Practice Makes Perfect – More 6-3-6 & Hand Swapping

Practice makes perfect, so today we will spend time refining what we already know. There are no new drills today, only changes to some of the variables within those drills. Today we will start to take away training aids to prepare you for full-out swimming on day 13. You’re familiarity with these drills should help you be able to relax and absorb more, even without training aids. Enough chatter - get out there and practice!

 

Gear Needed: Fins and pull buoy

 

Drills for today:

 

Scull (with bouy) 4x50: scull down, kick back without fins.
6-1-6, without fins, 6 x 25.
6-3-6, w/fins, 10 x 25
6-3-6, without fins, 6 x 25
Hand swapping, 10 x 25 w/buoy

 

 

Sculling (Without Fins)

Grab a pull buoy, and push off the wall with you face just out of the water. With your arms extended in front of you, move them so that your finger tips are below your wrist and your wrist is below your elbow. Then, move your hands side to side 2-3 feet, experimenting with the angle of and shape of your hand. If done correctly, this will propel you forward (slowly). There is no kicking in this drill. Take your time and play with it until you find what causes you to move down the pool most efficiently. Do eight laps (a lap is one length down and one length back). For each lap, scull down for one length, turn and kick back holding the buoy out in front of you.

 

Side Kick (Without Fins)

Push of the wall and begin kicking from a prone position. As you kick extend one arm out in front of you, reaching for the wall while leaving the other arm relaxed at your side. This will pull your torso around so that your bellybutton begins to face the side wall. Aim to kick at about a 45 degree angle. Your face should be close to your arm with your eyes looking either straight down or 2-3 feet ahead. As needed, rotate your head to breathe on the side facing the side wall.

 

6-1-6 (Without Fins)

Start out as you would for the side kick drill. Count to six, then pull back with your extended arm and, using it to rotate you to side kicking on the other side. While you’re doing this, bring your relaxed arm up and around to enter the water and extend in front of you, replacing the other arm. Make sure you are exhaling through all of this and rotate to a breath before you take a stroke. As you start the stroke with your extended arm, think about tipping your finger tips down first. Your palm should face the wall behind you. As you start to pull back try to get your palm and forearm vertical as soon as possible so that they are both parallel to the wall behind you. This gives you the biggest possible “paddle” to propel you forward. Avoid dropping your arm and pushing water down instead of back as this will cause your legs to sink.

 

6-3-6 (With and Without Fins)

Treat this like the 6-1-6 drill with one major change: instead of one stroke to switch sides, you will do three before returning to your 6-count. The trickiest part about this drill is choosing when to breathe. It is typically easiest to do it right before you take your three strokes. Doing it after the strokes can be a touch long and cause some discomfort if you really need some air.

 

Hand Swapping (With Pull Buoy)

In your first few attempts, push off the wall and proceed as if doing the 6-3-6 drill. Once you settle in, keep stroking instead of side-kicking on a 6-count. The key here is to “swap your hands” which will be a little bit slower than the actual swim stroke. To do this, make sure both hands are extended out in front of you before stroking your other arm. It’s just for a split second. In the real stroke, you start to stroke slightly before you recovering arm enters in front of you. With a lot of new things to tackle here, I’d recommend choosing to breathe on whatever side is easiest and stick to that side, breathing every other stroke. As an example, you could breathe every time you are extending your left arm and pulling underneath with your right arm (or vise versa). This gives you the most breaths and will help you be comfortable until you are ready to tackle bilateral breathing (to both sides, usually every three strokes).

 

Day 12: Dry Land Drills and Strength

This is your last dry land day which means you’ve almost made it to the end of the challenge! Well done. Today is primarily about core strength with a splash of low back and rotational work to support the movements you’re doing in the pool on a regular basis.

 

Drills for today:

 

  • Russian Twist, 2 x 50 seconds
  • Superman, 3 x 30-60 seconds
  • Plank w/ Twist 3 x 30-60 seconds
  • Cobra + Camel Flow

 

Russian Twist

Lie down on the floor placing your feet flat on the floor. Your legs should be bent at the knees. Elevate your upper body so that it creates an imaginary V-shape with your thighs. Clasp your hands together and hold them in front of you near your belly button. If you desire more of a challenge hold a plate or dumbbell. Twist your torso to the right side until your hands touch the floor, breathing out. Hold the contraction for a second and move back to the starting position while breathing out. Now move to the opposite side performing the same techniques you applied to the right side. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

 

Superman

To begin, lie straight and face down on the floor or exercise mat. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you. Then, simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor and hold this contraction for 30-60 seconds. Squeeze your lower back to get the best results from this exercise. Remember to exhale during this movement.

 

Plank with Twist

Lie face down on a mat with elbows resting on the floor next to your chest. Your palms should be flat on the floor or in a fist position. Feet should be together. Then, push your body off the floor into a pushup position with your body resting on your elbows and hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Then, rotate your hips to one side, come back to center, and rotate to the opposite side. Do this for 30-60 seconds.

 

Cobra + Camel Flow

These two stretches are excellent for improving flexibility in the abdominals and chest, both of which will see a lot of work when you swim. To do them, lie face down on a mat with elbows resting on the floor next to your chest and hands flat. Then, push up so that your chest comes off the mat and your hips remain on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Then move to a kneeling position and lean back so that you rest your hands on your heels. Squeeze your glutes, driving your hips forward and rotating your chest up and out. Hold this for 20-30 seconds. See video for demonstration.

 

 

Day 13:  Real Swimming, Day One

It’s finally time to put it all together! Today we’ll progress from the 6-3-6 drill that you are familiar with and move to hand swapping with the buoy. From there, you'll take away the buoy and keep the stroke rhythm. Once you get comfortable essentially swimming without any aids at all (yay!), we’ll just slightly tweak your stroke rate, add the buoy back in and let you do some real-deal swimming. Exciting stuff!

 

Drills for today:

 

  • 6-3-6 with fins, 10 x 25
  • Hand swapping with buoy, 10 x 25, 2 x 50
  • Hand swapping without buoy, 6 x 25,  1 x 50
  • Swimming, with buoy, 4 x 25, 2 x 50

 

 

6-3-6 (With Fins)

Treat this like the 6-1-6 drill with one major change: instead of one stroke to switch sides, you will do three before returning to your 6-count. The trickiest part about this drill is choosing when to breathe. It is typically easiest to do it right before you take your three strokes. Doing it after the strokes can be a touch long and cause some discomfort if you really need some air.

 

Hand Swapping (With and Without Pull Buoy)

In your first few attempts, push off the wall and proceed as if doing the 6-3-6 drill. Once you settle in, keep stroking instead of side-kicking on a 6-count. The key here is to “swap your hands” which will be a little bit slower than the actual swim stroke. To do this, make sure both hands are extended out in front of you before stroking your other arm. It’s just for a split second. In the real stroke, you start to stroke slightly before you recovering arm enters in front of you. With a lot of new things to tackle here, I’d recommend choosing to breathe on whatever side is easiest and stick to that side, breathing every other stroke. As an example, you could breathe every time you are extending your left arm and pulling underneath with your right arm (or vise versa). This gives you the most breaths and will help you be comfortable until you are ready to tackle bilateral breathing (to both sides, usually every three strokes).

 

Swimming (With Pull Buoy)

Treat this just like you have the hand swapping drill. The only thing different is that you won’t be matching your hands any more. The trick is in finding a stroke rate that works for you. Make sure you are still reaching for the wall and keeping the extended arm high. Don’t your elbow drop prematurely, especially as you breathe. Begin to stroke with your extended arm slightly before your recovering arm enters the water. Experiment with it by slowly changing your rhythm away from matching your hands. How does it feel? Can you feel any “dead spots” in your stroke where you lose momentum? If so, where are you losing it? Are you moving water the whole time with your arms?

 

Day 14:  Real Swimming, Day Two

You’ve made it! Today is the final day of the 14 Day Swim Challenge and will see you removing all training aids and breaking out some legit freestyle swimming for a few laps. The goal of this challenge was to get you to a point where you can put it all together and continue to use your own feedback to gradually refine it. Enjoy today! Soak it in. We’ve covered a lot in a short time and being able to do laps without any training aids should feel great. Before you know it, you’ll be able to swim continuously for far more than a lap or two. Fun! Let’s jump in for today. Much like yesterday, we’re going to progress from the things we know to the brand new. Great work these past two weeks - good luck out there!

 

Drills for today:

 

  • Hand swapping with buoy, 10 x 25
  • Hand swapping without buoy, 6 x 25
  • Swimming, with buoy, 4 x 25, 4 x 50
  • Swimming, without buoy 4 x 25, 2 x 50

 

 

Hand Swapping (With and Without Pull Buoy)

In your first few attempts, push off the wall and proceed as if doing the 6-3-6 drill. Once you settle in, keep stroking instead of side-kicking on a 6-count. The key here is to “swap your hands” which will be a little bit slower than the actual swim stroke. To do this, make sure both hands are extended out in front of you before stroking your other arm. It’s just for a split second. In the real stroke, you start to stroke slightly before you recovering arm enters in front of you. With a lot of new things to tackle here, I’d recommend choosing to breathe on whatever side is easiest and stick to that side, breathing every other stroke. As an example, you could breathe every time you are extending your left arm and pulling underneath with your right arm (or vise versa). This gives you the most breaths and will help you be comfortable until you are ready to tackle bilateral breathing (to both sides, usually every three strokes).

 

Swimming (With and Without Pull Buoy)

Treat this just like you have the hand swapping drill. The only thing different is that you won’t be matching your hands anymore. The trick is in finding a stroke rate that works for you. Make sure you are still reaching for the wall and keeping the extended arm high. Don’t your elbow drop prematurely, especially as you breathe. Begin to stroke with your extended arm before your recovering arm enters the water. Experiment with it by slowly changing your rhythm away from matching your hands. How does it feel? Can you feel any “dead spots” in your stroke where you lose momentum? If so, where are you losing it? Are you moving water the whole time with your arms?

 

Congratulations on completing this challenge!

Go to Week 1 of the 14 Day Swim Challenge for more background on the workouts or if you just want to start at the beginning.

 

Coach Shawn Gerber is Breaking Muscle's Expert Coach in Residence. He is the creator of TriStrong: A 16-Week On-Ramp to Triathlon and Fitness. If you want Coach Gerber to cover a topic you are interested in or would like him to address a specific issue you may have with triathlon training, email helpme@breakingmuscle.com. Put Coach Gerber in the subject line, and let us know what you need in your training.

 

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