February 2015 - Run for the Thrills


Pull with Power – Freestyle Pull Technique

Posted by | Events, Training, Triathlon Training | No Comments

Working on my swim technique has been exciting; as I make small changes in technique I experience a huge difference in my stoke power and swimming speed.   Two swim clinics with Aktiv Life have made a great impact on my swimming already.  I am looking forward to the next clinic this Friday!

Small changes to arm position can make a significant difference to the efficiency of the freestyle pull.  Here is the key that Wolfgang Guembel emphasized:  Keep the elbow above the hand to use the full force of the forearm to push the most amount of water to propel you forwards.  Often swimmers focus on a high elbow in the arm, before entering the water.  This is deceiving, as the key is to keep that elbow above the hand and wrist when entering and pulling THROUGH the water to ensure maximum power.  This has made a huge difference to my freestyle stroke.

A second key to stroke improvement is to lengthen the stoke.  The goal is to fully complete the arm stroke; this is the most economical stoke and produces the best results.  This is counter-intuitive to many new swimmers who think that a faster stoke, will make them swim faster.  In water, that faster, less efficient stroke means more water pushing back against the swimmer and much energy is expended in the end, without a smooth push forwards.  Research has shown that the swimmers with the longest stokes are the most economical swimmers (Joe Friel, “the Triathlete’s Training Bible”)  To practice this, start counting number of stokes per length of the pool and strive to take 10 % fewer strokes per length.  This will force  you to lengthen your stoke and focus on your form.


Swimming On Your Side: GOAL – To practice reducing drag by cutting through the water on your side and rolling the hips and shoulders to the side.  Start by doing a full length of the pool on your left side, with the left arm extended ahead of you and the right arm resting on your hip.  Switch sides for the next length.  Fins can be worn to assist with a weak kick.  Once you have mastered swimming on the side, practice rolling from one side to the other after a three-count pause on each side.  Focus  on the arm position, keeping the elbow above the hand as it enters and moves slowly through the water.

Catch Up: GOAL – To increase distance per stroke:  Focusing on one arm at a time, when the right arm is at the top part of the stroke in the water, it pauses in the position, until the left arm meets it; then stroke with the right arm, with the left arm pausing in the same position, until the right arm catches up with it; keep alternating arms, waiting for the other arm to “catch up”.  Focus on a long, full stroke with each arm.

One-Arm Freestyle:  GOAL – to increase distance per stroke:  Focusing only on one arm pulling through the water, while the other arm  rests in the water above the head, in streamline position.

Watch a video:  3 Drills to Improve Freestyle , demonstrating the above drills!

Jump into a swim clinic to practice your technique.  This Friday our swimming technique will be captured on video with the use of a professional underwater camera.  Come join us at 6am at the Boys and Girls Club in Niagara Falls.


Enjoyable Winter Running

Posted by | Training | 2 Comments

Slippery roads, deep snow covered sidewalks and blindness-causing snow flurries — these are but a few of the challenges winter running throws at us. Still we, the long distance runners, must complete our long training runs.  Today would have been challenging, had I not had my “running peeps” to keep me motivated and safe.  Here is how to keep winter running enjoyable:

Running Buddies:

This morning I thanked my friends for getting me to run through the falling snow and for helping to navigate the slippery conditions.  Motivation is definitely low when the snow is coming down heavily and I cannot see my surroundings, but having friends to run with makes a big difference.  Three of us set out together, and with our bright jackets and running tights (Kristen’s winter trademark these days), we could follow one another and keep out of the way of oncoming traffic.  As we ran our 24 kilometers, we passed cars stuck in ditches and I realized again the blessing of having running partners. We look out for each other and are there for one another in case of injury.  Our conversations also keep the runs interesting and the miles just pile up as we enjoy being together.  Running with friends brings out the fun in us, but it also brings out some healthy competition.  We push one another to run up the steep hills, rather than avoiding them by taking another route.  We often pick up the pace as we attack the hills, and the friendly challenge makes us stronger and fitter.  There’s no avoiding the tough parts of a run when others are with you. We keep each other encouraged and accountable.

Good Gear:


This winter I finally invested in fleece-lined winter running tights.  Definitely worth it!  I’ve found that to enjoy winter running, I need to invest in good gear:  gear that wicks (does not absorb moisture), is lightweight yet warm and blocks the wind.  A wind and water resistant jacket is essential.  My extremities are sensitive, as I struggle with Raynaud’s phenomenon, so I require warm ski mitts (many people prefer lighter weight mitts) and merino wool socks.  The initial investment may be steep, but these quality items last and are well worth it.

Footwear is obviously also extremely important.  In winter conditions either a trail runner or Yaktaxs are ideal.  I’ve written about my love for Yaktrax before. This morning I was very grateful for my Yaktrax, as they kept me from slipping or falling, even though the roads were extremely icy and snow covered.

Mental Strength:

To enjoy winter running, remind yourself how tough you are becoming. As you persevere through each of these runs, both your body and your character are being strengthened.  Though it is difficult to imagine while you are bounding through snowdrifts, spring will eventually arrive, and all these tough miles through the deep snow will only make you stronger and faster.  Just think how great that spring race will feel.  You will feel unencumbered by all the heavy winter gear and the slush and snow and you will achieve some personal bests!  Winter training helps you to get fitter and mentally tougher in all areas of your life.

Tomorrow I will put my winter running to the test at the Valentine’s 5km Race in Port Dalhousie, put on by the St. Catharine’s Road Runners!  Many training buddies will be there, either running or organizing the race.  James will be running and together we will be racing in the couples category.  Come join us in the race or cheer us on!

Training Buddies - Karen, Dave, Janine

Training Buddies – Karen, Dave, Janine