Slowing Down Your Figures in Synchronized Swimming
Every synchronized swimmer chases that indefinable goal of performing their figures slowly. Since “too slow is nearly impossible to achieve, the ability to hold your breath longer is an important part of improving in this event. Training yourself to perform without sufficient air is not one of the more pleasant parts of practice, but when you're in front of a panel of judges and feel like you have a few extra seconds to show each position, it will all be worth it!
So, how slow can you go? Here are some hints to help you save your breath and control your speed.
Almost every figure has one or two parts that shouldn't require a bicep-burning amount of sculling—for example, the beginning of the kip. Drawing your knees to your chest and rolling to the inverted tuck can be well controlled with minimal physical effort, as can the final descent of many figures.
Take note of which parts your figures require the least amount of strength, and consciously use as little muscle force as is necessary to successfully complete them. Then, you'll have more energy for the more physically demanding parts of the figure. Remember, though, your extension never gets a break!
Keep Your Heart Rate Down
Believe it or not, it is actually possible for you to slow down your heart rate using mental control and relaxed focus.
Right before you do a figure all the way through, take a few deep breaths. Make sure to exhale completely as a part of the process, since breathing all the way out will get rid of even more carbon dioxide (the stuff that tells makes you feel out of breath). Then, you'll have more room for new, oxygen-rich air.
A few good inhales and exhales should be enough. Overdoing it can actually make you feel lightheaded.
- Start by consciously slowing the rate of your breathing while lying in bed. It is important to learn the technique with little to no distraction.
- Try to feel your heart beat. Visualize it slowing down and moving with less resistance.
- Keep practicing until you can notice a measurable difference in your heart rate.
- Once you have mastered the technique, transfer the same method to the pool. You can use it before and during your figure.
Control the Beginnings & Endings
Fast or abrupt movements are most obvious at the beginning and end of each change of position in a figure. So, it's important to learn how to initiate and transition through each segment slowly and with control.
- Begin each movement by releasing your hold on the previous position.
- For example, transition to a split from a vertical by letting go of the tension created by squeezing your feet together, as opposed to immediately pushing one foot back and one foot forward.
- Try to initiate the movement using imperceptible adjustments.
- The beginning of a half twist is a good example of this skill. After holding the vertical position from the previous transition, try to start imperceptibly. Imagine spotting every degree of the turn, as if you could see the numbers of the degrees from 0 to 180 on the pool walls.
- Ease into the endings.
- When extending a knee to finish a position, use a squeeze instead of a snap or lock.
- Make the ending of any movement clear and stable instead of relying on a click or harsh stop.
Synchro swimmers are sometimes resistant to slowing down because, well… it really doesn't feel good! But there are some bonuses besides the extra few tenths of a point that might come your way.
When you go slowly, you have plenty of time to be in the moment of every part and think about corrections and other tips- like the ones in this guide!
Keep Practicing Breath Control
Simply being capable of holding your breath for longer periods of time will make it easier to do figures more slowly, since you won't be focused on how soon you can come up or the burning feeling in your lungs.
- Include breath holding drills in your warm-up laps. See iSport guide, “Holding Your Breath Longer, for help.
- Every time you have figure practice, try to go slower than the previous session. Every second gained counts!
- Designate a certain number of counts for each part of the figure, for example, move for six counts and hold for two. Increase them as you improve.
- Time yourself in each figure—or have your coach or teammate time you.
Word of Warning
Swim with a buddy. It can be dangerous to practice increasing your breath holding capacity alone and the training should not be taken lightly. You are literally forcing your body to make more red blood cells by depriving it of oxygen.
The lack of oxygen can cause you to faint or pass out, since your body's built-in safety device kicks in once the levels get too low. Being unconscious can be life-threatening if you're in the pool alone. And then having a really slow Catalina won't seem all that important.