The Race Club

Gary Hall Sr - grundare av The Race Club. 10-faldig världsrekordhållare, 3-faldig OS-deltagare och amerikansk flaggbärare på OS 1976.
Gary Hall Sr - grundare av The Race Club. 10-faldig världsrekordhållare, 3-faldig OS-deltagare och amerikansk flaggbärare på OS 1976.

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Gary Hall Sr s guidar dig djupare ned i simningens mysterium - foto Håkan Frdriksson Gary Hall Sr s guidar dig djupare ned i simningens mysterium - foto Håkan Frdriksson

Publicerad 14 juni 2018

Physics for swimmers, coaches and parents
Frontal drag
Most sports take place in air, where drag forces apply but are not nearly as detrimental to performance as they are in swimming. With the density of water being 784 times greater than air, any errors we make in our body position or stroke mechanics are compounded at almost any speed, but even more so at higher speeds. However, we don’t have to be going very fast at all in water for these drag forces to ruin our day. The faster we swim, the bigger price we pay for our mistakes. Frontal drag is enemy #1 of the swimmer. There is no mercy in the water.
There are four factors that determine how much frontal drag will slow a swimmer down. The first is position. Is the swimmer underwater or on the surface? The second is the cross-sectional surface area of the swimmer moving forward. How large is the swimmer? What is the body angle? Are the legs and arms protruding out too far? Is the head too high? The third is the surface characteristic of the swimmer, including the suit, cap and goggles. How slippery is the swimmer? The fourth, and most important, is the swimmer’s speed. How fast is he or she moving in the water?
There are three different types of frontal drag forces that can slow a swimmer down, and they are all important. The first and most profound is pressure or form drag which occurs as a result of two important facts we see in good swimmers. First, swimmers are non-streamlined objects, even in the best position they can achieve. Second, good swimmers are in water and travel at speeds approximating 2 meters/second or higher. The physical shape of a swimmer (surface area moving forward), the medium of water, and the speed of the swimmer in the water are factors that determine what is called the Reynold’s number. This determines the flow characteristics around the moving swimmer. At the Reynold’s number of a good swimmer wearing a tech suit, the flow of water around him/her will change from laminar (smooth, at the head and shoulders) to transitional (separated from the boundary a foot or so behind the head and shoulders) to turbulent (somewhere near the waist). As the fluid transitions from the boundary of the swimmer’s body to a turbulent state, it then forms a vortex or slipstream behind the swimmer. The difference between the higher pressure at the head of the swimmer and the lower pressure behind the swimmer in the slipstream is what determines the pressure drag.
The second drag force is caused by friction. Friction occurs as a result of molecules rubbing against each other as an object moves through a medium; in this case, water. In general, the rougher the object (swimmer), the more friction. The smoother or slicker the object (swimmer), the less friction. Thus, the friction of a swimmer is largely determined by the surface characteristics of the swimmer; the cap, the skin, the goggles and the suit.
Third type of drag force is called surface or wave drag. It occurs as a result of the swimmer being partly in the water (submerged) and partly out of the water. Virtually all of the wave drag of a swimmer occurs from the front end of the swimmer’s body (head and shoulders).
In a study done in 2004, Mollendorf et al determined the contribution of all three types of frontal drag forces on swimmers while being towed at various speeds in a fixed, streamlined position (passive drag forces).[1] When low friction (high tech) suits were worn, and at approximately race speed for elite swimmers, they found that pressure drag forces accounted for about 50% of the total drag force, while wave drag forces and friction each accounted for about 25% of the total drag force. The total frontal drag forces were about three times greater at 2 m/sec (race speed) than they were at 1 m/sec. When low tech suits were worn, friction was a greater contributor to total drag than pressure or wave drag.
The reason that the swimmer’s speed is the most important factor in determining frontal drag is that all three types of drag forces are exponentially related to the swimmer’s speed. Both pressure drag and friction are proportional to the square of the swimmer’s speed, while wave drag is proportional to the fourth power of the swimmer’s speed. From this observation, we can conclude the following:
1.      All three types of frontal drag are important and need to be reduced as much as possible

2.      Small changes in a swimmer’s shape or position, cap and suit can have profound impacts on frontal drag at race speed

3.      Getting under water is desirable (eliminating wave drag) whenever possible while in a relative streamline position at race speed

4.      The stronger and faster a swimmer becomes, the more important technique becomes (the frontal drag forces at 2 m/sec are about three times greater than at 1 m/sec)

This week in Lanes 2, 3  and 4, you will receive the Race Club webisode featuring our favorite way to streamline in order reduce frontal drag. We hope you enjoy.

[1] Mollendorf, J.C., Termin A.C., Oppenheim E., and Pendergast D.R., Effect of Swim Suit Design on Passive Drag, MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE 0195-9131/04/3606-1029

Gary Hall Sr skriver att det finns minst 50 kandidater till titeln USAs mentalt tuffaste simmare genom tiderna. Hans lista toppas av Mike Phelps, här kramande sin mamma under VM 2009. Garys lista med Gary Hall Sr skriver att det finns minst 50 kandidater till titeln USAs mentalt tuffaste simmare genom tiderna. Hans lista toppas av Mike Phelps, här kramande sin mamma under VM 2009. Garys lista med

Publicerad 7 juni 2018

The 5 Mentally Toughest American Elite Swimmers in History
This is a tough list to compose. There are probably 50 or more good candidates for the top 5 spots, but this is my list. My recollection and knowledge of elite swimmers dates back to 1966, so any swimmers from before that era were not considered and may well deserve a spot on this list. I can think of a few that might, like Jeff Farrell, who made the Olympic Team in 1960 just 6 days after having an acute appendicitis…and one day after leaving the hospital.
Eddie Reese, men’s Head Coach at University of Texas, and the most successful Division 1 coach in history, used to grade (from 1-10) all of his swimmers on mental toughness, using what he called The Killer Instinct Scale. It would take Eddie until the conference or NCAA Championship meet of their freshman year to determine each swimmer’s first grade (I don’t think he actually gave it to them, but he then had an idea of what it was). It didn’t matter how fast they swam in workouts or dual meets. The real sign of mental toughness was how fast they would swim at the Championship meets. In that freshman year, with all of the changes and transitions going on in the swimmer’s life, only the mentally toughest swimmers will perform really well.

At The Race Club, we always tell our campers that their swimming career should not be evaluated on the basis of how many Olympic medals they won, or world records they set, but by how well they performed in their Championship meets year in and year out. No matter what level a swimmer reaches, if they consistently do their best when it counts, then they are mentally tough and champions.

As far as the elite swimmers go, here is my top five list, which includes nine swimmers:

1. Michael Phelps. I don’t think I will get too much argument here. To swim 17 races and win 8 gold medals out of 8 quite varied races in 2008 (who else wins the 400 IM and 100 fly in the same Olympic Games?), his mental toughness has to be off the charts. Perhaps his mentally toughest race of all time was winning the 200 fly in Beijing with his goggles filled with water. What composure! His comeback swims in Rio, in his final Olympic Games, and his performances in the London Olympics of 2012, after a poor first swim, are yet more reasons why he is ranked #1.

2.Mike Burton. Some of you may not even remember who he was, but you should. In all of his years as the world’s greatest distance freestyler, Mike never had a bad championship meet. In Bradenton, Florida, at the Spring National Championships of 1966, the last time that meet was ever held outdoors, the temperature was in the 30’s. It was wet and rainy all weekend. Everyone swam poorly, except Mike. He broke American records in winning the 500 and 1650 freestyle.
In the Mexico City Olympic Games of 1968, held at 7,000 feet, which adversely affects the distance athletes, Mike demolished the field in the 400 and 1500 meter freestyles to win 2 Gold medals.
In the Munich Olympic Games of 1972, where Mike was not expected to make the Team nor medal, he won a come-from-behind gold medal in the 1500 meter freestyle.
If these rankings were based purely on swimming above physical talent level, Mike Burton, who was only 5 feet 9 inches tall, might be #1 on the list.

3.Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky and Lilly King. I couldn’t decide among these three, so I made it a tie. They are all 10/10 on the Killer Instinct Scale and have proven it at the NCAA, World Championships and Olympic Games. Each won an NCAA championship as a freshman, a rare accomplishment. All three won Olympic gold medals in their very first Olympic Games, which is only achieved by the mentally toughest athletes. They all have the Eye of the Tiger when standing on the blocks at any Championship meet and you wouldn’t want to be racing against them.

4.Gary Hall Jr., Tom Dolan. Ok, so I am little biased here. These two overcame incredible adversities to become Olympic champions. There has probably never been a swimmer that swam so slow in meets leading up to championship meets, yet never failed to swim fast in a championship meet, ever, as Gary Jr did. In three Olympic Games, he swam in 10 Olympic races and earned 10 Olympic medals and his best swims were always on relays. Six of those Olympic medals were earned after he was diagnosed with type I diabetes, and two diabetes specialists told him he would never swim in an Olympic Games again. Gary Jr was a Gamer and was as tough as they come at Game time. The bigger the meet, the faster he swam.
Tom Dolan was another Gamer that was at the top of the Killer Instinct Scale. Stricken with severe asthma, Tom would never know when an attack was coming. Yet he performed at his very best at the Olympic Games, winning two consecutive gold medals in arguably the most difficult event on the schedule, the 400 IM. 

5.Shirley Babashoff and Janet Evans. Both of these women deserve to be on this list, perhaps higher than 5th. While Janet did not swim as well as she would have liked in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, her absolute dominance in the distance freestyle for so many years, setting records that would last for decades, earns her a spot as one of the mentally toughest swimmers of all time. Shirley was one of those swimmers who always seemed to get her hand on the wall first. She was a fierce competitor and you wouldn’t want to be battling her in the final 10 meters of any race. The only important time she didn’t win, her three individual silver medals in the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976 would have been gold, were it not for the steroid-boosted swimmers from East Germany. Even so, Shirley and her teammates swam in what I consider the mentally toughest race of all time by winning the final 4 x 100 free relay in those Games. If you haven’t seen the movie The Last Gold, you should.

So go ahead. Let me know who should have been on the list. There are many deserving candidates.

This week in The Race Club’s Lanes 2, 3 and 4, you can join us in our classroom discussion about reducing frontal drag with proper head position. We hope you will - click

Yours in Swimming,
Gary Sr.