Author Archives: Jen Schumacher

PT Paddles – Understanding the Specificity and Benefits

Fist freestyle is one of the most valuable drills to improve technique. Swimming with your hands balled into tight fists drastically reduces the surface area of your hand, thus reducing the resistance you are able to create in the water to move forward. To avoid a feeling of complete arm slippage and making no forward progress, the swimmer must adapt by using their forearm to pull the water, essentially forcing them to learn the elusive yet critical high-elbow catch, or Early Vertical Forearm (EVF), that everyone is talking about. The idea is to master EVF with your fists closed, and then maintain that feeling when you open your hands back up (which is a great feeling in and of itself, as your hands feel huge).

However, it is that great feeling of having large hands that can cause the swimmer to forget about EVF. Keeping the hands closed causes you to lose feel for the water, and when it is regained you will feel faster, regardless of technique. Solution? PT Paddles.

PT Paddles are designed to mimic the benefits of fist freestyle without needing to alter your hand position or lose feel for the water. The convex shape on the bottom of the paddle splits the water gradually, rendering your hand’s ability to grab water essentially nonexistent. Although difficult to believe for those who have tried fist freestyle, your hand slips even more with these paddles. You will go nowhere without a great EVF, which you quickly learn to develop almost subconsciously.

The greatest benefit to the PT paddles is not only do they allow you to maintain proper hand position (making the drill much more freestyle-specific), but also the surface your hand is against has small raised bumps. This allows your hand to still feel the water, so when you take them off there is not such a drastic difference that you forget to engage your forearm.

Like regular paddles, if your hands are large enough that you could wrap your pinky or thumb around the paddle, don’t! This would negate the very problem the paddles fix, as you would no longer be using your normal hand position.

A great time to use PT Paddles is during a warm-up set before your main set so you can understand the EVF technique and then carry that throughout your practice. Swim several 50s with the PT Paddles, and then take them off for a 100 or 200 build, focusing on maintaining EVF. Depending on how much time you have, 2-3 rounds of this set would be useful. I also love combining Shoulder-Cheek Drill with PT Paddles, as they complement each other greatly.

Finally, the PT Paddles are not just freestyle paddles – they will have similar benefits for all four strokes, although you may want to forgo the open turns. Most importantly, experiment with them, find how they best work for you, and have fun!

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer,

Sport Psychology Consultant,


Thanksgiving For The Pool

Whether you’re looking for a Thanksgiving morning workout to “earn” that second slice of pumpkin pie or for a day-after workout that will burn off all those extra calories we indulge in on our day of thanks, this workout is for you. Please modify the intervals and distances as needed, keeping in mind that this workout should be challenging, attainable, and most of all a fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving!


This workout (as all other workouts likely do) starts before you get to the pool. As you pack your bag and begin to make your way to the water, make a conscious effort to mentally prepare. What am I doing today? What will I be working on? Perhaps set an intention for your workout: today I will be working on ___________ and I hope to achieve ____________. Those are imperative questions that should precede any workout, pool or otherwise. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, additionally ask yourself what you are thankful for. On some difficult days, perhaps the most you can be thankful for is getting to the pool and that’s okay. But hopefully more days than not, you’ll find there are many things that come to mind when you give thanks.

Appetizer: Warm pumpkin soup (1000 yds.)

400 + 4x100s + 4x50s on 1:30 base

400 with Swimmer’s Snorkel so you can watch your form

100s with snorkel and Forearm Fulcrum


Side dishes: Yams and green beans (1000 yds.)

4x [2x50s free with PT Paddles + 150 build swim]

50s on 1:00, 150s on 2:15/2:10/2:05/2:00 by round


Main meal: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy (1600 yds.)

4x [3x50s + 50 + 200]

3x50s on: 50 holding goal 200 pace

50 easy on 1:00

200s 90-95%, hit target pace (pace you held on 50s)


On the side (or on top!): Cranberry sauce (400 yds.)

8x50s with Z2 Zoomers on 1:30

First 25 underwater dolphin kick, 1 breath max

Rest on wall for 5 breaths

Second 25 FAST free or fly, 1 breath max


Dessert: Pumpkin pie…and a bit of pecan pie too! (700 yds.)

4x175s with Fulcrum Paddles on 2:40

Goal time is best 200 yd. time


Warm down: easy 300


Total:  5,000 yds. & one great Thanksgiving!


Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer,

Sport Psychology Consultant,


5 Tips for Setting Goals

Goal setting is one of those things we all know we should do but don’t necessarily always get around to, sort of like warm down or eating right or getting a full night’s sleep. Even when we do set goals, we often get in the way of the great potential that goals have to motivate and keep us on track by neglecting a few simple steps that can make our goal setting process stronger. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your goals and make something that can seem tedious a bit more exciting.

  1. Set SMART Goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, and Timely. Specific goals outline exactly what is intended, so rather than stating you will “try harder” or “improve,” you might elaborate that your goal is to “make 5 swim workouts a week” or “drop 3 seconds off your 200 time.” This way, you’ll have a clear vision of where you’re going. Both of those examples are also Measurable, meaning that at the end of the week or season, you’ll clearly be able to know whether you achieved your goal or not. Goals are only motivating when they’re challenging enough to push you but not so challenging that you’ll constantly be discouraged from failing to meet the goal. A SMART goal is realistic, something that with great effort you can conceivably achieve. It is also Adjustable, so if you find out later it may not have been as realistic as you previously thought or the difficulty of it is discouraging rather than encouraging, be flexible enough to alter the goal to fit your needs. Finally, great goals are Timely and have an end date. “I will drop 7 seconds in the 500 free by the end of the 2012 short course season.” Timely goals also have a short-term component, so you can break up the goal into sizeable chunks. That same swimmer may intend to complete a stroke change by the end of 2011 and be 2 seconds closer to their 500 goal time by February.
  1. Keep it Positive. The language in which you write your goal is crucial. Although subtle, there is a difference between “Don’t breathe from the flags to the wall” and “I will keep my head down from the flags to the wall.” Put it in the first person and use commanding words like “I will do this” or “I am doing that” rather than “I will try to.”
  1. Write Your Goals Down. And not just on the imaginary pad of paper in your head. Write them down on paper and put the paper somewhere you can easily see every day. Why? Because the simple act of writing the goal down on paper – in pen – encourages a sense of accountability in us that makes us more likely to achieve the goal. Seeing it every day keeps us on course and thinking about what we need to do to get there. This can be huge when you’re waking up before the sun in the winter months to go to the pool and you’re not entirely sure why. Put the goal in a place you’ll see on those difficult days.
  1. Tell Another Person Your Goal. Inform your coach, a teammate, a friend, or a family member of your positive SMART goal. Let them know how they can support you in your daily efforts towards achieving this goal, and offer to do the same for them in return if they have one. Keep each other accountable.
  1. Evaluate your Goal. At the end of the season or period of time in which your goal took place, make sure you evaluate how you did. Did you achieve your goal? If you did, what did you do to get there? What methods worked for you? How can you now set the bar higher and start the goal process again? If you did not achieve your goal, why do you think that is? Of all of the excuses you listed, what do you have control over? How will you change that in the future? Do you need to adjust your goal or do you need to adjust your behavior? What can you do to make it more likely that you will meet the goal (same or adjusted) next time?

Yes, goals do take time and can be tedious “extras” in the already-busy life of a swimmer. However, the powerful impact a great goal can have is well worth the time. Great goals keep you motivated and knowing why you are doing what you’re doing. They streamline your training and give you something to aim for every day in practice. They help you pay attention to the process and when evaluated, provide valuable information on what is or isn’t working in your training. Try one out this season!


Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer,

Sport Psychology Consultant,