Author Archives: Paul Zaich

Marathon athlete, Ken Harmon, attempts Double-Crossing of Tahoe, raises over $25,000 for charity

Ken Harmon, a FINIS sponsored athlete, attempted to complete the first double-crossing of Lake Tahoe without a wetsuit on August 22nd. Ken ultimately decided to call off the swim after 10.2 miles and 5 hours of swimming due to weather conditions and water temperature. The double-crossing would have been a total distance of 44 miles. Despite the setback, Ken successfully raised over $25,000 for Best Buddies International, The Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada and the Karen Gaffney Foundation.

The attempt was initially delayed a full-day due to the rough weather conditions that advised small craft to stay off the lake. The rough, choppy conditions caused water temperatures to drop to 59 degrees by sunset. During one of his 90 second feeding breaks, Ken made the decision to stop the attempt.

Ken notes that he had incredible support from fellow swimmers who alternated as pacers. Karen Gaffney, who has down syndrome and has successfully swum the width of Lake Tahoe, helped pace Ken along with Craig Klass, two time Water Polo Olympian (‘88 & ’92). Joe Londeree and Monique Londeree also served as pacers for Ken as they switched each half hour and were critical in providing the supply line from the mother ship to the kayaker.

Ken appreciated the swim caps provided by FINIS, noting that “the swim caps were extremely comfortable and provided excellent warmth. I never needed any adjusting whatsoever during the ten re-fueling breaks. Five years ago when I swam the length of Tahoe with an inferior swim cap, I constantly needed adjustment with each stop.”

Z2 Zoomers, contributed by FINIS, were also an important part of Ken’s training regimen because they helped Ken mimic swimming at higher altitude: “When you swim a set with the Z2 fins, the legs are more involved with the kick than usual, taking more oxygen and providing the feeling that you are swimming at a higher altitude. The increased propulsion with the fins also makes you take a faster breath when turning to breathe, which perfectly simulates breathing at high altitudes.”


Photo Credits: Will Schermerhorn, Blueberry Shoe Productions, LLC


How to use the Tech Toc for Short-Axis Strokes, Breaststroke and Butterfly

As you probably already know, rotation is a key component for long-axis strokes, Freestyle and Backstroke. However, did you know the rolling of the hips is as equally important in Breaststroke and Butterfly?

I have commented on the advantage of maintaining high hips on breaststroke in previous posts. The core is used to drive the body forward, increasing propulsion and reducing the stress put on the arms. As a result, this undulation motion is triggered by some of the strongest muscles the body possesses. The Tech Toc can help teach you this motion. By utilizing a ball bearing inside of a capsule, the Tech Toc provides auditory feedback while you swim, helping you understand how the hips and body are moving in the water.

Thread up your Tech Toc so that the Tech Toc is aligned along your body’s long access (parallel with your spine). Position the belt across your hips with the Tec Toc sitting on your tail bone. In this position the ball bearing inside the Tech Toc will only “click” if you correctly emphasize the undulating of the hips.

Swimming with the Tech Toc in this position often requires emphasizing a concept called “popping the hips” by swim coaches. This concept involves pressing the chest down into the water, causing the hips to rise to the surface during Breaststroke and Butterfly. At this point, you should hear a resounding “click” from the Tec Toc indicating that you have successfully “popped your hips”. You will again hear a click as you move into the next phase of the stroke where the hips are lower again (see diagrams below). Cycle and repeat for great undulation!

Like I said earlier, the Tech Toc tends to force you to exaggerate this undulating motion; use the Tech Toc for a few laps, focusing on the “feel” of this motion. Then try swimming without the Tech Toc while trying to replicate the undulation.

- Paul


Sample Workout – Energy Systems

This is a sample workout that I swam yesterday. It focuses on swimming easy around 65% to 70% effort level which Clive Rushton calls the Aerobic Capacity energy system. Swimming at an easy effort level with a heart rate ranging between 115-130 is tremendously important as you build an aerobic base. The workout also allows for some fast swimming with 8×25′s fast which are broken up by easy 200′s recovery. Each interval on the 25′s should be long enough to give you plenty of time for recovery because each one of the 25′s should be swum at a 100% effort.

    400 warmup 

    8×100 dolphin kick on back with Z2 Zoomers. 70% effort with 10-15 seconds rest per 100.

    200 easy

    4x { 2×25 100% MAX effort with Z2 Zoomers. @1:30  + 200 easy (70% effort) @ 60 sec. rest}

    Total Distance: 2400 yards

- Paul


Friday Float: 9/17

If you haven’t seen it already, check out this video of us hauling a Turnmaster Pro, portable bulkhead, down the escalator at the ASCA World Clinic. It was quite a ride!

National Team Head Coach Mark Schubert has taken a leave of absence from the National Team: Read the article.

In a blow to National Team athletes currently in the Top 15 in the world, the Athlete Partnership Plan to boost athlete stipends has been rejected by the USOC.

Swimming World has a valuable post today about setting goal times for the end of the season and how these times should relate to your times both in practice and throughout the season.


Leverage your Workout with Equipment

Use equipment to customize workouts to your specific needs

One challenge of swimming just a few days a week on a Masters team is that there is often very little continuity and cohesion between each workout. I sometimes find that I haven’t put in enough work to justify the “recovery” practice or that I would be better off doing the sprint training as a kick set instead of as a swimming set. Luckily the coaches are flexible and don’t mind if I adjust the practice to my specific needs on occasion, so long as I don’t get in the way.

In order to maximize my workout experience, I use equipment like paddles and Zoomers. For example, earlier this week I knew that I needed to work on maintaining an aerobic effort during a long freestyle set. As I began to fatigue during the set, I reached into my bag and grabbed a pair of Z2’s. I was able to immediately use the speed boost from the fins to swim at better aerobic effort.

Using the fins during the set allowed me to modify my workout so that I could achieve my goals for that training session. Further, I was able to make the coach happy by swimming within the constraints of the practice and not cause any type of disruption.

- Paul


Friday Float: 9/10

  • Who says swimmers aren’t athletes? Peter Vanderkaay shows off his athletic talents with a flip into the water in this Club Wolverine video.

  • Believe it or not Paul Biedermann, the man who vanquished Ian Thorpe’s incredible 400 m Free record last summer, has his own blog. The most recent post? Paul has just quit World of Warcraft. Warning you will need a translator!

  • Congrats to Gregg Troy, 2010 ASCA coach of the year! Find out who else was honored at the ASCA clinic in Indianapolis last week, and read their reactions on

  • If you missed the announcement, be sure to check out our recent post about the new Swimsense™ performance monitor due out this holiday season. Track your laps swum, total distance, calories burned, lap times, pace, and stroke count for each lap.


Friday Float: Recapping a Week in Swimming 8/27

Each week the FINIS Blog will share a few of the interesting finds we’ve found out on the web. Sit back, enjoy the sun and

  • And the debate about tech suits continues… The Washington Post released this interesting article after US Nationals about the affect that the suits had on the overall times. It seems that the elite athletes (top 3 in the country), benefit less from the suits than the rest of the field.

  • In the mind of an elite athlete: Runners have a similar mental edge to that of swimmers because their goal is essentially the same. The Daily Mail released an article detailing The secrets of my success: Usain Bolt. Like many great athletes he reveals that his biggest motivation behind training is not winning, but the fear of losing.

  • Why is Rebecca Soni So Fast? That is the question Athlete Village tries to answer in their post comparing Soni with other elite breaststrokers, Leisel Jones and Amanda Beard. The answer? Soni has eliminated all major stroke flaws from her breaststroke that causes additional resistance for both Jones and Beard, thereby increasing her efficiency in the water.


3 Tips to Getting up for Morning Workout

It’s that time of year for competitive swimmers. While most people count the “New Year” as January 1, I still like to consider it as September 1. The beginning of the swim season is the time to start fresh with new goals and new training schedules. Come September the slate has been wiped clean!

Are you setting the prodigious goal of attending one or more workout before 6 or 7AM each week? If so, here are some tips to help you get up and going in the morning:

    Breakfast club:
    One of the best parts of swimming in the morning is working up a monster appetite for breakfast after your swim. How much more motivation do you need than a cheesy, delicious omelet?
    Set many, many alarms
    From my experience one alarm clock is never enough. It’s much too easy to roll over and hit the snooze button, or for the alarm to spontaneously fail overnight. No, you need at least two alarms, just to make sure that you don’t upset your coach (see below). Particularly good at ignoring those blaring alarms? You might want to get one of those alarm clocks on wheels.

    A coach or teammate waiting for you (ready to yell at you if you’re not there)
    There is no doubt in my mind that this kind of motivation will get you out of bed 3 times a week at 4:30 AM in the morning. A team environment can be incredibly motivating even if you have no intention of ever competing.

Do you have any tips that motivate you in the morning?

- Paul


5 Techniques to Improve Your Kick

We’ve talked before about how important it is to use your kick to maximize your speed and performance in the water and how ankle flexibility can help. Here are some more techniques for enhancing leg strength and muscle endurance.

1. Cross-train Your Legs

Swimming is not typically a leg-dominated sport simply because the legs do not produce most of the body’s propulsion and are less efficient than the arms. As a result, we often do not emphasize our legs during our swim workout. We can build our strength in this weaker area by focusing on our legs outside the water. Start jumping rope as a warmup before your swim workout or running stadiums twice a week in addition to your normal swim workouts.

2. Work your core outside the pool

People often forget that butterfly kick depends heavily on the strength of the abdominal muscles for propulsion. Challenge yourself with dynamic core exercises like bicycle kicking, row boats and 180 degree lateral holds. Even a few minutes of these exercises before workouts can improve your core strength.

3. Train your weakest kick

It’s often easy to rely on your strongest kick when a challenging kicking set is put up on the board. If you have found that you one type of kicking is a weakness for you, concentrate on your weakest kick during kicking sets for a few weeks instead of relying on your strongest kick to get you through practice.

4. Work your kick rate with the Tempo Trainer

Setting the correct cadence on flutter kick and dolphin kick can be a challenge. The Tempo Trainer can be a great way to set your correct rate. Each push off and streamline is an opportunity to work on a high kick rate. Many swimmers, build their rate in this portion of the race instead of attacking the kick off each wall. The quicker you can reach maximum rate and propulsion, the more effective your underwater kick and breakout into your stroke will be. Check out this video on Go Swim!

5. Vertical Kick

Vertical kick is an effective environment to work on kick rate. Vertical kicking is particularly effective because there is built-in feedback; if you are not giving a good amount of effort and kicking effectively, you will sink and your head will soon be under the water! Start with you arms at your side and bring them up crossing them across the chest so that you cannot use your hands for floatation as you build your leg strength. Kick in bursts of 15, 30 or 60 seconds with 30 seconds of rest to work on sprint and endurance training for your legs.


3 Ways to Make Your Swim Workout More Interesting

Swimming by yourself can be a challenging activity. Swimming laps can quickly become monotonous. On top of that, it can be difficult to gauge your improvement and keep motivated throughout the year. With these challenges in mind, I hope I can provide a few simple ways to stimulate your daily workouts so that you are doing more than just “swimming laps”.

  1. Set goals for your swimming
    It doesn’t matter how serious you are about your swimming! Whether you are trying to swim 30 laps tomorrow or break the World Record next summer, goals can be set at all levels of swimming. Instead of setting distance goals, try setting time goals. Time goals are very beneficial because they give you a better gauge on improvements.

    To start, try swimming a 50 or 100 (2 or 4 lengths in a 25 yard pool) of your favorite stroke at full speed. Get your time using a pace clock, wristwatch or stopwatch. Then set a time goal for your 50 or 100. How fast do you think you will be 3 months from now? 

    Test yourself by swimming the full speed 50 or 100 twice a month. Gauge yourself on your previous swims, keeping in mind the goal you have set for the future. Track each test time in a log or spreadsheet so you can compare all your swims and monitor improvements.

  2. Use Intervals
    Instead of swimming 20 or 50 laps straight through, try swimming set distances on specific time intervals. Intervals help you get some rest during your workout so that you can continue to push your body harder while you swim. Intervals also give you some variation throughout your workout so your mind is constantly engaged. Don’t know where to start? Try this online resource of 50 workouts for some ideas.
  3. Use Equipment during your Workout
    Equipment is a great way to provide some variety during your swim workouts. Try something simple like using a kickboard during part of your workout to focus on kicking. It gives your arms a rest and lets you work the legs. 

    Or try putting on fins or Zoomers for part of your workout. Fins will allow you to swim faster and cover more distance more quickly.

    When I’m swimming by myself, by far my most valuable piece of equipment is my SwiMP3. Listening to music keeps me interested and motivated during my swim and makes the laps go by a lot more quickly.

What helps keep your swim workouts more interesting?

- Paul