Friday, August 14, 2009

Feeding Fast

After today's two very fast times across the English Channel by Rostislav Vitek and Tomi Stefanovski, we thought we'd reprint one of our old feeding lessons:

When swimmers feed quickly, they use a four-step process: 1. Seek and Spot, 2. Reach and Roll, 3. Gulp and Go, 4. Toss and Turn.

Photos below are of the female swimmers during the 25K race at the 2007 World Swimming Championships (photos by Dr. Jim Miller).

1. Seek and Spot - as the swimmer approaches the feeding pontoon or escort boat, they lift their head to spot their coach and seek out exactly where they must go, taking into account surface chop, swells and their relative position in the water vs. the escort boat or feeding station.

2. Reach and Roll - as the swimmer approaches the coach, he/she reaches up to grab their cup or bottle, from a feeding stick or other means, as they roll over on their back or side. They resist the temptation to go vertical, to tread water, to eggbeater, to relax or to look forward towards the horizon. Instead as they roll over on their back, they continue their kick.

3. Gulp and Go - they firmly grab the cup, tilting the lip of the cup or bottle within their open mouth, and then gulp.

As long as a majority of the contents of the cup are consumed, the feeding is deemed successful.

4. Toss and Turn - after the contents of the cup or bottle are consumed, the swimmer immediately tosses the cup and turns to go.

The swimmer assumes that the cup will be picked up by his/her coach or volunteers at the race or on the escort boat.

Once this skill is practiced and the timing with the swimmer's coach is perfected, the process often takes no more than 2-3 seconds from the time the athlete reaches for the cup and he/she is back on their way.

In the Reach and Roll phase, it is important to grab the cup so the swimmer's palm of their hand covers the top of the cup, especially when there is surface chop or ocean swells.

The hand on top often prevents the contents of the cup from spilling (too much).

In the Gulp and Go phase, the swimmer can also consume an aspirin, piece of chocolate, banana or gel that is pre-mixed inside their drink, so they are simultaneously consuming both solids and liquids - thereby, saving time and eliminating the need to use two hands and going vertical (see top photo above).

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