Sunday 27 May 2018


This week's swimming has caught up with me today. My left shoulder feels stiff and almost that I don't want to move it in case it hurts. My left forearm rotator muscles and the tendon insert are sore and even pain extending into my biceps. My right arm is OK, although it does feel 'worked'. I'm not sure if this problem is due to the set of swims this week or more specifically due to Saturday's swim when I was trying to do some shoulder extension - that will have worked deltoid muscles and pulled the joint to its limit of movement. I'm disappointed that the elbow pain reappeared strongly as I thought I was avoiding that load.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Hard work #2

So, it's well accepted that it's good practice to keep a training diary to reveal trends.

The last few weeks have shown me that doing 4 or 5, even short, swims during the week leaves me tired for Saturday morning. The effect is especially clear if I made an effort during my Friday afterwork swim. Today's session felt like hard work aerobically and my left elbow ached and my shoulder felt stiff.

This week I've ben focussing on high elbow and vertical forearm whilst trying to limit forearm movement likely to aggravate my mild tennis elbow discomfort. The style is feeling a bit more establish and less awkward although I think my left arm is not as tidy as my right. Part of this will be the unilateral breathing and partly due to my right-handedness (not that I'm useless with my left hand in general).

Despite the tiredness I managed the 200m warm-up at my supposed CSS pace of 2:23min/100m and 100m sets a little faster. The contrast is with Thursday when I did 800m at 2:21min/100m - so really my CSS pace must be better than 2:23min/100m!

The message is clear though; no swimming tomorrow!

Monday 21 May 2018

Lift those elbows

On Sunday and today I've been really trying to move my arms in the way that I thought through on Saturday. I'm getting tired deltoid muscles so that might be a good sign. This morning my elbow felt reasonable too, if it is OK tomorrow that may well show that I'm taking the load off it. Read this to see what it's all about.

Today I thought quite hard about keeping my elbows high. I fear that its giving me a rather boxer-like stroke with short choppy strokes. Currently it feels slightly harder work than my lower elbow style but if it is less irritating to my joints it is wroth a lot. Doing short sets I'm attaining a fair pace and even some rapid lengths (2:03min/100m is great!) but I'm finding longer sets harder to maintain at what is basically a higher strike rate.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Hard work

This morning somehow I knew I was too weak to do well at Hatfield so went to Goodwin for a 'technique' session. I felt tired throughout and struggled to keep either pace or form. Such is back-to-back exercise. I kept thinking about a high elbow but whenever I took a sneeky look I wasn't convinced that it looked 'high'. My forearm certainly didn't seem to be vertical!

On the walk home it started to dawn on me what all the business I'd heard about 'reaching over a barrel' meant. It's all about the hard-to-achieve action of shoulder and upper arm up and forwards. Just keeping the elbow high still allows the forearm to trail when looking from the side. What's needed isn't so much a high elbow as a forwards elbow. This involves some abduction of the shoulder which can be reversed to adduction to help drive the body over the arm and thus forwards.

Thinking about this, trying to achieve a force-generating vertical forearm with a non-abducted shoulder requires substantial input from muscles crossing the elbow to generate tension. If the shoulder is abducted the forearm is largely pushed backwards which may well be more resilient.

Friday 18 May 2018

Short and 'fast'

I had under 20 minutes for today's afterwork swim. So I started off sensibly on a 400m set and finished with a bit of a push. I was very satisfied to record 9:04 minutes with a negative split for the final 100m.

After that I finished off with 200m and 67m sets. I'm very pleased that 'sensible pace' is now well below 2:30min/100m.

Importantly I tried to focus on a good vertical forearm and pressing through my upper arm so as not to load around my elbows.

Monday 14 May 2018

Focus on arm technique

Since Easter I've really cut back on swim training volume as I was starting to feel shoulder problems. Soon after that I started to get pain around my elbow. I would link the onset of the elbow pain with an attempt to bend my arms to bring my hand below shoulder.

Whilst this may be great technique I've struggled to achieve it and now it seems that I've been trying to mimic it by using my forearm as the driving lever. This has caused some localised pain in my left elbow which is the onset of 'tennis elbow'. The physio believes it's quite mild currently especially since it doesn't hurt during the swim itself. All my swims are quite short currently as I'd backed off because of the potential shoulder problem!

Today I focussed on high elbow and use of the upper arm as the driving lever. The pace achieved was around my current norms so no great impact there. The interesting thing will be how it feels tomorrow.

Assuming I have found a way of not aggravating it I've now got an exercise to do to try to stimulate repair through very mild loading.

It was suggested that I use a hammer - progress nearer to the end of the shaft as strength increases.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Gradual improvement in pace

This lunchtime I sent the 935 back to Garmin for replacement or repair. The barometer module is clearly defective resulting in fixed altitude and temperature readings which are off the (sensible) scale. Before packing the watch I went for a swim at Hatfield but only managed 1.4km before I was getting cold and aware of the troublesome left shoulder.

I've collated the swims recorded over the early one year I've had the watch. The data has been cleaned a little in that I've chosen laps where the GPS data looks valid and without long pauses.

I really am getting a little faster
The data shows a distinct trend for  faster pace. I know that in the pool I've made gains and some of this is translating to the open water but I think that I'm tending to sight better and swim in a more direct line. The GPS track lacks detail in water so small zig-zags aren't recorded as additional swimming distance.

The cluster of faster swims in October 2017 are from Costa Brava where the saltwater gave buoyancy, a HUUB wetsuit was probably faster than my warm and stiff Alpkit wetsuit and finally the guide kayak helped with sighting.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Don't swim with an altimeter

Yesterday I went to check the temperature of the lake at Hatfield (bearing in mind usual limitations of wrist-based thermometers etc) and found that the temperature was a constant 39°C. Now it was a lovely sunny morning but the reported temperature was a more reasonable 13°C!

What I usually see is a drop to a temperature a few degrees above that officially posted.

So I downloaded an app to show the instantaneous temperature from the watch and that showed a fiery 295°C.

Looking back through my data, including runs it then become obvious that the altitude readings had become grossly out of range too, and showing no change on a known hilly route. 

So, a bit of Googling revealed how to get into the service menu and a glance at the barometer check screen confirmed that internal data of the watch was wrong, rather than it being anything to do the Garmin Connect or IQ apps. The temperature and barometer module are linked as ambient temperature is required to adjust the absolute pressure into local altitude. It's worth noting that the watch has another temperature sensor, perhaps on CPU or GPS, which is working fine; but this isn't the one used for user data.

More online searching, ending up on the Garmin Forum, showed that this isn't my unique problem and actually affects other models, including the Fenix. This suggests to me that Garmin use a common subsystem for temperature/altimeter function which is prone to failure. There are at least two devices available including NXP's MPL3115A2 or Servoflo's MS5540 for this subsystem, the MS5540 being waterproof. In this strip-down feature the Fenix's barometer looks rather similar to a MS5540.

Thinking it through, although a barometer device may be rated for 100m salt water use, repeated immersion in chlorinated pool water, occasional salt water and then periods of drying out and perhaps the occasional drop is a very tough environment for a precision micro-mechanical component. Perhaps the whole concept of a multi-sport daily-wear watch is flawed?

Friday 4 May 2018

CSS test with TempoTrainer

I had under 20 minutes for today's post-work swim so thought that doing 400m and 200m at a set 62spm would be a useful trial. Both times were a couple of seconds faster than in February (and I didn't try all that hard) but strangely the CSS training pace is slower.