Technique!!!

I spent 15 years playing baseball.  From the daisy picking, glove chewing years, right up through 2 years of college ball.  It was only when a pro scout told me that, even though I had one of the best swings he had ever seen, I was 5’7″ and he could never “teach” me how to be 6’2″, I was pretty much done.  I hung up my cleats at the end of that season.

Now, this is not a sad tale of a dashed dream.  I knew that part was coming.  It was that little compliment before the body slam that I will always remember.  I had a pro scout (Cincinnati) tell me I had one of the best swings he had ever seen.  That’s pretty cool.

See, on one of my several recent, long (time… not distance), slow (sundial… not stopwatch) runs, I chanced upon that memory again.  And I got to thinking about why he said that.  Back during that time (mid to late 80’s) the technology wasn’t there to aid athletes like it is today.  Camcorders still came in two flavors (Beta and VHS) and were huge, clunky and cumbersome.  Battery life SUCKED and not many people knew how to run them or edit the tape.  However, my high school assistant coach was a technophile.  He loved his hifi (no, not wifi… hifi) home stereo and he dabbled in video.  So he borrowed me and my friend Mickey for an experiment.  He took us to the batting cages, set up the camera and lights, and he filmed us.  And then he brought in a TV cart from his classroom and we watched ourselves.  He made corrections to our technique and then we recorded again.  We did this for MONTHS the winter between my junior and senior year.  I truly believe that this was the reason I got a scholarship in the first place.  My batting average shot up over 100 points my senior year and I had 4 strike outs in over 100 at bats.  It was ALL technique.  Granted, there had to be some eye hand coordination and a bit of skill there, but the technique improvements got me to the point to where I was able to not only hit a 95 mph fastball, but I could pull it, with power.  In laymans terms, that means I got pretty good.

Baseball, like every other sport really, is very much technique.  From head placement and movement during the swing, all the way down to the angle of the foot.  Tiny improvements make a HUGE difference.

That got me thinking about triathlon.  What seems on the surface to be pretty simple.  Swim/bike/run…  Is actually FULL of technique.  Swimming is the worst.  Tiny changes in head position, reach, pull or kick make all the difference between a great time… and a controlled drowning.  However, the other sports are very much about technique as well.  In bicycling, it is the aero position, knees and ankles (are you spinning or stomping?).  In running it is body position, stride, landing, drive, etc.

And the point of all of this is that if you have never done video critiques, you may not even know you are doing things wrong.  But who wouldn’t want to improve by seconds or minutes per race, just simply by improving technique.  Free speed increases without working harder?  Sound too good to be true?  In this case, it’s not.

And today we have the technology to help right in our pockets.  Smart phones can do 10 times more than that old camcorder ever could.  A simple, five dollar app like Coach’s Eye (iOS or Android) can record video at 30 frames per second, play it back frame by frame, allow you to mark it up so you can see the technique to focus on, and then take a second video after you have corrected your technique and play them side by side.  I got my family started using it for Karate.  I know it sounds crazy but Kata is a LOT about technique.  They love it and say it really helps.

No, this isn’t an ad for Coach’s Eye.  It’s an idea.  What if we triathletes in CoMo, either this winter or spring, got together and did some recorded workouts?  Record ourselves in the swim (poolside), bike (coming/going and paced), and running.  I know Joe Co. does this as do other coaches, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least look… right?  I KNOW my swim technique sucks.  I know I could improve my positioning on the bike.  I have NO idea how I run.  I would be willing to film it if anyone is interested…?  The ARC has a lazy river that I sometimes swim against.  It is perfect for stationary swims and I know if I talked to them they would give me some times I could use it.

I’m not talking about tomorrow.  I’m thinking February.  Right about the time we start ramping up the training again for spring.  I am definitely going to do this.  As painful and ugly as I know it will be.  I can’t get better if I don’t know what I am doing wrong.  Anybody interested?  Is this something that would be cool to take forward to the club?

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