What happens when world-renowned swimmer Karlyn Pipes gives a lesson to novice triathlete Monique in the Elite Endless Pool®? "Within minutes, I was swimming 15 seconds faster per 100 yards with minimal increased effort," Monique reports.
Monique is "a former Division 1 college tennis player who still plays national tournaments and started doing triathlon a few years ago for cross-training and as a fun, new challenge." As Karlyn notes, Monique's skill on the court "doesn't really have much carryover" into the water.
In this video, Karlyn gets an up-close look at Monique's freestyle stroke against the Endless Pool's adjustable current. Karlyn says that, as a coach, "You want people to be able to feel differences, and using an Endless Pool is so great for that because they get that feedback – that was harder, that's easier; this is faster, that's slower."
A Master Class Requires Mastery
In her late 30s, Karlyn Pipes became the oldest person to set NCAA record. As a Masters swimmer, she's broken literally hundreds of world and U.S. swimming records covering all four strokes. In 2015, the International Swimming Hall of Fame inducted her – only the 14th Masters swimmer honored in its 50-year history!
Karlyn swims for efficiency and speed. She describes her swimming method as "sloppy" and "ugly," but as her many achievements demonstrate, it works! "I'm trying to convince them that this is a better way to swim, but better than me convincing [them], the Endless Pool convinces them," she finds.
Working with Monique, Karlyn focused on a several aspects of her swim technique; here are just a few.
1. Body Position
"There's a lot of rotation and rolling in the stroke," Karlyn immediately observes when watching Monique's freestyle stroke in the Elite Endless Pool. "That's not energy moving forward, it's energy moving from side to side."
She guides Monique through a few exercises, starting with Monique standing and then floating, to relax the shoulders and widen her reach. "We gotta get a little bit bigger," she urges, to create balance with the chest and arms.
Karlyn noticed Monique lifting her head frequently while floating and instructs Monique to exhale softly when she's face down in the water. "If you can't do that for longer than 5 seconds," Karlyn deducts, "you're probably holding your breath.
"The only time that you're going to really relax is when you're not feeling stressed in the lungs," Karlyn advises. "You gotta talk to the fishes!"
Watching Monique over-rotate when she takes a breath, Karlyn suggests that she not exhale completely. "Leave some in reserve, like on land!" Karlyn details the ripple effect of not needing to inhale as fully: Monique no longer needs to drop her lead shoulder, causing that arm to reach too far, which drops her hips and causes her legs to scissor.
3. Body Tension
Karlyn also spots "tension in her neck and shoulders," and as decades of experience tell her, "Tension demands attention. How do we activate our lats? We've got to deactivate our traps.
"Tension is very difficult to get rid of," the coach notes. "But when you do it, you realize how much effort is going into holding the body tight with no benefit and all the negative things: restricted arm reach, added stress.
"You've got to trust the water, let it float you, and relax. We're looking for effortless effort and that takes relaxing."
The Right Tool for the Job
"The feedback from the Endless Pool, with the mirrors and the current, is amazing," Karlyn has found from her years of coaching in her own Original Endless Pool. "Whether you're elite, whether you're a beginner, everybody gets feedback they can use."
Monique praised Karlyn for her "descriptive imagery"; watch the full video of this swim lesson, and you'll hear Karlyn reference skydiving, Hawaii Five-O, octopus tentacles, and for Monique, tennis.
Her vivid analogies help to reinforce the practical tips for a faster, more efficient freestyle swim stroke. What matters to Karlyn is that she leaves Monique with specific corrections "you can take into your next race."