Lionel Sanders: Back to Basics during Covid-19

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Lionel Sanders: Back to Basics during Covid-19

Never one to just sit on the sidelines, Lionel Sanders is using his time away from the pool to reboot his swim. We checked in with professional triathlete, Lionel Sanders to see what he is doing to maintain swim fitness, and keep training going while pools are closed. 

Lionel responded that he's not overly concerned right now about his fitness level for the swim, as that is easily rebuilt. 

"Right now I am not too concerned with maintaining swim fitness. From experience, I know how quickly you can get back to peak swim form, at least as a weaker swimmer. I would say starting from zero, I can get back to my best swimming in three months."

He is focusing this time where he can find the long term gain, with flexibility improvements and a focus on technique. 

"My best swimming is still not very good, and that's where I see the opportunity. This experience can actually provide a chance to truly improve in the departments that are holding my swim stroke back. One big area for improvement is flexibility and range of motion. I would be willing to bet that I have some of the worst range of motion of anyone in triathlon. Because of this, executing proper technique is extremely difficult, and the result is that I am usually at the limits of my range of motion throughout much of the swim stroke, and there is very little recovery happening in the recovery phase. So, I am spending a lot of time doing stretches and mobility exercises for my shoulders, chest and back."

What is an easy way to start working on mobility and flexibility yourself? Follow these tips from Lionel. 

"One simple one is to take a broom handle with both hands and then lift it up over your head and then behind your back. If this is really easy then you can narrow your group. Another useful stretch is to stand in a corner and place your hands on the wall up over head where you would enter the water, with the spine straight and elongated. Take 30 breaths, slowly easing into the stretch feeling the shoulders, chest and even muscles of the forearms start to lengthen and relax."

Improving flexibility and mobility are not the only goals for Lionel during the Coronavirus shut down. He is taking that improvement in flexibility to rebuild his stroke technique with very focused workouts on a VASA trainer.

"I am coupling this mobility and range of motion work with moderate intensity and volume on the VASA trainer. The increased mobility should allow for better technique i.e. pushing the water straight back as opposed to down or out to the side, and so I am using the VASA under light load to ingrain this neural firing pattern. Once I feel this pattern is starting to stick (approximately 8 weeks), and I will then start to get into the Endless Pool, and begin ingraining these patterns in the water. My hope and goal is that through this time away from the water I can forget the old stroke, and create and ingrain a new and improved stroke."

While we all don't have access to a VASA or endless pool, flexibility is always beneficial to work on for finding improvements in your swim. Taking that further through the use of swim bands and other strength work will be beneficial for when it's time to jump back in the water.