Freestyle/Backstroke Clinic the Tom Reudy Way

I returned back to San Francisco this past weekend to attend Tom’s freestyle & backstroke clinic. I’ve been looking forward to this clinic ever since I saw it on the PacMasters schedule this past summer! Yipee! Even cooler was that I asked the Aquatics department if I was to pay the member ($20) or non-member ($40) price since I’m an unusual case (SMM member and not a member of that athletic club anymore). The Aquatics Director said that I could just pay the member price!

Tom told me that another coach Cokie Lepinski was going to be doing the freestyle portion of the clinic which left me a little bummed as I love working with Tom. Tom assured me that Cokie was an excellent coach so I trusted him on this one.

I got a complimentary pass so I could attend Masters practice before the clinic. My plan was to swim Masters up to the last possible minute before having to run off to the clinic since there was a slight overlap. I was surprised to find out that Cindy had asked them to leave it longcourse for Masters practice since the pool was going to be SCY for the clinic. I settled into my usual lane and wasn’t too surprised that even less people than usual showed up to Sunday practice. Tom came by during practice so I got to say hi to him and catch up a little bit. I went back into my set since I came in early to swim, not talk to Tom. πŸ˜‰

Clinic started with Cokie giving a presentation about proper freestyle technique and drills that we were going to do and then it was Tom’s turn to do the same for backstroke with Katie, the Aquatics Director doing some dryland demos. Tom also covered dryland exercises to help swimmers which they were a lot of planks. Tom also shared some heinous pool exercises that he makes us do (vertical flutter kicks while treading water for 10 minutes and we’re not allowed to grab onto any lane lines, walls, people, etc. the entire time). Here’s a tip to my teammates, he doesn’t make us do this when we look tired when we show up to practice! Tom was extremely sore after having done a bootcamp class the day before. Tom is in ridiculously great shape (no fat, lots of lean muscle, and the dude has a six pack..did I mention he just turned 59??) so it was kind of funny to see him wimpering here and there about his sore muscles from endless squats the day before. After 2 hours of this, I found out that we were actually going to be in 2 groups and switch halfway through so we’d spend half the time doing backstroke with Tom and half the time doing freestyle with Cokie. Awesome! Two clinics for the price of one!

In the locker room I ran into my teammate Sarah who was like “What the hell are you doing here??” In my wildest dreams I swim as fast as she does. We used to always talk in the locker room at 5:30 AM 5 times a week and I hadn’t seen her since right before I moved so it was good to see her for a few minutes.

Back on the pool deck I was in the group that was working with Tom first. I haven’t swum backstroke in a year, which coincides with me joining Masters and starting to train for open water swimming. I had been thinking about starting to swim backstroke again for awhile and if any time was the right time to start again, right under Tom’s nose was a good place to start. We did numerous drills of breaking down the stroke to its bare basics and building from there, which is his style. Off the bat I had good hip rotation (of course) and needed to work on relaxing my upper body and neck. I took to doing backstroke again very easily and was surprised at how comfortable it felt again.

After almost an hour, we switched so now it was time to work on my freestyle. I was in the lane right where Cokie was so I got great feedback from her. Turns out that my left side totally collapses during the recovery part of my stroke on the right side. This makes sense since my left hip muscles are weaker than the right hip muscles as my left side had its surgery more recently than the right side. Unfortunately I see a lot of left side planks in my future to build up those muscles again. BTW, not a single exercise involved sculling. Tom doesn’t teach it either. I’ve seen a lot of people at RBAC doing it while completely totally plowing. I just shake my head when I see that. I don’t think any of my teammates swim while sculling either.

My legs were totally exhausted by the end of the clinic. When you break down a stroke, you’re breaking down the upper body / arm portion of it which means that to stay afloat you have to kick more and proper kicking is with your entire leg from the hip and keeping the knee straight.

This was a really great clinic though and I’m glad that I attended it. I emailed Tom today to let him know that my legs were still sore and thanked him for always making me feel at home and welcomed at SMAC. He responded saying that if I ever want to drop in that I should just let him know and he’ll leave a pass for me to get in. πŸ™‚ I really have the best coach!

I’ve changed my daily workout now. It’s still the 6100 M inverted pyramid but every other interval is backstroke and then the freestyle intervals are “50 M drill, 50 M swim”. Today’s drill was the finger dribble drill. I’m going to pick one drill to do each day during my workout. My backstroke is already faster than my freestyle. I can get a lot of power out of my backstroke naturally which I need to figure out how to translate that to my freestyle (they’re totally different arm movements). I told Tom too that this means that I have more events to sign up for at the next PacMasters Longcourse Championships. πŸ˜‰

So now I’m working on getting my backstroke back up to speed (no pun intended) and refining my freestyle based on what I learned during the clinic.

My arms and legs are sore right now as I feel like I’m using muscles that I haven’t used in a very long time. I’m still plugging away though and expecting that once the muscles catch up with my spirit that I won’t be so sore afterwards..until I start doing speed intervals again that is. πŸ™‚

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2 Responses to Freestyle/Backstroke Clinic the Tom Reudy Way

  1. I was at that clinic as well – Tom was a fantastic coach! Backstroke was the one stroke that I could never find a way into, and it’s been great being able to at least muddle through the IM sets now. You’re lucky to have trained with him.
    (Great blog, btw – I came across it looking for articles by both Tom and Cokie)

    • kprebil says:

      Thanks Jeff! Tom is the best! He is always more than happy to work with anyone on their stroke, even during Masters practice. He is extremely passionate about swimming and helping others. He competes with us also and has said that he’s not just our head coach but he’s our teammate too. He really is as enthusiastic during 5:30 AM practice!

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