Stretching My Way to a National Championship
With the aid of a ROM strap
Several years ago a picture was published which changed my swimming life. In it was world record holder Jeff Rouse standing in the newest streamlined position. Here was a broad shouldered swimmer in a streamline different than what we were taught over the last 30 years. With his arms behind his head, instead of next to his ears, his widest body part of the shoulders were barely wider than his waist. Look carefully at this photograph, memorize it in your mind.
The first time I practiced this streamline, I went 12 yards under water in my breaststroke pullout. I normally went 10-11 yards, this was one additional yard due to the new streamline! But it was very hard to maintain this form. I am very broad shouldered, with a 17.5 inch neck and a 46 inch chest. Unlike other swimmers, I cannot touch my hands behind my back, or ever get them close. My deltoid muscles are too thick, it hurt to even try this new streamline.
How was I to use this new streamline? I always stretched before EVERY workout, but conventional stretches couldn't begin to stretch my thick back muscles. Fortunately another breaststroker had already studied this problem and had come up with a unique solution. Dr. Marty Hull had invented the ROM, range of motion stretching strap. Dr. Hull is an accomplished swimmer who had previously invented the Zoomers swim fins, and the Rack. Along with the ROM strap, he has designed a series of stretches that when used with the ROM strap, will stretch every swimmer better than they ever imagine. See the ROM STRAP in the photo below:
I bought the ROM strap, and began to use it before every workout. I primarily used the following stretch, as it allowed my shoulders to reach the new streamline position, without extreme effort and without pain. See this important ROM stretch position below:
Within days of using the ROM strap, my underwater breaststroke pullouts had increased to 12 to 13 yards, with a occasional 14 yards in there! I was now traveling 13 yards in the same time and same effort that I had previously gone 10 yards! In my speciality of the 200 yard Breaststroke, this was about 30-35 yards for FREE. In my last 200 yard race at Nationals May 1997 I swam about 90 yards breaststroke, and went about 110 yards on the start and seven turns.This new stretch helps EVERY swimmer get more distance off the start and each turn, as well as making all the strokes easier because the body has more flexibility.
At Nationals this year, I had only trained for just over one month, was overweight and I now had bad asthma. But I had confidence and I had the only ROM strap at the meet. I recieved a wonderful massage two hours before the start of the 50 Breaststroke. I warmed up properly, and did 4 seperate lengths underwater to expand my lungs. I then spent 20 minutes using the ROM strap, getting my shoulders ready for my race. Before the ROM strap, I was lucky to place 7th or 8th in the 50, being a 200 yard specialist. The previous two years I used the ROM strap to place 3rd in the 50.This year every 50 finalist was a 200 breaststroker. This gave me some confidence that if I just broke 29.5 seconds, I might have a chance to win, after 15 Nationals! I won the start and came up half a body length ahead, inreased that on the next turn and under water stroke, and finally won my first national championship, in 29.36 seconds. Second was 29.62, and for the first time 4 swimmers broke 30 seconds in the 45-49 age group. This also won a spot on the El Segundo medley relay, beating out a younger and usually faster Marc Kelly. My team-mate Robert Whitley also placed 3rd in the 50 breast. But he was dissapointed, because in 1996 he won the 200 breast in my age group. You could see it in his eyes, he used my ROM strap that day, even taking it back to his hotel room to use. The next day he again borrowed the ROM strap, and went out and won the 50 freestyle. He gives much of the credit to the ROM strap.
There are additional stretches for the ROM strap, published in the Nov 1994 SWIM magazine. The ROM strap comes with stretching instructions, and at under $15 is a bargin, considering it should last a lifetime, or until you lose it, as I have. I was desperate for another one, calling Marty immediately on a toll free number. I may sound like I am on his payroll, but believe me I am not. I work full time at a power plant in LA, swim as much as my health will let me, and volunteer for Southern Pacific Masters Association as the Librarian, Meet Operations Chairman, and now the webmaster for our association Web Site. I also give free clinics around the world on what I know best, the start, turn and underwater stroke and Breaststroke. I try out every new swim invention, look at every new swim video, looking at ways to improve. I know there are faster times in me, even as I get older. I believe all masters swimmers can improve, and stretching properly can be just the ticket for all of you too.
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