Proprioception and Multisport Training by Mark Kotarski
The off-season is the perfect time for endurance athletes to work on skill weaknesses. One skill that may be overlooked is improving proprioception. Proprioception is our ability to sense the position of our bodies or parts of our bodies in space. The classic example of proprioceptive skill is touching your nose with your eyes closed.
Swimming is perhaps the most challenging of proprioceptive skills. While prone (face down), in the water and with swim goggles on, it is difficult to sense where ones arms and legs are moving. Using the off-season to improve our swimming proprioceptive skills in the gym, also known as “Land Based Swim Training”, can improve overall performance in the water.
There are a few simple yet effective ways in which athletes can enhance proprioceptive awareness and therefore improve performance. For swimming, have a coach video tape your swim technique in a pool from the front, back, and side, both under water and above water. After viewing the video in normal speed and again in slow motion, it is possible to detect a lack of bent elbow during the catch and pull phases and a scissor kick while rotating for a breath. Being in the water affects the way one perceives these actions. Practicing land-based exercises and movements to improve flexibility, strength, and technique will help correct problems related to loss of proprioception in the water. Simulating the high elbow catch and pull phases can be practiced using resistance tubing while on a bench, for instance. The kicking motion can be improved by using a stability ball to mimic the kicking motion. Both should be done in front of a mirror for feedback purposes.
Similar observations and corrections can be made for running and cycling. A good drill that allows a runner to get a sense of the angle of the elbow is to touch the thumb against the waist during each arm swing. This confirms that the elbow is in a 90-degree angle, which helps minimize shoulder strain and increases efficiency. Running through flat, damp sand is another helpful drill. The foot is striking and pushing off in a proper strike if the prints are flat and without a divot. This confirms a low foot-to-ground contact time and proper foot strike.
Finally, while cycling, periodically tap the top tube with your knee to assure proper tracking of the leg through the pedal stroke. The single leg drill is also good for sensing an effective pedal stroke.
Coach Mark Kotarski, MEd, CPT is a Certified level I USA Triathlon Coach, Certified USA Track and Field Coach and holds a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology
Also, a little about him in his own words:
I started my career, in endurance events, during the early years of
triathlon(1983) when you leaned your bike against a fence (there were no
bike racks). At that time, I decided to study exercise physiology and
learn methods to assist patients and the community to use exercise and
nutrition to improve their health. Now, I assist people in completing
their endurance goals. Whether it be a 5k, 10k, half marathon,
marathon, triathlon, ironman or cycling event I can help with weekly and
monthly plans, heart rate levels, perceived exertion, anaerobic
threshold or power meter training, and nutritional advice. I have been
there, and I understand the science behind it.Since 2008 the results
have been the following: 100% Athlete Completion Rate! Completed
Personal Records, Podium Finishes, National Championship Qualifications,
and Boston/London Marathon Qualifiers. In addition, training European
athletes and Tri Camps in Lake Placid, NY and Ocean City, NJ.
You mentioned you started racing triathlons in the 80's, what has been some of the biggest changes you have seen in the sport
How did you make the transition into coaching? Do you still race yourself?
I do race.
Transition? Passion and spending alot of time with my athletes and communicating with them
The Challenge Triathlon Series is bringing their first US race to AC, NJ (a familiar territory for you). What do you think of the race site? Any recommendations for people training across the country to prep for that race?
Train for a flat bike course. The weather could be hot AND humid. Spend some time in ocean swim training.
You can contact Mark at: