Train Like an Olympic Synchro Swimmer
We had the opportunity to talk with Karine Thomas, 2x Olympian in women's synchro swimming. Here's what training and competing at the top level looks like through Karine's eyes:
I remember a time when we attempted synchronized swimming (synchro). It was at the lake not far from my house, and along with my “dedicated teammates” we proved truly horrible, but at least we earned a few laughs... I understand that for a rare few, the dazzling routines synonymous with synchro are actually a real life thing and possible. I also get that this feat is thanks to hours and hours of in pool training and dryland training. It is a pretty wild gap between a fun attempt and actually doing it “for real”. Karine Thomas is one of the few people that actually pulls it off, and has done so at 2 Olympics in a row.
“How did you get into synchro (the common terminology I learn),” I ask Karine during a phone call. She told me that she was watching synchro on tv and instantly thought, “this is the coolest thing ever”. The coles note on that story is that she casually got into the sport, and her “just fun to try it” gradually shifted to a realization she had both a real love and talent for the sport. Karine is coming off a recent appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
So, here comes the million dollar question... “...if one wanted to emulate Karine Thomas, out of the pool, what type of workouts would you recommend?” We assumed best leave the in pool routines to the experts. The Hull, Quebec native gave us the goods on three pretty cool angles.
Flexibility is Key
Flexibility is tremendously important to excel at synchro.
In order to develop this important element of the sport, ballet or dance classes are both excellent cross-training opportunities to train for the rhythm and flexibility demands. Ensure that whatever class that is chosen is “stretchy” in nature.
Synchro demands each athlete utilize a combination of dynamic or moving power while holding one’s breath (typically for 30 seconds).
To train acrobatic moves and the dynamic power required to hold certain positions, a variety of exercises work well to make improvements.
Here’s a typical workout Karine leans on during the season:
Warm-up- Take 5 minutes to elevate your heartrate; you can cycle, go for a short jog, or hop on a rowing erg. You get the idea. Most accessible aerobic and aerobic-power based equipment will do the trick.
Exercise 1 | 5ft. Broad jump on mats, 8 total repetitions.
Here you are aiming to coordinate an explosive broad jump. You should be focused on landing firmly bracing both feet as you land with sturdy legs, a strong core, and an attention to keeping your balance even. What do you mean when you say even balance? Land on both feet evenly, try not to lean to either side.
Exercise 2 | Chin-ups, 5 sets of 8 repetitions
Upper body strength is when you’re lifting your body up out of the water and holding an elevated position. If you think it looks hard, just remember it is likely even harder than you think.
Exercise 3 | Push-ups, 5 sets of 8 dynamic push-ups
You know how to do a push-up, roger that. Now take a standard push-up, and the only tweak is to let yourself move slowly on the decline as your chest nears the ground, and then try and push-up quickly back to your starting position, reset, and repeat.
Synchro is pretty demanding, and a lot of the most challenging elements are done while underwater. So there’s that.
Training Exercise (Disclaimer- don’t make an attempt!!! This is not safe or worth doing, this is just shared as an interest piece).
How long can you hold your breath? Curiosity got the better of me, so I had to ask Karine about her personal stats?
“While we seldom statically hold our breath, we did once do it during an altitude camp in Colorado”, obviously I am pumped to hear the result that Karine shares with me… “2:37”.
“Like… 2 minutes and 37 seconds??!!”
“Yep”... and I’m awestruck.
To test your mettle against the likes of Karine, register for the next FANFIT Challenge in your area here: fanfit.ca