Recently, one of my new workshop students (an aspiring triathlete) brought up a common question I hear (or sometimes just sense lingering unspoken) about how to respond to this new technique and training pathway that TI has opened up – in the middle of their racing season.

Do I take this new path and potentially lose the speed I’ve got for a while, or stick with the old one, though now I don’t believe it will get me very far?

1309 two paths

Basically, some people ask for my advice on what to do after our workshop has sown the seeds of discontent with their current technique right smack in the middle of this season’s preset expectations and (self-inflicted?) pressure to ‘get faster’ at each consecutive race this year. They anticipate the need to slow down for a while before they can speed back up.

That may be the case, but it may not. It depends on a lot of factors. But generally, yes, he is anticipating the fact that a learning curve is required. However,  that doesn’t necessarily have to take long with a guided training plan.  That’s what private coaching is for, after all. [And he did make a request for private coaching to help him with exactly this.] Workshops introduce novices to the tool box and some basic steps. But you should expect a TI Coach to be quite adept at wielding those tools in a private coaching context to craft an excellent swimmer in a reasonable short amount of time.

In an email to this triathlete I first pointed out the TI technique features I felt he could integrate into his current technique right now without slowing him down while certainly reducing his energy demands – namely: balance skills.

But then I acknowledged that streamline skills (both passive and active) that will make him faster without increase in energy demand will be extremely difficult to improve without a move to the new technique to get those advantages. Streamlining can be very hard to work on without an overhaul in a swimmer’s shape and timing (but not impossible in some cases). And shape and timing are the two major details that differentiates TI from traditional stroke style, and the terrestrial mammal swimming instinct. You can get more speed through a variety of methods out there, no doubt about it – but if you want easy speed that the TI method claims to produce, then you really need to follow TI’s path to get there.

I linked him to some thoughts on this topic I wrote in a previous post Opportunity Cost.

Then I wanted to provoke a little meta-cognition and address what I saw as the philosophical side of the dilemma.

Here is my response…

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On a more philosophical note I would bring up some questions about your objectives for the final races of this season:

What are you trying to prove to yourself or others with going ‘faster’ in the next few races – if you do it with a stroke that you now believe will not take you to your highest potential?

Are you required to view your training in terms of 12 month seasons? Why is your evaluation of performance tied to a 12 month cycle that ends in September?

Why not start a new season today? Why not make it a 2 year season? Or 5 year season? What would you like to be capable of in 2 years? In 5 years?

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Let’s imagine this scenario: If you have 4 races ahead of you in the next 4 months and you were faced with this decision…

Choice #1 – you could keep your current technique and expect to improve 1% on each of the four races from your current performance for a total of 4% performance improvement by the fourth race.

Choice #2 – you could drop the old technique and build a new one over the next four month- you would improve -5% on the first, 0% on the second, 5% on the third and 10% by the fourth one.

Which route would you choose?

Is your performance in Race #1 so important that you would lose or postpone the potential of 10% improvement if you took a more patience and delayed your reward?

If you chose route #2 and you knew you would slow down for some time before you would get faster, how could you shape your expectations for race #1 and #2 so that you felt good about what you are doing rather than feel like you were losing something?

Do you find any pleasure and satisfaction in the process you follow for improvement? Or do your results in the race provide the only reward for your hard work?

I think it is reasonable that you should be capable of swimming 100 seconds for 100m pace for 1500m with a TI stroke and training plan within a year [from a current 120 seconds for 100m pace]. You want to go fast now, but you are not going to go much faster with the technique you have. You have suddenly discovered some information that should cause you to seriously question the potential of the old technique you have relied on. But it is going to take a serious time investment for you to make the transition to a new technique and deeply imprint it into your neuro-muscular system before you get to see the benefits of it under the stress of race conditions.

To use an analogy – you can start putting money in a new bank account investment now that will start paying off next year. You can delay putting money in that account until it feels more convenient to make the sacrifice. Or you can start putting money in that account today. You can put a lot of money in that account each day, or just a little. It is all up to you and when you would like that investment to be big enough to start paying you off really well.

If your current stroke technique will leave you satisfied with your results in the next few races, then that is a good reason to stick with it for now. Ultimately, you want to feel good in each race, and feel good about your performance – that you have trained as well as you knew how and you raced to your current best potential.

What path will take you toward those results?

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