Here’s an exerpt from an email I received from a recent workshop student. I felt his question and my response may be helpful to those who feel overwhelmed or confused by what to do with TI in your practice times…

I`m a little bit unstructured in my swim training so I need some advice.

I`m thinking of having  a checklist to follow… it should help me to stay focused and not forget important things.

My response:

There is a lot to improve, a lot to focus on. Part of the TI Training is learning how to sort through all the complicated pieces to work on the foundation pieces first, the big parts, and then progressively work toward finer or more complex skills.

So we can divide our swimming skills into three categories: Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion (B-S-P). If we correct Balance problems, it will be much easier to work on Streamline. If we correct Streamline problems, it will be much easier to work on Propulsion. So this sets the order of skill development and the priorities in your practice time. You can never ‘over-train’ for Balance or Streamline, but there is a time when you may get bored and you just need to go test out your new level of skill.

You also want to work with what your body and mind desire to work on- your internal motivations will help you produce better results. If you have a list of 5, or 10, or even 20 things you want to work on, in a practice time you may only want to focus on 3 of them. Pick those that seem most important, but also pick some that you feel more enjoyment or confidence about working on.

I highly recommend using the warm-up time to swim gently and enjoyably- just move through the water and feel it, try different strokes, different speeds. Spend this 5 or 10 minutes scanning your whole body, your B-S-P, your mind and your motivation for the day. During this warm-up time you can see what your body and your mind want you to work on this day. Go with it.

Then you can divide up the rest of the time according to focus, or according to challenges.

Here is a suggestion:

  1. 10 minutes warm up, loosen the body up, scan for today’s projects (do Superman, some whole strokes, Skate Position gliding- whatever feels good and relaxed, and keep moving). Pick 3 projects for the day.
  2. 10 minutes do 3x (6x 25m), each 6x 25m set is focused on one of the projects you’ve chosen for the day. Use different focus points that you learned to develop that skill you want to improve.
  3. 3x (25, 50, 75m) set. Each (25,50,75) set will focus on one skill. You’re objective is to hold the focus point and stroke quality for a longer distance. Start with 25 and hold focus. Then see if you can do it for 50. Then 75. If you lose focus or become exhausted. Don’t swim further, just swim the distance you can hold- just 25, or just 50.
  4. Pick a distance, like 100m, or 200m, and you’re whole focus on this swim is to make your whole stroke as relaxed and rhythmic as possible. Use focus points that will help you make the rhythm smoother, easier, more enjoyable. Go easier or go harder as your body finds the rhythm and wants to go there.

There are endless ways to structure our practice time. But in this suggestion what I am showing you is:

  • Trust your body and your mind to show you what to work on. Don’t be a slave to an external schedule or program.
  • Value the warm-up time to give you important information about what you need today.
  • Go slow and relaxed in the warm-up. Don’t push your body. Wait for your to be ‘pulled’ into more intensity. Your body will tell you when it is ready.
  • Each day take only a few things to work on from your big list.
  • Divide up the time based on specific goals and skills, not simply on finishing so many meters.
  • As the practice time progresses, keep using the same projects, but you can increase the challenge for your neuromuscular system by increasing the distance, or increasing the number of repeats.
  • Use increased distances as a way to challenge your focus, not your muscles (yet). Precision must come before power.
  • Take some time at the end of the practice to focus on a bigger distance while using less effort. Your brain will then have to pull from your new skills to make this happen. Switch between focus points during the swim (but only use one at a time) to help you. Practice focus at all times.
  • Pick some sort of standard distance you will use to test yourself on. It depends on what is an enjoyable challenge for you right now- pick something between 100 to 1500m. Occasionally, use your practice time to just do this swim to test how well (as in quality and skill) that you can swim this distance. Take notes on stroke count, on how hard (or easy) it felt, on what was good about the swim and what was weak. Then you can compare these test swims over the month to see your improvement areas and where you still need to work.

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