Are you struggling and frustrated with something in your swimming?

It may be too obvious to state this, but then again it may not… at least in the context of solving our swimming problems.

In order to solve them, we take the complexity of our problem and break it down into manageable pieces.

Swimming is a fairly complex activity. It’s complex when it is done well, and it’s complex when it’s all messed up!

What coaching has always tried to do is break that complex activity down into pieces to make it easier to learn or correct. We divide the parts up to show how they have a certain arrangement, certain relationship to one another, and a certain priority in how they are put together.

For instance:

TI breaks down the physics and physiology of the stroke into these three categories and in this specific order of priority:

  1. Balance
  2. Streamline
  3. Propulsion

The stroke cycle itself can be broken down into segments or phases. There are a few variations on how to do this, but this is how we tend to refer to it in TI:

  1. The Recovery and Entry
  2. The Extension
  3. The Catch and Hold

We break these down into further sub-sections too.

For breathing, I find it effective to structure the learning phase in these three segments:

  1. Head Position
  2. Breath Timing
  3. Air Management

And so on. In TI we have every detail of the body, and the stroke, and the performance patterns broken down into manageable pieces. Like a doctor might examine an injury or an engineer might examine a broken system, a TI Coach will follow a logical diagnostic grid to uncover the root problem(s) and prescribe the first priority solution(s).

The idea behind the break-it-down is not just to organize information so we can point to it on a clever diagram or memorize it for facts. No, far more importantly, we break it down in order to maximize the speed and depth of the brain’s learning and mastery process.

It’s one thing to recognize, like an engineer, different ways of organizing information or components of a system- in swimming great coaches have done this for decades. But it requires a whole other scientific understanding on how the brain (and subsequently, the body, muscles, metabolism, etc) learns to execute a complex task more effectively- and this is something science has only recently developed the tools needed to to document… and validate procedures of learning that many ancient arts have already been using for centuries.

When you send me questions (which I love receiving and thinking about) I will most likely break your situation down into pieces like those examples above- not simply to organize the problem, but to set up the most effective solution your brain (and subsequently, the rest of your body) needs. I will likely have questions for you to go back to the pool, research, and answer for me as I try to isolate where the most fundamental problem is behind the struggle you are describing.

These questions are not just for me. They are meant to help you organize your thinking and your attention so that you can push away extraneous considerations and zero in on the root problem, just like I am trying to. If you can find that root problem(s), you’ll be able to go and find answers a lot easier- perhaps without me. And when you make the necessary improvements on root issues, what often happens is a lot of the other features that composed your Big Struggle either disappear on their own or they get so much easier to correct.

So, if you want to take a step in the direction of becoming your own Self-Coach this is your first exercise: take that problem and break it down into pieces. Find different ways to break down the situation you face, use some categories to organize your observations (I am barely able to hold my fingers back from giving you suggestions for those categories!!!). You don’t need to come up with explanations or solutions yet. Just work on they way you observe and describe the littlest details of your struggle.

If you only do this much, at least when you bring your problem and your questions to me, you will save me that step in trying to help you- and I will immediately recognize the meta-cognitive skill you’ve been applying to your own situation. (Though, whether you do or not, I am still as pleased to help).

But if you do that simple (though difficult) exercise you just might find that it’s easier to go about looking for solutions. You’ll be able to ask more specific questions of people who you think have the precise information you need. And when you try out those suggested solutions you’ll be much quicker to recognize whether they are working or not.

And by breaking your problem down into pieces like this you just might start to think up some possible solutions yourself… and then you find yourself falling down that slippery slope of enjoying the research and discovery process so much that you want to become a swim coach too!

I’m sorry, but I admit I am conspiring (for you) toward this end.

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