I’ve been training in swimming, and in other activities, for so many years that I take it for granted what a practice may look like. I also realize our insider swimming jargon can confuse a new initiate.
I was reminded of this recently: my wife does not have a trained swimming background. She has been working on her TI swimming, and has also recently starting up some self-coaching in Chi Running. The other day she asked me how to organize her practice time. I rattled off what I thought would be a simple plan for her time but she just looked at me with glazed eyes, and then insisted I help her write it down. So, I was reminded that a Simple Practice pattern is not necessarily so simple to someone has not been involved in the culture of the sport very long.
So, for her benefit, possibly for yours, and definitely for my own in helping other swimmers, I wrote out some notes for how to begin organizing the practice time.
Here are some steps you can take to set up your own Simple Practice pattern.
1. Divide your time into 3 sections:
1) Tune-Up (aka ‘Warm-Up’) – to bring your mind into the pool and into your body, scan everything and decide or confirm what you need to work on today. Swim gentle and in a variety of ways to relax and loosen up the body and your sensitivity to it. Only gradually increase intensity as your body pulls you into it. Read some of my previous posts on Tune-Up, and also consider downloading the Effortless Exercise ebook.
2) Main Task (aka Main Set) – to work on your chosen skill objectives, and to take measurements.
3) Review (aka Cool Down) – to slow back down, review the skills you’ve worked on today, assess your performance and make some preliminary decisions about what you should work on in the next practice based on what you experienced today.
2. Assign some minutes to each section.
For example: If you have 60 minutes I may give 10 minutes to the Tune-Up, 40 minutes to the Main Tasks, and 10 minutes to the Review.
3. Decide what specific Skill or Skill Set you want to work on today.
Pick 3 individual Focal Points that correspond to that Skill.
For example, let’s say you want to work on Breathing. So you pick three Focal Points that address weak spots:
- A = Breathe Early
- B = Split The Face
- C = Small Bubbles From Nose
If you want to work on one Skill Set, then you would pick three Focal Points from that Skill Set. If you have different Skill Sets to work on (like Head Position, Recovery, Kick), then I may consider picking one from each.
4. Set up a pattern for the Main Task.
You will design what is called a ‘Round’. In this Round you will do some ‘Work’ and some ‘Active Rest’.
During the Active Rest you will allow your heart rate to come down but you will keep your attention focused, and will keep active in a drill or slow-motion swimming to work on some single skill.
During the Work part you will swim with Whole Stroke with Focal Points, Stroke Counting, Tempo, and/or Time measurements. You can use whatever complexity multipliers you have decided to challenge yourself with today.
You need to decide on what distance or duration you will give to each. Then guess how many of these Rounds you can complete in the time you have assigned to the Main Set.
For example: You have 40 minutes for my Main Set, so you will design a Round with 100 meters (or 4x 25) of Active Rest, and 200 meters (or 4x 50) of Work. You may fit 5 Rounds of this pattern into those 40 minutes. Guessing whether you can do 4, 5, or 6 of them is a matter of experience. Just do as many Rounds as you can within the 40 minutes you have assigned to this task.
Note: Just to make sure you understand, you can pick any distances and variety of distances you want for those Active Rest and Work portions. I just provided an example. You can use that or modify it to suit yourself.
Assign a Focal Point to each Round.
- Round #1 use Focal Point A.
- Round #2 use Focal Point B.
- Round #3 use Focal Point C.
After that you can repeat the Focal Points, or combine two of them together.
- Round #4 use Focal Points AB.
- Round #5 use Focal Points BC.
And, if you are ready for examining more feedback on your swimming, choose at least one form of measurement to use also – counting strokes, using a Tempo Trainer, and/or recording your time splits (the number of seconds it takes to complete a length of the pool). Choose two forms of measurement if you are feeling eager for more challenge.
My whole thinking process and memory is graphic – so I made a diagram of what a practice looks like to help any of you out there who are like me:
5. Record your practice plan.
Record your practice plan before you begin the practice, then afterward record your actual practice (you may have decided to adjust the practice based on your observations during the Tune-Up) and record your results.
I strongly suggest that you keep a journal of practice plans and results. It is a great reference point from day to day, week to week and year to year.
I recommend that you use a practice pattern several times so you can learn from it and customize it to your needs. By repeating it with small thoughtful variations you can have a stronger way to compare and assess your improvement from practice to practice.
Why Active Rest? Why not just sit there for a little while at the wall and chat with your buddies?
Because you have precious time to spend. How can you use each moment to its greatest personal benefit?
With Active Rest you are allowing one system in the body to rest, while another continues to be trained. There are several systems that are working to support the development of your swimming skill. Heart Rate/Respiration is measuring just one of those. Your Ability To Focus is another. Your Nervous System (and specifically, your Proprioception) is another. Shutting down every system at the wall is not necessarily in the best interest of your improvement. It takes an understanding of the role these systems play and some experience to starting giving each the kind of training and challenge they need – and they all need to be developed in coordination to reach your highest potential. A personalized TI Practice plan is intended to train and coordinate all the systems of your body, not just one of them.
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I like your idea of an active rest. Not sure if this applies, but when I get out of breath, I use a snorkel to do a few drills (underwater spearswitch or swing switch). After a few lengths, my breathing is normal and I go back to whatever I was working on (without the snorkel)
Also I have a waterproof notebook to write down my planned practice and I am trying to develop a way to summarize what I have done, how well, and any recorded times. This way I hope to review any progress made. thanks so much for all your blogs, they are very helpful
I have ordered and downloaded the book Effortless Exercise and wish to also join your start reading this in the next few days
the link to the Ebook ‘effortlesse exercise’ has moved on the totalimmersion.net website
Thank you for pointing that out. I fixed the link. TI did move their products to a new platform so I think some of the links must have changed.
Hello. I am an amateur swimmer from Turkey. I had swum “2 kita 1 yaris” races (an open water swimming race in Istanbul, Turkey) twice in 2012 (01:11:05) and 2013 (01:06:05) and had applied for 2014. I am practicing in a hotel pool of length 20 meters, unfortunately. I am using the attached program and I want you, please comment about it. Thanks. Best regards, Cenk KAYA
My way of active rest is to do the following:
1) Float on my back doing nothing but a light flutter until complete ease is restored. Follow it up with a hand lead flutter off back on one side briefly, then the other, then roll to off stomach skate position on one side, then the other and roll back onto my back and resume drills or whole stroke.
2) Do 10 m each of superman glide, torpedo, laser lead glide, laser lead rotation and skate. I do not use the flutter at all for any of these. I use only wall and floor push offs.
3) I do a body dolphin for 10 m using a breaststroke movement to propel and breathe thrice after an initial wall push off. No floor push offs. I even practise body dolphin during the glide phase of breaststroke with the TT on 6.0
4) If I have drifted away from the poolside while floating on my back, I do a superman glide with a floor push off or do a body dolphin to get back to poolside before I push off again.
5) I do a double arm backstroke ( a backstroke drill actually to improve catch). It has no body roll; rather, it has a distinct glide phase as both arms recover and propel together. It is (as is backstroke) a semi-submersible stroke, that is, water washes over the face and one has to time one’s breathing with the recovery when there is a window (a brief moment when there is no water on the face). One has to also breathe out forcefully from one’s mouth and nose when the face is under water to prevent water from entering one’s nose. I first saw Ryan Lochte’ s demo of this backstroke drill on You Tube. He recommends doing it as a backstroke drill to improve catch. I could do it easily from day one (perhaps because I had good balance on my back and good breath control). I am also quite comfortable using both arms together as I can swim breaststroke quite easily. I find double arm backstroke, as I call it, a wonderful, relaxing form of active rest. It looks beautiful too.
I put the TT on 3.25 and cover 10 m in about 6 strokes. Several swimmers who had never done it before were inspired to try it out after seeing me do it. 🙂
One thing is sure, I seldom have my feet on the floor in 60-90 minutes of pool time unless I am talking and/or teaching someone. I am glad that thanks to TI, Terry and (now) Mat, I seem to have my fundamentals right and have been able to help several swimmers. I was able to help both beginners and more experienced swimmers and never tired of teaching and explaining. Being the confident self appointed coach that I was, people are taken aback when they hear that I am a beginner myself. I am a beginner – very fortunate to have had the benefit of enlightened and inspired TI guidance – Terry’s books and videos and now Mat’s blog – and my love of the water, passion for TI swimming and spontaneous urge to share whatever I knew – have combined, perhaps, to make a remarkable difference. Also, because I keep reading and re-reading Terry’s books and videos, Mat’s illuminating insights on this blog, Shinji’s helpful and inspiring videos and other instructive videos on you tube, I am motivated to keep learning and improving, inching towards mastery and enjoying the process of kaizen ( continual improvement – what would life be without it? )
Being in harmony with the water and loving it (feeling intrinsic joy) is perhaps the most essential requirement and the rest can naturally follow if one is so inclined- a passion for swimming, for TI, for continual learning, sharing one’s passion etc.
In fact, when I swam breaststroke lazily in the water, I have felt so easy and relaxed that when I described how I felt, my wife warned me not to fall asleep in the water 🙂 !! Active rest? Indeed 🙂