Smooth Strokes Blog
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If you cannot maintain diaphragmatic breathing at rest, then without doubt, you are not doing this during exercise. Diaphragmatic breathing gives you something like 3x more air exchange than chest breathing. If you are a chest breather in exercise, then you are trying to work under extreme air restriction. And, then one wonders why he’s been suffering so much?
Now with bad news out of the way, I want to call your attention to the fact that your swimming fitness depends on a lot more than just swimming, and you can do things that can make your bounce back go a lot faster once you can return to the water again.
Swimming is enormously beneficial to one’s physical and psychological health in so many ways that one should still engage in it avidly. But to get the kind of body composition transformation that some people seek from it, in addition to an appropriate increase in volume and intensity of swimming, it likely has to be combined with a few other serious interventions…
It is sad that we are cut off from doing many of the things we were pursuing just a few weeks ago. But, there is fortune in this also – this gives us the opportunity now to work on other things that we would not have otherwise.
Consider for a moment the great aquatic mammals – seals, walruses and whales. These are not usually offered as complementary metaphors for human swimmers. But in fact, these are examples of mammals who are extremely strong in the critical strength-to-mass way that I have described, and they are much more efficient at moving their mass through the water than any humans are. Seen in this light, it would actually be a compliment to be called a ‘whale’ or a ‘walrus’.
It’s better to view the process of mastery in swimming more like you would view the process of mastery in a new language or art, no matter what level your goal is set at. Think of the commitment that was needed for the other complex skills you highly value – safe, skillful, and strong swimming deserves that also.
We have formed this community to meet the needs of our businesses and serve our hunger for continual learning and improvement in coaching. Our goal is to serve the many independent coaches, and prospects among swimmers out there who are looking for an extraordinary educational and business-building community to be a part of, to join something they really have a sense of ownership in.
Your awareness of your own body, of the water, of your potential is increasing. With this increased sensitivity in combination with your increased understanding means that you are going to notice more more errors, more imperfections – not because you have more errors and imperfections than you have before – actually you have far less than you did before you started with us – but because you’ve been enlightened to see what you couldn’t before.
…there is one more thing we need to consider. If your problems require it, you need to be able to access the additional help you need to make these improvements. Everything your athletic body needs might not be addressed in the narrow realm of swim instruction alone, even with a psychologically skilled coach on your team. There may likely be complementary services and therapies that you need to incorporate into your plan.
My concern is that, for a swimmer at this stage of development, if you just plan on swimming fast without any other particular requirement to keep your form accountable, what nearly always happens is that your stroke quality degrades, little by little, under increasing fatigue, and you don’t notice how much until you are really tired and the hope of protecting and correcting it is lost. By letting the stroke do whatever it will under fatigue, without conscious monitoring, this trains the nervous system to accept this degradation as the normal response to fatigue.
It occurred to me that a great part of what makes it possible to take solo treks into potentially dangerous areas (in small or big ways) is the ability to make good choices. Mind you, I am not talking about making the ‘right choice’ but about making the ‘best choice’ one can. (More on that below.) And I am not talking about making a single good choice, as if that is all it takes, but a whole series of them.
What other activity would you do to replace what you love about swimming, if you suddenly couldn’t swim anymore? (granted you would not be devastated by grief at the thought!)
You need to improve your awareness in order to improve your control. Whether you are starting with a great ability to focus attention or a poor one, any improvement you make from there is going to serve your interests in breathing easier and swimming better.
When you come to the teacher for the first time, or come back to learn a new skill, that teacher will be offering you a lesson, she will be teaching you, primarily, what to work on. But after you’ve understood what to work on, you need to shift into the work of integrating and strengthening that skill. At that point you benefit more from a coach-guided practice, where you will learn how to work on that skill. Any session you experience may likely have an element of both lesson and practice in it, but it is helpful to recognize the main emphasis.
Can you imagine running 10 km (up to an hour for some folks) or even 5 km (up to a half hour) in a race or for fitness and doing it in a basketball court? And, rather than run loops around the perimeter of the court, imagine covering that distance by running back and forth between the hoops. Run for 20 seconds, stop and turn, run for 20 seconds, stop and turn…
Isn’t that essentially what we’re doing when swimming in a pool? Back and forth, for hundreds and thousands of meters, always breaking momentum to turn every 25 meters…
You need good posture on land, in your daily life, because you need to breathe without restriction in all those hours, awake time and sleeping, because that is when the body is repairing and replenishing systems between training sessions… When your posture degrades, your breathing degrades. When your breathing degrades, your recovery and your performance degrade.
If you are lifting weights in the gym (under the guidance of an exacting trainer), a good lift only counts when you take the full weight, through the full range of motion, with best form = you have completed the lift. Your best equivalent to this in water is to move your body mass forward the same full stroke length, with best streamline form.
If you want to swim farther and/or swim faster, you have to be both more skills, and stronger. Some people focus on just one or the other. But you can develop both of those together if you require both in how you go about your training.
I trust you are sold on the need to build your skills for this. And it is easy to understand how you need to be stronger too. Many people try to increase the strength side of the equation by just swimming more laps and others add some weight room activities as well. However, I want to show you a way to work on this specific kind of skilled strength in the water, in a way that is better than just swimming more laps, and in a way far more specific than weight training on land.
Until you expose it through self-limiting exercises, you don’t realize how much your brain has to work harder to continually compensate for imperfections in your movement patterns, and that compensation costs you in efficiency. You have to restrict some part of your senses in order to expose the weakness in another part.
Some kinds of technology force the brain to pay closer attention, to increase its strength of perception and control. They limit the options available or call attention to less favored options so that the brain is urged to use a capability it would otherwise neglect or ignore, or form a new one. This is ordinary practice among physical and neural therapists who have been, for decades, using technology to train the brain to accomplish a chosen task in a new way, and get stronger at it.