Smooth Strokes Blog
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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.
…just as exercise distress can be triggered by too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide, it can also be triggered by too little carbon dioxide in the system. That deficiency can be caused by breathing too frequently and too shallow – what is more commonly known as hyperventilation. In this mode of breathing you are you are giving off too much carbon dioxide too quickly.
The streamline side of the body is long, stretched (not twisted or strained), and firm like a ‘skate blade’ or a ‘cross country ski’ while the recovery side is fluid and relaxed, allowing a frictionless swing of the arm. It is the quality of firmness on the streamline side which permits the fluid swing of the other arm.
…what is also implied here is that a certain arrangement of beneficial tension is also necessary for swimming to feel and flow well. To experience the kind of smooth, beautiful and powerful swimming that you aspire to, you need to apply both relaxation and tension, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right amount.
To become more capable than you are right now, you may need better stroke skills, but it is not suitable for continual growth to only be working on skills and nothing else. You also need strength, but it is not in your long term interest to always do workouts just to get wiped out. You could really benefit from speed work, but it is not a good idea do that without a foundation of skill and to have strength built around those skills first.
If you’ve been swimming regularly, a few times a week, for many months, yet you are still feeling breathless after a few laps, or even after many minutes of what should be moderate swimming, then you may consider this to be one of the prime suspects.
Humans are not naturally shaped for generating high power in the swimming positions we use. When one of us tries to generate more power, and then tries to generate extreme amounts of swimming power, he may inevitably be forced to make some sort of trade off between holding best streamline to cut through that resistance more easily and altering his shape in order to get more muscular leverage with his aquatically-awkward body mechanics.
…we all come together at swim camp under the pretext of learning to swim or practicing advanced swimming skills or whatever, but we end up discovering there is so much more that composes our well-being than that.
Therefore a good training process has to stretch you, and stretch you in a variety of ways. It has to start working on your capabilities where they are right now and gradually take them up to the demands of your goal and even go somewhat beyond. It must frequently require you to do things a bit beyond your current capabilities. Each week you get a bit more skilled, a bit stronger, and then you turn up the challenge just a bit more.
There is nothing like a bit of surprising news to catch your attention, and this may surprise a lot of you, but not all. Here it is: With some regret and some relief I resigned from my association with Total Immersion, Inc. at the end of September. I was a certified...
In order to handle a bigger amount of resistance behind the catch and convert that into speed, the swimmer has to have more power – the ability to press against that resistance and move the body past it in more brief amount of time. If streamline is in place, the more power that is available, the faster she can move her body forward past that hand that is holding a point in the water.