Smooth Strokes Blog
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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.
…when first practicing breathing this way, those deep muscles are not fit enough to work this often, this deeply and this quickly. Your swimming muscles are developed out of proportion to your breathing muscles. You need to gradually train them to get more powerful, and they get more powerful by just using them more often.
There is also many things to explore in the psycho-somatic connection – it is possible that even though you have good technique on that weak side breathing, some part of the deep brain is still not confident that it’s going to find air on that side. If there is any long-held, negative emotional association to breathing on that weak side, it will more deeply imprint resistance to it.
The crazy thing about the best head position for breathing is that it is totally counter-intuitive. Everything in our land-mammal brains scream, “Tilt your head up to breathe!” But it is the head that is nearly all submerged that is actually in the easiest position to breathe because it doesn’t have to push up against gravity – which shoves right back down, or shoves some lower part of the body to compensate.
Though many people adapt and get some semblance of it, still, pool-locked swimmers have no idea how amazing the swimming rhythm… the swimming meditation can be until they can just keep taking stroke after stroke after stroke for minutes and minutes, even hours. My swimmers were hooked.
Over months and months, slight but regular deprivation will provoke your body to make deep vascular adaptations, and what formerly left you breathless will no longer do so. It will also cause you to perceive deprivation less negatively, to the point where it become mere (neutral) sensation.
When you rest just enough after strenuous repeats, those cells get what they need to immediately get back to swimming. You need to rest because it takes time for the respiratory/circulatory system to get stuff there, to resupply what will be so quickly used up in the moment ahead. There is a lag time between muscle action and respiration catching up. When you take off on the next repeat, your cells will immediately be using up supplies faster than the blood stream can resupply, and you will feel the stress of that in the form of breathlessness.
I both run and swim year round. In the last year or so I've put a lot more emphasis on running, and felt the corresponding motivation for that activity. Back in April, after a week off from illness, I irritated my achilles tendon on the first (allegedly 'easy') run...