Video: Work Less, Swim Better Part 2
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on August 23rd, 2010

For years we used the phrase “fishlike swimming” to describe TI technique and “human swimming” to describe the (highly instinctive and highly inefficient) form most people use. Another way to think of it is that humans swim like all terrestrial mammals – head up and all four limbs churning — while Perpetual Motion Freestyle is designed to emulate aquatic mammals.

Segment 1 of the “Work Less, Swim Better” series showed me moving smoothly through a pack of other swimmers in rough water in the 2006 World Masters Championship. Segment 2 uses underwater video to reveal what was happening underwater as I did. The key points include:

Pierce the Water

Human swimming, exemplified by the swimmer in the next lane, is all about pulling and kicking. His hand goes in, down and back in one motion. As the video shows, I travel twice as far on each stroke, taking 4 to 5 strokes, to his 9 to 10 over about 10 yards. His stroke moves water back, My stroke moves my body forward. One reason is that I use my extending hand to “separate water molecules” (as does the tapered snout of a barracuda) then line up my body to slide torso and legs through the human-sized sleeve I create. That habit – taught in Lessons 2 and 4 of the Self-Coached Workshop – significantly reduces drag so I travel farther on each stroke.

Hold your place

Human swimmers press the hand straight down by instinct – and because they need constant propulsion. When drag is high, you lose momentum quickly, so you have to stroke ceaselessly. Streamlining helps me conserve momentum, which gives me the luxury of more time to firmly trap water behind my hand. My solid “grip” is another reason my stroke propels me twice as far. It also means lets me use the “free energy” of a weight shift, rather than weaker and easily-fatigued arm muscles, as my human-swimming lane mate does. The patient catch and synchronized weight shift are taught in Lessons 5 and 6.

Cocoon of Calm

We all start out as Human Swimmers.  It takes targeted and patient focus to replace deep-seated habits with Separating Molecules and Holding your Place. This not only helps you hold form in  rough water; it also builds powerful focus that converts into a “cocoon of calm” when you encounter a churning crowd in a triathlon swim leg or open water race. Practice like that demonstrated by TI coaches from 2:14 to 2:38 helps swimmers not only accept, but enjoy, close quarters. Even while crowding each other, and intentionally creating contact, none change their form. (Click here for an expanded version of this video .) This builds resistance to the loss of form and focus experienced by many triathletes in the first minutes of a race.

Anyone can learn PMF.

There’s nothing accidental about the form those TI coaches display. Besides the seven coaches in a pack, the three swimming under the bridge, and the four swimmers following the rope all look virtually the same. PMF is the first example in swimming history of a precisely-replicable technique . . .  and one that’s highly effective: All three TI coaches swimming under the bridge — Greg Sautner, Dave Barra and me – have won USMS national open water championships. PMF is a form anyone can learn by following the  step-by-step stroke-building procedures in the 10-Lesson Series.

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3 Responses to “Video: Work Less, Swim Better Part 2”

  1. Doug Alt says:

    My own recent experiences with “work less, swim better”:

    After nearly 10 weeks of great weather conditions for swimming in the ocean here in NJ, a string of “red flag” (rough water) days drove me back to the indoor 25-meter pool. My note to myself for that session: “Relax and twist torso = 17 strokes/length. Work hard and push water = 20 S/L.”

    I started working TI technique in December ’09 (in the pool). Last week, I was thrilled to complete a 1 mile ocean swim using continuous crawl stroke (except for three 15-30 second back stroke sequences, which were utilized to turn around at the 1/2 mile point or to talk to surfers). Prior to this, my long (for me) distances required about 50% of my time to be utilized resting in elementary backstroke or sidestroke in order to complete the distance.

    This is very exciting!

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