A Practice Devoted to Creating “Smarter” Hands
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on March 22nd, 2011

This is the second example of a technique-focused Mindful Swimming Practice. These are similar to a series of classes led by me and other TI Coaches at the Multisport World Expo for some 160 swimmers at MIT. All showed visible, and measurable, improvement, in some cases improving stroke efficiency by over 30%, in others improving 1500m pace by as much as 6 minutes – in just over an hour.

All attendees expressed enthusiasm for being exposed to a refreshing alternative to uninspiring workout formulas based only on how hard or long. One set of classes was based on thoughtfully choreographed series of Focal Points (Mindful Swimming), the other on using Tempo Trainer and Stroke Count exercises to discover combinations of Stroke Length and Rate to create faster paces with less effort. (We’ll repeat these classes on Sunday Mar 27 at the Hanley Center (Georgetown Prep) 10900 Rockville Pike, N. Bethesda, MD. Details here.

This practice is devoted entirely to increasing sensitivity and awareness of how your hands enter, extend and find a grip.

Warmup/Tuneup 300 “Add Fingers” (thanks to TI Coach Suzanne Atkinson)
Do a continuous 300 or 12 x 25 or anything in between. Do 2 rounds of the following series: 25 Fist, 25 1-finger, 25 2-fingers, 25 3-fingers, 2×25 Full hand. Focus. Round 1 concentrate on improving your sense of holding water as ‘grip’ area increases. Round 2, you may count strokes instead. Or both.

Narrow Focus Swim 6 to 8 x 25 of any 3 of the following Focal Points. Practice those you choose in the order given.

  • Hang Hands Keep hands relaxed (not stiff) with fingers loosely separated (not closed.)
  • Mail Slot Cut a ‘slot’ in the water with fingertips. Slip forearm through that slot.
  • Bubble-Free Watch for bubbles as you extend. Try to eliminate if you see.
  • Light and Lazy Hand should feel weightless as it floats ‘lazily’ forward.
  • Wide Tracks After Mail Slot entry, extend your relaxed hand so outside of wrist and elbow bones are wide of your shoulder. Avoid the center.
  • VW Beetle Visualize the hood of a VW Bug. Slide your hand across the hood and down to the bumper as you extend.
  • Patient At full extension, pause hand for a nanosecond before stroking. Begin pressing back as slowly and gently as possible.

Combined Focus Combine your three focal points as follows:
2 rounds of [3 x 50 (50 of each) + 2 x 75 (25 of each)]
Test your ability to transition smoothly from one focus to another and sense a distinct difference in your stroke as you do.

Extended Focus
Choose favorite Focal Point and swim [4 x 25 + 3 x 50 + 2 x 75 + 1 x 100]
Test your ability to sustain both focus and an improved sensation for a gradually increasing distance or duration.

Optional: Do this set a second time with Tempo Trainer set at a tempo of your choosing. Rather than count SPL, do this to test whether the addition of Tempo beeps aid in maintaining focus.

See closeups of Mail Slot, Bubble Free, Light and Lazy, Wide Tracks, Relaxed Hands from :20 to 1:20 of this video:

One Response to “A Practice Devoted to Creating “Smarter” Hands”

  1. […] have other visual aids though. One of them is the position of your hands. Here are three things they can tell […]

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