Your “Brain Training” session for today
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 9th, 2009

Ken B posted on the TI Discussion Forum

I am starting on the third year of my self-taught TI adventure.  I progressed quickly from struggle to ease but hip drive has eluded me. Recent forums debated snap versus continuous roll. Two days ago I tried it during a long swim and was thrilled to find that I was experiencing at least some of the feelings we are taught to expect. The first was that my spearing arm felt like cable unspooling from a drum. The second was that the continuous roll kept a steady, light, even pressure on my anchored arm. At the end of the roll a small diagonal flick and foot stretch happened naturally and completed the full body extension and streamlining from toes to out stretched fingers. I found that the roll can be timed to exactly match the travel of the vertical forearm and spear. As well the amplitude of the roll can easily be adjusted for breathing. All the effort seems to be in the torso and the arms just follow through. At present this is all new to me and I have to concentrate to achieve it. Am I on the right track? I do seem to be covering longer and longer distances.

Terry replied: Ken It certainly sounds as if you are. Your “right track” isn’t just the movement habits you describe. Even more important is the behavioral habit of narrowly-targeted attentive repetition. Clear intention is the spark for excellence.

To assist you on that path, here are three stroke thoughts. related to your current skill goals:

1) Focus on the “span” you create between the spearing hand and opposite foot. It won’t change by more than millimeters likely, but I’ve found it’s helpful to focus on maximizing it . . . without strain.

2) Separately tune in to the sense of  deep abdominals being constantly engaged while you swim – maintaining body tone and stability – and of feeling a small extra pulse of power each time you spear the hand and flick the opposite foot.

3) Initiate both actions with a hip nudge, rather than hip drive. How subtle can you make that movement and still feel both of the above occurring?

Experiment with practicing those stroke thoughts using a set like the following. First establish the sensation I describe, then test your ability to maintain it. Swim this set once thinking only about #1. If  you’re not quite satisfied, do it again. If you are satisfied, repeat the set thinking only about #2, then once more thinking about #3.

4 x 25 – If you’re satisfied with the stroke sensation, then do

3 x 50 – ditto to above, then do

2 x 75 – and finally

1 x 100

Between repeats keep “swimming mentally” – using visualization and imagination to keep encoding the neural circuit from brain-to-nervous system-to-muscle. Can you make your visualization as “lifelike” as the actual swimming?

It is simple sets like this that are the foundation for developing a great capacity for mindfulness at the same time you develop beautiful, effective movements. Both are of equal value.

3 Responses to “Your “Brain Training” session for today”

  1. Jira Haywood says:

    The thing about a beginner is that they’re eager. This is both good and bad. It’s good because they’ll put full effort into things and learn as much as they can, it’s bad because their eagerness makes them impatient! Many’s the beginner who didn’t get dramatic results in the first month and gave up because of it.

  2. Jira
    This phenomenon is well covered in the George Leonard book, Mastery. When trying something new we usually have that initial exciting period of progress and discovery. Then, in most cases, the learning curve may steepen and our progress may plateau. Those who eventually achieve some level of excellence – or even Masters- embrace the plateau and practice lovingly, even when they seem to be making little or no progress. Others get discouraged, give up and go on to something else . . . where they repeat the process. OR they redefine satisfaction as “status quo” and muddle on without expectation of improving. I see a lot of lap swimmers who look that way.

  3. Dean says:

    I really like the clear description of what you are experiencing! I like the phrase of “arm unreeling like cable off a drum”

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