The Benefits of “Not-Doing”
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on December 9th, 2009

A recent thread on the TI Discussion Forum focused on a swimming video from youtube. The initial poster posed a question about the recovery:

What would happen if we bend K’s arm to form more of a compact, triangular recovery?

Though he didn’t necessarily infer that the swimmer in the video should intentionally bend her arm, for me that question brought up a very subtle, but I think very significant, aspect of thinking habits we trying to encourage among TI swimmers.

The specific question is: Is it better to bend your arm to achieve the optimal shape or position during recovery — or to relax it?

The general question is: Is it better to DO or NOT DO?

The principle of “Not Doing” is drawn from Alexander Technique.  When you become aware that you’ve formed a – usually unconscious – habit that negatively impacts posture or body arrangement, you correct it by training yourself to be aware of the muscles you’ve been tensing or activating unhelpfully and just stop doing so.

The two leading examples in TI “Perpetual Motion Freestyle” (PMF) technique have been:
1) Hang the Head. Release your head until it feels weightless (i.e. supported by the water) rather than activate muscle to hold it – or put it – in position. At times I use this reminder to correct a tendency to push the head down, or bury it, not just to stop holding it up. Those who use this as a Stroke Thought, relate that not only does it naturally create a neutral head position; it also leaves their neck, shoulders and upper back feeling more relaxed.

2) Hang the Hand. Relax the hand, rather than stiffen or tense it – on entry, catch and stroke.
In both instances, the force of gravity takes over from muscle force and effortlessly moves the head or hand into a more-effective position.

We teach the same principle in recovery. If you maintain a relaxed hand throughout the stroke, it should lead naturally to a graceful release and exit – rather than pushing past the hip, which fatigues the tricep without adding anything to propulsion.

Relaxing the hand should encourage the forearm to relax as well as the arm moves forward. Keeping hand and forearm relaxed as the hand approaches re-entry should lead just as naturally to the Mail Slot entry and the hand sinking into the optimal palm-back catch position.

In each instance you achieve the desired outcome by turning muscles off, not on.

These skills – and the stroke thoughts that implement them – are all taught in Lesson Five of the Easy Freestyle DVD and in the Perpetual Motion Freestyle segment of the Outside the Box DVD.

Rehearsing the relaxed hand and forearm for Mail Slot entry (video image of Terry Laughlin from Easy Freestyle DVD)

Rehearsing the relaxed hand and forearm for Mail Slot entry (video image of Terry Laughlin from Easy Freestyle DVD)

Relaxed Hand and Forearm (video image from Easy Freestyle DVD)

Relaxed Hand and Forearm (Terry Laughlin demonstrating on Easy Freestyle DVD)

One Response to “The Benefits of “Not-Doing””

  1. Dean says:

    I love this idea of “not doing.” I have been working on this with my head position for a while now, don’t have it down yet but I keep trying.
    I have made good progress with relaxing my arms and this has saved tons of energy. When I finally learn to relax my head my feet feel lighter and speed goes up without me trying to be faster.

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