Video: “Work Less, Swim Better”: How to be ‘Weightless’
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 2nd, 2010

Segment 1 of the Work Less Swim Better series showed me swimming through a pack of a dozen or more ‘human swimmers,’  whose strokes were strikingly similar to each other, but strikingly different from mine — differences that became magnified as they tried to cope with rough water in that race.

Segment 2 showed me sharing the pool with a single ‘human swimmer.’ The underwater view revealed the critical differences that allowed me to travel twice as far on each stroke. The most significant is that Perpetual Motion Freestyle (PMF) prioritizes active streamlining, while human-swimming prioritizes pulling and kicking.

We showed that contrast to illustrate that swimming ‘like a human’ is normal . . . a relaxed and streamlined stroke is a learned skill. From 1966 to 1991, I swam ‘like a human’ too. I only began learning PMF at age 40 — and have continued improving my form for 20 years. Such enduring improvement is possible because human-swimming instincts are encoded in our DNA. However, as the TI coaches and swimmers in Segment 2 illustrate once you learn PMF you replace wired-in struggle with flow.  Segment 3 reveals the starting point for learning it. (Note: One of those swimmers, Dave Barra, completed an English Channel crossing yesterday, Sept 1.)

Humans naturally swim like other terrestrial mammals, head high and limbs churning. PMF consciously mimics the swimming of aquatic mammals (whales, dolphins, walrus, manatee, sea otters) to whom evolution has given a naturally streamlined shape. Another natural advantage of aquatic mammals is aquatic balance – a low-drag horizontal position. The designed-in balance we humans have is vertical – great for walking and running, but a source of drag when swimming.

Thus the first step in learning PMF is to rewire your brain.  This creates new circuits of motor neurons,  which allow us to move differently. Even more critically, it creates new cognitive circuits, so we can think differently.

Superman Glide, illustrated here, begins the creation of motor circuits that guide my head (hanging) arms (wide tracks) and legs (passive and streamlined) into new positions. Cognitively, it replaces the almost-universal sinking sensation with a ray of hope that ‘weightlessness’ is possible. Once I felt the possibility of weightlessness, I gained the freedom to make a conscious choice to use my arms to (i) extend my bodyline and (ii) ‘pierce’ the water instead of churning — an inevitable legacy of the sinking sensation.

Superman Glide and Laser-Lead Flutter, shown in this segment, are examples of a new form of TI drill – called Tuneups — introduced in the Self-Coached Workshop. Tuneups are intended for practice  in short intervals–usually 6 to 10 yards, rather than  full lengths.  They’re designed to narrownly target your attention on an essential aspect of the stroke, making it easier to maintain as you progress to more complex movement and longer reps. They also help you relax when you feel yourself becoming tense or — as human swimmers usually do — working too hard.

2 Responses to “Video: “Work Less, Swim Better”: How to be ‘Weightless’”

  1. […] Video: “Work Less, Swim Better”: How to be ‘Weightless’. This entry was written by hal and posted on 2010-09-02 at 23:00 and filed under Journal. […]

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