Video: To Swim like a Dolphin, first Re-wire your Brain.
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 19th, 2010

At age 59 my stroke looks radically different than it did at age 19, and noticeably evolved from how it looked at 39. To change the external look of my stroke, I had to change the internal way my brain is wired. Segment 5 of Work Less Swim Better presentation describes how I did that over several decades.

Human swimmers are energy-wasting machines; at 19, I was such a machine, albeit a highly conditioned one. “Uncoached” human swimmers convert just three percent of energy and “horsepower” into forward motion; 97 percent gets diverted into stirring up the water. By comparison, dolphins are 80 percent efficient. Our bred-in-the-bone inefficiency was  quantified by engineers from DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) while designing a swim foil for the Navy Seals.

The Secret of Streamlining

There’s more: Dolphins have only one-eighth of the “horsepower” the engineers calculated it should take to swim at their top speed of 55 mph. The researchers credit this to their preternatural gift for “active streamlining.”

The fastest human swimmers (top speed 5 mph) do something very similar. In 1992, USA Swimming researchers Jane Cappaert and John Troup found that elite swimmers at the Olympics generated no more stroking power than average swimmers. Cappaert and Troup concluded that Olympic swimmers display a rare gift for “whole-body streamlining.”

While you and I may lack the special gifts of dolphins and Olympians, you can still avoid drag. Before you can swim differently, you must start thinking differently.  In freestyle instead of thinking “arms-pull-legs-kick” think right-side-streamline then left-side-streamline.

TI Coach Fiona Laughlin demonstrates Right-Side Streamline

Build a new stroke from a Mental Blueprint

Segment 5 summarizes key moments of Lessons 3 and 5 of the TI Self Coached Workshop which illustrate the process I and thousands of other improvement-minded swimmers have employed to make our strokes radically more efficient. We did this by forming a mental blueprint for a way of swimming freestyle that would prioritize active streamlining over pulling and kicking:

(1) Use your hand, like the tip of a spear, to cut a  human-sized sleeve through the ‘wall of water’ in front of you.

(2) Use core muscle to hold your torso and legs in a sleek line (or stream-line) behind the spear tip.

(3) Use a weight shift to propel your body through the sleeve.

In the video, at around the 2:30-2:45 mark notice how my body “squirts” forward as my high hip drives down. That spurt of acceleration is all generated by body weight working with gravity. Hardly any comes from the muscles in my extended arm. This combination of reduced water resistance and an efficient power source is the core of tireless – or Perpetual Motion – freestyle.

Rehearse and Visualize

The inherent challenge in achieving such transformation is that this is a movement sequence no human brain entertains naturally. It begins as an informed decision, which is then transformed by many narrowly-focused repetitions into a habit. That habit must be strong enough to replace instincts formed by eons of evolution of humans as land-dwellers. The Rehearsals and Visualizations illustrated in this segment are designed to make the new thought sufficiently clear, simple and powerful to, as I described above, rewire the brain.

TI will teach an intensive 5-Day Course in Perpetual Motion Freestyle (offered only a few times a year) Oct 18-22 in San Diego.

2 Responses to “Video: To Swim like a Dolphin, first Re-wire your Brain.”

  1. […] Video: To Swim like a Dolphin, first Re-wire your Brain. […]

  2. Love this video segment Terry, I just forwarded it to one of my students.

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