Difficulty with Core Balance and how to cure it.
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on October 27th, 2010

I’ll follow my post How Would Einstein Teach Swimming, by  delving more deeply into the three Essential TI Principles of Balance, Streamline and Propel, starting with a focus on Balance.

I mentioned two forms of Streamline, Passive and Active. In Freestyle and Backstroke there are also two forms of Balance. The first and more obvious is front-to-back balance , staying horizontal rather than having your legs sink. The second is less obvious,the need to stabilize your position side-to-side. When you’re unstable you rotate too far, feel uncomfortable and use arms and legs to correct stability. This wastes energy by making the water more turbulent, increasing drag via splaying or bent legs, and making it harder to use your hands/arms to move forward.

The challenges in learning this form of balance are illustrated in a recent post on the TI Discussion Forum. In a thread titled “Difficulty with Core Balance” this question was posed: Tonight I concentrated on lesson 1 of Easy Freestyle. I felt good doing the superman glide, superman flutter and laser lead flutter. I am having difficulty with core balance and especially with core balance breathing. I lose momentum and begin to struggle. My goal was to do Core Balance for a full lap (25 yds), but I can barely make it 10 yds. Any advice would be appreciated.

Core Balance is unquestionably a challenging drill. This is because human swimmers are so used to using their hands as stability-aids. Drills performed with your arms at your sides are intended to teach your spinal-stabilizer muscles to take over that function. When your limbs are relieved of this burden, they become much better at [I]moving your body forward[/I].

When you first begin practicing arms-free balance/stability drills, your spinal stabilizers are not yet trained to handle the job . . . which means you feel unstable. As you’ve experienced, this causes discomfort and exhaustion.

Core Balance - hands at sides

In coached lessons or workshops, TI Coaches ease your passage through this phase by stabilizing you with their hands, when introducing the drill.  With their practiced touch, they can feel, initially, that you are unable to self-stabilize and so they give you firm support. But on each repeated attempt, we can sense your nervous system beginning to figure it out. The student’s body moves around less and is less tense. As we feel that, we reduce the amount of help we give. In most cases, it takes only a few minutes for the student to learn to stabilize unaided.

When you’re self-coached, and not receiving hands-on help, it takes longer, and requires far more ‘unsuccessful experiments’ for your nerves and muscles to manage the job.

I designed two ‘fixes’ for this into the Self-Coached Workshop:

1) Introduce hands-free stability drills later in the process, and allow the spinal stabilizers to take over the job more gradually from the hands; and

2) Explicitly recommend that drills with a higher degree of difficulty be practiced (a) for much briefer duration (usually less than 10 yds) and (b) to introduce breathing only after you feel better body control.

You can apply the same principles while practicing the [URL=”http://www.totalimmersion.net/store/home-page/easy-freestyle-21st-century-techniques-for-beginners-to-advanced-swimmers.html”]Easy Freestyle [/URL]sequence. Spend more time with SG, Skate, and rolling to breathe in Skate before tackling CB. When you do practice CB, only continue so long as you feel in control of your body and are not fatiguing.

The mindful, patient, low-exertion process for learning Core Balance is true of all Balance drills and exercises. My next post will delve further into this.

2 Responses to “Difficulty with Core Balance and how to cure it.”

  1. Isaac Ohel says:

    Hello Terry
    I am a sixty six year old beginner (I learned breast stroke as a child). I am in good shape (running) but could only do 25m before rest. Thanks to the TI DVD, this distance has increased to 50, and even 100 but I end up totally out of breath. I know the problem is not conditioning, and maybe not even breathing skills. Reading statements like “Balance allows you to swim slowly” makes me suspect that balance is the problem. However, it seems to me that I am just repeating lessons 1-3 of the DVD. Without a TI coach (I am now in Mexico), how can I tell whether my balance is improving. How many are “countless hours” till I can swim continuously?

  2. Isaac
    This is a perfect query for the Discussion Forum on our web site. You’ll find great ‘acquired wisdom’ plus a community of support there. And congratulations on striving to learn a new skill at age 66.

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