Train Like Michaelangelo

What has been so helpful to me in TI is that it provides a framework for examining a swimmer’s stroke and making corrections in the right order.

The 3 TI Principles: (% emphasis is my interpretation)
BALANCE – 60% of excellent swimming
STREAMLINE – 30% of excellent swimming
PROPULSION – 10% of excellent swimming

– Balance is like the straight, level, obstruction free, solid subgrade for the highway.
– Streamline is like the well-laid, well-compacted asphalt.
– Propulsion is the car that drives on it.

No matter how hot the car, it can only go the speed the road safely permits!
(I dedicate this metaphor to my dad, a civil engineer who built highways)

Speaking figuratively (to make a conceptual point) Balance is responsible for 60% of our ability to swim well. However, as in the swim instruction I grew up with, in what I observe here, and in virtually all common swim instruction Propulsion is all that is emphasized with scarcely a mention of Balance. What TI has done so well in revealing is that when the foundation is off, we will see so many problems echoing into all the other parts of the stroke, even if those parts are being executed earnestly.

From studying under Terry and Shane, and watching how they examine then diagnose a swimmer’s problem, I’ve learned how effective the structure of these 3 principles are in recognizing and fixing our swimming struggles. What on the surface seems like a Propulsion issue, is often a Balance one. When we go back and fix the foundation, it is amazing to see how the surface problems become so easy to solve. I and my students are amazed at how well that training according to this order of principles breaks down the art of swimming and puts it back together in smooth, effective motion.

What I am getting at is, for the coach in us, the self-coach in us, having an understanding of these three principles and how Balance sets the foundation for Streamline, and how Streamline paves the way for fast, efficient Propulsion give the swimmer a prioritized pathway for assessing their struggle and making a decision on how to fix it.

Which also means that we cannot over-practice the Principles in their order of priority and magnitude. No one can over-train their ability to Balance and Streamline! But so many, myself included, have blown out our shoulders over misguided emphasis on Propulsion. And now that I’ve embraced this pathway, I swim farther and faster than I ever did 20 years ago and with NO injuries. Very nice as I stare at 40, and get excited for better swimming beyond.

Also, these three principles create a circular pathway for refining our swimming. I liken it to the analogy of a sculptor carving a marble statue (I live in the land of marble quarries so it comes to mind readily). If we imagine Michaelangelo standing there before his angular pillar of marble with “David” in his mind, I don’t think we’d see him cutting into the marble to whittle on the hand until it was perfect then move on to the next part… no, he would likely mark out rough proportions on the surface and begin with initial cuts to ‘rough-in’ the image. Then through successively refined sweeps, he’d move over the slab, over and over again, with finer and finer tools, gradually perfecting the image until he was ready to polish it off.

We run through Balance, Streamline, and then work on Propulsion, then go back and do it again. Each season we take it to a new level of refinement, and several times within a season.

Sculpting is a helpful analogy enabling me to take my students through the sequence of drills (like the 10-lesson series) and introduce them to the Big Picture (Struggle free, fast swimming) and the 3 Principles that make it possible, and the package of concepts we learn (focus points, stroke thoughts, etc). Then we get to go back over these ideas again and again, gradually making improvements. No need to master it at once. There is a lot of grace in this- I appreciate having the pressure to immediately perfect something removed so I can enjoy the process of learning and practicing, working with the time and energy and ups/downs of life along the way. And in my lessons it is my goal to pass on this pathway and this grace to them so that they can go back to their pool and keep refining themselves, as a self-sculpting swimmer, a self-coach, and enjoy the process however long it takes. Some swimmers have a large budget of time to work and some have a modest budget, but everyone gets results with patience, persistence, and peace.

So let’s carve away!

Check out the discussion on the TI Forums

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4 responses to “Train Like Michaelangelo

  1. Pingback: Imprinting A Quality Catch | Smooth Strokes·

  2. Pingback: Feel For Feedback | Smooth Strokes·

  3. Pingback: When To Move On | Smooth Strokes·

  4. Pingback: When To Move On | Mediterra International Swimming·

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