The question is often (and naturally) asked after our workshops, “How do I start to practice all this next week?”
TI introduces you to a new way to train. It is based on a neurological perspective, that places the practice of swimming in the realm of how we would train for other highly technical sports and practices like martial arts, golf, tennis, dance, yoga, climbing, etc.
In swimming, just as in these other activities, it is not the most powerful swimmer who swims the best. Rather it is the swimmer can apply ‘just enough’ power with perfect aim and timing who excels. From this neurological perspective good swimming is 90% technique and 10% power, although if technique is under-developed a swimmer needs an enormous amount of power to compensate. This is where the TI mantra, “Swim Smarter, Not Harder” derives its meaning. Put your effort into training for precision (technique) and you will need far less power to go farther and faster than ever. For the amount of time most people have to spend in the pool, giving most of that time to technique training will give far better returns than doing mostly power (muscular) and cardio-vascular (metabolic) training, and it will last longer too- through aging and inevitable lapses in pool time… not to mention good technique prevents injury. And the necessary muscular and metabolic training for your swimming goals are naturally built into the process of smart neuro-muscular training.
Here are some key principles for TI training at the beginning stages to properly prepare you for advanced performance training:
- Practice precision; never practice struggle. What is practiced is what will be perfected. When you reach a point in the drill where you are failing to achieve the focus point it is time to stop, rest, and start again, or move to a new focus point.
- Keep a single focus point on every length. Only add or combine focus points when one of them becomes ‘easy’ (meaning, it requires less effort to focus on and maintain) and you are ready to increase the challenge level a little. You may have several focus points you want to work on today, but at any one time just focus on one of them.
- Make small, gradual increases in difficulty and distance. Only make increases up to the point that you can hold good form. When form deteriates, step back and work towards that limit again. Pushing up to the limit is more effective than pushing over it.
- Smaller, higher quality sets are more productive than big sets that cause your focus and quality to deteriate and begin to practice struggle. Do short segments of practice on each focus point, either spending a few minutes on one, then switch to a new one, or cycle through several within the set.
- Use minimal kicking in the beginning stages of doing drills to make sure Balance is being improved, not avoided. The goal is not to finish the length, or get the set done, but to execute the movement as intended. We are perfecting our ability to control our movements, not get to the other side.
- Until breathing skills are well developed, practice skills between breathes then stop, and start again. Once interrupted or integrated breathing skills are developed, use them to do full pool-length drills.
- Slow it down. Practice precision before speed, and speed will follow. Neuro-muscular control is first developed in slow, careful movements. As precise movement is practiced frequently and consistently the nervous system will build up the circuits supporting it so that the movement will become easier, faster, and more powerful. Ease and speed in the water will come from a body that is well-trained to cut through it with fluid precision movements. The neuro-muscular foundation for high speed is first built in slow work. This means giving yourself sufficient rest intervals during drill work so that you will be able to keep pushing your neuro-muscular limits without being pre-maturally fatigued by muscular and metabolic exhaustion within the practice time. There is time for the latter kind of work once you establish some level of stroke control. Tthe power appropriate to your goal will be developed as your quickening neuro-muscular system draws you into more intense challenges. In other words, keep your heart rate in the aerobic range while building technique.