Definition Of A Drill

A question raised on my last post:

You point out that when our stroke breaks down, we asses where and why the stroke is not right and go back to drilling.

What if we can not find the answer from the drills…..especially if self-coached, how would you suggest we “think outside the box”… ???

(I am thinking this will lead to a few posts to lay out some concepts to help Self-Coaching Swimmers build a diagnostic grid for troubleshooting the stroke.)

It may be that you don’t yet know how to see everything a coach can see when guiding a swimmer through the particular freestyle drills sequence that I laid out in the previous post. In time you will. You may even develop some drills on your own. Drills, in general, are a classification of tools we use to uncover stroke problems and correct them.

To use the auto analogy – think of drills as that act of taking the automobile to the mechanic, and then lifting it off the ground on one of those hydraulic lift platforms- in addition, the drive-wheels are on rollers so that the car engine and transmission can be accelerated while the car remains in a stationary position where it is easy to examine. (Actually, this is a better analogy for what a skilled coach or swimmer can do in an Endless Pool with mirrors and camera system.)

A drill is anything that helps you isolate and focus upon a limited section of skill for problem-finding and problem-solving. So, by this definition it is not merely swimming at slow speed, or a funny set of movements that we won’t call real swimming – rather drills are a change of agenda and focus, sometimes involved a change or restriction in movement or speed, sometimes not. (You can drill in the middle of a race at top velocity, if you’ve trained to use focal points this way.)

A drill can be fast or slow, whole stroke or limited, active or passive, moving or stationary. The whole point is that a drill enables the mind to focus. If the swimmer is not focusing his attention on the precise purpose of the drill then effective drilling is not occurring no matter what laps are accomplished or what drill assignment the coach has passionately written on the white board.

Then, that raises the question, “What then should the mind should focus upon in order to find the problem?”

Next post…

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2 responses to “Definition Of A Drill

  1. Great analogy ! Thanks Mat. This leads to me thinking about a particular problem I have… Swing switch. I know the drill states swing elbow out, not up. This is fine at slow paced drill…… But then breaks down in w/s and the arm and hand takes over.

    How do we break a particular problem when the answer is not easily identified from the TI guidance ?

    • The drills that are shown in the video or in a live workshop are what we call a Prescriptive Path. The sequence has been pre-designed for us according to the principles of physics, physiology and neurology to provide a generally thorough sequence of steps to help most people develop each skill in order. The PMF DVD breaks it down into even more pieces than the live workshop does because it is aimed at self-coaching swimmers.

      On the next level, an advanced coaching or advanced self-coaching level, we should have enough grasp of those principles to customize the path for a particular swimmer or a particular need. Instead of locked down on a certain program the focal points and drills are now tools in our tool box that we pull out with wisdom knowing which will work for what need. We can skip certain things and hone in on other activities that are precisely what is needed without fear that we’re missing a more fundamental correction.

      Those principles cover EVERYTHING regardless of whether it is TI or not. TI has just done a marvelous job of bringing them together in an effectively ordered way that we haven’t seen in any other program. I have yet to encounter a swimmer’s problem or performance need that I couldn’t solve with them. I am eager to encounter new problems with swimmers so I can explore more ways to use the tools and improve my working knowledge of the principles.

      The shift from ‘drill’ to ‘whole stroke’ is not an ON/OFF switch, but a spectrum – you move incrementally from one zone to the next. If you are doing what you regard as a drill and can swing the elbow as you intend, then that means your brain has learned to maintain control at that level of intensity. If you make some sort of a jump into what you think of as whole stroke, with faster movements and move power surging through the motor circuits from brain to motor units in the arm, and suddenly you can’t control the elbow as you could before, this means you’ve tried send too much signal through an underdeveloped motor-circuit before it’s had enough time to grow and be insulated to handle greater surge running through it. Consider a thin power cable and a thick one with lots of insulation. If you run too much through the thin cable it will burn the cable or blow the circuit breaker- that is one way to describe what has happened in your brain when you fail to execute the wide elbow in whole stroke.

      Do you play a musical instrument? Even with learning to swim at a higher level of skill, the brain needs to learn to control the body parts with precision like a guitarist or painter needs to learn to control the arms and fingers. It’s the same process. No one can likely jump from slowly plinking out a simple blues scales to a high speed solo in a couple week’s practice. It will improve gradually with persistent practice.

      I suggest that you look for more incremental steps using the same drill-to-whole stroke transition. Look up my essay ‘Long Live Slide and Glide’ on the blog. This is essentially a slow-motion version of whole stroke useful for testing a whole array of stroke details. You can simply turn the stroke way down to super slow tempo and to give your brain ample time to focus on some details. Then turn up the tempo slightly every couple laps to practicing hold the same focus in slightly more intense stroke tempos. You’ll see at what tempo, or at what intensity level you start to struggle with that skill. That is the point you spend some time working at.

      For the elbow going wide, what you may find is that when you reach a certain intensity level and suddenly the elbow swings high instead of wide, you may find another part of your body starting to do something funky that you didn’t notice before. Then you discover the interrelationship of the whole body. You find that in order to correct the elbow you’ve actually got to correct (for example) how the spearing arm starts extending into the water in front of you (which may cause over-rotation if it is thrust too abruptly or angles toward the centerline of the body). Slowing things down then very, very gradually speeding it up allows you to detect what other part of your body might be throwing the elbow off its wide track though you are trying to concentrate on it.

      This is what a coach’s eyes will do beside you. You are focused on your elbow, but I am taking in the whole picture watching what other parts of your body are doing at that moment the error in the elbow occurs. That’s how some underwater video can really help you. If at all possible, have someone shoot underwater side view and underwater front view while you are drilling (swinging the elbow correctly) and then when you are doing whole stroke (and the elbow swings high instead of wide). There is a good chance that as you increase intensity the other side of your body is doing funky things to compensate making it hard for your elbow to stay on wide track.

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