To use the analogy of driving your own familiar automobile, consider how the owner who is in-tune with his car’s performance can tell when something is not right. There is objective feedback and there is subjective feedback that give you clues that something is wrong and where to look for it. You have gauges on the dash board that show information – you’ve come to know what values to expect on those gauges when all is working fine. And you’ve also got an intuitive sense for how the car ‘feels’ while you are driving.
When the auto is nearly out of fuel the engine sputters. When the tire pressure is low the steering responds in a sluggish or wavy manner.
If the engine is not responding with more power when you press on the accelerator you can feel that something is not quite right – it could be the engine is sluggish, or it could be that the engine is fine but the road is iced over and the wheels are slipping. In microseconds the brain is scanning for additional information to paint a more accurate picture of what is wrong.
So also, in the water while swimming, you come to know what your best slippery form feels like and what your best efficient stroke feels like (subjective) and what our metrics should show (objective: a certain pace or heart rate or stroke count, for instance) for the amount of effort you are putting out.
There are three main tasks for the swimmer (in this order of priority):
- Remove or reduce the natural forces working against you
- Recruit the available natural forces that can assist you in moving forward
- Apply your own power – just the amount needed, and in the precise location and timing
Here’s another secret (that TI does not want to remain a secret hidden from the masses!): 90% or more of the struggles faced by common swimmers are solved addressing those first two points above. However, it is easily observed that most swim programs seem to devote 90% of the time to #3, and getting far less improvement results than they could because they haven’t sufficiently resolved the first two first.
So you can jump well ahead of the competition by learning to use this checklist, and a combination of your subjective senses and your objective measuring tools to uncover the problem you face.
The fact that you know something is wrong is the first step! The next step is to get an idea of what you should look for, and in what order (The Diagnostic Grid). The next step is to set up a few activities that will test various parts of the stroke and help expose the weak spots. The TI Freestyle Drill Sequence is meant to do that.
The above three points examine the problem from a physics viewpoint. Then we overlay that physics viewpoint with physiological/neurological view point to build this Diagnostic Grid:
- First look for and solve Balance problems. Scan for front/back balance, then scan for rotational (side) balance.
- Then look for and solve Streamline problems. (Head and spine, arms, then legs)
- Only then do you look for and solve Propulsion problems.
Always start by testing for Balance problems. For instance, if you turn off the legs and let them stream behind the body do your hips start to sink immediately? If you slow down your stroke to exaggerated slow tempo do you find you can’t hold a patient front arm? Or do you fall flat or have to turn onto your side to hold that pause?
If you don’t find a Balance problem, then move on to Streamline. For instance, if you put a pause in your stroke right before you set the catch, do you lose velocity immediately (as if you are gliding in mud)? Does your extending arm cross toward your center line? Do your legs scissor while kicking? Do they spread sideways instead of vertical? Does the foot create a “thump” sound on each kick? Does it catch air and spread bubbles underwater?
The use of the objective tools is fairly easy to teach, and you’ll find many posts here on swimming metrics. The use of subjective tools, however, is both a science and an art and develops from lots of practice with regular testing (comparing to objective measurements) and exposure to others who use subjective tools skillfully in order to learn their tricks. (I am doing my best to pass on the tricks I know in writing!). This subjective skill is not optional. It is critical for excellent swimming. It is critical in enabling anyone to reach the ‘swimmer’s high’ of seemingly effortless swimming, or for you elite performance.
This subjective skill can be developed by anyone when the right path is laid out. (And I have not seen this path laid out thoroughly by any program outside of TI, hence one of my reasons for becoming a “TI” Coach and not another kind). Although some people seem to be ‘born’ with it the rest of us have to work to acquire it… and we will!
Let’s keep studying and enjoying the learning process together.