Opportunity Cost

Here is a snippet of a comment I received on the the recent post No Bubbles To Eat:

I have only been doing the TI method for two months and I am a competitive swimmer which messes me up…when i have to go fast.

Here was my response to that part of it (and I’ve added a bit more as I kept thinking):

And when you go faster, at some point you trip the circuit breaker in your brain (so-to-speak) and return to default mode (old) technique – putting too much load on an under-developed motor-control pathway. It takes time to replace the old with a new default that can handle higher stress – you have to start slowly with the NEW patterns and gradually build up while at the same time allowing the OLD patterns to atrophy by disuse and lose their default status in your brain. After a while, from complete refusal to use old patterns of swimming, you’re brain will only know the new patterns and regard them as the default. There will be no old technique to go back to.

TI Ladder

Here’s an analogy I have in my head about this: It’s like you’ve been climbing up an 8 foot ladder and reached some peak with your old technique. The new technique promises you a 12 foot ladder, but you have to climb down from your old ladder and start climbing the new one from the bottom, learning each rung at a time to get you to the 12 foot potential. There is no skipping ahead for most normal people.

The dilemma is that you can’t have performance on both ladders. It’s an opportunity cost. It will take time and commitment to imprint the new patterns and neglect the old ones – your progress will be proportional to how much you completely you neglect the old patterns and practice the new patterns with your best concentration. This is my suspicion of what happened when some people complain that they’ve ‘tried TI but it didn’t work’ – I bet they dabbled with some ideas but they wouldn’t let go of the old patterns in a way that would allow their brain to adapt and actually get the results the new method will produce.  (This can be said for just about any skill set, not just swimming and TI.)

As you can see, this would take a great deal of courage (or desperation) on the part of an accomplished swimmer to back off the old ladder that was giving them some results to totally rebuild their engine and control panel from scratch in faith that they can get onto a better one. It may seem to be safer to many to just dabble with TI (which doesn’t work well for most) and tinker with the technique they have in place rather than totally overhaul it. I believe this is one of the reasons why experienced swimmers have a harder time with TI than those who are without some accomplishment in their past. It feels like so much more to risk. I can sympathize with this.

At first, it does take faith to invest in the TI training path, but I think for all of us who have, we are VERY glad we did. I’ve tasted both and I wouldn’t go back to the old ways. I have yet to run across someone who’s actually deep-practiced TI and then rejected it.


7 responses to “Opportunity Cost

  1. Dear Mat, thank you very much! I love the method…I relax much more and go smoother..even though I am a sprinter…I use the 2 BK albeit on the wrong foot…( same foot , same arm)…this is the only time I can actually do any distance…only with the TI method. When no one is around…I do my drills and feel like I am in heaven….however; for competition., ( I am a Masters’ swimmer…ex junior Olympian…coming back from 40 years off)..I have to maintain some tenets and keep the form. Quite a dilemma…but a challenging one….

    • Wonderful! It is a bit frustrating that the dominant culture of Masters doesn’t seem to recognize their dogmatism and tendency to ‘persecute’ by subtle social pressure something that feels threatening to their way of going about things – can be signs of insecurity and resistance to improvement. Humans tend to reject what we don’t understand. Yet there is room for so much more. Good to see you in that mix and patiently and confidently be yourself and present the opportunity for others to consider new ideas as you test and prove them to yourself.

  2. I’ve been musing on this very thing in my TI practice. I’ve recently started paying a lot of attention to a vertical forearm, high elbow catch. I find I can DO it–but only VERY slowly and with intense concentration, otherwise my old catch takes over and I’m pulling without that EVF position.
    My conclusion has been that I should concentrate exclusively on holding correct form without worrying about the higher SPL and slower times it’s giving me for now.
    Is there a rule of thumb for how long I can expect building this new habit to take? And do you think I’m right to avoid all compromise in form while trying to make a permanent change in my stroke this way? Thanks,

    • I am thrilled to receive your question. Since reading it yesterday I have been formulating a response that I may put into the next post. In order to provide a practical and safe (for your shoulder) response I feel compelled to bring up a few different factors that affect the safe development of that EVF skill, and so that ‘rule of thumb’ may not be so easy to provide.

  3. I look forward to your thoughts on EVF, then, and how to make it a habit so it’s what I do even when I’m tired or swimming harder. Thanks!

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

  5. Pingback: New Technique Dilemma? | Smooth Strokes·

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