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.
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.