Let’s take a look at this perspective then enjoy a practice set to apply it…
“Our actions are shaped by our intentions,” is the first sentence in the chapter entitle What Is Your Target?, in Part 2 of of Zen Golf, by Dr. Joseph Parent.
He goes on to write, “When I ask golfers the purpose of making a golf swing, most of them answer, ‘To hit the ball.'”
My translation to swimming: When I ask swimmers the purpose of making the stroke, most of them answer, ‘To push back on the water – as quickly and powerfully as possible.’
Dr. Parent continues: Yet focusing on the the ball as the target is a problematic perspective. Thinking of their job as “hitting the ball” instead of “sending the ball to the target” is probably why you see some high handicappers make quite acceptable practice swings and then get up to the ball and swing like they’re chopping wood.
My translation: Yet focusing on the push as the target is a problematic perspective. Thinking of their job as “pushing back on the water” instead of “sending the swimmer forward on the path of least resistance” is probably why you see virtually anyone less-than-elite level say they want to be efficient yet stroke hard like they are chopping water.
Dr. Parent: When the purpose of the swing is to send the ball to a target, that’s a different intention and a different swing appears. Set up a shot with those two different intentions (hitting the ball versus sending it into the distance) and notice the difference in your stance and mental focus. “Sending it” calls forth a stance and state of mind that are far better preparation for a successful golf shot.
My translation: When the purpose of the stroke is to push back on the water, that’s a different intention and a different stroke appears. Set up the stroke with those different intentions (pushing back on water versus sending the body forward on The Path of Least Resistance and notice the difference in body position, timing, energy flow, and mental focus. “Sending the body forward on The Path of Least Resistance calls forth a position and movement pattern and state of mind that are far better preparation for fast and (relatively) easy swimming.
I will carry on my translation (and you can go get a copy of Dr. Parent’s book): Even accomplished swimmers sometimes fall victim to an unhelpful perspective, one related more to psychology than physics. The intention to “make sure I make a powerful stroke” is likely to promote mechanical thinking and self-consciousness, both of which interfere with a free-flowing motion in the direction intended. However, if your purpose is to fulfill an image of your sleek body sliding forward gracefully fast on the path of least resistance the image fills your mind, and your body arranges itself with far less interference.
And one more: The best target is on the path we want our body to follow, not on where we are moving away from.
We will compare the effects – inside and outside the body and mind – of applying these two contrasting intentions/targets described by Dr. Parent, and applied by my translation to our swimming:
- pushing water back on each stroke
- sending the body forward on The Path of Least Resistance
2500 meters or yards.
You may use these Focal Points that I like to use, or choose some others you prefer:
- A – Spear to Perfect Skate Left, Perfect Skate Right
- B – Torpedo Spine (the crown of your skull is the tip of the torpedo)
- C – Move Center Of Mass past the Catch Point (it’s right there behind your navel)
- D – Slide The Torpedo Along The Path Of Least Resistance
With these Focal Points your trigger action will be: Set the Catch, Hold The Ball Of Water, then Focal Point A or B, or C, or D.
The idea is that you will use the Catch hand to hold your place in the water then use the Focal Point to send your body past that point in a particular way. How your body slides past that Catch Point is influenced by that Focal Point’s effect on the neuro-muscular response inside your body. You will start at lower intensity (using TI’s Rate of Perceived Effort Scale) in the first round so that your brain has time to grasp the trigger action, then execute the Focal Point control within a slower time-frame, then gradually increase intensity over the course of the Main Set.
- 6x 50 (1x 25 with Target #1, then 1x 25 with Target #2)
- 4x 50 using just Intention/Target #2
Swim at easy to comfortable cruising pace, not more.
On each length notice and compare:
- where you generate power from
- how you direct it through the inside your body
- where you send it out of your body (and in which direction).
If you can handle another layer of complexity notice and compare:
- Count strokes.
- Compare difference in SPL between length #1 and length #2 in the first 6x 50
- And compare changes in SPL from Repeat #1 to Repeat #10.
4 rounds of (4x 25, 3x 50, 2x 75, 1x 100)
- On Round #1 swim at stroke effort/quality level of [TI-RPE] #1
- On Round #2 swim at TI-RPE #2
- On Round #3 swim at TI-RPE #3
- On Round #4 swim at TI-RPE #4 (if you are able to hold your quality stroke)
On each repeat pick one of the Focal Points to use. As intensity increases, use those Focal Points that encourage the most relaxation in your stroke.
To increase complexity choose one of the following:
- Add stroke counting
- Add a Tempo Trainer, with tempos set appropriate to the SPL and intensity in your personal TI-RPE range.
- Increase distance of repeats.
- Add one more round at RPE #3 or #4.
As with my personal practice and that which I recommend to others, I suggest that you do this practice 3 times within a week or two. The first practice merely gets you acquainted with the concepts and pattern, and allows you to adjust it to suit your personal needs and metrics. The second two practices will allow you to discover much more detail in the concepts and in your own stroke skill, with subjective and objective data you can compare. You can adjust the complexity level just enough to increase the challenge in intrigue for your mind.