Posted on Jan 28, 2009
- Head sticking out of the water a bit at the top.
- Eyes looking forward at an angle to the vertical.
- Neck muscles engaged to carry the head's weight.
- Spine line curved in an ‘S-shape'.
- Core muscles not engaged
- Head ‘totally immersed' in the water but ‘only just'.
- Eyes looking straight down.
- Neck muscles relaxed with minimal ‘tone'.
- Spine line as straight as is comfortable.
- Core muscles engaged
There are many historical factors influences which I won't go into here. If you want to find out what works best I invite you to try a mini-experiment in the water:
> First learn how to release tension from your neck area:
- On dry land use 'Rag Doll' and allow your head to hang freely.
- Use 'Jellyfish' to feel the weight of your head supported by the water.
- Get a friend to help you to loosen your neck, shoulders and arms.
- Use the test of 'Lift ... Drop' to evaluate progress.
> Now use 'Superman' with a silent flutter kick:
- Start off by 'hanging your head'.
- Feel where your head breaks the surface.
- Notice where you are looking.
- Sense how much tension you are holding in your neck.
See if you can feel the difference when you slowly engage your neck muscles to lift your head and look forwards. At first you may need to exaggerate your head lift. As you become more aware you will begin to feel more subtle effects as you raise and lower your head. Can you feel how your balance is affected? What else do you notice?
> Next build some speed by using a wall at the edge of the water:
- Duck under and push off.
- Look straight down.
- Lengthen through your spine line.
- Cover your ears with your arms
- Extend your knuckles loosely forward.
Listen to the water flowing past your head... feel the space behind your head and between your shoulder blades. Can you sense any turbulence in the water? Observe how fast and how far you travel through the water. Repeat several 'push off's until you are used to the sensations and then try looking forward instead. What do you notice? Can you feel a difference?
> The whole point of course is to see how all this affects your full-stroke. Try swimming super slow and play around with it. Nod and shake yer noggin to let the tension go. Imagine you are chilling out on a Carribean Island. Then see what happens when you look forward as if you are sighting in open water.
> It is not my task to tell you what is right or wrong but to encourage you to find out what is true for you. I believe that 'head position' is one a key theme for effective freestyle as it influences every other aspect of the stroke!
It can be really difficult to 'let go' of your neck and head. Sub-optimal posture, for example when cycling, driving or computing leaves residual neck tension on a physical level which is excacerbated by emotional stresses or 'overthinking'. For most of us these things are unavoidable in the context of our busy and technology-rich modern lives. The good news is that high quality swimming can leave you feeling like you have just had a massage! TI courses in Australia are designed to nourish your wellbeing by helping you to connect with your best swimming. A mindful yoga practise with a good instructor can also help.
I look forward to your responses.