The camera doesn't lie, it reveals truth
This forum is a great resource, and I'm grateful to TI for hosting it and to the participants for their supportive and informative posts. I've benefitted greatly from this community, picking up tidbits here and there from a wide variety of TI learners, all of which have helped me on my self-coached TI journey of about 10 months.
The threads where forum participants offer critiques on others' form based on user-submitted clips are particularly interesting to me because I can see for myself what others are pointing out – these are not just theoretical stroke discussions. Also, I've often read that a great tool for improvement is to get film of yourself swimming because you'll see what you are really doing. I can confirm that this is true. Over the holiday weekend, I persuaded one of my kids to film me swimming a few lengths. When I saw the video, I was generally pleased with my progress, but noted many areas where I have an opportunity to improve. I have my own list, but I'm very interested in any observations and insights the members of this community might have. So, here are my very first TI clips. These were all easy lengths of 25 yards at a relaxed, comfortable pace.
Thanks for posting the video. A couple of positive comments first. You look to be very relaxed and comfortable in the water. Your stroke count appeared to be consistently in the 12-14 range with 12 being more the norm. I only wish mine was there.
When viewing the above water portion it appeared your balance was quite good. I did notice your recovery although smooth seemed to be a. somewhat rigid with stiff fingers, and b. higher than need be. Your kick does not appear consistent although it surely is not a frenetic one.
Underwater is where we can get an accurate assessment of our progress. It always is more revealing than above as the refractive effect of water shows us closer to the surface than we are.
On your recovery it is obvious you are starting your catch and pull way before the spearing hand enters the water. I had to play with the video but am convinced there are strokes where the catch side is past the chest and sometimes close to the abdomen when the spearing hand enters the water.
This takes away all potential power generated from the high side. The other note is when you are at this point, balance is way out of wack. In one instance I was able to stop the video and your legs showed to be almost at a 30 degree angle to the surface. So much for above water video balance.
Practice with a more patient lead hand and extension. It will bring you balance more in line.
I write the above with much understanding of the issues as I work with them on a regular basis. In closing I hope you find the comments helpful.
Swim Silent and Be Well
The first thing I would say it that your stroke is obviously a TI stroke. Everything looks very smooth, unhurried and rhythmical. I think you could possibly roll a little more to your right side and I think the right arm may be a little straight on the pull, which may be connected with the minimal roll, but otherwise I see little wrong. Your head position seems very good. Presumably you have experimented with both lower and higher positions. Looks like a nice sunny outdoor pool, too. Not something we have here.
Extend to breathe
Pasa: nice videos and nice relaxed freestyle. Here is what I see when you breathe: you kick out your leg (1); then you push down with your right arm and bring it across your body (2). Some might say you over rotate but I would suggest simply extending your right arm while breathing.
Look what Ian Thrope does:
His arm is extended while breathing. Then his catch starts when he is flat on the water. The extended arm will also help your balance. --mjm
Good form starts with balance
Thanks all for your very helpful comments. While I noticed some of the same items you were kind enough to point out, you did pick up on some subtle issues that I had not noticed.
After reading your comments and thinking a bit about the issues identified, it occurred to me that many of my issues seem to be balance related and likely interconnected - that is, one "problem" may be causing others. This is encouraging because it suggests that if I can fix one issue by focusing on balance, others might fix themselves in the process. For example, the timing of my arm entry, which Westy noted was coming after my catch arm had started back, in addition to causing a loss of propulsion power, might also be causing the issues with my legs (sinking a bit and splaying out when I breathe).
The list of issues I see that I can work on, including those you pointed out to me, is:
1. Stiff hand at entry - my hand feels relaxed upon exiting the water at my hip, through recovery, but then I seem to be stiffening it a bit as it enters the water. I noticed this as soon as I watched the first underwater clip.
2. More patient lead arm - I too noticed that my catch arm was starting back before my recovering hand enters the water. But I didn't realize until Westy pointed it out how pronouced it is. I feel like I'm being pretty patient with my lead arm, but perhaps not patient enough. And as mjm pointed out, this may be more of an issue with my right arm when I breathe (to the left). I'll work on extending the lead hand and keeping it out front a bit longer.
3. Legs - sinking, splaying out and kick not uniform - I'm trying to execute a two-beat kick, but my legs look like they are doing more moving around than that, and even sinking a bit. I've been aware for some time of an involuntary flick of my off-leg (the one I'm not trying to kick) just before I intentionally kick my leg down on the catch side. So while I'm only trying to kick with the leg on the downward side to initiate the roll, my other leg seems to be moving on its own, which I believe my brain is doing to compensate for an imbalance in my stroke. I'm consciously trying to keep my body, from head to toe, in a straight, horizonal position, but perhaps because of my catch arm moving back a bit prematurely my balance is thrown off and my brain is compensating by quickly shifting my off leg just a bit. The sensation I have when swimming is that this off-leg movement is very small, but on video it looks much more pronounced.
4. Arms - a bit stiff looking, but actually very relaxed. I feel like it is almost no effort at all to swing my arms forward with this motion. I suspect the stiff appearance is due to a conscious effort to keep my hand moving in a straight line from exit at the hip to re-entry. But I also noticed that at times my hands are entering a bit closer to the center line than I would like, rather than on a "wide track." Perhaps this too is upsetting balance just a bit.
Lots of room for improvement.
Thanks all for the replies.
First strokes post video - slow, but a rewarding session
So last evening I swam in my usual 25m pool, and used my drill time to focus on the issues identified from my video. After a 400m warmup, I swam 12x25 doing switch drills, focusing primarily on: (1) holding my lead hand out front a bit longer so catch begins as recovering hand enters, or just before it enters, (2) keeping my right arm outside the body when I breathe to the left, and leaving it out front longer than I have been. I tried to just ignore my legs during these drills. This was hard work and required a very focused mind because I was trying to imprint a slightly different stroke rythm and motion than I've been using for the past several months. Although I have a long way to go to imprint better stroke mechanics, I felt I was making progress in the right direction. I plan to do lots more drilling like this in each practice session for the next several weeks.
I then swam 9x200 at a very comfortable pace, a bit slower tempo than usual, so I could focus on my stroke issues. Again, I tried focusing on being more patient with my lead-arm, particularly my right arm when breathing, and the timing of beginning the catch, and did not put any intention into my leg action. While I failed at times to keep my arms on the proper track, I was able to do so most of the time. But here was the best part: I was pleased, but not surprised, to find that the change in arm mechanics created a balance shift such that I was much more able to keep my legs streamlined behind me and the involuntary flick of my non-kicking leg was greatly reduced, and even eliminated on many strokes.
I've got lots of work to do to get my stroke where I want it to be, but I am so glad I got underwater video of myself so I (and others) could see the flaws in my stroke. Without it, I never would have known I had these issues.
So, if you haven't done it yet, I encourage you to get someone to film you swimming, especially underwater footage. It's very revealing.
On the right track
Congrats. You are on the right track. You report that your balance did improve with an extended arm during breathing. Before with your right arm and elbow low under your body, your feet flew apart (sissor kick) to maintain balance.
Two strategies you might try: keep your elbow high and far outside your shoulder during the catch; and try swimming without kicking. It will pinpoint any area in your stroke where you are unbalanced, not streamlined, and compensating for an unbalanced position with a kick.
From a head on video, you should not see any portion of your legs, maybe just the tip of your feet, like Ian Thorpe:
Pasa: Andreas started a thread called swimming with no kick:
He also posted a video showing Shinji swimming with no kick:
I prefer bands but be warned that it is difficult at first and requires excellent balance, strong core muscles and RELAXATION. Here is a video of Solar Energy (not me) swimming with bands:
You might try with and without to see what works for you. Best of luck. --mjm
Some progress, much better connectedness
But the first strategy, combined with being more patient with the catch, is working wonders, both for the balance issues my video revealed and also in a way I didn't anticipate. During the past week, not only I'm I finding much better balance by keeping my elbows high and wide during the catch, keeping the lead arm extended longer and being more patient with the catch (my legs seem much more stable and I'm able to do a 2-beat kick without the extra little flick of the off foot to maintain balance) but I'm also discovering that this very slight change in arm position and timing has made my stroke feel much more powerful and connected to hip and core rotation. Here's what I mean:
By waiting just a fraction of a second longer to engage the catch, I now feel like I'm pulling more water with that arm as I rotate my core, and when I flick my foot to do the 2-beat kick I really feel like the resulting hip rotation and core rotation are ultimately transferring more power, effortlessly, to the catch arm. I'm not "pulling" per se, but allowing the core rotation to provide the power. Now I really feel that power on each stroke as I wait to begin the catch until my opposite arm has entered the water. It certainly feels like the catch arm is much more connected to the power being generated by the hips, core and legs. It's amazing how such a subtle change in timing can have such a dramatic effect on both balance and propulsion.
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