I am writing from Chile to share my experience and receive feedback from fellow TIers.
I started swimming regularly two years ago at age 45, never having swimmed competitively before. I trained with a master's group twice a week, and six months later signed up for a few local races. My early times were a respectable 35s in 50m and 1:23 in 100m freestyle (25 meter pool).
Encourged by the early success, I joined a more competitive group and increased my training to 2-3 times per week. However, after a year and a half, I found myself unable to go beyond the 1:16 mark in 100m meter freestyle, with a dissapointing 1:20 in the Nationals (50 meter pool). I would get absolutely fatigued at the 75m mark, being unable to accelerate.
A few months ago I discovered TI, and realized how many things I had been doing wrong (head position, kicking, core rotation, etc.) I felt this was the key to solving my problems, and incorporated my newly found knowledge into an intense training program with my masters team (4 times per week, 2.500-3.000m per session). TI helped me get through the training sessions, which I would never have accomplished before. It was obvious that my physical condition was improving, as was my stoke style. I never timed myself in the three months since the Nationals, but was sure that my times must be significantly better.
This past weekend a group of us went to a big race in Brazil where I was anxious to test myself. The results, however, were terribly dissapointing, with a 1:18 in 100m free and a horrible 3:05 in 200m free. I have no way to explain what happened, but I felt frustrated enough to consider giving up swimming altogether.
I feel as if I have a mental block that does not let me perform in races, or at least I prefer to think that rather than to accept the fact that I my body cannot perform any better.
Reading some of Terry's postings I see that he emphasizes stroke lenght and stroke efficiency as the key to improving speed. Maybe I should focus on this rather than continue to up my training volume.
Do any of you coaches or TI enthusiasts have any suggestions for a new twist on my training before I opt for a new sport?
I understand this frustation too. I have a terrible time not racing the way that I use to with a few nods towards TI.
I swam in high school and have only been swimming TI since late November 08. My normal practice is usually very slow and attempting to swim with TI perfection. Because I was not following the drills to increase speed, when I raced I would fall back my high school style stroke (slightly improved).
To correct this, I have been trying to follow the advice in the Total Immersion and Extraordinary Swimming books on timing and swim golf, so I have two different "race" strokes.
In my old stroke, I burn all my energy and when I am done, I want to throw up from the energy spent.
In my new stroke is hard for me to maintain, because my core only moves so fast, and I have more energy available. So even though I am moving as fast as my body currently allows from side-to-side, I always feel like I am holding back. If I "stop holding back" my stroke collapses back into egg beating. This is not to say that I am not extremely tired when I race this way, but I do not burn through all the glucose in my body when I do it.
Luckily, my new stroke is a fast. It times at 1:10 on the 100y short coarse and my old stroke was best timed around 1:15y short coarse. My goal is to break one minute in free and butterfly on short course be year's end.
Thanks for your reply. I feel that something similar to what you describe happened to me in my last race (still trying to erase from my mind).
In my 100m race I reverted back to my old stroke with all its inefficiency, which explains my inability to improve my time. In the 200m, however, I tried to use my new stroke, but was unable to get any speed out of it. This was my first time racing 200m, and I was concerned about conserving energy. Proof was that I wasn't as tired finishing the 200 as in the 100.
So what is the answer? How can I develop a fast stroke using the correct TI approach? Converting your times from yards to meters, I see that our times are similar (1:18 for 100m short course), but your goal is more ambitious than mine (1:07 for 100m).
I have counted my strokes per length, and think that this is where I should work first. I watched myself on video, and counted 46 spl for 50 meters in the 100m race, which is very far from the 25-30 spl that I understand good racers accomplish.
All suggestions are welcome.
Obviously, I am not sure what will work, but I am very much enjoying trying things out. As this is my first season swimming in a decade, I have been taking things pretty slowly and trying to make my technique permanent over racing.
Originally I tried racing first, but I just could not do it without throwing away all my TI work as I described previously.
I spend most of my freestyle practice now (after a good stroke warmup) trying to maintain my slow SPL while swimming faster and I watch where my stroke breaks down. Hand entry is a huge weakness for me. So I will practice that more slowly at a low SPL, then after a 100, I try again.
I really need to start doing swim golf (where you add your time in seconds to your total SPL) to judge my efficiency at different rates of core rotation, but just swimming my practices slightly faster than normal has been yielding really good results for me so far. So I have stuck with it.
Thanks again. I am not aware of the swim golf technique, but I will look it up.
My first posting was fresh from an extremely dissapointing and even embarassing race. However, after cooling off, I am now ready to make the changes that will make the difference. There is an interesting article that I read on one of the threads here that talks about optimism in sports that kind of describes the path I feel is right for me.
I will keep you posted on how I progress and ask you to do the same so we can exchange "best practices". By the way , what age group are you competing in?
I have started seeing speed this year. The trap that is sounds like you are in is a common one. We spend so much time talking about slowing down and learning proper technique, that we forget how to race fast.
When Alex Popov was winning everything (late 90s I believe) he was swimming very long slow strokes (about 0.6s per arm, Coach Shinji measured). Most of his competitors were racing at 0.4-0.5 seconds. When I started learning TI, I slowed down to 1.5seconds per arm to get it right. There is no way I will race fast at 1.5s.
So I started doing three things.
1. Build swims. As part of many warm ups, I do 50s where I start very slow and build my tempo as I swim. My goal is to finish as fast as possible with the same stroke count on both lengths.
2. Golf - swim a 50 and count strokes. Add them together. The next 50 must get a lower total either by going faster with the same count or the same speed with fewer strokes. (THis was always really hard for me for some reason.)
3. My most successful approach. Use the tempo trainer. Find the stroke rate that you are currently swimming with the least effort and good technique. Then increase tempo in very small amounts (0.02 at a time) each 25 while holding the same stroke count. See how far you can go. Then, when you get to your limit, stay at that tempo until it feels easier.
so for me, I usually start at 15 strokes (25y) at 1.1 and on most days I can descend to 0.75 without adding strokes. I have gotten as low as 0.6 once after swimming daily for a month. I also noticed that when I went back to 1.1, I went down to 14 strokes. So now I have to play golf to see if 14 strokes at 0.85 or so can get me faster than 15 at 0.75. It becomes a game to find your optimum. And its a fun game.
These sets will train you to hold your technique while increasing speed.
Most people converting to TI report that it really takes 6 months to a year before it really "kicks in." This seems especially true of more experienced swimmers, where newer swimmers have less to "unlearn."
I would hang in there. It does seem like significant speed increases esp. at the skill level you are talking about does take some hard work and concentrated effort, whereas the "do a few drills for a little while and I can survive a triathlon" people get satisfactory results relatively easily.
Swimming really well is hard work physically AND mentally.
Thank you very much for jumping in and sharing your tips. I will order a Tempo Trainer and follow your advice.
I realize that I also have to work on the psychological aspects of racing, as I get extremely nervous before the start, feeling out of breath while on the blocks. It is odd that I only get this feeling in freestyle events, while in breastroke, for example, I jump in full of confidence and don't even think about the fatigue aspect until it actually hits me.
I would like to hear some testimonies regarding success in dropping times after TI.
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