It only takes a split-second to mentally check your head position or whatever. I think it is like driving a car - subconsciously you are constantly monitoring all sorts of variables in an ongoing mental cycle. But you are only dimly aware of it because it is so ingrained.
On the other hand I have to admit that my stroke rate is always quite leisurely. I have only been doing TI about 4 months, and I am still much more concerned with working on my technique than trying to speed it up. I did martial arts for many years, and had a great teacher who once pointed out there is no point trying to do a technique fast if you are doing it wrong anyway. His way of putting it was "Don't practice your mistakes".
I usually take about 14-16 strokes per 25m. And I usually do 25m in about 25-35 seconds Which means I am taking about 2 seconds per stroke. (I took it much slower when I recently swam my first mile - about 2.4 secs/stroke if my maths is correct). Reading this forum I think this is fairly normal for 'mindful' swimming. But when I am ready, I will get a timer and start to build up to about 1 second per stroke.
But even when stroking faster, I am sure it is possible - and necessary - to be constantly monitoring yourself. On my TI course I was told to vary the focal points at different times. But I believe this is a question of emphasis. So if my focal point is say my kick for a few lengths, I don't abandon thinking about Spearing, head position etc - I just focus more on the kick; the other items sink into the back of my mind somewhat, but they are still there on every stroke. I'm sure it is just the same for golfers, tennis-players etc. Anything that demands a lot of physical coordination. It is definitely true for martial arts. And dancing (another of my interests)
I would argue that if you don't feel you have any time to think/monitor your stroke, then something is wrong. You cannot work on your stroke unless you give yourself 'space' to perceive what is going on. We need to be able to identify what is actually occurring in our body so we can compare it with what we should be doing. Then we work on eliminating the differences. If you 'try too hard' all the time, you cannot evaluate yourself in this way.
So my goal is never just to reach the other end of the pool. I try always to be 'in the moment' working on my technique one stroke at a time. This is not an approach I have invented, it is what all the TI material and coaches advocate. I am just lucky that my past experiences lend themselves to this 'mindful' approach.
Now to answer your specific question - I am pretty sure my breathing stroke is longer than the non-breathing stroke. AND I am only comfortable breathing on one side (my right). But Rome wasn't built in a day! I have been working on not lifting my head when I breathe - and devised a couple of useful mental checks to assist that process, which I described in this thread. I have also started working on my left-side breathing, but I think I don't expect it to come easily. As for balancing out my SR for breathing vs non-breathing strokes (whichever side I happen to be breathing), that is a task for further down the line (for me).
If you are at that point where you have a comfortable style but you feel SR is slower when you breathe, it sounds like you are ready to work on that aspect of your technique. From reading the forum, I think it is recommended to use a timer to set a fixed SR you have to match. Your objective would not be to go fast - just to have a consistent SR on every stroke.
I know that Terry recommends the Finis Tempo Trainer, and there are discussions on the forum of how to use it. I read some reviews on Amazon that said it was a bit fragile if dropped. So I have ordered a Wetronome instead - which is apparently more robust. I will post a review when it arrives.
Last edited by Nicodemus : 08-13-2009 at 06:41 PM.