I can only share the experience of sculpting myself
Since I learned freestyle using TI methods completely self-coached, this might reflect some significant points about the drills, what effect they have and the transition or not transition from and to them. I have the impression that the majority of TI-swimer had freestyle experience before they start TI, and not all beginners run around self-coached (Hello to Inca, if she's still around here).
Drills as such are not necessarily fun (sometimes they are, though). So, either very simply the coach tells you to do so and you do it, or, like in my case, you need to have a motivation. I got it through reasoning. When I decided to learn the freestyle stroke I looked for information, mainly in the internet, to find out how to learn it. Mainly through the website www.svl.ch
I gathered enough information to order the 'Easy Freestyle' DVD, and ignored all possibilites of potential help in local pools, swim clubs, co-swimmers etc.
For the first 4-5 weeks I did basic drills. There was no question of transitioning to whole stroke - I couldn't. It was September last year and it was starting to get cold. I was in an outside pool most of the time and I still remember getting cold in the water, specially around the shoulders. I was absolutely convinced that it would work out so I kept going. After about 5 weeks I did my first lap of fullstroke. Or something that beared a faint resemblance to fullstroke. In fact it was not worse than most of the strokes I could see around me.
I still thing I was quite brave sticking to those drills. It is a lot easier to do drills if you actually know how to swim the freestyle stroke
in contrast to drilling and knowing that this is all you got
I never regarded drills as being the goal, but contributing something that would eventually lead to the goal. So I never had and still don't have the idea that a drill as such is something to be perfected. The final goal, the freestyle stroke, is to be perfected. I started with the first drill, and when I had the feeling that I would'nt really improve on doing it longer, I started the next one. In that very swim session.
Next time in the pool I would start again with the first drill. And again I did it until I had the feeling there was not more I could get out of it at this point
, which was more than last time I practiced it
I still follow this principle today. If I am in the pool I still do the whole number: I start with Superman Glide, Superman Flutter, up to ZEN switches with fingers dragging in the water. In between I do quite a few couples of laps fullstroke and notice the improvement in that very session from the drills.
It usually takes me about 90 minutes until I am done with all the drills. And I do that everytime I am in the pool. Everytime the outcome of (most of) the drills is better than the last time I practiced it.
So, regarding the question how long to do a drill, I'd say, it is impossible to do a drill until you perfected it. The whole thing only works, to follow MatHudsons great image, to refine more and more the whole thing
. To stick with a drill and 'finish that section' is something that is impossible for my experience.
There seems to be a natural limit to what you can gain from a drill at a certain level of your freestyle. And even if you have a perfect stroke you can still gain something from practicing drills.
What drills to do? There was a time, more in the middle of my learning process, where I rushed through the more basic drillls, like Superman and Core Balance, and focused more on the stroke oriented drills. Since a couple of months I have my focus a lot more back on those 'basic' drills, particularly the core balance drill.
I had a quick look at the videos of Terry's latest presentation, and heard him say: swimming slow with keeping your feet still takes a lot of body control.
Last night in the pool I did some very slow laps with fingers dragging on the water and lots of gliding time between strokes, trying to keep my body absolutely still. I realized that I start to gain body control and what a great amount of body control it takes to swim like that, and how true this statement of Terry was. I saw those people with their splashy strokes around me and thought: yes, doing that is really piece a cake compared to doing a slow and
controlled fullstroke. And I believe that this body control is a crucial part of successfull swimming at every speed level.
So it can vary what drill is best to do. It depends (what surprise). But it is good to always do some drills, I think in the end that is what makes the difference to a very average stroke.
Also, there where times when I found fullstroke frustrating because it was not as 'good' enough as I expected it to be and I went back to drills simply because I felt more comfortable with them. That's of course not an ideal path to follow.
In short, I would summarize and recommend regarding drills:
- do them a little longer than you like and a little shorter than you think you should
- do those that are the most uncomfortable ones
- do drills if you are quite comfortable with your fullstroke but don't progress any more
- do fullstroke if you start to use drills as an escape route
All this, of course, is based on the assumption that at least part of your motivation to swim is that you actually want to get better.
Happy drills, äh, laps....