Eric's post about how powerful and impactful the right intentions can be help to clarify this conundrum.
I've found that rather modest intentions can have surprisingly significant outcomes.
One example: When I swim with an intention to "make the pressure on my hand and forearm feather-light" the result I feel is more power coming from my core.
When I swim with an intention "to feel my gut doing the work", I feel power distribute throughout my body and to all parts of my stroke.
A different intention but a similar outcome.
When your focus is mechanical, a keen observer might be able to pick out what you're working on -- for instance a shift from Ear Hops to Mail Slot.
Whereas a shift in intention would probably be harder to discern from poolside. It's more felt than seen. But the result can be equally significant.
"Holding, rather than Pulling" is an intention. I can observe the change in a student's stroke when I suggest that intention -- if they've been visibly "muscling" or "strongarming" the water back.
What I observe when they swim with that intention is that the arm still moves back as before (I.E. A "pull" still happens.) but there's a greater harmony and integration of the arm action into the overall body action.
The goals of this intention are to:
1) Shift the workload from fatigue-prone arm muscles to tireless weight shift.
2) Allow sufficient time for the hand and forearm to establish a firm "grip."
3) Allow your hand and forearm to maintain the "armful of water" (others refer to this as EVF) position through the early part of the stroke.
The "Featherlight Forearm Pressure" intention would be a good followup to the "Hold Don't Pull" intention. After 20 or more hours of practice with those intentions you should find them blending (or "chunking") into a single thought.
My two favorite intentions of the moment are:
1) To "nudge" (rather than "drive") the hip; and
2) To minimize the effort in my 2BK.
The two intentions reinforce each other. My goal has been to see how much "effortless power" I can coax out of the naturally-occurring weight shift, by focusing on coordinating the beginning of my stroke (where holding-not-pulling occurs) with my 2BK -- core-driven by the weight shift, rather than thigh-driven.
This is all part of the "circuit tuning" I've been doing in preparation for the National Masters 2-Mile Cable Swim on Aug 15. I will add intentional drive to my stroke late in the race - the last 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile - but if I can maintain a good clip using more integration than effort prior to that I should be able to deploy a much stronger "finishing kick" after swimming 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 miles at a pretty brisk clip.
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist
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