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  #1  
Old 02-06-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
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Default Is it as easy as Shinji makes it look?

This thread is for anyone who has wondered that.

The question has been with me since I began learning freestyle two years ago. I have practised in the pool almost every day since then, sometimes racking up 3 or 4 hours in a session (it's great what you can achieve during a credit crunch). I have been driven by a need to find the answer.

I have finally proved to my own satisfaction that the answer is yes. Mostly through several recent months of working on weaker side breathing, which of course helped me discover what was wrong with my stronger side breathing. It took some time to identify let alone correct certain errors, principally a neck not fully relaxed, spearing too deeply and not spearing consistently on nice parallel tracks. As Terry has said, the difference between 'just right' and 'not quite' can be quite an obstacle. The relaxed neck is something I've only just solved, and has brought with it a magical sensation: effortless, fluid freestyle regardless of which side I breathe to.

The project is now to consolidate. I have been practically jumping up and down in the pool with excitement.

Last edited by Lawrence : 02-06-2011 at 03:41 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-06-2011
cynthiam cynthiam is offline
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I've wondered the same thing, Lawrence. Seemed like a pipe dream when I began.

I've been focusing on the same thing lately, and it's -- shall we say -- rich with possibilities for improvement. While my weak side breathing has improved during my TI journey, it's still problematic in a more subtle way.

This has led me back to those simple laser-lead drills. My difficulties are mostly my tense neck and underdeveloped core/spinal stabilizers on the weak side. Oh, and the less coherent (neural) communication on that side.

It's been slower progress than I would like, but the investment in balance is repaid with ease. I've seen glimpses of that ease and flow that Shinji demonstrates. Only glimpses, but they've been enough to encourage me.

Congratulations on your milestone. What have you done to solve your tense neck?
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  #3  
Old 02-06-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
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Cynthiam, I'm sceptical that underdeveloped core muscles are ever the reason for balance or related issues in freestyle. I barely notice the use of those muscles when my swimming is going well, and I don't think mine are particularly strong. In addition, I haven't seen it suggested that any other muscles need to be particularly strong in order to achieve a good stroke. I suspect we are all already strong enough to swim well, although I stand to be corrected.

The main part of the solution to the stiff neck was realising it existed. In particular, realising that for some reason there was residual tension when breathing to one side but not the other. Once I'd spotted it I simply told myself to let it go. Immediately I found I could breathe more easily to the weaker side. I think this was because I had removed an impediment to my spearing action bringing the mouth to air on that side. It was a relief because I had spent a good while worrying about my spearing and vainly seeking the crucial tweak that would sort out my weak-side breathing. Turns out I was looking in the wrong place.

As so often with TI, the hard part wasn't knowing what I should do, but recognising what I was in fact doing.

Keep us posted on progress.

Last edited by Lawrence : 02-06-2011 at 09:28 PM.
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  #4  
Old 02-06-2011
ames ames is offline
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ames
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Lawrence,

I recently had the same eureka moment you had. And the same quote you mentioned has been popping up in my head again and again and was to be my thread title, if I ever got around to posting: "the difference between just right and not quite is subtle."

I had been at a plateau for a long time. I was still making improvements but never knew that effortless feeling. Finally got my husband to take a video of me swimming. I'd wanted to post it but he just got little snippets and it was hard to see much. I will post a video when I get a better one. Anyway, I was surprised to see my head was 3-4 inches underwater and I was lifting my head to breathe.

To fix it, I mostly did breastroke with a long glide, a kind of "active superman glide" and focussed on keeping my neck relaxed and feeling a small patch of air on the back of my head. Then worked in a few freestyle strokes, trying to maintain that head position. I speared less deeply too. Voila! I had made of lots of incremental changes before but this was huge. Swimming feels so much easier now. I feel like I'm swimming downhill but my head isn't buried anymore. Then I tried rotating a little less to breathe and I could tell my head was more horizontal, like it was lying on a pillow. My legs are now automatically straight and streamlined, and no more wind up kick, just a toe-flick. Feels awesome.

Does your pool allow cameras? I would like to see your progress too. Just curious.
ames
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  #5  
Old 02-07-2011
RadSwim RadSwim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cynthiam View Post
My difficulties are mostly my tense neck and underdeveloped core/spinal stabilizers on the weak side.
I am with cynthiam on this issue -- slow pace of improvement related to weak muscles. Developing abdominal, back, and scapula stabilizing muscles has been the most important factor in relieving my chronic neck spasm. Gradual loosening of neck muscles and associated posture improvement have been major factors in making breathing easier -- the other factors are improved timing and developing an almost horizontal spearing position.

I wrote about my experience a while back in a somewhat different context:
http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/...53&postcount=7

Those with excellent strength and flexibility seem to progress rapidly. Others like me, with multiple posture, strength, flexibility and joint stability problems, progress much more slowly -- months-to-years.

In the end, it's worth the frustratingly slow pace of improvement. Today, I stand and sit straighter, and my back and neck feel better all of the time, not just in the pool.

RadSwim

Last edited by RadSwim : 02-07-2011 at 12:12 AM. Reason: grammar
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  #6  
Old 02-08-2011
cynthiam cynthiam is offline
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I think my core/back weakness is a strength imbalance. I'm still finding my way to figuring out and remedying this, but I do have some weak, overstretched muscles opposing much stronger, "compressed" ones. Mostly these are in my lower back/hips/upper legs, and I do believe they're a big part of my neck tension.

That said, Lawrence is right in saying that the awareness of the tension helps to reduce it. I've been focusing on ease and fluidity, and a major part of that is relaxing. So there's been some improvement. I think to get the rest of the way there requires some strengthening of some muscles and loosening of others. RadSwim's post helped me clarify my thoughts here.

Lawrence, I'd love to see video of you -- I enjoy the chronicling of your process. I hope to have video of me to post once a stroke analysis class is offered at my YMCA in the near future.
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  #7  
Old 02-08-2011
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
I have practised in the pool almost every day since then, sometimes racking up 3 or 4 hours in a session
So the answer then is NO. It takes countless hours of diligent, mindful effort to make it look that easy.

Congratulations Lawrence on a finding swimming shangri la. I'm with Shinji in Tokyo right now and read your heading to him. He'd seen it.
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  #8  
Old 02-08-2011
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RadSwim View Post
I am with cynthiam on this issue -- slow pace of improvement related to weak muscles. Developing abdominal, back, and scapula stabilizing muscles has been the most important factor in relieving my chronic neck spasm. Gradual loosening of neck muscles and associated posture improvement have been major factors in making breathing easier -- the other factors are improved timing and developing an almost horizontal spearing position.
<snip>

Those with excellent strength and flexibility seem to progress rapidly. Others like me, with multiple posture, strength, flexibility and joint stability problems, progress much more slowly -- months-to-years.

In the end, it's worth the frustratingly slow pace of improvement. Today, I stand and sit straighter, and my back and neck feel better all of the time, not just in the pool.

RadSwim
This is a really interesting post. Shinji told me the other day that his arm span has increased from 5'11" to 6'2" following 7 years of TI practice. Imagine that, changing a basic body dimension through movement practice.

We just spent 3 hours shooting the video for our next DVD - and for an ibook - at Shinji's Swim Salon in Funabori, on the east side of Tokyo. It will be a series of 27 exercises, all based on the plank position, which focus on exactly that set of muscles. Look for release next month.
Cheers,
Terry
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  #9  
Old 02-08-2011
aerogramma aerogramma is offline
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I can add my experience here too Terry.

Swimming (TI) and improving core strenght have saved me from surgery after a spine injury (so far...touch wood).

It's only after I had to consult a physiotherapist that I've learned how compromised my posture was after the injury and years spent sitting in front of something (a pc, a piano and so on). As a consequence core muscles strenght was compromised too, as you tend to use your fascias in all kind wrong ways to counteract a painful posture.

Any serious swimmer should book a session with physiotherapist every now and then to tune up - so to speak - your body fundamentals.
It's remarkable what you can learn.
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  #10  
Old 02-08-2011
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
So the answer then is NO. It takes countless hours of diligent, mindful effort to make it look that easy. ...
Can only agree with that. It took me way more than 100 hours in the pool with diligent practice until I developed a feeling of gaining balance and body control.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cynthiam View Post
I think my core/back weakness is a strength imbalance. I'm still finding my way to figuring out and remedying this, but I do have some weak, overstretched muscles opposing much stronger, "compressed" ones. ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by aerogramma View Post
...Swimming (TI) and improving core strenght have saved me from surgery after a spine injury (so far...touch wood). ...
I think what usually happens is that through bad sitting practice etc our flexors (mainly in the front of the body) get chronically shortened and the extensors (mainly on the backside) have to build a chronic tension, too, to counterack a complete breakdown of our structure. The pressure than goes on the disks and vertebras.
The benefit of swimming I think is that you can loose the tension in the back as the support of the water releases the tension on it.
Doing 'good' swimming practice like TI then trains the spine stabilizers (those very small muscles that maintain our posture), the core muscles and stretches the flexors. That helps our posture on land and our back can greatly benefits from that.

I think swimming like Shinji (or like Terry) looks easy, can be easy but swimming at a long and slow pace in a very controlled manner not only takes many hours of practice to get there but also takes more work to perform that than it looks like. Maybe I am wrong with that, but I think so.
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