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  #1  
Old 12-01-2008
madvet madvet is offline
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Default Lope Timing

A few months ago, there was some talk about what I think was called "lope" timing -- in other words, deliberately having one side stroke faster than the other, so the rhythm is uneven.

Yesterday, I was doing a long swim (Wisconsin Masters has a contest where you win a small prize if you swim the longest in a 2-week period starting yesterday. Yesterday I swam 7900 yards.) To keep things even I breathed to my left going down the pool and breathed to my right coming back.

I found myself falling into the lope timing when I breathed on my right side (my less favored side for breathing). I maintained the even timing when I breathed to my left side (my favored breathing side).

Have any "lopers" experienced this? I am right handed (and right-footed, but my dominant eye is the left). Do you breathe on your dominant side when you "lope"?
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  #2  
Old 12-01-2008
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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I noticed the elite swimmers in the Olympics doing this. Since it's normally difficult to have a front quadrant stroke when sprinting, I wonder if it's a way to introduce f.q. timing into a very fast race?
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  #3  
Old 12-03-2008
Adam Adam is offline
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I think it's definitely due to breathing. I haven't seen any swimmer spending more time on the side he's not breathing to. I guess it's a way to increase the tempo while still taking long enough breaths.
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  #4  
Old 12-03-2008
mattcon mattcon is offline
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Thanks for raising this subject again. I have noticed the loping stroke since I began serious study of the swimmming technique 17 years ago, but it was really brought home to me during the 2008 Olympics. Not only was Michael Phelps using it, but so are an increasing number of other swimmers, no doubt in imitation. It is quite evident in Jason Lyzak's leg in the memorable final of the 4X100m relay.

The problem is that the loping seems to diverge significantly from the TI freestyle technique as I understand it where the emphasis is on streamlining the body and minimizing excess movement. Yet, the TI method really saved the day for me. After years of splashing around and experimenting without success, the TI drill progression picked me up and had me looking like a swimmer in short order. It simply has to be right about fundamental things in swimming technique.

How can you reconcile these methods? One can fret away a lot of time thinking about this....

One way is the old saying about Beethoven being able to break the rules which is that the super-elite performers can modify things based on their exceptional talent and experience. I have no doubt that is true.

But I have come up with another theory. If the two basic methods of propulsion in TI are long axis and short axis rotation, would it be possible to combine them for greater speed? There is a precedent for this in the old-fashioned one-armed butterfly drill which looks a lot like a free-style with body undulation. It was never a competitive stroke in its own right, but it shows that mechanically, the two body rotations can be combined.

If this were done, the undulation of the body would set up a cyclic frequency that would be different from that of the arm stroke because the body parts and movements are so different. To combine them, one could use what in the wave theory of physics is called "beats" which is basically a patterning to synchronize different frequencies. The essence of the technical term is just what we experience when listening to music. So, the loping would not be an end in itself but an effect of body undulation that appears as the swimmer coordinates this movement with arm strokes. By the same token, the breathing side would not be critical to loping although in an attempt to harmonize all of the different factors it could very well be favorable to lope to the breathing side.

So, I wonder if the Olympic swimmers at their high level of performance are showing another dimension to the TI principles by combining the two fundamental means of propulsion that have been identified? I would be interested in feedback about this from the enormous wealth of experience and expertise in the TI community. As the saying goes from the field of computer science: "With many eyes all bugs are shallow."

Matt
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  #5  
Old 12-04-2008
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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Are you a sprinter? I don't know if it would be necessary to do the loping thing in longer (800m and up) events.
The shorter the race, it seems, the more compromises have to be made. There isn't as much time to get into streamline position and stay there.
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  #6  
Old 12-04-2008
mattcon mattcon is offline
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Ha ha. I'm not much of anything from a competitive point of view. But I think you have a good point. In my own informal experiments, loping does some to be a little faster than the traditional TI mechanics as I understand them, but it definitely takes more energy. Perhaps the loping business is an artifact of making the transition from the slow perfect technique to sprinting. Terry has indicated that when sprinting you apply the principles of TI while making adjustments to go fast and perhaps this is where the loping comes into play.

I've looked hard at the Olympic open water swims and they seem equivocal, and I can't be sure if the swimmers are putting on a burst of speed or not. I expect that even in an all-out sprint, the up and down motion of loping is slight. If you search on YouTube for "Michael Phelps freestyle", result number one contains fantastic side footage of him and his up and down movement is small.

As another example, though, that comes to mind, have a look at Janet Evans in her 800m swims. With her awkward-looking style, I don't believe that anyone ever figured out how she went as fast as she did, but one thing that is unmistakable is an obvious loping movement.

Matt
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2008
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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I've seen Janet Evan's stroke described as "one-armed butterfly". Maybe it was some kind of hybrid of short and long axis.
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2008
mattcon mattcon is offline
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Hi Rhoda. The loping movement is the only connection that I can see between Janet Evans and other elite swimmers, and it must have done something for her since everything else looked so terrible. In discussing the lope movement, I read one comment that a video frame of some elite swimmer with this method looked like a butterfly.

1500m specialist Grant Hackett is another one who seems to use this method although it is subdued, and he certainly uses the rest of the TI technique extremely well.

Matt
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2008
mattcon mattcon is offline
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I forgot to add that perhaps we are describing as a lope is one aspect of the general progress of the dolphin kick in many areas of swimming. I remember when the Harvard swimmer set the backstroke world on its head with his long underwater dolphin kick off the wall. They had to limit this technique to preserve the stroke as we know it. Watching Janet Evans flutter kick off the wall reminded me of how the dolphin kick is now used in its place. Terry wrote me that while coaching a local team he was converting them to dolphin kicks of the wall, and the technique is now universal.

Perhaps there is a larger paradigm shift at work. I understand that Europeans practiced versions of the breaststroke until ocean voyages to the New World exposed them to the overarmed stroking techniques of the Native Americans and polynesians. The breaststroke was rapidly eliminated from freestyle speed contests as a result. However, maybe there is more to the breaststroke short axis movement than we had supposed. One of the most astonishing swimming feats I've heard of is the first recorded crossing of the English Channel by Englishman Matthew Webb using the breaststroke! So maybe what we think of as the four definitive strokes now are just part of an ongoing evolution.

Matt
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  #10  
Old 12-06-2008
terry terry is offline
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I'd agree with Matt that we see various idiosyncrasies in elite swimmers that we may not want to emulate, but to recognize that they either: (a) get away with habits developed during an earlier, less-efficient period in their swimming because they are motor geniuses and that includes having a genius for compensation, or (b) they've figured out something that eludes the rest of us and may take the rest of the world some time to suss out.

In the case of loping, I think it's a loss of symmetry that is pretty typical to 1-side breathers. One reason to practice bilateral breathing is an improvement in symmetry. When I watch a loper I ask myself if they might not swim even better with a more symmetrical stroke and -- fluid dynamics being what they are -- I usually answer "yes."
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