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Old 12-04-2010
johnny.widen johnny.widen is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Luleň, Sweden
Posts: 92
Default Should the propulsion be effortless?

I have been drilling for a couple of month. See

The advice Terry gave me was to get a Tempro Trainer and while waiting for it to arrive I did this yesterday:

Easy/warm up
200m medley
4x50m index-finger freestyle
100m index-finger medley
4 Superman glide to stroke
With energy
Then I was meant to swim 1x200m, but it started to hurt on my right side in what I think it is the pectoralis major muscle but it could as well be in pectoralis minor

I put rather much power in propulsion while I swam, which I think caused it. Effortless swimming is a keyword in Total Immersion. Does that mean that the propulsion also should be effortless? Did I put in too much power in it?

By the way, I am a porcelain kind of guy and get very easily injured. I had the same injury as above on the left side in the spring when I started to go for longer distances to prepare for open water. I used to go for series like 4x200m, 8x100m and 8x50m with 1-3 minutes rest between each race. Never a race longer than 200m. It started to hurt the second day when I did a 100 + 200 + 300 + 400 + 500 + 400 + 300 + 200 + 100 + 1000. I had to break the last 1000.

Today I swam again and it hurt, but swimming with only my index fingers made it possible to swim without hurt. I did a number of 50m with focal point on head position, leading elbow, swimming downhill and now kick. I also did some index finger spear switches. So I think index finger swimming, drills, stretching and rest will cure my injury.

-- Johnny
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Old 12-05-2010
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
TI Coach
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 384

The short answer - if it injures you, it is wrong.

The long answer - You will not swim a 41 second 100yds without significant effort. So, in my opinion, "effortless" is a relative term. What I do know from experience is that "intention" has a freakish ability to reduce effort for any given swim. By that I mean, you can swim with the intention to spear forward or you can swim with the intention to pull forward. Something happens when you think about the recovery arm slicing forward and dragging your body with it that makes the speed much easier. I do not understand the physics of it. But I am getting used to seeing things that make no sense to me. I just know it works.

We, as humans, or athletes, or something, have a terrible time accepting our limitations. One of the nice things about effortless swimming is that you can protect your body by increasing speeds very incrementally. For example, I once swam a typical 25 for me which was 15 strokes at 1.2. I decided to try to push it a bit and bumped up to 0.95 and did a couple 25s. It was a lot of effort. So I went back to 1.2 and danced with my limits. I increased the tempo one hundredth of a second every 25 for a few. When I felt some effort, I hung out there for a few more. Sometimes I backed off a couple hundredths, then moved up again. Within an hour I was swimming 0.9 tempos easily. The set made me tired. My muscles got sore. My heart rate went up so it was not effortless. But it was a whole lot easier than the 0.95 the first time I tried it. I say this because, if you are getting injured, there is something wrong. Either you have a technique error that is hurting you or you are using new muscles now that your technique has changed and you have not yet allowed your body to adjust. One of the values of effortless swimming is that, if you are patient enough, your body will surprise you.
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Old 12-05-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453

Originally Posted by CoachEricD View Post
Something happens when you think about the recovery arm slicing forward and dragging your body with it that makes the speed much easier. I do not understand the physics of it. But I am getting used to seeing things that make no sense to me. I just know it works.
I fully agree here. Using this exact focal point, I have set PRs in 3 distances in the past 3 weeks...25yd, 200yd & 500yd. the 25yd "wall" had stood for over 4 years. On the set that I finally broke it, not once, but twice in 2 consequetive 25s, was a set entirely devoted to what Dave calls "noodling", which is basically a spearing stroke thought.

Since then I've used that stroke thought to add distance and in back to back days set PRs in 200 & 500.

It's not effortless, but it's a different type of "work" than the way I used to swim a year ago...and the way I used to swim 4 weeks ago. What I do now feels easier, I go faster, but it's still work.
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Level 3 USAT Coach
USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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Old 12-05-2010
LennartLarsson LennartLarsson is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 42

Originally Posted by CoachEricD View Post
You will not swim a 41 second 100yds without significant effort.
Yeah, that is what it's all about. The TI message about effortless swimming can lead people to think that you could be able to swim extremely fast without getting tired. Look at this one from the Olympics 10 K race in Beijing.

These guys are swimming 10 K in less than two hours. Look at their technique; relaxed hands, long strokes etc, but fast, very fast! If you want to swim like that it takes more than 1000 meters easy swim in a pool, counting strokes and being happy by reaching as few strokes per length as possible.

Good comment Eric!

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Old 12-05-2010
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 1,380

David Davies would probably not be too pleased to hear himself described as being from England but it's a small point really. Even the Cornish or perhaps especially the Cornish, don't like to be referred to as English.

Amazing stroke rate, though and amazing that the three top positions were so close together. As Terry pointed out at the time, Davies revealed his lack of experience in Open Water by leading from the front for almost the whole race. Still, a silver medal is a silver medal. I wonder whether he'll be still in the frame by the 2012 Olympics. He's still fairly young.

I bought a book by him about his swimming career a while ago that made quite good reading but it seemed to me that it was rather simple in style and then I discovered it had been specially written for youngsters who were not very good readers.

I must take my Tempo Trainer to the pool again today. I find I can swim backstroke with a much faster tempo than front crawl, which I think is a bit odd. Perhaps I slip more water on my back. Quite likely, I think.
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Old 12-05-2010
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804

Coach Eric's distinction above between intending to spear and intending to pull has, in my case, been a crucial step in improving my swimming.

My main thought while swimming is to reach fully forwards on a wide track when I spear. I never think about, or try, pulling backwards with the leading arm.

When I get out of the pool I can feel that my lats have been used but while swimming I'm not aware of making any effort, with my lats or any other part of myself. The only effort I'm aware of is the mental effort required to concentrate on whichever focal point I'm using.

That, to me, is the 'effortless' quality that Terry describes can be experienced in TI freestyle.

If I had to guess, I would say that focusing on spearing forwards rather than pulling backwards has the result that one recruits the correct muscles (principally the lats and core) at the right speed during and following catch while avoiding recruiting the smaller 'wrong' shoulder muscles or recruiting the right muscles too quickly, which I would expect results in slippage of the catching arm relative to the water and, probably, increased injury risk.
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