Total Immersion Forums  

Go Back   Total Immersion Forums > Favorite Practices and Sets
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-10-2010
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default What have you learned from Focal Point practice?

I've begun writing a series of short (20-50 pages) e-books to explain how to practice for Continued Improvement after learning the basics of TI technique (particularly for crawl) on your own or from a coach. My goal with this series of e-pamphlets is to create a fairly comprehensive guide to how to practice whole stroke sensibly and effectively.

The first installment will address Mindful Swimming. I'll write on the principles of Kinesthetic (or Sensory Motor) Learning, including an explanation of how brain and body work together in this process. It will also include a series of Lessons, organized similarly to those we teach in Workshops and on the Easy Freestyle DVD - except these lessons will all be based on whole stroke. Each lesson will include a series of 3 to 4 related Stroke Thoughts, with guidance on how to synthesize them.

Future editions will focus on Stroke Counting and SPL exercises, Tempo Trainer practice; Timed Sets; Endurance Development; and Speed Development.

I've started this thread to invite TI disciples who have had positive outcomes from Focal Point practice to share insights and lessons learned. Also to share any favorite combinations or sequences and why you think they worked. All who contribute to the book will receive credit (unless you prefer anonymity) and a complimentary copy, as well as a chance to review and offer comment on the work in progress.
Thanks for your assistance,
Terry
__________________
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 05-11-2010
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804
Lawrence
Default

Terry, I very much look forward to these.

In the meantime I'll post something here shortly about the focal point which for me forms the core of TI freestyle, namely the wide tracks principle.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-12-2010
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Banned
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804
Lawrence
Default Wide Tracks - the core of TI?

Here are some thoughts on the wide track rule, which to me is the central principle of TI freestyle.

The following is based on a thread I started entitled The key that unlocks the door, which generated a number of interesting responses.

As background, I began learning TI freestyle in February 2009 and had no history of swimming freestyle before that apart from an unsuccessful attempt to teach myself the stroke a few years earlier (before discovering TI).

The following principles are all important and useful:

1. hanging one's head in the water;

2. staying relaxed during all phases of the stroke;

3. allowing the legs to find a natural two-beat kick in synchrony with (or, to be accurate, just preceding) the reaching and rolling of the upper body;

4. reaching to full extension, and rolling during reaching;

5. ensuring hand is below elbow and elbow is below shoulder during reaching.

However, I've found that it's possible to do all of these things and still not achieve the relaxed and efficient stroke I aim for. The missing principle is wide tracks:

6. during recovery over the water, let the forearm dangle loosely and swing it forwards to a point opposite the elbow of the other arm (which will be extended and 'waiting patiently' under the water). Drop the hand into the water at that point and reach forwards and slightly downwards. Reaching slightly downwards allows you to obtain propulsion from core rotation provided the lead arm anchors properly. Reaching forwards will result in spearing occurring alternately on a line running forwards from each shoulder (there is a big difference in outcome if instead of reaching forwards you reach outwards or inwards, even slightly.)

The following points are immediately apparent when you swim on wide tracks:

1. you cannot lose balance even though you're rotating during the stroke;

2. you move further per stroke;

3. it feels easier to move through the water;

4. breathing is effortless, because reaching fully forwards while spearing along a wide track results (happily) in just the amount of rotation required for the mouth to clear the water for enough time to permit unhurried inhalation;

5. freestyle can be struggle-free. That is, there is a way of performing the stroke that makes it as easy as relaxed breastroke, by which I mean very easy indeed. Once you reach this stage (I feel I'm just reaching it), you're free to experiment with swimming at higher tempos while seeking to maintain stroke length.

A further benefit of swimming on wide tracks is that, in my experience, getting this one thing right means automatically getting everything else right (at least, most of the time).

This leads me to think that certain TI principles may be more central than others, and that for each individual there may be just one or two focal points (Terry's Stroke Thoughts) that serve to secure good all-round technique. If that's right then perhaps a long, relaxed and efficient stroke can be achieved with a significantly lighter mental load than might be expected.

It also raises the question whether learning TI may be better approached through whole-stroke practice centred on certain Stroke Thoughts rather than, as currently, the various drills set out in the book and DVD.

I would welcome everyone's thoughts.

Last edited by Lawrence : 05-12-2010 at 12:44 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-12-2010
ames ames is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 72
ames
Default

I think following some lessons and structured stroke thoughts would be just what I am needing now at my stage of the journey. My TI practice has been very unstructured and I usually just do what I feel like doing at the pool. I don't have a solid plan and even when I do I may change it once I start swimming and feel like my plan isn't working like I'd hoped. I always swim with a stroke thought though, and actually feel guilty if I start to push off the wall and haven't settled on a focus.

Where I am... I started TI about 8 months ago without being able to do much more than float a little. I did drills because that's all I could do. A few months later I was able to swim some whole stroke and started doing that almost exclusively. A couple of months ago I began to feel like I was at a plateau and couldn't move on (and am still there). I feel relaxed but am a bit winded after 2 laps of freestyle. I know it is a breathing issue and not a fitness issue because I am able to swim a mile of breaststroke without pause. So I am trying to transfer my feeling of ease in breaststroke to ease in freestyle. They happened to offer a (conventional) adult swimming class at my pool a month ago and I signed up to try something different. It was awful! All the things you've said about conventional swimming classes... Here, take this kickboard, kick harder, pull harder, swim faster... ugh. One of the instructors was talking about swimming by the clock and breaking it up into 50-yard or 100-yard increments because "swimming 20 yards in a row is incredibly boring." I felt so sorry for him! I really do enjoy every stroke I ever take, like you say, and swimming has NEVER been boring for me in a hundred trips to the pool, or however many I've made so far. So my swimming lessons drove me back to TI all the more (not that I ever had any doubts) and specifically to getting back to doing more drilling.

But as for your question, focal points that work for me are:

Spear through your target (like in martial arts, strike through, aim for a point beyond your target

Relaxed hands... funny how it makes my whole body more relaxed

Relax head to toe

Spear shallower

Rotate just enough

Patient lead hand

One goggle in water, or lay head on the water, or follow stroking shoulder back for air

High elbows on catch

Hand below elbow, elbow below shoulder

Mail slot entry

High elbows on recovery

Wide tracks

And there are some focal points that are very personal to me... what I mean is something will click while I am swimming and it is a feeling that I don't necessarily put into words, but I know what feeling I am striving for and can use it as a focal point. Like a feeling I get when breathing is easier, I guess it is abdominal breathing but I don't call it that, I just know the feeling and try to repeat it.

I can't say any sequence that has worked especially well for me, as I've said my practice is all over the place and I jump around from different drills to whole stroke and different focal points. But some more focus may be just what I need.

That said, I'm off to the pool.
ames
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-13-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Coach
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453
CoachSuzanne
Default

Terry, I find it really interesting to experiment with combinations of stroke thoughts, for example swimming 2x25 of a pair of stroke thoughts and stumbling on combinations that make me feel great on that 2nd 25. When I find one, I'll do 25s of 12.5 thought 1 & 12.5 thought 2.

One combination that startled me in improving my sense of flow and unrestricted glide was doing ZenSwitch dragging fingertips, followed by ear hops. The combination really focused my recovery and setup a good entry & patient catch. It felt effortless.

With one of my private students the other day, I simply had her warmup while I changed by swimming whole stroke 25s with stroke thoughts of 1) hang head 2)laser beam focus.

She finished 4 x 25 and commented that she'd never felt better head position in the water...the combo of first hang head, followed by laser beam felt better to her than the other way around...or than any previous combination of stroke thoughts about her head.

I find these accidental discoveries enlightening, and I frequently ask my students to blog or journal about their lesson before they go to bed that night so they can recreate some of the sensations during their next practice without me.

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but it's what came to mind.
__________________
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Coach of 4 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-16-2010
gerz gerz is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 27
gerz
Default Thank you, Lawrence

This thread about wide tracks is very helpful.
Terry´s video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC8ZZ...eature=related
matches exactly your suggestions.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-16-2010
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne View Post
With one of my private students the other day, I had her warmup by swimming whole stroke 25s with stroke thoughts of 1) hang head 2)laser beam focus.

She finished 4 x 25 and commented that she'd never felt better head position in the water...the combo of first hang head, followed by laser beam felt better to her than the other way around...or than any previous combination of stroke thoughts about her head.
This is a key question about Stroke Thoughts: Is there an optimal order for employing them. You could ask this in two ways
1) Stroke Thoughts for Comfort and Balance should precede those for Alignment, should precede those for Drag Evasion/Reduction, for instance.
2) When thinking about one aspect of the stroke - e.g position of the head or hand - there are different ways of doing so.

With regard to #2, one exercise I plan to do with the entire list of focal points I've thought of, taught or practiced is to assign them to categories based on what kind of work the brain and nervous system do in each.
Some categories that come immediately to mind are:
Action
Self-Perception
Position
Direction
Visualization/Imagination
Effect

Consider only some common Stroke Thoughts associated with Head Position and what kind of thinking is involved
Hang the Head: Action; you need to release specific muscles.
Weightless Head: - Self Perception; comparing the sensation of weighted/supported head with one that's weightless.
Neutral Head or Head-Spine Line: Position
Laser Beam: Visualization/Imagination
Effect: Inventory the body; realize that lower body feels lighter. Or note that your field of vision is more beneath you than forward of you.

I've used each of those and found each to be helpful in different ways to (1) sharpening my awareness (do I have it right or not quite) and deepening a habit.

A key question is whether there is an optimal order or sequence in which to employ those different ways of thinking, acting and, assessing. It seems to me that knowledge of how the brain works would help answer that question.

My instinct is that an Action-oriented Stroke Thought should usually precede others. What are your thoughts on an optimal order and why?
__________________
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-16-2010
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ames View Post
I am able to swim a mile of breaststroke without pause. So I am trying to transfer my feeling of ease in breaststroke to ease in freestyle.
Ames
Your post suggests a way of using Stroke Thoughts that I have done myself but had not previously put into a formal category for this kind of practice. That is, alternating practice of a Different Stroke (DS) with Crawl

The point of this would be to access a positive sensation or experience, which you find easier to achieve in DS, that can improve your Crawl.

I think of Breaststroke as an active form of Superman Glide, in which you can alternate a brief interval of stroking, with a longer interval of SG. During the gliding interval, you can focus on
- head hanging weightlessly between shoulders
- arms on wide track (consciously avoid bringing arms/hands together)
- legs streamlined
- body extended and supported

If you feel much better in BR, it's most likely that your primary need in Crawl is to improve Balance, because the great advantage in BR is how much easier it is to balance, streamline, and relax into support as you glide.

So swim 25 BR. Spend a bit more time than usual in the glide. While gliding focus on one of the points above - like head hanging weightless between shoulders. Then swim 25 FR and focus on the same. Keep alternating reps this way until you can hardly discern a difference between perception of head position in FR from BR.

Personally, I used this kind of stroke-alternation for many hours of alternating lengths or cycles of BK and FR. My focus when I did was on head-spine alignment, rotation around the spine and sense of being sleek and slippery.
__________________
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-16-2010
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Coach
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453
CoachSuzanne
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
This is a key question about Stroke Thoughts: Is there an optimal order for employing them. You could ask this in two ways

.
.
.


My instinct is that an Action-oriented Stroke Thought should usually precede others. What are your thoughts on an optimal order and why?
Terry, in the interest of time (I smell bacon at the restaraunt around the corner), I'll readily admit that I cannot answer the "why" nor can I speculate on how brain function and learning could affect the optimal order...at least not right now. However, I will say that as a "TI Practitioner" something I've felt to be a breakthrough in my learning is self-recognition of how stroke thoughts in different categories (i.e. drag reduction vs. propulsion) can fit together nicely and create new sensations.

That I discovered this about my own body is something I have internalized in a different way than if I'd been assigned it as a practice set (I think...).

As an example of what could be considered disparate thoughts that could work together: breathing & kicking. One day I was working on breathing thoughts and it occurred to me that optimal body rotation was needed to discover how my neck flexibility and upper body position could lead to seamless breathing. It also occurred to me that a 2BK or a toe flick, initiates a good rotation.

Normally I think about the kick and associated it with the hip or the spearing hand. Instead, I swam a length of "kick to breath"....essentially toe flick initiating a risky breath ... It was eye opening, like many things with total immersion. The breath was nearly effortless AND I felt like I maintained my momentum down the pool.

I like the idea of combining stroke thoughts in different categories to see what body sensations arise. In other words If I reduce resistance, what happens to this propulsive thought? It opens up a whole new world of puzzles to solve in the pool.

This sounds like a different direction than the one you are considering, but that workout was so fun I wanted to share the experience.

(that wasn't short was it? Time for Bacon!)
__________________
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Coach of 4 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle


Last edited by CoachSuzanne : 05-16-2010 at 05:01 PM. Reason: bacon
Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are Off
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 12:12 AM.


Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.