In response to a question on the Discussion Forum about the Rag Doll/Marionette Arm focal point and the standing OverSwitch rehearsals (examples above) illustrated in Lesson Five of the Easy Freestyle DVD I posted a detailed account – which I’m reposting below — of the shoulder injury which led me to develop them and the stunning improvement I saw in my own freestyle while recovering from that injury. TI Coach Grant Molyneux, from Calgary Alberta, has a chapter entitled "Injuries are a Gift" in his excellent new book Effortless Exercise. My own experience is about as good an example of that as I can imagine.
In October, 2004 while doing a bench press, the biceps tendon in my right shoulder tore away from its attachment to the bone. (Function of age: I was lifting moderate weight, using slow movement and impeccable form.) I didn’t know at the time what had happened — it wasn’t properly diagnosed until my surgery five months later — I only knew I was experiencing devastating pain and a complete lack of strength.
Actions as undemanding as pouring tea, lifting my hand to a light switch, putting on a seatbelt were exceedingly difficult. I knew I’d need surgery, but HMO protocols required months of conservative treatment before approval. I got a scrip for PT, but figured I’d recover more quickly from the eventual surgery if I used my damaged shoulder as much as possible — I doubted I could hurt it worse, but could maintain muscle strength around the injury.
Since swimming is what I know best — and how I wished to use the shoulder post-surgery — I attempted "accommodated" swimming within a day or two of the injury. I experimented with ranges of motion for which I had the strength and which minimized pain. My conscious goal was to stimulate blood flow to the area around the injury — by gently activating muscle tissue — and to maintain mobility in connective tissue
Initially I could only manage an exceedingly careful UnderSwitch, but this did increase shoulder mobility. Within a couple of weeks — initially using Single Arm, not whole stroke — I could barely lift my fingertips over the surface (ear hops) and immediately drop them back in (mail slot).
This "therapeutic freestyle" resulted in a more vertical forearm, during recovery, than previously, but I could only do by minimizing elbow lift with a wider recovery (wide tracks), and relaxing every muscle not essential to bringing my arm forward (rag doll). This allowed me to resume whole stroke.
I found that the steeper entry angle that resulted produced two welcome sensations: (1) As I reached the Catch position, my arm was in a noticeably more stable and stronger position for the propulsive phase of the armstroke; and (2) I felt far more "connected" to the power of hip drive. Within a short time — despite having a detached biceps tendon, which ought to be devastating to a freestyle swimmer — I was not only swimming pain-free (at a time when I still needed to support right arm with left hand to pour tea) I was also swimming faster than before the injury!
I had surgery Feb 15, followed by three weeks with my right arm in a sling and was enjoined from whole-stroke for three months. When I was allowed back in the pool, in early March, I repeated my pre-surgery therapeutic swimming process, with perfect clarity about the sensations I was aiming for. I finally resumed whole stroke on May 15.
For weeks I swam with exceeding gentleness and care — with every stroke visualizing the possibility that the staples which affixed tendon to bone might pull away. This brought another welcome epiphany — the lighter my forearm pressure, the better, and easier, I swam. I soon realized that the lighter pressure helped keep my forearm in a more vertical — higher traction — position, while shifting workload from fatigue-prone arm muscles to fatigue-resistant core muscle.
On July 15, just five months after surgery for an injury that typically requires a year for recovery, and following just two months of low-volume, low-intensity whole stroke training, I utterly shocked myself by finishing the National Masters 2-Mile Cable Swim Championship in 45:43, over 3 1/2 minutes faster than the 49:20 I’d swum, fully trained, on the same course one year earlier!
A year later, when we began producing the Easy Freestyle DVD, I had a clear idea of the content for the "Perpetual Motion Freestyle" I wanted it to teach.