There have been a lot of articles recently, especially from one of my often-visited sites ‘down-under’ that talk about the ‘over glider’ and how bad it is.  It almost seems as though they are surreptitiously taking aim at TI.  The over gliding has been a large ding against TI technique from the mainstream coaches.  As best I can understand them they tend to view the extended skating arm as gliding.  But yet, when they are doing the distance per stroke (DPS) drill they so love to do in warm-ups and Coach Suzanne so recently blogged about, they encourage their swimmers to glide more, streamline longer, and kick harder to take strokes off each length.  They really don’t seem to understand the purpose of the extended arm in holding the streamlined edge, cutting the water so the body can slip through the water and to aid in balance.  They only see the extended arm doing absolutely nothing other than sticking out there.  The ‘down-under’ organization also tends to believe this to some extent and came up with some technical graphs depicting the time the extended arm is left out before moving into the catch and propulsive phase upon the recovery of the opposite arm.  They showed all types of swimmers from novice to elites to make their point.  Which I took as the pause perceived by the patient lead arm is a negative.  I find that those who do not understand TI, take the time to research TI or generally dislike TI based on no fact but on others opinions, look at the extended arm in the skate position as ‘over gliding’ and use this as one reason for bashing the TI swimming technique.  They don’t connect ‘over gliding’ as passive streamlining decelerating speed and not passive streamlining transitioning into active streamlining seamlessly synching the entire body for rotation and adding to speed.  As if to underscore this belief, they do endless drills of catch-up, touching hands (although I have noticed most have switched to wide tracks vice touching hands), or worse yet using the kick board and holding one hand on the board till the other hand grabs the board (which inhibits teaching proper roll from edge to edge and fixes the shoulders in place instead of allowing them to rotate three dimensionally).  And in these drills they are teaching ‘over gliding.’

The term ‘over gliding’ immediately conjures up the swimmer who is doing absolutely nothing for a set amount of time except for decelerating which is why they are against over gliding.  I agree that ‘over gliding’ with no purpose is not necessarily helpful.

So with this as their mindset they see the TI swimmer with the patient lead hand waiting for the spear of the opposite hand as ‘over gliding’ and they do not see that there is really no stoppage in the stroke at all.  TI swimmers are holding the streamlined edge to maintain their efficiency in the water allowing them to slip through the water more easily with less drag, resistance and effort all while the opposite arm is recovering.  For all TI swimmers starting out or changing their strokes, as I have after many, many years, it takes time and hours of slow mindful, purposeful practice.  This to most mainstream master’s coaches is viewed as garbage yardage and they get caught up with the routine of number of repeats, distance in the set, and interval and don’t look beyond.

 The other day I was reading back through “How to swim a faster 1500M” and noticed a comment about Terry often swimming with his tempo trainer and going as slow as 2.0 and how that really brings to light any balance and streamlining issues.  I thought about this as I have rarely gone swimming in the last year and a half without my swimming partner the tempo trainer (but that’s another blog) and that I had rarely gone above 1.40.  It always felt too slow and labored.  I decided that I would do 50’s in a LCM pool starting at my general warm-up tempo of 1.20 and each subsequent 50 decrease the tempo by .05.  I started at a SC of 42.  Part of this was due to my not being warmed up.  Each 50 I started reducing until I was at 1.70 at 34 SC.  I initially thought that it was getting harder and I would not be able to go much slower and keep reducing SC.  I then thought of the balance and streamlining that would show at this slower tempo and kept going, focusing on the extended patient arm, extending through the axilla not the hand and arm, relaxing on that dangerous edge, holding the feet as motionless and together as I could, standing tall, being the laser beam and low and behold my SC at 2.0 was 31.  From this point I started increasing the tempo the same way but holding onto those balance and streamlining thoughts.  As I reached 1.20 my SC was at 36 so I decided to keep going to see what my tempo would be at the starting SC.  I ended up a 1.0 and 42 SC.

So what does this have to do with the ‘over glider’ you’re asking by now.  As I was decreasing my tempo I am sure to the casual observer at the pool I was just increasing my glide between strokes not knowing what was lurking below the surface.

So if you are faced with being called an ‘over glider,’ just smile, knowing that you understand what is really taking place.  Call me crazy but I like being referred to as an ‘over glider.’