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terry 03-22-2011 02:19 AM

A practice to improve balance, streamline . . . and focus.
On Saturday Mar 19 at the Multisport World Expo at MIT in Cambridge MA, we offered 75-minute classes in Endurance Skills. These focused on whole-stroke repeats with Focal Points designed to improve Balance and Streamline. During the final 20 minutes we used Tempo Trainers to consolidate the new thoughts and skills. Here's a practice based on what we did at those classes. If you do this practice, please post any insights or improvements that result.

Total Immersion Mindful Swimming Practice

Mindful Swimming Practice has a dual purpose:

1) Train your body. Focus on an aspect of stroke improvement that allow you to sense and measure improvement with some ease. Repeat a narrowly focused technique enough times to leave an imprint on muscle memory.

2) Train your brain. Practice holding one specific thought. If you notice your thoughts have wandered, bring them back. At the end of each set evaluate how well you’ve maintained focus just as much as you evaluate how you’ve changed your stroke. Improving focus will have longer-lasting and more expansive benefits than improving your stroke.


Swim 50 yards. Count strokes.

Swim 6 x 25. Odd 25s with index-finger-only extended. Even 25s with ‘normal’ hands.

Compare SPL (Strokes Per Length) one finger to normal hand. Can you reduce the difference between them?

Swim 50 yards as before. Count strokes. Did 50-yd count change?

Balance/Relaxation Focus

Swim 4 to 8 x 25 with this focus:

Hang Your Head Feel head hanging – weightless – between shoulders. Focus only on keeping a sense of a weightless head and relaxed neck and shoulder muscles.
Swim 4 to 8 x 25 with this focus:

Weightless Lazy Arm.
Feel your arm float forward as if cushioned. How slowly can you extend? Notice if fingers are tense or relaxed. Look for ane eliminate bubbles.
Swim 3 to 5 x 50 [25 Hang your Head + 25 Weightless Lazy Arm]

Streamline/Swim Taller Focus

Swim 4 to 8 x 25 with this focus:

Swim Slightly Taller Reach a bit farther than usual - as for something barely beyond reach. Don't strain, but aim to extend reach by a couple of millimeters or nanoseconds.
Swim 4 to 8 x 25 with this focus:

Overlap Slightly increase overlap between hands. Overlap enough that you notice it, but not so much that it feels out-of-rhythm.
Swim 3 to 5 x 50 [25 SwimTaller + 25 Overlap]

Combined Focus

Swim 3 to 5 x 50 [25 Combined Relax Focus + 25 Combined Taller Focus]

Tempo Trainer Pyramid

Swim 10 x 25. Reset TT after each: 1.3 - 1.4 - 1.5 - 1.6 - 1.55 - 1.50 - 1.45 - 1.40 - 1.35 - 1.30

Choose any focus from those above to maintain for the entire set.

The goal of this set is to improve efficiency (reduce SPL) as tempo slows, then be very 'stingy' about giving back the strokes you saved, as tempo increases again. As tempo slows, you'll notice extra time in the stroke. Use this time to extend a bit further (as in Swim Taller focus) and be more patient about beginning the stroke.

Take Note of: (1) SPL at start of set; (2) how many strokes you ‘save’ as tempo slows from 1.3 to 1.6; (3) SPL at finish of set; (4) at which tempo you feel most comfortable.

SPL Maintenance Set (without TT)

Swim 4 x 25 + 3 x 50 + 2 x 75 + 1 x 100.

Goal is to maintain SPL within two strokes of best count from TT Pyramid, as repeat distance increases.

aquarius 03-22-2011 01:27 PM

floating or spearing?

Originally Posted by terry (Post 18412)
Weightless Lazy Arm. [/b]Feel your arm float forward as if cushioned. How slowly can you extend? Notice if fingers are tense or relaxed. Look for and eliminate bubbles.

I'd like to do at least part of this practice, and find the above FP particularly interesting in the light of the word "spearing" often used for this phase, which seems to me completely in contradiction with "floating lazily".

I realize I might have had the wrong mental image for this (spearing to target).

ShawnR 03-22-2011 04:03 PM

I like this. Thanks Terry. From my other posts, you may deduce that I am jumping into TI impatiently, reading a bit and not spending as much time on the drills as I know I should. My pressure, mostly self imposed, is that I feel I need to be confident in a half ironman distance tri this summer so, "need to get going". It would be nice to just think about floatation drills for a couple of months but with a 2000 metre swim ahead of me, I do feel I need to be doing long workouts. Feel free to interject your wisdom here...;-)

Yesterdays scheduled workout swim was a continuous 1500 metre swim (+w/u and c/d). I thought I would see how it goes if I try to do it with TI. What I found was my 100 metre splits were, surprisingly to me, very very consistent (15 of them were within + or minus 5 seconds) and I completed the swim, albeit slow. I was not a fast swimmer before (ie old school) so changing styles now, I am not surprised I am still slow, but I am deliberately taking my time, thinking about and working on the various aspects of the stroke ie, spearing, rotation, kick, head postion, "laser", etc. I am hoping the energy level I have following the swim will be worth the trade off in time. And as long as I am getting longer swims in or at least longer swim distance workouts (not many long continuous ones), confidence goes up and I am hoping to see times coming down.
With this posting, I now have a drill set to work on (while I await the Tri Library material I have ordered from TI).

terry 03-22-2011 07:40 PM

Aquarius - Obviously 'spearing' is a more dynamic action than 'floating lazily.' So which is the right one?

Both are, depending on the swimmer and the priority for the moment.

Floating is a Balance thought.
Spearing can be a Streamlining thought, or a Propelling thought.

For a swimmer who still had much to learn about Balance I'd advise mostly reliance on thoughts that emphasize floating/relaxation/weightlessness and leisure/laziness.

For a swimmer who'd gotten the basics on Balance (legs not sinking)-- but hadn't yet mastered Lateral Stability -- I'd advise starting each practice, and set, with Balance thoughts until that neural circuit was well-tuned, then shift to more dynamic streamlining thoughts.

In fact I start every practice with Balance thoughts and sensations. I don't decide in advance how many minutes or yards I'll spend on that. I just let my body decide when it's ready to shift to more dynamic action. I wait for a sense of being pulled in that direction, rather than push myself that way.

I also do my best main or critical sets when I start out seeking profound relaxation and build from that.

terry 03-22-2011 07:52 PM


Originally Posted by ShawnR (Post 18416)
with a 2000 metre swim ahead of me, I do feel I need to be doing long workouts. Feel free to interject your wisdom here...;-)

Yesterdays scheduled workout swim was a continuous 1500 metre swim (+w/u and c/d). I thought I would see how it goes if I try to do it with TI.

You might have guessed I'd feel free to 'interject wisdom.' I think of wisdom as being produced by experience. The experience I can bring to this is of having done many 2k swims, plus a 40k (Tampa Bay Marathon last April) and two 47k (Manhattan Island Marathon, 2002 and 2006). My thinking process in all my marathons was to focus intently on training my nervous system for exceptionally high economy, deeply imprinted to be resistant to breakdown from fatigue or rough water. Cardio conditioning was always an afterthought.

So I never did a practice or set that was about 'getting yards in.' All were about imprinting quality movement patterns. If I swam longer it was to increase opportunities to imprint efficiency, and therefore I was rigorous about SPL and sensations of ease/flow.

If your tri coach dictates a 1500m continuous swim on a given day -- and you feel compelled to follow advice you're paying for -- you can put 'more TI' into it by deciding to allocate, say 1200m to one set of Balance thoughts and 300m to another set, as I suggested to Aquarius. Or any organized division of the distance.

Or decide to swim at some combination of SPL and Tempo. Let's say you aimed to hold 16SPL and 1.3 tempo. Keep swimming as long as you don't exceed 16SPL.Take a 10-second break after any length that exceeds 16. Your goal over time is to require fewer of those 10-sec breaks, eventually holding 16SPL for the entire swim.

That's what turns a workout into a TI Practice. Specific, measurable, goals that keep you focused every length, indeed every stroke.

aquarius 03-23-2011 10:53 AM

Thank you, Terry! This is most helpful (associating the "(lazy) floating" with balance and the "spearing" with streamlining).

terry 03-23-2011 12:19 PM


Originally Posted by ShawnR (Post 18416)
Yesterdays scheduled workout swim was a continuous 1500 metre swim (+w/u and c/d).

I understand you've recently come to TI from prior experience following a program prescribed by a tri-coach-for-hire? I'm gratified that you have. One aspect of deciding to adopt TI as your way of swimming that Ithink is fairly common is discovering a basic incompatibility between TI Practice -- which is thoroughly organic and intuitive -- and the workouts prescribed by non-TI people, usually based on formulas derived from 'energy system training' precepts.

I think it would make an interesting thread to learn how many current TI swimmers come from experience doing workouts emailed by a coach who doesn't actually observe them swimming, and how they reconciled the insights gained from TI with the structure inherent in the prescribed workouts. I think I'll pose that question in a new thread.

I recommend you consider reading the ebook Effortless Exercise by TI Coach Grant Molyneux. You can find info on it here.

The most valuable service it provides is to examine in detail the intuitive approach to deciding how to train, and explaining how to bring more intuition and insight into your training. Though I've been training for 46 years and coaching for almost 40, I found it invaluable when I read it last October.

jenson1a 10-24-2011 07:48 PM

General question here--sorry for my ignorance--how do you print any of these posts? When I click on thread tools and then printable version, the only thing that prints is the picture of the swimmers and about half of the first post. When I ignore that option and hit the control key and "P", I get the same thing. Every once in a while, the print function works. Can't figure this out.

CoachRosita 10-24-2011 08:08 PM


Not sure if this is the most efficient way but I select the information I want to print by holding the left mouse button down and scrolling over what I want to print thus highlighting and selecting it. While remaining in the scrolled area I right click and choose print with a left click. When the print box comes up I choose print the selection.


jenson1a 10-25-2011 06:59 PM

In the initial post, Terry lists several focus items. One of them is to overlap distance of hands. Not sure what that means.

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