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Old 06-23-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804
Default Old dogs and new tracks

This video of Phelps shows one can swim in a straight line on narrow tracks:

It raises the question: why aim for tracks that are any wider? TI theory answers this with an appeal to 'lateral stability', but it is not clear, to me at least, whether wide tracks are necessary or sufficient for such stability. Phelps shows they aren't necessary; and there are several videos posted on this site showing people swimming with wider tracks than Phelps but much less lateral stabilty, suggesting that wide tracks aren't sufficient, either.

I have begun swimming on narrower tracks lately and have enjoyed an improvement in form. The problem solved (or partially solved) in my own case has been a tendency to swipe outwards before pulling backwards following the catch, but I think getting the tracks right may well solve other problems people face.

Having been an early advocate of wide tracks, therefore, I now think TI needs to rethink the way it describes this principle and what its purpose is. It seems clear that there is such a thing as going too wide, even if you spear directly forwards in doing so.

To anticipate one possible response, I don't think we can dispose of this issue just by saying 'well, some people tend to take TI too literally'. A method that advertises itself as failsafe ought to be expressed in a way that rewards being taken at its word.

Last edited by Lawrence : 06-23-2011 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 06-23-2011
haschu33 haschu33 is offline
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I think that the main purpose of advocating swimming with wide tracks is to counterack crossover which does interfere with lateral stability, indeed. If you reenter the water on narrower tracks than shoulder width you are bound to crossover. So the point IMHO is not that there might be people who swim with wide tracks and still have a lack of stability, but the point is that you will hardly find people from the non-worldclass swimming level who enter the water on narrow tracks and do not lose stability.

Don't overlook Phelps shoulder flexibility. Although Phelps does appear to be very broad in his shoulders while he is standing on land he has in fact an extreme shoulder flexibility. When he stretches his arm out above his head then his shoulder moves a lot closer to his head than mine would do. So shoulder wide tracks in his case are narrower than mine which is probably true for most high level swimmers. It seems that Phelps does enter the water at a point where he can spear forward without any lateral movement of the arm. Regarding that through the rotation that line moves closer to the middle his entry appears to be narrower than his shoulder width. No problem, I'd say, if you maintain balance and stability. Which for us average swimmers is extremely difficult if we don't use wide tracks.
Also, if you watch the end of the first lap then you can see exactly what you mentioned about yourself: under water in the catch Phelps sweeps out quite strongly and starts and maintains his pull a lot wider than shoulder width. Something you can nicely watch with KPN also, she maintains extremely wide tracks in the pull while her entry is not wider than her shoulders.

I think as a paradigm for teaching you have no choice but to propagate wide tracks, the disadvantages are too big otherwise. Even if that might not count as an ultimate criteria for world class swimmers.

My 2 Euro cents...

Last edited by haschu33 : 06-23-2011 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 06-23-2011
armagh armagh is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 17

Comparisons between world-class athletes and even the most serious of amateurs are fraught with intrinsic perils, usually to the point of invalidity. That said, virtually every video of Phelps I can locate has his right hand entering on a track just outside his shoulder with the left in slightly closer.

Whether Phelp's considerable gifts should precipitate systemic change in TI instruction is some one else's call. Ultimately, he's Michael Phelps and I'm not, and wide tracks serve me well.
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Old 06-23-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
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Location: London, UK
Posts: 804

Let's therefore ignore Michael Phelps, Keri-Anne Payne and the rest if we want to improve. I mean, what do they know?
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Old 06-23-2011
DD_l_enclume DD_l_enclume is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 121

I would like to share my view on swimming methods, principles, ...

1) Feeling vs reality
Because swiming is about moving the body in all 3 planes, we are usually disoriented.
And we have difficulty doing what look like a simple movement. Like spearing
and rotating. We feel we're doing the right thing, but usually we don't.
Only a camera, a coach, or a different focus point can fix it.
That focus point can be spearing what seems wider than necessary, or spearing at what feel like a steep angle.

2) Teaching the wrong to get the right.
I don't think a teaching method should teach right away the right move. But rather teach how to learn the right move. And that includes mistakes.
I'm pretty sure that Terry would not be Terry by just watching TI DVD/reading TI book. Terry is Terry mostly because of the path he followed to build the TI swimming method.
The method is the summary, but I feel you have to read the whole story, and not just the summary.

3) Breaking the rules to understand them.
TI advocates not using any tool (like paddles, pullbuoys). I think every one should try them, to feel why they could be a problem. The same apply for wide/narrow tracks and other stuff.

4) Understand drilling vs swimming.
On the TI forum, we mostly view video of people drilling, rather than swimming. Even though it's whole stroke, it looks different, even when it's Terry. But those drills help imprint *things*. I read on a forum a guy who said Terry was preaching a steep entry, but was swimming with a *normal* entry, by showing a Open Water video of Terry. He did not understand, as most people, that what is taught is not how you should swim, but rather how you learn to swim.

Well, that was a long one.
I hope I did not hijacked your thread Lawrence, but I saw paradigms, principles, methods, so I jumped in...
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Old 06-23-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Learning from Elites

I've shared my views here a number of times on the pros and cons of taking our cues from elite swimmers. it's important to be able to distinguish what they do that is an efficiency-enhancing core principle--and one which ordinary swimmers can emulate--and what they occasionally do that may be non-optimal, but which they can get away with because highly gifted athletes are also usually 'masters of compensation.'

The last time I made this comment was in a discussion of 'loping' - a freestyle stroke that is asymmetrical because of single-side breathing.

I said we should take care not to turn an idiosyncrasy into a virtue simply because we see a fast swimmer doing it.

And ultimately, our own experience is the best guide. If you practice wide tracks and feel awkward, then try tracking a bit more narrowly. If, on the other hand, you feel more stable, great.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 06-23-2011
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CoachDave CoachDave is offline
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 249
Default Confusion

I think many posters don't understand that Phelps actually focuses on not crossing the middle- those ARE his wide tracks. I've heard Bowman talk about training and technique, and the issues Michael has dealt with.
Wide tracks for most people helps them avoid crossing the middle. There are other advantages, but I've never seen someone swimming as wide as they <think> they are swimming.

It's kind of strange that I hear and see so much focus on what swimmers look like. The questions that should be asked are:
How does X swimmer feel when they swim like this in order to accomplish this?
What does their coach promote as primary focus in practice?

I have seen professional triathletes at clinics who swear they are striking and holding wide- they cross every time. Wide tracks is an element of where we aim in the middle of rotation in an inertial reference frame- to a side observer, it's an entirely different thing.

Lawrence- looking forward to hopping in with you in 3 weeks if the schedule allows!
Dave Cameron
Total Immersion Master Coach
Head Coach- Minneapolis YWCA Otters and Masters and MN Tri Masters
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Old 06-23-2011
CoachKevin CoachKevin is offline
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Location: Dubai, UAE
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Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
This video of Phelps shows one can swim in a straight line on narrow tracks:
That's not footage of MP swimming. He's either warming up or cooling down & stretching while he swims. The act of "active stretching", obviously, draws his arms/hands onto narrower tracks.

Should we change the way we teach turns, too, because of what he's doing?
Kevin T. Millerick
TI Coach
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Dubai, UAE
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Old 06-23-2011
westyswoods westyswoods is offline
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Default Old Dog, Old Bones, New Technique, Modifications

Coach Dave has it correct when he states, "How does X swimmer feel when they swim like this to accomplish this."

I know what the ideal is and try to incorporate as much as possible into my swimming. Due to old bones, numerous injuries and other factors I accept there are pieces which need to be modified, for me it is part of the journey.

I have yet to meet a TI Coach who has not been receptive to adaptation and or modification to suit ones ability. The trick is finding what works and maintaining as many of the basics as possible.

Swim Silent and Be Well
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Old 06-24-2011
aerogramma aerogramma is offline
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Posts: 155

Well it's not only wide tracks, there's a lot of things that Phelps does differently from TI... no mailslot, no straight 2bk, looping etc..

If analyzing the issue of stability you cannot take those elements out of the equation. They may all contribute.

I agree with Coach Dave - and why would I argue with someone who has swum the english channel - the main focus is to avoid crossing the centre line, and a lot of us think they do untill they are confronted with a video.

As you make progress with your swimming the limits of learning solely with the aid of a dvd became apparent and, if I understood correctly, you're in the process of taking classes with coach dave. well that's the best and most logical thing to do.
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