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  #1  
Old 12-02-2017
whoiscathy
 
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Default Proprioception - Intrinsic or learned?

TLTR; Is the ability to feel the body position in 3D space - here, specifically in water - something intrinsic, or is it something I can learn? If I can learn it, how?

_________
Long post ahead for the so inclined.

Quick background:
I got no former swimming training whatsoever. I never took a swimming lesson, not as a child, not until now (40). I picked up wonky, but functional breaststroke and backstroke by watching people. I'm OK in the water. I don't have any fears or anxiety. I'm fine in deep water too.

I got into TI nearly a month ago, with an excellent Coach. I think he's doing his best but I... I'm the weak link... perhaps the weakest he's ever seen. And I do try my best! I go to the pool every single day... I think it's probably hard to find such a persistent beginner as I am. But, I'm not making much progress...

I'm perhaps average or slightly better-than-average on land in terms of coordination and body awareness, for someone not having much of a sports background, but being generally curious and perceptive: I pick up on coordination rather quick. I was told by my one and only Tai Chi instructor during the first class that my movements were "exceptionally fluid - you must have done this before" (I hadn't). Pity I didn't stick with it. Recently, I was making fast progress in lifting, especially deadlifting and kettlebell swings, both quite complex and technical. My KB swing was labeled "impressive" by a certified kettlebell coach, after just a couple times, and he quickly advanced me to swing a 24kg bell at a bodyweight of 72kg, and a bodyweight deadlift in less than 3 weeks. So I don't appear to have issues on land!
I dropped weight training as well, long story, but it had to do with self confidence. I've never had much of that quality :(. Pity, too, because some strength wouldn't hurt now that I want to swim.

Now, water... and I'm actually planning to stick with it; no quitting this time if I can help it!

Problem statement:
I'm not sure what's going on in water, as in, why water is so different, but every time I see a video of myself I actually want to cry. I sometimes do... I weep a bit. I cringe at just how uncoordinated I appear.
  • My elbows are still high and my recovery is narrow. I still shove my arms up to the sky even though I've actually been working on the recovery! Also my right hand often crosses over.
  • I loose core tension while doing full strokes. (I appear to have a stable core in a skate, though.) I can barely rotate to the left while I'm overrotating to the right.
  • My left arm has no idea what it's doing. The right one is starting to look decent, especially the mailslot entry. Two days ago I even felt finally I was pulling from my lats. I wasn't able to connect with that feeling today, else I wouldn't be feeling so down that I have to post about this for advice. (Since I can't even edit my posts yet.. I might regret this post later...)
  • My head is swinging to the sides slightly or not so slightly with every stroke. If I attempt to fix my head position (I'm aware of the swinging) my strokes fall apart. At least I'm aware of the fact that my head is swinging. I also noticed when I was tucking my chin sometimes and managed to fix that one. No more tucking. But still a lot of swinging.
  • I had to see my SG on a video to know where my legs are. I couldn't feel where they were, up enough or sinking, horizontal or not. Like I can't tell if my body is horizontal in the water; sometimes I tuck my chin under and try to see where my legs are (which obviously messes up everything).
  • 2BK, I actually tried to get the hang of it for five consecutive days now which isn't a lot, however I'm a structural engineer and I "understand" the 2BK. Heck, I work with mechanics every day. I "get" it. I can see and feel what it does and why. I watched tutorials frame-by-frame until my eyes liquefied. I started to have nightly dreams about swimming, that's how much interested I am! I can repeat the full stroke with 2BK in my mind (I'm very visual). Yet, I'm still not able to execute the Superman Reach drill in real life. It's been now five days of trying that thing. Others got it within seconds or minutes. I saw others "get" it today just like that!

    I sometimes just float in a SG and I can't even initiate the twisting. If I, to end my agony, actively try to kick down just to initiate it somehow, my leg simply won't fire and kick down, as though there is no connection between the brain that says "Now fire" and the legs.

    Note that I don't have much of a flutter kick either since I have no swimming history so "calming the legs" comes rather naturally to me. At least I'm not making froth. I guess that's the only good thing about my "kick", at the moment. I'm kind of dragging my legs after me -- according to my Coach, in the shadow, so he tells me not to bother, for now.

Feedback I've got recently is not as bad as I just made it seem like. Hope my Coach won't be mad at me for copying it here:

Quote:
You should be really happy for your floating skill. The best I have ever seen! (3 weeks ago)

Considering your superman, your mail slot entry and your stroke timing, you are above average for my students at this stage. And too narrow recovery is quite common. As said, very promising!
Tonight you can dream that you are Shinji! (this week -- he knows that I routinely swim in my dreams -- I'm a weirdo)
After this, I really tried to correct that wonky recovery. But today I saw it on video again and it hit me that my problem is that even when I think I've solved something, as long as I have no visual feedback I actually have no idea if I've solved it because of the lack of proprioception. We tried to have me brush the water surface with my fist several times in a full stroke and I just "can't". He tells me to brush the water and I do my best; we check the video right away and there's a 2-3" gap between my hand and the surface. Today, I also had he luck to see my recovery in a small group setting and I was the wonkiest (I saw it live and on video too). This, despite that I've put in more time...

I can be very negative sometimes. During those times, I feel that I haven't improved at all, like, I still have my "gifts" (floating skills) and that's it, really. I don't know how the timing thing happened (I was shocked at that comment). Well, I did some conga drumming, maybe that's why. It's not a sense of rhythm I'm lacking, it's body awareness...

How to tackle this, what can I do to improve coordination in the water? Is it normal to feel like this in water? Is it just the slippery medium, or is it the horizontal position we assume while swimming, or is it me? Could it be that we as humans are "meant" to be upright, so I have more control over my body in 3D while vertical, and I just need to learn the same awareness while horizontal? How do I crack it? How can I improve the 3D perception of my own body, without having to actually turn/lift my head and see what I'm doing? I didn't need to see my body in a mirror to learn how to deadlift!

Is proprioception something that can be developed, or am I essentially doomed because I haven't learnt to swim at 6yo? Can I, will I ever learn how to swim? Is it possible that I just can't? That I'm just not wired that way, that no matter how much effort I make, TI being awesome or not, that I just don't have it in me, my CNS won't cooperate?

Sometimes I think I might have some residual brain damage I'm unaware of because it's that bad. Like, some childhood meningitis or something. To my knowledge, I've never had any problem with my head, though, so I'm quite perplexed! I just got my PhD so I'm not brain-dead. It's just in the water, somehow!

PS. I don't feel comfortable enough to share a video yet.

PPS. Self-taught English. Hopefully I'm readable.
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  #2  
Old 12-02-2017
whoiscathy
 
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Default True beginner

Is there anyone here reading this, a true beginner with no childhood swimming training and starting out with bad coordination that has managed to learn to swim well?
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  #3  
Old 12-02-2017
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
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Hello Cathy,

very first I think you should take a very deep look to TI's Kaizen-side and train improvement of your patience with yourself. Get far away from assessing information about your swimming into good or bad or worse. Take them as datas showing you where to work and where to design your own special needed FPs.

Think about Terry (damned I'm missing him), who told about himself, swimming for almost 40 years the wrong way before he started with (never ending) development of TI. And take one critical part of your stroke and work on that single FP. Work on this only and don't think about the infinite parts which are still (or going) banana. And then become familiar with this single FP before you look at the next.

In his 1.0 Effortless Endurance Terry described it very well how to go step by step. Take that way and let your good coach help you step by step. Success is nearly guaranteed. But have in mind: Succes in FS (even on TI's way) is more a matter of months or years for most of us.

And once more Terry: Most things we have to do in FS is against our instincts or reflexes. This makes it so difficult and so interesting.

At least a partial response to your main question. The receptors for proprioception are intrinsic and are directed for our mostly upward standing/moving in air and on ground. They simply don't work so well when horizontal and in water as environment. Even people who where born without receptors for proprioception or lost their function by illness can learn to walk and move. Eyes are extremely important for this learning, in darkness they'll break down at once. In water we can learn another way of proprioception with FP-work, awareness to our skin and body to different tiniest perceptions. Someone are able to feel it at once, others do need a fairly long time (long mostly perceived by the swimmer himself...).

Cathy, find back to enjoy your improvement-process. Play around and be glad you found something, you're not able to adapt at once and real work and (emotional) effort is necessary to learn. Believe your coach in your (only for you!) small steps forward and enjoy them. I'm sure if you'd ask Shinji, he knows many more points in swimming he'd like to improve than he could say he mastered.

So enjoy your way and let us participate in your improvements and your problems... perhaps one for one post :-)

Best regards,
Werner

PS: Could swim BS from childhood, started FS around 60+ and some months later with TI, became a TI-Coach with 65... Worked nearly a year on a known fault, worked on the symptoms and lost (unconscious) some foundations of TI, was shocked from a video which showed me swimming a beginner's stroke... Took some time, work and help from others to find my foundations again... Kaizen-steps never end... And you're not alone, Cathy...
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  #4  
Old 12-02-2017
Danny Danny is offline
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Hi Cathy,

First of all, I think Werner's advice is all very good, but I'm going to add my own, for whatever it's worth.

The main problem you have is very common and most people suffer from it, including me. There seems to be a large gap between what you expect from yourself in progress and what you are experiencing. And this is frustrating. After swimming freestyle for almost 20 years now, my expectations for myself are still not really very well in keeping with my progress. As an old man now, I realize that I lack some of the innate ability of other swimmers, but we all have to deal with what we have. In the end, you will continue swimming (maybe for the rest of your life) only if you can find some sense of joy in it, even when you are not doing it perfectly, because you will never do it perfectly. If that is your success criterion, then you may as well quit now, because you are doomed to frustration.

That said, you seem to have a lot going for you. I group swimmers roughly into two groups: the natural talents (who learn by trial and error and watching others) and the analysts (like me). Learning swimming is a little like learning a foreign language. As a child you can pick it up without much structure, but the older you get, the more the rules of grammar help you to put things into place fast. As a mechanical engineer, you have the tools you need. Be sure to exploit them to their fullest. Just because other people aren't necessarily interested in why something helps your swimming (for them, it suffices to simply know that it does) doesn't mean that you won't benefit from this approach to learning.

I was swimming for years before I ever saw underwater film of myself. Seeing this for the first time reminded me of the feeling I had when I first heard my own voice on a telephone answering machine. It sounded completely weird and I was embarrassed. You'll get used to it, and it is important feedback.

The rest of your difficulties sound completely normal. Many people in your situation will get frustrated and give up on learning swimming, because they can't progress as fast as they insist on doing. If you can find pleasure in what you are learning instead of railing at the difficulties you are having, I think you have a brilliant future as a swimmer.

Keep us tuned in on your progress. You are a very engaging writer and you have gotten the rest of us interested in your fate. We hope to hear more from you.
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  #5  
Old 12-03-2017
cc311206
 
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Hi Cathy..

i can guarrantee you are not alone finding 'yourself' in water.

Like you, i had no prior swimming experience as a child. Self taught BS two and a half years ago, thought it was a bit boring, accidentally stumbled across Terry and Shinji's video on TI freestyle, and from then on, it was an interesting journey of ups and downs, one day satisfied with my progress the following day filled with frustration leaving the pool.

But then i got advice, A LOT, from this forum. The best of which is PATIENCE.

I counted year and a half now since embarking on this TI journey, and i am still on roller coaster ride. One day i have a new feeling in the water, just to find that the next day it completely goes away. Don't despair though, several days later it would all come back again, plus some additional..... (smile)

Just carry on. This forum is wonderful; there are many supporters who will listen to you, share their experience, and offer you advice that shall keep you going.

Good luck.

Chan
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  #6  
Old 12-03-2017
cc311206
 
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correction. "....you are not alone having difficulty finding 'yourself' in water...."
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  #7  
Old 12-03-2017
whoiscathy
 
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Thanks guys. I appreciate every word.

Yes, I'm a perfectionist and perhaps I'm expecting too much, too fast from myself. I also compare often and I know I shouldn't. When I compare myself to others I often fall short and then I get crazy frustrated.

Further, I'm not really a "body" person. Much of my life, I've largely been avoidant when it came to anything physical. I'm more of a "head" person - of course, because my head rarely disappoints me, so I naturally chose things I could progress with. So the learning curve is steep right now.

I have mixed feelings about the Kaizen thing. Often when I get home I don't feel I've improved (I even regress) and the Kaizen approach suggests I "should" have become a better swimmerafter every practice, and then I feel even worse. I read this a couple days ago and it described fairly well how I feel about it:

Quote:

7 Coaching Tips That Kinda Suck

(...)

7. "Make Every Practice Better than The Last One.Ē (Total Immersion)
Yep, time to take umbrage with my former mentor, Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion.

Kaizen Swimming. Enjoy Every Stroke. Continuous improvement. Mastery.

The idea that swimming is something that you could improve at in a short period of time and actually enjoy is very inspirational and I still believe it to be a vital message.

But this focus on constant improvement in every single practice tends to create a very high expectation in swimmers, an inevitable overload of focus points, and sometimes a feeling of falling well short.

I know this because it is a seductive mindset for coaches who are simply motivated to help swimmers improve. Iíve learned this the hard way as a self-taught swimmer and a coach.

When the expectations are too high and the focus too scattered, deep frustration can boil over.

Swimming is a very challenging activity. It really is.

It has the power to trigger some of your deepest fears and insecurities.

There will be days when youíll feel like a slug drowning in a rain barrel. Days when you feels like a fraud, not worthy of your cap and goggles.


And youíll have swims when you just canít go any further or faster no matter how hard you focus or concentrate on nudging aside water molecules with your finger nails.

Sometimes to make a real improvement, you need to push yourself firmly beyond your comfort zone, which isnít easy at all.

So whatís a better alternative to this kind of learning philosophy?

Itís a simple but challenging mindset that many people really have a hard time putting into practice in their day to day lives:

Remember where you started from.

A sense of where your journey began helps you keep the good days and bad days in perspective. It should give you confidence. After all, you achieved so much up to this point. Itís inevitable that youíll keep making progress in the long term.

It gives you the momentum to carry you through the really challenging experiences and stay excited about your goals no matter how scenic or circuitous the route.

And, in case you ever forget, all paths lead you back to the water again.

KEY TIP: Hitting a plateau or having days where you seem to go backward is a natural part of the learning process. Recognize that, learn from it, and be patient and keep at it.
But Werner, you're very right about that I need to implement more Kaizen into my life regarding Patience with myself. I'll try my best at that.

Thanks again! I'm not quitting by the way.
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  #8  
Old 12-03-2017
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2011
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WFEGb
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Hello Cathy,

Quote:
...Often when I get home I don't feel I've improved (I even regress) and the Kaizen approach suggests I "should" have become a better swimmerafter every practice, and then I feel even worse....
Think nearly everyone in this forum knows similar experiences. Don't know the link to Shinji's posts about his attempt to Rodnest chanel, but he shows in an admiring way how to deal with things not working as hoped. Or have a look at Terry's very last blogs, how he enjoyed every own stroke and everyone passing him, while swimming synched with his daughter.

And last but not least we are a tiny step a better swimmer, even if the numbers are telling another story, because we are aware of it and are shown where we should go on and work further on. A needful and very worthy first step in the endless Kaizen-spiral of learning (everything...).

Best regards,
Werner
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  #9  
Old 12-03-2017
Danny Danny is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 1,442
Danny
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Here is a quote I love from CoachBobM

"Remember the 4 stages of learning:

1) Unconscious incompetence - You're doing it wrong, but don't realize it.

2) Conscious incompetence - You're still doing it wrong, but realize it.

3) Conscious competence - You're doing it right, but have to think about it all the time to do it right.

4) Unconscious competence - You can do it right without constantly thinking about it."

I'm guessing that you're spending a lot of time in level 2 and it hurts, but level 2 is definitely progress. The other thing to keep in mind is that these 4 stages don't apply to swimming itself, but rather all the minor aspects that make up swimming, so you have go through this process over and over again for years.

The other thing that struck me is what you wrote here:
"Further, I'm not really a "body" person. Much of my life, I've largely been avoidant when it came to anything physical. I'm more of a "head" person - of course, because my head rarely disappoints me, so I naturally chose things I could progress with. So the learning curve is steep right now."

I can relate to this, but as an older person I also have some perspective on it. One of the best parts of my life was progressing from working on things I was naturally gifted at to working on some projects where I don't necessarily have much talent. It requires a whole different mindset, a sense of humor and it also contains some amazing surprises, that you can become a much larger person than you ever thought you were. In situations like this, it helps to go into it without high expectations but try to enjoy the process.

I wish you luck!
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  #10  
Old 12-03-2017
whoiscathy
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny View Post
One of the best parts of my life was progressing from working on things I was naturally gifted at to working on some projects where I don't necessarily have much talent. It requires a whole different mindset, a sense of humor and it also contains some amazing surprises, that you can become a much larger person than you ever thought you were.
This is the reason I'm not quitting. I've made the conscious decision that I wanted to learn this, despite that I'm not "wired" for these kind of things, and that despite all that I want to do a tri, and.., and.., and.., and I knew exactly that it would be *** hard, and here I am, and it is hard. No surprise there, after all.

Thank you :)
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