Thursday, November 6, 2014

What is Total Immersion Swimming?

Total Immersion Freestyle Swimming is a paced, hyper efficient, core based swimming technique.

The first goal of TI swimming is Kaizen: To use every swim practice to improve technique. Many errors in swim technique are hidden by a swimmer's speed. By swimming slowly while learning the TI method, new skills arise for better flotation and propulsion. Later, the challenge is to increase speed while maintaining optimum technique. 

Imagine experiencing swimming as flying. Imagine feeling supported by the water instead of fighting the water. Imagine the whole-body sensation of striking a balance between gravity and buoyancy, and propelling through the water with hidden power and visible grace. 

Terry Laughlin, the founder of TI swimming, explored ways to improve balance, propulsion and streamlining in water, and this led him to the realization of how swimming can maximize endurance by shifting muscular effort away from the arms and legs to the deeper power of core muscles in the torso. The result is a hyper efficient form that floats the body in horizontal position, takes advantage of gravity and core muscles for propulsion, and minimizes splashing and resistance in water.

If you usually swim the length of the pool in 25 strokes, and if you could reduce that to 18 strokes by using a 2-beat kick and swimming/gliding with core muscle power, you have gained a major health benefit by reducing the likelihood of overuse injuries - especially of shoulders, but also of hips and knees. Optimum efficient technique can be measured by counting the number of strokes needed to cross the length of the pool (based on the swimmer's height and the pool's length) and by the overall distance that can be swum without fatigue. 

TI swimmers don't practice 'struggle.' Instead, they work within a robust self-analytic system that allows them to measure when technique is degrading, to pause/rest, and then to self-diagnose using the TI 'focal points' to get back on track. It's a proven system for continuous self-improvement in swimming. 

By establishing a firm foundation of proper swim stroke technique, TI swimmers can take their good form to the "next level" of desired fitness, whether that is aerobic capacity improvements, whole-body strength and tone, postural fitness, faster stroke speeds or covering greater distance.

"A taste of TI"
If you already have a good freestyle crawl stroke, but would like to experience what Total Immersion might contribute to your ease, balance, streamlining - overall efficiency - you can try any of the tips below:

Count the number of strokes needed to cross one length of the pool and rate your effort (on a scale of 1 to 5) before trying this.

1) Release your head's weight. Visualize a laser beam projecting from top of head in alignment with your spine.
2) Use your forward arm to lengthen your body line, rather than push back. (You still push back; you just shift focus to the arm going forward.)
3) Let your legs relax. See if you can get them to draft behind your torso.
4) Just swim "quietly" with less noise, splash, and bubbles.

Then count the strokes needed, while swimming with any or all of the suggestions above, and rate your effort (on a scale of 1 to 5). Perhaps you will discover the new ways of experiencing and challenging your body that Total Immersion Swimming offers!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kent: Switching from traditional freestyle to Total Immersion Easy Freestyle in one lesson!

Kent came to his first class with a high level of skill; he had been a successful competitive freestyle swimmer in high school.  His transformation suggests what can be done in a 1-1/2 hour lesson with willingness to slow down his stroke, a patient calm, and focused attention to details.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Progress Report: Beverly 9/15/14. Total Immersion Swimming

With grace, attention to details, patience and ease: Beverly swims beautifully by the end of lesson 4. She is ready to swim laps, count her strokes, and continue to refine her technique and perceptions through practice. Bev has a list of focal points to help her remain mindful during future practices.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Found on YouTube: Slow motion 2-beat kick

My experience is that the 2-beat kick must be learned in stages. First, the "2 wide legs" stage; then a more compact position of "feet close together -then- feet opening"; last, finding separate sensation in the R or L leg, allowing just one leg to flick, and then the other.

This is a great video of a well executed Total Immersion Swimming 2-beat kick:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Progress report: Beverly 9/7/14

Beverly came to the pool on Day 1 with a nicely coordinated side stroke and good flotation on her back. She practiced superman float, superman glide, "tic toc" hip rotation, slot-to-skate, and elbow circles for recovery arm. Here is her crawl at the start of lesson #2 with a bit more relaxed arms and head:

Lesson 2 began with a skate-with-flutter drill in 3 steps: (1) motion of the head to air and to downward alignment; (2) slow motion of the recovery arm, dragging fingertips and forming a geometric entry; (3) slot-to-switch (bringing her to the other "edge"). Since her first switch was so powerful that it flipped her onto her back, we moved right into practicing the "sweet spot" (on 3/4 back) breathing position. Here is a sample of that skating practice:

From there, after another practice of superman and tic-toc hip rotation, she repeated yesterday's practice of slot-to-skate and elbow circles for recovery arm. She did repetitions of "relaxing her forearm" by dragging it in the water. The next video is Bev's best swim at the end of class:

I see a well organized core body with a rhythmic forward thrust of propulsion created by her relaxed recovery arm and stable "underwater reaching" arm. I feel fairly certain that she is not thinking about her legs... but you can see the clear "plunk" splash of one foot that demonstrates oppositional (contralateral) core body engagement.

Future goals for Bev: wide tracks, timing of switch-to-pocket, and a bit further deconstruction of her 2-beat kick until it is effective (primarily for hip rotation) and streamlined.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Looking closely at oppositional movement and balance

Elephants teach me about swimming...

(1) What does a natural "crawl" movement look like?

(2) How do elephants swim? How do they propel forward?

(3) How does an elephant manage to balance on a ball?

I'll be taking these ideas into the pool. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Exploring the hip-leg connection for the 2-beat kick

This video has 3 exercises:
(1) holding a stick with both hands, the student focuses on her "legs and hips" connection;
(2) holding a stick, adding hand switches, thinking "reach left hand to the pocket while right hand pushes the stick" (and reverse);
(3) same as above, without the stick.

When the student is holding the stick, she has these ideas reinforced:
wide tracks, a deep target below her head level, a delayed hand pull.

Here's a possible problem with using the stick: The student may tend to look at the stick which results in a lifted chin and a tense neck.

This student's goal is to move very slowly with the stick, allowing more time to inspect her own relaxed neck, good head alignment, and weight shifts from right-edge to left-edge. If the stick is getting in the way of these details, it's time to get rid of the stick!

Friday, July 25, 2014

What "bilateral movement" looks like - with a stick!

When we walk, we instinctively swing our right shoulder forward as the left leg/hip steps forward; and reversing this, the left shoulder advances as the right leg/hip steps forward. This is called "opposition" and we walk with a natural, organic oppositional motion of the shoulders and hips.

This oppositional, rotating "core body action" of the torso is the way we moved as infants crawling on the floor. To experience this clearly, anyone should just try crawling on all fours for a bit. 

When we stand and walk a few steps, "core power" feels like a "twist at the waist" initiated from the body's core torso muscles - not created peripherally by just swinging the arms and legs. 

Even though we swim in an elongated (and flattened) body shape, we achieve "power from the core" by rotating the trunk of the body as if we were walking. 

In today's class and video, you'll see the student excellently demonstrating this bilateral movement.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Today's class: Finding left and right edges, finding air, adding momentum and mindful timing

The big picture: breathing in through mouth and out through nose, relaxing, floating, and moving with organic/core motion of the torso/hips/shoulders.

Class begins with some face-down flotation and the organic movement of "crawling" in the water; then "skate" position on left and right edges; then one skate immediately into a roll-onto-back. Student shows excellent relaxation in the water, keeping head - and hair - dipping deeply into the water. She's so excited, she says "wow!" from her relaxed float. Relaxation in water is an essential element of mastering flotation.

Student also practices extending the length of her glide during skate by adding a gentle flutter kick. This gives her time to check her relaxed neck and head alignment. We do only a little bit of flutter kicking during exercises and try to let it go quickly. The final goal is simply to have a 2-beat "organic" kick: legs which react to the rotation of hips/core body movement with only a flick of ankle to aid in rotation during switches.

Then student combined 1 skate and 1 skate-to-back; slowly lifting the free hand above the body to re-enter the water, rolling and reaching into face-down position again. This is a challenge! It's a useful skill to have but it will not be an element of her final uninterrupted stroke.

Finally, a few elegant, slow and mindful underwater switches. Student shows mindful control of the timing of the "switch."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Breathing on the left side

My mom has a favorite side to breathe on. Today, turning her head to catch breath on the left resulted in a pain in her neck. She could feel that she was using her neck to lift her top-of-head out of the water - too high and too tense. It hurt.

In preparation for a more balanced stroke, breathing left and right, she demonstrates two useful exercises that train the nervous system for relaxation in the neck and shoulder.

(1) Mom is gliding on her side edge and simply rotating her face to the "face down position" and up to the "breathing position." I see a nice horizontal alignment and her head and neck very relaxed in the water.

(2) Mom is performing "underwater switches." By avoiding her usual tense arm stroke recovery (out of the water) perhaps she can train her shoulder to relax.

My goal for her eventually would be to incorporate a very relaxed shoulder with the above-water stroke recovery. Perhaps "a little pain" can be a healthy motivator to find a better, more relaxed arm stroke and head rotation.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Symmetry exercise in preparation for left-and-right breathing

Today's topic: creating better symmetry of leg action.

The problem: Mom is hoping to be able to "breathe left and right." But when she gives it a try, she notices difficulty on her least favorite side.

I notice that there is asymmetry built into her kick. This video shows her old style of kicking:

Today's exercise: we try to swim with the sensation of the "front of hip and front of thigh" pressing downward on each stroke as if the front-of-hip were connecting to the track of a train. At present, we let the legs drag behind us and don't worry about the wide distance between them.

Today's goal: to swim with the weight shift of hips and more relaxed legs; the downward leg should find a moment pressing "in its train track" in good straight alignment.

Result: Although wide, a much more symmetrical "gait":

And by her next practice, a symmetrical and calmer leg kick provides effective forward propulsion:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Swimming slowly and precisely 6/26/14

Here you see the way I swim now. I'm working on having good head alignment with a relaxed neck, minimal 2-beat kick, relaxed forearm and wrist "above water" during recovery. Continued goals: to keep hips high enough to allow a quick breath keeping one goggle eye piece underwater; to minimize hip drop during breath.

My mom has been working hard and is looking good: "hand in the pocket" gives her hips a nice lift which helps create a more horizontal floating position in the water, head is relaxed and has a nice medium depth in the water, and her 2-beat kick is very consistent. Goals: to be sure to delay the "pull" of the forward underwater arm.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Slow Motion: How to add lift under the hips

Here you see two clips of my mom, showing how the hips can sink or swim.

A sinking mode:

And now she makes a mental image of swimming downhill:

How to think about 'sinking hips" --

A strong pull of the hand through the water, aimed directly at the front of the hips, helps to create "lift" under hips - like the wind lift under the wing of an airplane.

By slightly tucking the tailbone under (it's more of a release of tailbone to lengthened position, not a tense grip), you can create a better shape to capture the lift created from the turbulent water below the hips.

Swimming "more downhill" helps tip body balance in the water: by adding weight toward the top half of the body, moving the cernter of gravity "out of the hips" and "over the lungs." The arms, though not particularly heavy, add weight by delaying their "pull" (this keeps one hand "out front, holding the water" until the latest possible moment). A relaxed neck allows a deep head position and arms should reach deep into the water with each stroke.

One more thought: if the hips roll to perpendicular, the bowl-like shape holding the turbulent water is "broken" and the hips will sink. To keep their "aerodynamic" shape they must still have some of their horizontal position. This means that shoulders are rolling open more then the hips - a natural bipedal twisting motion occurs at the waist. More about "biped motion" later!

Friday, May 30, 2014

First report from the pool: Slow Motion Swimming

Here you see that I'm trying to swim very slowly, getting ready for my Total Immersion coaching certification camp.

I'm a 60 year old former dancer and dance instructor with an MS degree in Physical Education/Dance from LSU.