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Swimming Fine

For some things just a little refinement of technique can make a huge difference. A few years ago Paul Amman, in one of his triathlon reports, mentioned swim coach Terry Laughlin. His Total Immersion training philosophy, like "Chi Running", suggests that a fluid, beautiful, efficient style can be taught. From Laughlin's essay with the charming title "Disregard the following ...", an example:

Here's the stroke-made-simple lesson: Slice your hand in as soon as it passes your shoulder, extend it to the front as far as you can, take your time about beginning your pull, and pull straight back under your body, neither too deep nor too close to your trunk. Then take your hand out of the water and do it again. You're swimming fine. Put away your metric tape measure.

Are there useful refinements beyond those mentioned? Of course. But they pay off far more if you're eyeing a berth on the Olympic team. Consider this: the typical novice is maybe 10 to 20 percent as efficient as a world-class swimmer, but can close most of the gap--to maybe a 20% spread--by simply improving body position, rotation and alignment. Working on just that can easily deliver a year's worth of progress. Then you can begin to think about your hand pitch and path, which may grudgingly yield another 5 or 10 percent gain after just as much work.

Basic, sound swimming comes down to this: Lean into the water with your upper trunk (to balance) so your suit is just breaking the surface; rotate your hips around your spinal axis (to propel), getting them completely out of the way as each hand passes through; and think of your arms more as extenders for increasing the length of your body line--which automatically makes you faster--than as pulling tools.

What an amazing improvement, going from ~10% to ~80% efficiency! (Where else in life can that sort of improvement be achieved? Hmmmm!)

^z - 2008-04-24

(correlates: BluickGame, UltraMan, Joan Benoit Samuelson on the Marathon, ...)