When you make changes in your stroke, what you THINK you’re doing isn’t always what you’re ACTUALLY doing.
This is a phenomenon that swim coaches and swim instructors encounter all the time. When someone is trying to change a motion — it could be hand entry, pull pattern, head position… really anything — the swimmer feels like he’s making HUGE changes. But when swimmer and coach look at the video, many times there is little or no perceptible change.
How can something FEEL so different, yet sometimes not LOOK any different? One reason is that the video camera picks up only the OUTSIDE image of your body. But inside your body… under the skin… you have a lot of bones and muscles that work in ways we can’t really see from outside the body. Almost like a case, or holder, the skin holds everything in, but it’s not rigid. The skin moves and shifts, and the bones and muscles move and shift inside the skin. But the camera sees only the casing. It doesn’t really pick up the WAY that all the bones and muscles are moving under the skin.
The skin is our feel, our connection to the water. Our skin tells us what part of the arm we’re using to attach to the water. The skin gives us the feedback we need as athletes to help us know if we’re being productive, or just moving our limbs in random movements. The BAD thing about the skin, and about our sport, is that there is SO MUCH feedback coming to us, because our skin is being stimulated CONSTANTLY by the water. Because of that, when a slight change is made to one part of the body, we sometimes experience, or become aware of, SO many other subtle changes that occur. At the same time, the athlete is looking for, and expecting, feedback — either from a coach or from video — that these new (strange) feelings have produced the desired changes. When that feedback doesn’t come, or isn’t seen, frustration is JUST around the corner.
This is when you have to trust yourself, and look deeper into yourself. And by deeper, it can be JUST below the surface of your skin. Imagine all the subtle changes that you’re making with your bones, how they’re being pitched just slightly differently, and how that’s impacting the FEELING that you’re getting back. The best way to find out what’s happening is to close out the outside world. Don’t depend on feedback from the outside influences (which are usually good), but learn to depend on what you can discover through a finer focus. Close you’re eyes and stop looking. Start to feel what’s happening in smaller increments. Stop thinking of the WHOLE picture, and imagine what you’re actually feeling INSIDE your arms, or hands, or feet.
Are you applying pressure in the correct way? Are you pushing water to the side, or pulling it back in a productive manner? How much of your arm is ready to pull, and how soon is it ready to pull. Do you reach far enough out in front, and what happens to your joints, to your bones rotating inside your arm when you DO reach that far forward?
Try to overcome all the sensations that are being thrown at you constantly when you swim. Pinpoint your attention on a single area, and think of what’s happening just beneath the surface. You also have to remember something very important. We’ve shown, and understand more and more, that each individual brings to the pool his or her own unique way of swimming. Because of that, you must be careful not to pattern your own stroke so closely to that of someone else. While it’s a great idea to gather as much visual references as possible, it’s also important not to simply copy the movements of others. Use the visual references to build a stroke that’s yours alone. What’s happening inside YOUR skin, is different from what’s happening inside everyone else’s skin.
The most important thing to try to achieve, is NOT visual beauty but, rather, an internal flow. Start the process by focusing on little pieces, and then begin to put them all together so that eventually you feel the connection, the unification of everything moving with purpose… toward the other end. 🙂 Man, it sounded GLORIOUS for a second… just remembered it was just swimming.