Lesson Series March 2018

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    Mat Hudson

    First Session – March 5

    Hello Jennifer!

    I am glad to start working with you on these fundamental freestyle skills today. 


    Today’s Lessons

    You may view the outline for the general Balance And Streamline Lessons. I pulled out certain focal points that were most applicable to your needs today and we focused on those. From the titles of the other focal points you may get an idea of what those are meant to affect. 

    Our big focus today was to put your head in line with the spine, to align the spine and shoulders to relieve some strain in that upper part of the back. As you experienced, it is not ‘normal’ for us humans to look down (refrain from looking forward) while swimming, but it much more pleasant for the spine to keep the head in line… and it happens to be a lot more hydrodynamic too. 

    We took those skills from Superman drill and then transitioned to Skate Position drill, where you start to build the ideal streamline shape you will use and emphasize in the freestyle stroke. We just started working on that and will continue with it next week.

    As I noted, if you are content to let go of ‘fitness’ training for a couple weeks, then you can spend your time in the pool using drills and careful strokes to etch these new skills and patterns into your neuromuscular circuits. Eventually you will be able to speed up again and run stronger signals through those neuromuscular circuits under the (positive) stress of aerobic swimming without causing the circuit to trip and revert back to old patterns. I am glad to help you plan out your activities for your personal practice time so that you can do this in a productive and enjoyable way.

    Below are some links to articles in our library that may help you. And, I do hope you will take advantage of this discussion zone to ask me specific questions about what and how to practice. This space is meant to support you in your personal training time!


    Some Additional Reading

    You may review our introduction to the Balance Streamline Propulsion Pyramid. You’ll use this BSP organization to help you set priorities in your skill learning process.

    A central feature of our Total Immersion method is our use of Focal Points to create a super-learning situation for your brain. You may review our introduction to Focal Points.

    Ass you do your personal practice between our live sessions, you may appreciate some guidance on how to organize your efforts. You may read How To Practice.

    And, if you want even more structure and guidance for how to practices these new skills in an orderly way, you may start studying the Freestyle Fundamentals online course that has been designed specifically for those who are taking or have finished our live Freestyle lesson series. You are enrolled in this online course automatically as part of your live lesson experience.

    Mat Hudson

    Second Session – March 19

    We had a couple weeks between the first lesson and this one. And we decided to break into 60min lessons, take smaller bites on the skills sets and spread this out a bit more, which I think will work fine.

    In this second lesson we spent some time reviewing and then expanding your skills on Skate Position, especially focusing on the rotation.

    The activities we used:

    • Drill for 4-6 seconds
    • Drill + 6 strokes
    • 8 strokes (no breathing)
    • Whole length swimming

    With your body’s buoyancy, we know gravity is not going to make it easy to hold Skate Position for very long, but I explained that in the practical stroke cycle, you only need to hold that position for less than 1.5 seconds. So, we’re just working on sliding immediately into your best Skate position then holding it for 2 seconds. That’s all the time you need to recover the other arm and switch to Skate on the other side.

    See the outline and focal points for Skate Position in the Balance And Streamline lesson notes.


    Recovery Swing

    And, at the very end, we just started an introduction to the Recovery Swing, which we will continue to develop in the next lesson. But this gave you a sense of how you need to lean on that long, firm, stable Skate Position frame on one side while swinging the recovery arm forward.

    You may view the outline and focal points for Recovery Swing in Send Force Forward lesson notes.

    Mat Hudson

    Third Session – April 2

    In today’s session we first reviewed your Skate Position. As we worked through the focal points for each body part, I noticed you were starting to put your feet into a particularly beneficial position so I pointed this out to you and helped you develop the Counter-Balanced Foot Position intentionally. You did it very well!

    This is going to be a (nice) change for you because the legs will now learn a new role in cooperating with the rotation rhythm of the upper body rather than kick along doing their own thing. The first step is learning this Counter-Balanced Foot Position, and then later, you can add a little thrust and turn it into what we call the 2 Beat Kick.

    Activities we used:

    • Skate Position
    • Add CBF
    • Skate – 2 strokes – Skate
    • Skating (Left Skate – switch – Right Skate – switch and so on)
    • Testing these skills with several non-breathing strokes to see how they are influencing your movement patterns

    Then we moved to the Recovery Swing to freshen that up and to examine the arm switch timing.

    Activities we used:

    • Skate with One Arm Recovery Swing
    • Alternating Recovery Swing with a pause at entry position
    • Superman to Entry Position

    Focal Points we used:

    • Drape the arm over the beachball
    • Drag the knuckles
    • Swing the bag
    • High elbow entry position
    • Overlap your arms halfway

    And, I introduced you to a ‘trick’ we play on the brain – tell yourself that you are ‘not swimming’ but just ‘doing a drill’, and your brain may give your body parts permission to move in a new pattern without tripping the circuit breaker and going back to the old pattern of swimming.

    I had you focus on overlapping the recovery arm over the lead arm, one at a time, then alternating sides, so that your body would start to experience this new arm switch position and timing. This arm switch timing allows both the underwater catch arm and the entry/extension arm to work with the torso rotation, rather than apart from it. It keeps your body longer, more streamline, for more of the stroke cycle. It allows you to swim with torso muscle power more than shoulder muscle power.

    In this ‘drill mode’ when you were concentrating, you were very consistent in maintaining that arm switch timing. And when the lead arm pulled too soon, you immediately noticed and stopped it. That is a very good sign that your brain knows what its aiming for. I am confident that you are going to get this new pattern established!

    We will work on it more next time.

    Mat Hudson

    Fourth Session – April 9

    In our session today we reviewed the Recovery and Extension forward. I had you swim several lengths while emphasizing your reach forward, reaching a couple inches farther on each stroke. We ran a test: with your former stroke pattern you took about 22 strokes per length (SPL). When you emphasized Skate Position on each stroke you went down to 20. When you focused on extending (reaching) forward a couple more inches on each stroke your SPL went to 19. Your kick was much lighter. My perception is that you were using less effort because your stroke was much quieter, less splash, less movement over all.

    To review, we want to see these main features in your stroke:

    1. Firm, unified Torpedo Spine
    2. Long, firm, Skate Position at the start and finish of each stroke
    3. emphasize Sending Force Forward, through the Recovery Swing and Entry
    4. Maintain ideal Arm Switch Timing

    In this exercise for the first part of the lesson I was having you emphasize #3 and #4 and showing you the effect through counting strokes.

    Upon these 4 features we can add Rhythmic Breathing, because easier breathing depends on them.


    Rhythmic Breathing

    We began work on inserting the breathing and you can read more about the Rhythmic Breathing lesson.


    We worked with these activities today:

    • Dry Land Rehearsal
    • Superman To Skate
    • 3-Strokes to Skate
    • 3-strokes – breath in Skate – 3 strokes

    You may view a video of the Dry Land Rehearsal (aka Silly Walk) on the Video Tutorials page.

    You did very well integrating the focal points we used, even though it was hard to hold all of them at once. As we progressed through the activities, getting gradually more complex, you were consistent in holding each focal point. Good job!

    We will continue to develop your breathing skills in our next session.

    Mat Hudson

    Fifth Session – April 16

    Today we reviewed your stroke to see how the skills have been sticking.

    First, let’s review the four main features we want to see:

    1. the long, straight Torpedo Spine
    2. the long, straight, firm Skate Position
    3. Send Force Forward through the Recovery Swing
    4. ideal Arm Switch Timing

    I observed your demonstration of #1 and #2, and your Arm Switch Timing was nicely done on your non-breathing strokes.

    Recovery And Entry

    But I saw some need to address #3, the recovery swing and entry.

    It appeared that you could widen the track for your lead arm. You were entering the arm quite narrow but then keeping your body narrow and streamline behind it. However, that narrow entry and extension may cause some other problems, including contributing to a sore shoulder.

    In order to bring the lead arm to a wider track, you need to hit a wider entry point (and a bit closer to the body, not extending so far in front). In order to hit a wider entry point and steeper angle, you need to bring the recovery arm to a high elbow entry position. In order to bring the recovery arm to a high elbow entry position, you need to improve the shape of the recovery arm swing.

    For the recovery swing – I had you keep the fingernails in contact with the surface so that the arm is compelled to keep the hand low and the elbow high. I had you spread the recovery arm wider as well, in combination with a wider lead arm which will counter-balance that wide recovery swing. This wider arm shape will remove friction from the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles.

    For the entry position, I had you make sure you were leaning more on your Skate side so that there was more rotation angle in your torso. This will make it more comfortable to bring the elbow to a high position, with forearm angled steeply downward, at a wider entry point in front of the shoulder. This will make you feel very wide, a bit abnormal at first. Imagine a kickboard placed between your arms, creating a barrier that keeps your arms wide and parallel.

    For the entry, you are to aim for a steeper initial entry, aiming straight in front of the shoulder. I had you also keep the palm facing backward so that when the hand comes forward to enter, it is facing flat. The hand is poised to enter the ‘mailslot’, and then followed by the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder, all sliding forward through the same hole.

    Then you lean onto that wide track, onto your Skate side, rotating your torso. The wider track allows you to swing the other recovery arm wide.

    Breathing Improvement

    You mentioned that breathing was still causing a problem, where you were sometimes taking water into your nose and not always feeling like you were getting enough air exchange.

    I had you examine your exhale to make sure you were exhaling to a sufficient amount, because the inhale will replace that same amount. It may be enough to focus on the exhale and the inhale may take care of itself.

    I gave you some technique to set up for a better inhale:

    1. as you begin exhale underwater, start softly from nose and increase gradually to a peak right before touching the air with your mouth
    2. and at the last moment before breaking the surface, blow the water away from your nose and mouth, like a dolphin clearing its airhole

    And, we called attention to the possibility that you may be inhaling with both the mouth and nose, but you should practice inhaling only with the mouth and feeling the hole in the back of the throat close to block the nose from inhaling.

    I observed that you had the other critical features of the breathing action in place:

    • you were keeping the head fairly flat (turning on the spine axis)
    • the lead arm is holding position until the head returns
    • you were turning early, turning quickly, and taking a quick sip and returning quickly

    With practice, I hope those improvements will bring you the relief from water going in the nose.

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