Summer Training 2020

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    Tim Gofine


    I’m wondering if the above messages appeared properly on your end or if they were unintelligible: I realize that I cut and paste from emails. If so, no matter; things will come around again. I’m going to add something new in any case.

    I think that part of the problem is that I did not have the proper position in skate. I feel that my head was not close enough to the outstretched arm. I’m working on returning the head after the turn to air to the neutral position without losing the line. The shoulders still have to be between 30 and 45 degrees while the head turns to 90 degrees and returns to 0 degrees. It seems to be if there is some gap between the head and the arm, if the head is not firmly associated with the arm, then the fuselage is starting out weaker. Does that sound right?


    Tim Gofine

    Also, I found that I have spent so much on my weak side ( the left) that turning to the right now feels entirely weird.

    I’m also working on correcting what was the asymmetry between right and left. I had a bit of finning movement on the right side that threw things off.

    Finally, I’m concentrating on keeping my thighs together as opposed to concentrating on my lower leg.

    Mat Hudson

    The messages are coming through without strange formatting.

    Sounds like you are making important observations and corrections. The priority is to set the frame – its length, its tone, and its angle – and then set the appendages to that frame. Click-click, the torso rotates and clicks into place on each stroke, and stays there until it is time to rotate and click into place on the other side. It is precise and decisive in its movement, and there is no torso movement between those switching moments.

    I like the references to taiji!

    You can check the best position for the head relative to the lead arm by standing up in front of a mirror. Stand in Superman position, facing the mirror. Keep your right arm in lead, drop the left arm to tuck along side the body into streamline position as you step forward with the right foot, one small step. Keep the head perfectly still and stable as you do so. The torso will rotate slightly, about 30 degrees. There should be three parallel lines you could draw. A vertical line along your lead arm track, a vertical line along your other arm, and a line along your spine line – like the three lines of a trident spear. There should be about a visible fist-sized gap between your cheek and your lead shoulder. To close that gap, one would have to either pull the head to the shoulder (taking it off its line) or pull the shoulder to the cheek (taking it off its line, causing some tension in the upper shoulder and neck).

    Tim Gofine


    I’ve renewed for this month. I hope you receive this.

    We still haven’t worked out a time to chat, and I haven’t prepared a video file to send ( I forgot the website I use for that, I’m sorry). In the meantime, I just want to review something again. What is the point of entry for the recovering arm? I have the feeling that I’m entering too early and extending through water rather than through the less dense air. I’m under the impression that the ideal point is around the wrist of the extended arm: is that correct, or is that too far?

    Mat Hudson

    Hi Tim. Yes, I see the notice of payment. Thanks!

    For a chat… I am tied up with lifeguard training first three days this week and Thursday is booked up. Maybe Friday or Saturday?



    Ah, you bring up a well-intentioned, but mistaken idea about extending over the surface.

    In our view of the physics situation, the challenge for the swimmer is to move the water molecules in the space ahead out of the way in order for the swimmer’s molecules to fill that space. The more quickly those water molecules move, the more quickly the swimmer moves ahead to fill the space. In order to do this most effectively, those water molecules ahead need to be made to start moving out of the way, as smoothly and uniformly as possible.

    The human (changing) shape is a terribly unsuitable device for this task, but its what we have to work with. What we can do is insert that entry arm as soon as possible and direct the wave of our force into that arm so that it begins the work of parting water molecules. The body needs to move through water, not air, so there are no points for parting air molecules with that entering and extending arm. We want to enter early and extend under water where it can do this essential work. And we view this entering and extending arm as the leading edge – the purpose of the entire stroke! All the holding streamline position, the swinging of the recovery arm in a linear forward trajectory, the timing of the rotation merges several waves of force into that entering arm and the arm transmits that force into the water where it is put to its essential work to cut a path into the water ahead. We might say that the torso then ‘drafts’ behind that lead arm.

    The optimal position we choose for the forearm entering – fingers-hand-forearm piercing the surface at a 45 degree angle about across from the lead elbow – is selected because it is the optimal intersection of conservation of moment on the streamline side, ideal rotation timing, ideal shoulder position on the entry side.

    I like to describe what’s happening in the recovery swing as a build up of a wave, and then right at the entry moment, the rotation adds its more powerful rotational wave to it and the arm receives this and transmits it down into the water and into the streamline shape. Image smooth and powerful waves flowing through each shoulder and arm and out your (relaxed) hand on each entry and extension. You project that wave of force in the direction of travel.

    It could also be experienced like an ice skater projects force into the foot and into the blade in the direction of travel on each glide, or like a cross-country skier projects force into each ski.

    If you enter too late or too far in front, then much of that wave dissipates into the air to no beneficial effect. By entering closer to the body and extending underwater, the arm faces more resistance – but its very purpose is to confront that resistance ahead of the more massive torso and reduce pressure (literally, in terms of physics), making it a bit easier for the torso to push ahead.

    The body in its asymmetrical streamline shape is still not even close to a torpedo or attack submarine shape, but projecting that arm ahead of the blunt faced torso is still making the shape a lot better.

    Tim Gofine

    I think I was searching for a reason to explain why some lengths felt worse than others, as measured by if I was out of breath or not after 7 strokes ( my pool is 35 feet). I was always unsure of exactly where to enter, and when on some strokes I could tell I wasn’t generating the right forward propulsion I thought maybe I’m entering too early, and tried that. It did feel better but for the wrong reason. I read your post very carefully, reaffirming what you had previously told me, but in the process realizing the problem was that I was not entering at the right angle; I was too shallow, I think.
    Also, and perhaps more critically, I realized that although I thought I had a neutral spine, as you described I was in fact way too tense. Last night I focused on being relaxed yet engaged, and today I focused on the 45 degree entry and extension from the back, not over reaching. That made the difference, and now I’m back on track. I think what is still going to be a struggle is returning my head from the turn while maintaining the angle of the shoulders in skate before the rotation. There isn’t a lot to time there, to say the least, and it’s frustrating.

    Friday works, though I’m aware of the 3 hour time difference. What is best for you ?

    Tim Gofine

    ( I composed a long message, hit Submit and lost it, with a read Error banner instead appearing. So here goes again).

    Entering and extending at 45 degrees rather than 15-20 is fixing the main problem and related problems. I think I overcorrected when I was digging too deep, especially on my right. Everything feels more relaxed in synchronous because I can ( not always) feel the point when the power is transferred. If I remember to tilt my pelvic and touch my thighs, I’m confident I’m more in line. And, with arm pointing more down than out, my head seems freer so I can turn to the right and left walls feeling like I have more than enough time. This is becoming fun.

    In Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan, there is the standard 108 hand form. It’s a series of movements, as you know, often repeated. The task is to develop the inner strength and intensity that is inherent and that can take years, but the choreography itself can be learned by a professional dancer in a few hours. I’ve done the form no less than 200o times, probably, and I am considered to be on the third level of five, although five is sort of cosmic and not talked about except by disciples of the Grand Master. In other words, I know the form structure, maybe even backwards, with some conviction in it. Yet, from time to time, I become aware that I’m doing something wrong: an angle, a position of the trailing foot, and hand gesture, something in error just wormed in there and found a home. Keeping the swimming elements straight and consistent for someone at my level of athleticism is really a lot of work. It’s not linear progression, but I think I made a step to the next level in the past few weeks.

    I’m keeping the realization that in about 8 weeks I’m not going to have a water source to swim in out from consciousness.

    Tim Gofine


    I didn’t hear from you about today, so I’ll guess it didn’t work out. Maybe something is possible next week; in the meantime, I want to send you a clip to look at.


    Mat Hudson

    Hi Tim. My apology. I was tied up with lifeguard recert training first half of the week and in meetings much of yesterday and didn’t catch up on your notes. If you have a window in the next 3 hours or so, I’d be glad to chat, for sure!

    Mat Hudson

    I know it is hard to hold all those details of the body in mind while trying to correct and protect that feel and performance of each stroke!

    I was drawn to explore tai chi because I get the impression that this art knows something very deep about the anchoring and movement of the whole body in a coordinated fashion, a whole different way of approaching it (and a lot more mature than what we do in modern sports!).

    You seem to be homing in nicely on the internal sensations that should be associated with superior position and movement, and developing sensitivity to more subtle errors, just as you have in tai chi. Your nervous system is already primed to seek and pay attention to subtle signals. But we might say your freestyle catalog of subtle signals is still small compared to your tai chi one!

    If there is any way you can slip into a calm lake or inviting body of water, you may find that you can achieve a lot more rapid integration of these skills when you can take hundreds of uninterrupted strokes instead of just a few. Once you can get adjusted to the new environment and relax enough to go into flow, the power of continuous swimming is truly amazing.

    Tim Gofine


    You’re absolutely correct in saying my catalog with swimming is small. I was going to send you the clips I mentioned, but again it happened: it’s as if I forget I have legs when I concentrate on a video clip. One look for me and I’m annoyed and it’s a waste of your time. I’m working on breathing, slowly: I’m getting used to turning my head to the wall an back in a relaxed manner. It’s interesting how now my weak side is comfortable and my strong side feels weird. Here’s a question: if the head turn is early, is there a big rush to return it to neutral, or is it ok if I see my elbow appear before the head is completely returned?

    And: I notice this morning that in my little pool sometimes I can cross in 7.5 strokes, but at other times it takes 9: no breathing either time. I couldn’t understand this until I realized that when I sense I am really following my arm into the sleeve and through the water at 45 degrees, it’s 7.5; if not, it’s 9. I’m guessing also that I’m moving my scapula down better when I thit 7 or 7.5. Does that make sense to you? [ Interestingly, in my Tai Chi lesson last week devoted now to form refinement because there isn’t room for anything martial, the teacher spoke of moving the scapula down: before he used to say move the shoulder down ].

    Mat Hudson

    My apology for a late reply…

    I meant ‘small’ relative to your tai chi catalog – yet, your swimming catalog is still likely greater than that of many swimmers in your local pool. Your studiousness places you in a different league already.


    “if the head turn is early, is there a big rush to return it to neutral, or is it ok if I see my elbow appear before the head is completely returned?”

    I think there is some room here for variance, but a caution as well. Terry did teach and did demonstrate on his Effortless Endurance videos that one can turn their head up with the roll of the torso and turn it back down with the entry and turn of the torso, which is a very simple and effective way of getting a rhythm established.

    One problem with that approach is that movements that happen together get wired together. While turning the head back (relatively slowly) with the entry and turn of the torso is convenient, that late timing introduces some problems too.

    A couple big ones to point out…

    The swimmer is trying to hold the face above the surface while the body is decelerating and the weight of the recovery arm is held up against gravity which together start sinking the body deeper. When one can see their recovery arm going overhead with their own eyes, this means tha arm has had a long time for the push of gravity to take effect and the face is still there trying to stay high enough.

    The recovery arm shoulder is sliding forward creating a bow wave that collapses the pocket the swimmer would (ideally) be taking their sneaky breath from.

    And, there is a very strong tendency in our bodies to let the breathing action get later and later. At slow tempos it can feel like we have even more time to spare. But meanwhile our brain is wiring the head and torso turns together. Then when the swimmer starts working with relatively fast tempos, they suddenly can’t get to air soon enough to get a full window and then feel rushed, like they don’t have enough time to get the full inhalation because the window is too small. It’s too small because they are turning their head at the rate of the torso turn which gets them to air too late, and staying longer creates more drag problems.

    So at this point we have to ‘snip’ those wires and train the swimmer to be able to turn the head completely independent of the torso turn while keeping the head cooperative with the torso. The head has to learn to turn at a slight different timing and at a slightly different rate from the torso turn (which will increase proportionally to the increase in stroke rate).

    So, from the beginning I tend to train swimmers to turn the head toward air as soon as possible, initiated at the very start of setting the catch, and turning slightly faster than the torso it turning. We might exaggerate it slightly to make the separation clear, but we also want to avoid turning so fast to cause ‘whiplash’.  One would aim to have the face clear and starting the inhale before the arm is pulled out of the water to begin recovery swing forward. Then they would aim to be turning the face back down ahead of the recovery arm swing, not being able to see their own arm coming overhead, which means the head is turning back before the torso is turning (since it will wait for the entry moment before it rotates).

    The swimmer then is maintaining stable streamline (as you know now) while the head is turn and returning. The head should be back in neutral, face-down position before the switching of the arms.


    I am so glad to hear you’ve made that observation with stroke counting. Yes, even in a short pool, the distance per stroke is a very useful indicator.

    In that moment of entry and extension there is quite a few 3D things happening as the body rotates and positions, quite difficult to describe it all in words without pictures or video. Your able to use stroke counting to home in on those cues that give you better distance per stroke – an important objective measure of one dimension of efficiency.

    Now you have a clear standard to measure against for other tweaks you might make.

    Tim Gofine


    ( I can’t get a reply box to appear after your last post: I’m logged in, but this is the only box offered and it’s out of synch).

    Regarding the head turn: I understand what you’re saying, especially the difference between what you’ve described and what Terry taught. I’m certainly trying to initiate the head turn right at the point of the catch; but, I also found that if I didn’t relax a bit I was really whiplashing the movement so much that I was driving water up my nose– that was too frantic. I think what progress I’ve made the past few swims is that I am managing to sip a breath and keep relaxed without panicking that I couldn’t have possibly obtained enough air. I made up an exercise of taking three strokes; turn and sip: two more focusing on the integrity of the line and position of the torso, and making sure I’m exhaling through my nose; and then stop; start again. After a while I switch sides. When I’m feeling really comfortable, then I repeat and keep going after the breath to the end. Then, if everything is holding together, then I try 1-2-3 breath/4-5-6 breath. If it’s not holding together, then I go  back to no breathing, and then try again. Here is where the disadvantage of not having open water or a 50 metre pool comes in, but there’s nothing I can do for now. Here’s the question: is there anything I can do, mentally or otherwise, to make the breath sip feel more natural? There’s a lot of un-learning to do, especially the hard-wired idea that you need to get a full breath. Understanding the theory and actually overcoming the pattern enough to feel really at ease just turning the head enough, and opening the mouth enough AND finding the independent rhythm of the turn is a piece of work. And the legs…can’t forgot about them…


    Mat Hudson

    It seems like you’re down to the fine details and discernment between what aspect of that anxiety in the breath is relieved by a technical adjustment and what aspect requires learning to reinterpret it. From my vantage point I can’t say definitively that you are adequately respirated on each of those breaths and therefore it’s ‘all in your head’, nor can we discount that a misinterpretation of unfamiliar respiration pattern is having some effect without putting it to the test on longer uninterrupted lengths of swimming/breathing.

    On the technical side, these are some questions to ask and examine…

    1) Are you exhaling with diaphragm?

    2) Are you exhaling enough?

    3) Are you regulating the exhaling with a good pattern (as you approach the inhale moment)?

    4) Are you using diaphragm muscles to aggresively fill back up completely what you exhaled?

    5) Are you getting the airways to the air soon enough that you have enough time to fill back up?

    Note that this may need to be a diaphragm muscle-assisted inhalation to fit within that very brief window of opportunity. It can’t be passive (just letting low pressure pull air back in).

    If one is squeezing the lungs in the thoracic way, then not only is there not an adequate volume being exchanged, one is using an inferior set of muscles to do all that work. However, a person who does not use the diaphragm muscle much will find it is hard to keep breathing that way consistent and it will fatigue quickly, so the body reverts back to thoracic breathing anyway and the swimmer feels perpetually breathless.

    At this point I would keep encouraging your conscious attention on a making a good exhale which should prime you for a better inhale. If you’re making adequate squeeze from the diaphragm then the inhale, being boosted by diaphragm muscle itself, fills that space back up very quickly.

    You could do a rough simulation of continuous swimming, but not allowing yourself a breath at the turn – take a breath on the last stroke, turn, push off and take the next breath on that first or second stroke off the wall.

    Tim Gofine

    Ok. I am now hopelessly and utterly confused. I’m used to diaphragmatic breathing from all the Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong, but what I am doing in the water in that little bit of time takes me to the point of drowning. Everything I thought I knew about breathing is really rubbish. I thought that negative pressure fills the lungs. I just rewatched Expert Mastery Breathing just to see if I was wrong to think so. In fact, I never really appreciated how everything is different. The head turn, the entry ( Terry is far more extended, and the rotation seems to start before the hand enters,) the insistence on holding the head on the water as the arm comes over is completely different. But I can barely manage to turn my head independently, exhale, inhale in the 1.2 seconds I have. So, I’m back at the beginning.


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